Titles sometimes boomerang on their authors, betraying them through unintended irony. Lillian Hellman’s Scoundrel Time is a case in point; Politics by Other Means is another.[1] The thesis of David Bromwich’s book—which might have been called A Plague on Both Your Houses—is that all the combatants in the ongoing culture wars are motivated by politics.

Professor Bromwich diagnoses conservative defenders of tradition such as George Will and William J. Bennett as Republicans, Reaganites, and lackeys of the corporations. But he is also hard on the academic Left, which he subjects to a detailed and acerbic critique.

This is not to say that he is even-handed. In discussing the faults of the institutional radicals, Bromwich is largely impersonal, dealing by and large with the sins rather than the sinners. This is all to the good, for the...


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