Following the 1960s, that decade's focus on consciousness-raising transformed into an array of intellectual projects far afield of movement politics. The mind's powers came to preoccupy a range of thinkers and writers: ethicists pursuing contractual theories of justice, radical ecologists interested in the paleolithic brain, seventies cultists, and the devout of both evangelical and New Age persuasions. In Ideal Minds, Michael Trask presents a boldly revisionist argument about the revival of subjectivity in postmodern American culture, connecting familiar figures within the seventies intellectual landscape who share a commitment to what he calls "neo-idealism" as a weapon in the struggle against discredited materialist and behaviorist worldviews.
In a heterodox intellectual and literary history of the 1970s, Ideal Minds mixes ideas from cognitive science, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, deep ecology, political theory, science fiction, neoclassical economics, and the sociology of religion. Trask also delves into the decade's more esoteric branches of learning, including Scientology, anarchist theory, rapture prophesies, psychic channeling, and neo-Malthusianism. Through this investigation, Trask argues that a dramatic inflation in the value of consciousness and autonomy beginning in the 1970s accompanied a growing argument about the state's inability to safeguard such values. Ultimately, the thinkers Trask analyzes--John Rawls, Arne Naess, L. Ron Hubbard, Hal Lindsey, Philip Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Edward Abbey, William Burroughs, John Irving, and James Merrill--found alternatives to statism in conditions that would lend intellectual support to the consolidation of these concepts in the radical free market ideologies of the 1980s.