This collection brings together Daniel Bell's best work in essay form. It deals with a variety of topics: technology and culture, religion and personal identity, intellectuals and their societies, and the uses and abuses of doctrines of social class. The Winding Passage demonstrates the author's continuing concern with the salient issues of our times, while its inspiration draws upon an older, humanistic sociological tradition.
In a central essay on intellectuals, Bell examines the term new class and calls it a muddle. Though the idea of class has been relevant to Western industrial society for the past two hundred years, the concept is less useful for examining Communist states, the Third World, and even the emerging postindustrial sectors of the West. Bell seeks to establish the idea of situs, the competitive conflict of functional groups for shares in the state budgetary process.
A more personal note is struck in the final section of the book. In reflecting on the nature of intellectual life, the special role of the Jewish intellectual, and the tension between the claims of the parochial and the universal, Bell uses as a general framework antinomianism, the claims of individual conscience against authority, law, and established institutions. And in a final statement, "The Return of the Sacred," Bell explores the enlightenment belief in the dissolution of religion and attempts to show why it was wrong. This is a must book for those concerned with the sociology of knowledge, intellectual history, and social stratification.
Speaking of The Winding Passage, Seymour Martin Lipset called the book "sociological analysis at its best" Irving Howe noted that "Bell is always worth listening to. He is a true intellectual." And Irving Louis Horowitz, in his review of the book, calls it "the sifted excellence of a civilized and urbane intellectual.