Szefel makes two points in particular that I would like to call your attention to:
1) Szefel contends that Rodgers’s analysis is constrained by his sole reliance on the methodology of intellectual history:
An intellectual historian who clearly delineates his methodology, Rodgers rarely ventures outside the realm of books and articles to explain how conceptions are formed, leading to some connections that ring hollow. In discussing the post-Fordist focus on the present, no mention is made of CNN, personal computers, or the ubiquity of media images. Ideas about race are dissected without analysis of the impact wielded by rap music, MTV, or films like Boyz n the Hood, giving the appearance that Charles Murray was primarily responsible for stereotypes that linked skin color to violence. Murray said little that Archie Bunker hadn’t already articulated more than a decade earlier and, while liberals were busy decrying the possessive investment in whiteness, ethnic Americans were denouncing the possessive investment in racism among the well-heeled. While lending sheen and coherence to a neat narrative about fracture, the methodology of intellectual history can skew analysis of issues and omit important developments.
2) Szefel also makes the point, in a number of paragraphs at the end of the review, that by mostly ignoring the history of gay rights, AIDS, and homophobic politics, Rodgers’s history is limited. She writes:
Citing this omission is not just a plea for inclusion of yet another oppressed group. As Eva Kosofsky Sedgwick argues in Epistemology of the Closet (1990), leaving out queer voices distorts the historical lens. And, if these voices are needed to understand any era, it is most certainly the Reagan-Bush-Clinton years when anti-gay bigotry was embedded in social and intellectual life. Who else was subject to more vitriol? What other community suffered as many casualties as a result of the government’s inaction? Estimates place the number of lynchings during Jim Crow as high as 5,000. Over 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War. Between 1981 and 2000, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 459,518 Americans died of AIDS.
Conservatism drew its force from antipathy toward a group of people who loved differently. This animus animated evangelicals and justified indifference to AIDS sufferers among Catholic leaders. It can be found everywhere in sermons, political speeches, journals, and newspapers. It inflected thinking on what constituted “normal,” on sex and gender more generally as well as reproductive rights. William Bennett, included in The Age of Fracture for work that expounds on virtues, was secretary of education, who, along with Undersecretary Gary Bauer (who later became head of the Family Research Council), served as the principle spokesmen for Reagan’s AIDS policies. Rick Warren receives mention by Rodgers for forging “more generous even radical frames for evangelical Protestant social thought” but not for barring gays from membership in his Saddleback Church. Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” speech gets airing for its patriotic invocations, but not his snide remarks about “homosexual rights” and denunciation of gay marriage as “amoral.” Irving Kristol’s work in the knowledge industry is acknowledged but not his charge that homosexuality was a “disease” (Reagan himself referred to it as “a tragic illness”). Andrew Sullivan is quoted for a comment on 9/11 but not for his work influencing political topics as a party-transcending gay, conservative, Catholic editor of The New Republic during Clinton’s first term in office. The issue of gays in the military and same-sex marriage played a decisive role in elections, including ballot initiatives in the 1970s, and get-out-the-vote anti-homosexual campaigns, gay-bashing, and gay-baiting in campaigns since then, even affecting the outcome of presidential contests between the “straight panic” years of 1996 and 2004. If Rodgers is interested in the power of ideas, why doesn’t he analyze the origins and allure of anti-gay ideas?
Both of these points might be worth discussing.