Disappointment too eagerly embraced becomes habit, becomes doom. Say what we will about the Sixties' failures, limits, disasters, America's political and cultural space would probably not have opened up as much as it did without the movement's divine delirium. (Better, to be sure, if we could have had the delirium without its demonic side if history would have permitted pure goodness, which is doubtful.) This side of an ever-receding millennium, the changes wrought by the Sixties, however beleaguered, averted some of the worst abuses of power, and made life more decent for millions. The movement in its best moments and broadest definition made philosophical breakthroughs which are still working themselves out: the idea of a politics in which difference (race, gender, nation, sexuality) does not imply deference; the idea of a single globe and the limits that have to be set on human power. However embattled, however in need of practical policy, these ideas sketch out a living political vision. A sort of shadow movement remains alive. . . . To which another voice says: not nearly enough. The ideas of the Sixties remain murky, full of conundrums. A generation giddy about easy victories was too easily crushed by defeats, too handily placated but uneasily, and for how long? - by private satisfactions.
The movement was played out, but at the same time America's sense of divine exemption from Old World fates wore thin. The consensus that led to Vietnam was cracked, never to be restored, whatever the longings. And who can deny that the old political vocabularies are impoverished? Most