New Republic, The

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NEW REPUBLIC, THE. The New Republic has been one of the most important journalistic outlets for a new form of liberalism that appeared in the United States, particularly in its eastern and midwestern cities, during the decades around 1900. This new liberalism, which arose as a response to the industrialization of the nation's economy, stressed the recognition of mutual obligation and the development of an integrated public interest rather than the pursuit of private, individual interests.

The magazine was founded in New York City by Willard and Dorothy Straight, a wealthy couple active in humanitarian social causes, and journalist Herbert Croly. Croly recruited Walter Lippmann and Walter Weyl as fellow editors. All three men had recently published important statements of the new liberal faith and they hoped to use the journal, which debuted on 7 November 1914, to steer American political culture along a middle course between laissez-faire individualism and Marxist socialism.

Each week's issue opened with short editorial paragraphs, continuing with longer editorials, signed articles by contributors and editors, correspondence, and literary and artistic material. New York City icons such as the philosopher John Dewey and the historian Charles A. Beard quickly took advantage of the new publishing outlet. Articles on reforms such as feminism, civil rights, and workers' right to organize were accompanied by important statements of the new cultural modernism from artists such as Robert Frost and critics Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, and Floyd Dell.

Circulation leapt to around forty thousand during American involvement in World War I during 1917 and 1918, as the journal was widely seen as an unofficial voice of President Woodrow Wilson's administration. Editors and contributors strongly supported American intervention, alienating many of their political allies. They hoped that the war would lead to national unity and a worldwide democratic revolution, and were shocked by the punitive terms of the Versailles Treaty.

During the politically conservative 1920s, circulation plummeted. Weyl died in 1919 and Lippmann abandoned the journal along with his hopes for a rational public. Croly continued as editor, increasingly identifying liberalism as a moral phenomenon. Critics Edmund Wilson, Robert Morss Lovett, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford offered expanded cultural coverage. The journal pushed for an alternative to the major parties, and was guardedly hopeful that the Communist reforms in the Soviet Union after 1917 would produce a mature, democratic state.

A new editorial staff of the long-time journalist Bruce Bliven, the economist George Soule, and the literary critic Malcolm Cowley turned the magazine away from Croly's philosophical approach after his death in 1930. They remained aloof, however, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which seemed insufficiently radical even though it consolidated the farmer-labor-professional coalition for which Croly had long hoped. Only in 1937 did they shift course, vigorously defending Roosevelt against his increasingly vocal detractors.

Increasingly distrustful of the capitalist economy, liberals heatedly debated the Soviet experiment during the 1930s. Bliven's and Cowley's faith that Communism would evolve into democracy was countered by contributors Beard and Dewey, whose critical views of Joseph Stalin's regime finally won over the editors after the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. The editors were, like many liberals, reluctant to involve themselves in another European conflict, calling for war on Germany only in August 1941. They continued throughout World War II to promote domestic issues, including the protection of civil liberties and full employment.

Former vice president and outspoken internationalist Henry A. Wallace, who became editor in 1946, opposed the anticommunist foreign policy of President Harry S. Truman, but his controversial third-party presidential candidacy led to a split with the magazine in January 1948. Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia two months later solidified the journal's support for the containment of communism abroad, although it opposed the domestic anti-communism of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The editors moved their office from New York City to Washington in 1950 to gain greater access to the nation's political machinery, but during the conservative decade that followed they once again emphasized cultural criticism over politics. They found a new political focus with the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960, concentrating particularly on civil rights. Inspired by the spending programs of Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, the journal also reaffirmed its support for an activist federal government while strongly opposing the war in Vietnam. The antiauthority stance of the counter-culture and the violent rhetoric of the black power movement disturbed the editors, although they agreed that fundamental social reforms were necessary.

New owner and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz steered the journal toward a stronger anti-Soviet line in the mid-1970s, leading to an intense debate among the editors over support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels in 1986. Writers also began to question the ability of the state to promote social equality, and criticized the interest-group politics of the Democratic Party while reluctantly supporting its presidential candidates. As the century closed, The New Republic remained a preeminent forum for liberal debate.


Diggins, John Patrick. "The New Republic and Its Times. New Republic 191, no. 24 (10 December 1984): 2334.

Levy, David W. Herbert Croly of the New Republic: The Life and Thought of an American Progressive. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Seideman, David. The New Republic: A Voice of Modern Liberalism. New York: Praeger, 1986.

Wickenden, Dorothy. "Introduction: Little Insurrections." In The New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate. Edited by Dorothy Wickenden. New York: BasicBooks, 1994.

Andrew Jewett

See also Magazines .