Young Sidney Hook

Marxist and Pragmatist
Christopher Phelps
An essential intellectual history of the American Left


One of the most controversial figures in the history of American philosophy, Sidney Hook was "an intellectual street fighter" and "probably the greatest polemicist" of the twentieth century (Edward Shils).  Widely known as a Cold War liberal and an intellectual progenitor of neoconservativism, Hook began life as a feisty radical. This now-classic intellectual biography reconstructs Hook's youthful project of fusing American pragmatism and Marxism to create a distinctive approach to philosophy and a politics of revolutionary democratic socialism, carefully charting his interaction with intellectuals such as John Dewey and Max Eastman and his relationship to the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the American Workers Party, and other political currents.

Christopher Phelps is associate professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book is the best treatment of the best American Marxist philosopher--and the best philosopher to emerge from American slums. Young Sidney Hook is essential reading for anyone interested in democratic theory and practice in America."
    —Cornel West

  • "Phelps's effort to uncover, explore, and analyze Hook's forgotten leftism must be judged an unqualified success."
    —Kent Worcester, Left History

  • "Fascinating . . . well researched and packed with information."
    —William James Earle, Times Literary Supplement

  • "A brilliant, lucid portrait of a scholar, adversarial by temperament, who turned his extraordinary powers of analysis and polemic successively against capitalism, Stalinism, and the New Left."
    —Alan Wald, Monthly Review

  • "A very detailed, and fascinating account of Hook's formative years, . . . [a] first-rate contribution to the history of American leftist intellectual life."
    —Richard Rorty, Raritan

  • "As Phelps guides the reader through Hook's writings and activities he deftly navigates the complex terrain of 1930s Marxist thought. Young Sidney Hook exemplifies intellectual history at its best, as Phelps fluidly weaves rigorous textual analysis, rich contextualization, and his contributions to historiographyical debates together in a seamless narrative."
    American Communist History

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Copyright © 2005, Christopher Phelps. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 288pp.
  • 12 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2005
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03058-3

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  • $29.95 U.S.