Chapter Four: The Devitalized Center (1964-1970)

This chapter includes information about the final six years of Hofstadter's life, when destabilizing political events, both at home and abroad, led him to pursue new directions in history and in social criticism. In particular, the resurgence of an extreme right wing in American politics (best personified by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) and the eruption of sometimes violent political controversy on college campuses together brought about renewed focus on conflict and division in American society. As Hofstadter struggled to avoid taking sides and resisted the politicizing tendencies of the decade -- "the age of rubbish," as he called it -- he spoke out eloquently about the necessity of academic freedom and of the concept of legitimate opposition to the health and maintenance of democracy. Meanwhile, even as new historiographic concerns eclipsed those shared by Hofstadter's generation, he adapted, embarking on a number of new projects (including an ambitious and never-completed multi-volume social history of the United States).

Items featured in this collection include images, documents, and audio recordings relating to Hofstadter's scholarship and politics in this period. One section is devoted to his experiences during the "Columbia crisis" of April 1968, when students occupied multiple buildings to protest the university's involvement in the Vietnam War and its proposed construction of a gym in Morningside Park. This collection will be of particular relevance to readers who are interested in how Hofstadter responded to the political upheaval of the 1960s, and the effect that it had on his works of the time.

Richard Hofstadter and A.J. Ayer, Toronto, 1967