[Gopnik] never loses sight of his main goal: making people understand what it is because understanding it is understanding the need for it ... a startingly intelligent, passionate, well-researched manifesto, but contains so much that it's impossible to engage with on only one level, or to agree or disagree with its entirety. In fact, while I agreed with most of the book, I found some issues. For example, Gopkin says it's OK to let small things slide in order to focus on the bigger picture. Furthermore, he never engages with scholar and feminist critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's work, which would have enriched and complicated things wonderfully ... one of sharpest contemporary works teaching us about liberalism and convincingly framing it as one of the most powerful tools we have to change our current situation ... Whether readers agree with Gopnik or not, this is an important, timely book that should be required reading because it points to everything that's wrong and then takes it a step further — a crucial step most others fail to take: It offers a viable solution.
Witty, humane, learned, A Thousand Small Sanities is a book that some of its author’s many fans may be tempted to read too fast ... He wants to assimilate and domesticate the illiberal left, to the maximum extent he can. But diverted by the book’s charm and erudition, readers may overlook its more challenging purposes ... what commands Gopnik’s attention is a challenge to his convictions more formidable and more intimate: the resurgence of the illiberal left from the post-Communist wreckage ... A Thousand Small Sanities is a product of the period that some wit has dubbed 'the Great Awokening' ... To a great extent, he is almost as uncomfortable with these dead white giants as any intersectional critic ... Gopnik is alive to the intellectual deficiencies of wokeness.
Gopnik’s attempt to convert [his daughter] to the bare-minimum politics of the late twentieth century frequently lapses into parody and unwittingly exposes the emptiness of the old liberal orthodoxy ... Gopnik’s efforts to give his argument empirical flourishes are random, sloppy, and unpersuasive. But even in the philosophical clouds, where he would clearly prefer to stay, his claims are riddled with tensions ... Gopnik’s familiarity with the Marxist critique of imperialism doesn’t get close to a real engagement with today’s left...Nothing, either, from the expansive constellation of well-known contemporary left publications, nothing on existing left politicians, organizations, or positions that might indicate what socialism in 2019 is really about ... Instead, Gopnik leads us through a fun house of his own random reading and his vague sense of the internet outrage cycle ... rather than seek meaningful explanations, he falls back on ahistorical platitudes ... We might not have expected much more from Gopnik, but A Thousand Small Sanities’ aimless joyride of free-associated clichés and its stubborn refusal to look at reality may indicate more broadly how little the American establishment has learned since the turn of the century ... Gopnik’s blissful ignorance reads not as comical but as deeply sinister.
... a manual for the dad side, a work of rousing reassurance for open-minded men who are nonetheless sick of losing political debates to teenagers whose meals they buy ... The book is not a work of scholarly history or political theory, it’s a rhetorical survey, more akin to the volumes of right-wing punditry that used to populate the best-seller list ... To his credit, Gopnik doesn’t copy and paste his magazine pieces, though he seems to treat his own work as a primary source ... there’s no actual analysis of socialism’s electoral prospects, and it all reads as thinly veiled psychological projection. Rather than analyze this historical moment with any specificity, Gopnik defaults to archetypes of parental moderation and childish radicalism that are older than Turgenev. It’s lazy, skill-less, and embarrassing ... as an exercise, dunking on liberals is unfulfilling: Odds are not many people will reach for this book except to be reassured, and it does a good job of that ... Any socialist teen with access to Wikipedia could rip it apart. I can’t imagine the man convinced his daughter.
... supremely intelligent but tortuous polemical ... Given the prevailing gloom, Gopnik’s definition of liberalism is cautious and it depends on two words whose awkwardness, odd in such an elegant writer, betrays their doubtful appeal ... Rather than confronting immediate challenges, Gopnik turns aside to ponder a succession of 'lyrical love stories' involving people whose conduct he admires ... Gopnik’s version of liberalism translates 'constant adaptation' into a brilliant display of dialectical thinking ... shifty self-consciousness damages his case: in times like these, irony is tantamount to ineffectuality ... the hope Gopnik expresses seems frail. With a maniacal ego installed in the White House and BoJo the clown bouncing towards No 10, we are actually living through the bonfire of the sanities.
Liberalism embraces whatever has as its end the elimination of 'cruelty and sadism and needless suffering from the world.' If Mr. Gopnik had stopped there he’d be close to the truth, but he isn’t fond of stopping and goes on to argue that modern liberalism is a creed of modesty ... Mr. Gopnik feels he can portray liberals as modest in their ambitions (well, they are—compared to communists), but I fail to see much daylight between liberal and left, at least in the American system. Mr. Gopnik writes peevishly of conservatives who collapse liberals and leftists into the term 'left-liberal,' but how else do we account for all the traffic between center-left and hard-left, liberal and radical?
Gopnik turning 'centrist dad' to extol (read 'mansplain') to his radical-curious Trump-traumatised daughter the virtues of liberalism, considered by many today to share these besetting vices: precious, preening, elitist ... Gopnik is an easy mark. And he’s set himself a thankless task: rehabilitating a shrivelled husk-like split-the-difference creed forsaken by the cool kids. Found complacent and insufficient to the times, it exists for leftists strictly in negative space, defined by what it isn’t. Through the depredations of neoliberalism, not to mention the 'consent-manufacturing' of its brass, it’s even assumed a sinister cast. And it fares little better on the right; held to be an agent of soul-sick materialism, fount of permissive ersatz values, purveyor of anomie and slippery slope relativism ... Gopnik hits hardest though in dissecting self-defeating left-liberal pieties ... Gopnik’s pronouncements on liberalism are epigrammatic, or too cute. But if we can stand to hear it, in 2019, from a boutique white liberal dude, he’s written an adroit call to the centre as the proving ground for ideas, crucible of heroic compromise and locus of progress whereof 'our circles of compassion enlarge'.
In A Thousand Small Sanities [Gopnik] sets out to offer both a definition of liberalism and a heartfelt defense of it. Gopnik does so in what has by now become his trademark style, honed over 30 years as a staff writer for The New Yorker: engaging, conversational prose; a wry sense of humor; a seasoned eye for the telling anecdote; and a great deal of learning, lightly worn. The book is nothing if not enjoyable to read, and it amply reflects the author’s exquisitely good intentions. Despite the pleasures of the prose, A Thousand Small Sanities is a perfect illustration of the cul-de-sac in which mainstream American liberalism now finds itself. The book is worth reading, above all, because it exemplifies a seductive, well-meaning, but oddly apolitical outlook and language that still may have the power to tempt Democrats away from the progressive policies they need to embrace in 2020.
... [a] militantly nonfanatical treatise ... Gopnik hangs his discussion on vivid profiles of liberal dreamers and doers ... He writes with a pithy, aphoristic charm that overlies deep erudition and nuanced analysis. The result is a smart, exhilarating defense of the liberal tradition.
[Gopnik] shows his astute awareness of the public’s political consciousness ... Essentially, the author’s 'adventure' is not a defense of liberalism as much as a clarification and pieces of fatherly advice for a new generation on liberal reforms and institutions. ... Gopnik’s learned, lofty, occasionally dense study ultimately reasserts the belief in the 'infinity of small effects.'