An absorbing and enjoyable collection of book reviews mostly, a genre which brings out Lichtheim's strengths while enabling...

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An absorbing and enjoyable collection of book reviews mostly, a genre which brings out Lichtheim's strengths while enabling the reader to discern some of his limitations. The essays on England, France, America, and Europe sketch more and less obvious parallels and lineages: T. H. Lawrence and Carlyle, the Webbs as ""the Condorcets and Turgots of Britain's future bloodless revolution,"" the Nietzschean side of Shaw, Disraeli as Romantic. Lichtheim's reverent treatment of Churchill as a wonderfully Whiggish oligarch contrasts with his snideness toward Bertrand Russell's equally incisive ruling-class moralism. There are serious theoretical dissections of ""the new sociology"" of Lipset et al., but the comments on contemporary French politics descend into mere punditry. The rest of the book is devoted to Lenin, Stalin, and Marxism. Here Lichtheim is often sloppy in his role as Continental tutor of Anglo-Americans. He approaches the collapse of the Russian Revolution with a cavalier attitude toward its social and economic causes, while at the same time, by ignoring the '20's debates over industrialization, he deprives the reader of counter-arguments to his view that Lenin-entailed-Stalin and anyhow Stalinism-was-necessary. And his notion that Western Communist Parties have until recently remained ""Bolshevik"" will be disputed very strongly. Yet there is much that is useful here when Lichtheim moves past the practitioners of Marxism to deal with its students and theorists. His critiques of Marcuse, Wetter, Sartre, Kolakowski, Simone Weil and others demand the attention of those who, even if well-read, are unable on their own to locate affinities and oppositions, or identify methodologies. This service alone renders the book indispensable to students of contemporary political thought.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1972