Didion on the New Left

Much of the late Joan Didion’s writing from the 1960s and ’70s is characterized by a pessimism about the New Left. She thought hippies and the rest of the counterculture were worthy of contempt, and she thought radicals like the Black Panther Party and various Marxist groups were both ludicrously far from power and frightening menaces to society.

Joan Didion visits the defunct Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, as recounted in her essay “Rock of Ages,” 1967. (Getty Images)

“[Michael Laski’s] place in the geography of the American Left is, in short, an almost impossibly lonely and quixotic one, unpopular, unpragmatic. He believes that there are ‘workers’ in the United States, and that, when the time comes, they will ‘arise,’ not in anarchy but in conscious concert, and he also believes that ‘the ruling […]

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