Radicalism: A Brief Introduction to the Topic
This is a guide to resources in the Tamiment Library, and beyond, on the topic of U.S. radicalism. The Tamiment Library at New York University is a special collection devoted to the history of U.S. radicalism, labor, and progressive social movements.
Radicalism comes from the Latin word for root, and connotes a fundamental critique of the existing order of things: social, economic and political arrangements, culture, class, race and gender, humanity's relationship to nature, and more. Radicalism also suggests, but does not require, the use of militant or radical means to achieve radical ends. Radicalism has typically been international in outlook, and at times organizationally as well.
Although radicalism has been a less powerful force in the U.S. than in much of the rest of the world, it has played a significant role in the history of the U.S. from the latter nineteenth century to the present. Much of what is now considered part of the political center or basic to our understanding of the U.S. is a result of the influence of radical ideas and activism.
Indeed, in an overarching and global sense, this time period can be understood as the story of how society has managed the social strains its development engenders and how it has responded to, and has been shaped by fundamental challenges from the left (and from the right).
For more information, read our "Why Study Radicalism?" essay.
Peter Filardo, Tamiment Archivist