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The life and legacy of Irving Howe are significant not only because they represent the intellectual biography of a leading American literary-political figure of the twentieth-centuty, nor merely illuminate the historical period in which he wrote. Rather, they also bear relevance to the state of America in our own time, one in which our ideological polarization has reached extremes. This essay discusses the pertinence of Howe’s achievement for the present-day political situation, especially for the possibility that his work could contribute toward the revival of Left-liberalism in America. Just as Howe's political innocence was tested and matured into more nuanced understanding and deepened ambivalence, so might his mature work and example inspire a new generation of liberals to move beyond idealism and find a sober mix that balances principle and pragmatism.
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