It is best to begin by explaining my personal interest in the New Left. As a participant in the movement, I am concerned with understanding its origins, its underlying ideas and the nature of its growth. This thesis embodies a strongly "subjective" element in that my personal experiences and attitudes are inextricably bound to the "objective" consideration of factors that define the New Left - the purpose of this study. The experience gleaned from involvement allows the possibility of insights not available in normal academic study. Personal sympathies are unavoidably written into the text. Yet while empathizing with subject, my account is only wrong if I misrepresent the facts or include values which can be deemed false or misguided.
This introduction is no apology for subjectivity or value-bias. Claiming an objectivity based on the scientific rendering of historical facts, many historians offer value neutrality as the supreme task of the profession. I doubt their grand pretence. Far too much history, masquerading behind objectivity, is riddled with bias about the nature of man, society and historical movement. It is somewhat pathetic to hear these cries for objectivity, for the real facts - since the idea that facts are the basis of historical truth is a value belief contested by a number of philosophies of history.
One is not left with the conclusion that one value bias is as good as another. The merits and truths of the historian's work are open to determination by argument and discussion. That I believe in the New Left's approach to social problems does not relegate the account to "just one person's view." The historian and the critic can only strive to settle the differing contentions. Values will enter into this and values can be discussed, although not ultimately resolved in objective absolutes.
An important feature of the first chapter of this study is that it considers an intellectual or philosophic definition of the movement. It is a study of ideas and outlooks separated from its history - the second chapter brings this historical element into focus. Alternatively the subject could be approached by outlining a simple historical analysis of political events, the decline and fall of various organizations and their impact on government or populace. Leaving little to the consideration of the nature of ideas, such a frame of analysis is unsatisfactory. Intellectual definition is the mainstay of many vital components of any social movement - unless one reduces ideas to the 'flux of events or the "economic base."
While recognizing some of its limitations, I prefer to lay down a more comprehensive groundwork for the definition of the movement than afforded by the normal rendering of the historians task. The limitations that derive from my approach are that one needs to move across vast ranges of knowledge and understanding; one ideally requires an extensive repertoire of carefully considered theories. Ranging from Black Power to Existentialism, imperialism to drug induced experiences, the subject matter of this thesis suffers the consequences of being a broad overview rather than a detailed, specific analysis. However, the narrower perspective so limits the scope of definition of the New Left that it is totally inadequate.
The account of the movement is restricted to the countries described as advanced Western industrial societies, with America as the archtype. However, radical active youth groups have developed all over the world in the "undeveloped" countries, in Japan and in the Soviet bloc. By choosing merely the Western nations as subjects for discussion, one appears to unnecessarily emasculate the scope of discussion. But this circumscription is validated by the deep divergences these movements have with the New Left. The impact of the Western intellectual tradition as a moulding element in the New Left's character is substantial in this regard. Throughout the thesis evidence is adduced to account for the specific importance of all these factors - "advanced," "Western" and “industrial”. They unite a description of the subject of discussion. It is my belief that when a definition of the New Left is finally given, comparisons with movements emanating from different societies will be seen to be erroneous.
Finally, no doubt can be expressed about the role of immediate national features within the New Left itself. While dismissing some radical movements in my definition, I have not concluded that the New Left within the construct of its social and intellectual base is simply a monolith. The third chapter provides an example, in reference to Australia and Queensland, of the import of local determination. Although a multi-national phenomenon, the New Left defies any glib reference to a unified internationalism.