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John Patrick Diggins (April 1, 1935 – January 28, 2009) was an American professor of history at the City University of New York Graduate Center, the author of more than a dozen books on widely varied subjects in American intellectual history.



Diggins was born in San Francisco on April 1, 1935, the son of an Irish immigrant.

Diggins received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1957, a master's from San Francisco State College and a doctorate in 1964 at the University of Southern California. He was an assistant professor at San Francisco State College from 1963 to 1969, an associate professor and professor at the University of California, Irvine and was hired in 1990 as a Distinguished Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center.[1]

Diggins's three marriages ended in divorce. A resident of Manhattan, he died on January 28, 2009 from colorectal cancer. He was survived by his companion of 15 years, Elizabeth Harlan, a son and daughter, two sisters and two grandchildren.[1]

Diggins held for a time[citation needed] the Chair in American Civilization at the L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris and was a visiting professor at Cambridge and Princeton University. His Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America won the 1972 Dunning Prize.

Diggins was also a consultant[citation needed] on some films and documentaries, including: "Between the Wars"; "Reds"; "John Dos Passos"; "The Greenwich Village Rebellion"; " Emma Goldman"; "The New York Intellectuals"; " The Future of the American left"; and "Il Duce, Fascismo e American" (Italian Television).

Diggins's interests ranged from the foundations of the United States to the postmodern world. "He declared Ronald Reagan to be "one of the two or three truly great presidents in history."[1][2]

An obituary reported that Diggins "was "critical of the anticapitalist Left for seeing in the abolition of property an end to oppression" but also "critical of the antigovernment Right for seeing in the elimination of political authority the end of tyranny and the restoration of liberty."[3]


In a review of Diggins's Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review wrote,

Diggins seems blinded by Reagan's sunniness, which, in this interpretation, was not just a matter of temperament, but reflective of a deep philosophical and religious conviction. Reagan, Diggins maintains, sought to rid "America of a God of judgment and punishment." This is absurd. Reagan had a charitable view of human nature and a relaxed, nonjudgmental air, but there is no denying his deeply felt social conservatism. He wrote — as a sitting president, no less — the anti-abortion tract "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation."[4]


  • (2011) Why Niebuhr Now? (ISBN 9780226148830)
  • (2007) Eugene O'Neill's America: Desire Under Democracy (ISBN 9780226148809)
  • (2007) Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History
  • (2004) The Portable John Adams (editor)
  • (2003) John Adams: The American Presidents Series
  • (2000) On Hallowed Ground: Abraham Lincoln and the Foundations of American History
  • (1997) The Liberal Persuasion: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and the Challenge of the American Past (co-editor)
  • (1996) Max Weber: Politics and the Spirit of Tragedy
  • (1994) The Promise of Pragmatism: Modernism and the Crisis of Knowledge and Authority (ISBN 9780226148786)
  • (1988) The Proud Decades: America in War and Peace, 1941-1960
  • (1984) The Lost Soul of American Politics: Virtue, Self-Interest, and the Foundations of Liberalism (ISBN 9780226148779)
  • (1981) The Problem of Authority in America (co-editor)
  • (1978) The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory
  • (1975) Up From Communism: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History
  • (1973) The American Left in the Twentieth Century (reworked into The Rise and Fall of the American Left, 1992)
  • (1972) Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America

Journal articles

  • Dos Passos and Veblen's Villains, Antioch Review 23, no. 4 (1963-1964): 485-500.
  • Flirtation with Fascism: American Pragmatic Liberals and Mussolini's Italy, American Historical Review 71, no. 2 (1966): 487-506.
  • The American Writer, Fascism, and the Liberation of Italy, American Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1966): 599-614.
  • Mussolini and America: Hero-Worship, Charisma, and the "Vulgar Talent," Historian 28, no. 4 (1966): 559-85.
  • American Catholics and Italian Fascism, Journal of Contemporary History 2, no. 4 (1967): 51-68.
  • The Italo-American Antifascist Opposition, Journal of American History 54, no. 3 (1967)
  • Ideology and Pragmatism: Philosophy or Passion?, American Political Science Review 64, no. 3 (1970): 899-906.
  • Consciousness and Ideology in American History: The Burden of Daniel J. Boorstin, American Historical Review 76, no. 1 (1971): 99-118.
  • The Perils of Naturalism: Some Reflections on Daniel J. Boorstin's Approach to American History, American Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1971): 153-80.
  • Thoreau, Marx, and the "Riddle" of Alienation, Social Research 39, no. 4 (1972)
  • Getting Hegel out of History: Max Eastman's Quarrel with Marxism, American Historical Review 79, no. 1 (1974): 38-71.
  • Visions of Chaos and Visions of Order: Dos Passos as Historian, American Literature 46, no. 3 (1974): 329-46.
  • Four Theories in Search of a Reality: James Burnham, Soviet Communism, and the Cold War, American Political Science Review 70, no. 2 (1976): 492-508.
  • Slavery, Race, and Equality: Jefferson and the Pathos of the Enlightenment, American Quarterly 28, no. 2 (1976): 206-28.
  • Animism and the Origins of Alienation: The Anthropological Perspective of Thorstein Veblen, History and Theory 16, no. 2 (1977): 113-36.
  • Reification and the Cultural Hegemony of Capitalism: The Perspectives of Marx and Veblen, Social Research 44, no. 2 (1977).
  • Barbarism and Capitalism: The Strange Perspectives of Thorstein Veblem, Marxist Perspectives 1, no. 2 (1978): 138-57.
  • The Socialization of Authority and the Dilemmas of American Liberalism, Social Research 46 (1979): 454-86.
  • Power and Authority in American History: The Case of Charles A. Beard and his Critics, American Historical Review 86, no. 4 (1981): 701-30.
  • The Oyster and the Pearl: The Problem of Contextualism in Intellectual History, History and Theory 23, no. 2 (1984): 151-69.
  • Republicanism and Progressivism, American Quarterly 37, no. 4 (1985): 572-98.
  • "Who Bore the Failure of the Light": Henry Adams and the Crisis of Authority, New England Quarterly 58, no. 2 (1985): 165- 92.
  • Comrades and Citizens: New Mythologies in American Historiography, American Historical Review 90, no. 3 (1985): 614-38.
  • Between Bailyn and Beard: The Perspectives of Gordon S. Wood, William and Mary Quarterly vol. XLIV (1987): 563-68.
  • John Adams et les Critiques Francais de la Constitution Americaine ("John Adams and the French Critics of the Constitution"), La Revue Tocqueville 9 (1987-1988): 155-80.
  • The Misuses of Gramsci, The Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 141-45.
  • Knowledge and Sorrow: Louis Hartz's Quarrel with American History, Political Theory 16, no. 3 (1988): 355-76.
  • Class, Classical, and Consensus Views of the Constitution, University of Chicago Law Review 55, no. 2 (1988): 555-70.
  • From Pragmatism to Natural Law: Walter Lippmann's Quest for the Foundation of Legitimacy, Political Theory 19, no. 4 (1991): 519-38.
  • Thorstein Veblen and the Literature of the Theory Class, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 6, no. 4 (1993): 481-90.
  • America's Two Visitors: Tocqueville and Weber, La Revue Tocqueville 17, no. 2 (1996): 165-182.
  • Arthur O. Lovejoy and the Challenge of Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas 67, no. 1 (2006): 181-208.


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