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New Left

The New Left was the name loosely associated with a radical political movement that took place in the United States during the 1960s, primarily among college students. The origin of the name can be traced to an open letter written in 1960 by sociologist C. Wright Mills[?] entitled Letter to the New Left. Mills argued for a new leftist ideology, moving away from the traditional Old Left focus on labor issues, towards more personalized issues such as alienation, anomie, authoritarianism, and other ills of the modern affluent society.

The organization that came to embody the New Left was the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1962 Tom Hayden[?] wrote its founding document, the Port Huron Statement[?], which issued a call for "participatory democracy" based on non-violent civil disobedience. The New Left oppposed the prevailing authority structures in society, which it termed "The Establishment," and those who rejected this authority became known as "anti-Establishment." Loosely associated with the New Left was the Berkeley Free Speech Movement which began in 1964 as a coalition of student groups at the University of California, Berkeley which opposed restrictions to political activity on campus.

The SDS became a leading organization of the antiwar movement on college campuses during the Vietnam War. As opposition to the war grew stronger, the SDS became a nationally prominent political organization, but at the same time opposing the war became an overiding concern that overshadowed many of the original issues that inspired the New Left. During the late 1960s, the SDS began to split under the strain of internal dissension and increasing penetration by Old Left ideologists, and some extremist splinter factions emerged, such as the Weather Underground and the Progressive Labor Party[?].

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