Dissent is a leading intellectual magazine of politics and culture currently edited by Mitchell Cohen and Michael Walzer. It was founded in 1954 by a group of New York Intellectuals that included Irving Howe, Lewis A. Coser, Henry Pachter, and Meyer Schapiro, who had grown dissatisfied with the political and intellectual climate of post-war America. Howe and the other founders recognized the left's weakness during Eisenhower’s administration, its conformist tendencies and its intellectual tepidity, and they established the magazine as a means to espouse social democratic values, critique contemporary politics and culture, and oppose both Soviet totalitarianism and McCarthyism. Its contributing editors and writers offered a diverse range of left, liberal, and progressive viewpoints and the magazine's writing was marked by a critical and tough-minded intellectual approach rather than a particular ideological line.
From its inception, Dissent's politics deviated from the standard ideological positions of the left. Throughout the Cold War, its editors and contributors were rigorously anti-Communist, condemning the political and moral atrocities of the USSR and China, and calling into question the Marxist contention that culture is at the service of politics. Unlike other radical publications, Dissent was critical of the Communist experiments in Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere, and maintained that the left's mandate was to defend liberal and democratic values as well as socialist ones. Generally, this manifested in a pragmatic approach to politics and a deep concern with the state of intellectual life in the U.S. and Europe.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Dissent’s skepticism toward Third-World revolutions, national liberation theories, and the culture of the New Left isolated it from the left’s student movements, but its commitment to liberal foreign policy and social egalitarianism — in particular, labor and civil rights issues — separated it from the growing neoconservative movement.
Although Dissent still identifies itself with the liberal and social democratic values of its founders, its editors and contributors represent a broad spectrum of political and intellectual outlooks. The hawkish liberalism of Paul Berman is printed alongside the exuberant Marxism of Marshall Berman. Recently, the magazine was divided over the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Michael Walzer opposed the invasion while criticizing the rhetoric of the anti-war movement and Mitchell Cohen supported intervention while remaining critical of the Bush administration.