The Impasse of the Liberal Argument: Speculation on American Politics in the Late 1960s

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Arguments for liberal policies, strong during the early and middle 1960s, had reached an impasse by the end of the decade. They had developed an ad hominem character, leading to conclusions that their proponents could not accept. This progression is illustrated with respect to civil rights, the welfare state, and foreign policy. In each case, the liberal was stymied between the argument of the radical and that of the conservative. An approach to overcoming the impasse is sketched briefly, and a coda brings the article up to date in 2013. This essay (without the coda) originally was presented at the 1983 NCA/AFA Summer Conference on Argumentation at Alta, Utah. It is reprinted from Argument in Transition: Proceedings from the Third Summer Conference on Argumentation (D. Zarefsky, M.O. Sillars, & J. Rhodes, Ed.) (pp. 365–379), and is reprinted by permission of the National Communication Association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArgumentation Library
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameArgumentation Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7650
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1907


  • Conservatism
  • Liberalism
  • Political argument
  • U.S. politics—1960s

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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