Another wringing-of-the-hands volume about certain crises of our time: the crisis in international politics, the crisis of...
THE POLITICS OF HYSTERIA
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Another wringing-of-the-hands volume about certain crises of our time: the crisis in international politics, the crisis of cultural identity, the crisis of universal technology, the crisis of competing ideologies, etc. What sets this one off from the others is largely its bright and embattled tone, its manly spunk and sharpness- above all, that willingness to wrangle with Western illusions and delusions, from the 18th and 19th century banner cries of ""progress"" and ""reason"", to the 20th century muddle of affluence and apathy. Too much in Western thinking is old-fashioned, contend the authors. Too much, whether Marxist or bourgeois, is built on the idea of redemptive history and catastrophic necessity, leading to the totalitarian temper, society-as-a-war-machine, and people as expendable. Too many material wonders are merely the reverse of spiritual squalors; the West's Faustian passion, reflected in empire-building, industrial revolutions and la gloire, has inundated the underdeveloped Afro-Asian blocs, creating disorientation and distrust. Thus, we have the foreign policy frustations and the fitful fantasies of public and private lives. Conclude the authors: the experience of the 20th century is tragic; America, that ""titanic prodigal"", is wasting itself in willful innocence and ignorance; to come of age it must realise the existential situation of the times, the limitations and the possibilities, the real and unreal problems. A Camus-like ending surely. Elsewhere the authors borrow from, among others, Namier, Arendt, Koestler, Niebuhr, even Cavafy and Baudelaire. But there are acknowledgements all over the place. A brisk book--lively, lucid, liberating.