A succinct yet informative review of the spirit of dissent in the last two decades in Europe, by Hughes (History/Univ. of...


SOPHISTICATED REBELS: The Political Culture of European Dissent, 1968-1987

A succinct yet informative review of the spirit of dissent in the last two decades in Europe, by Hughes (History/Univ. of Cal. at San Diego), author of several books including The Obstructed Path (1968) and Prisoners of Hope: The Silver Age of the Italian Jews, (1983). Offering wide scope in this brief study, Hughes takes up, in turn: Moslem workers who flooded the labor pools of West European countries in the 1970's, creating a large underclass when those economics faltered and they found themselves trapped by their own children, who had become westernized; advocates of local autonomy, such as the Bretons and the Welsh, who were not salved by signs of British or French good will; dissident theologians Hans Kung and Edward Schillebeeckx, squared up against a new Polish Pope who stood four-square against the dilution of traditional theology; the Solidarity movement in Poland; Sakharov and his dissenting cohorts in the Soviet Union; the collapse of Eurocommunism and even the retreat of democratic socialism in the face of the victories of Thatcher and her partners in idealism across the continent; the growth of the German ""Greens"" in their quest for building a society on a human scale. Along with this, Hughes even finds time to analyze some of the works of such novelists or critics as Milan Kundera, Roy Medvedev, Adam Michnik, and Jurgen Habermas. Hughes depicts dissenters as both angry (the Paris rebels of 1968 were ""ignorant of actual violence"" but ""cultivated its rhetoric"") and suffused with the feeling that ""Gargantuan laughter alone could encompass the absurdity of the century's last quarter."" In sum, Hughes reveals a dissenting spirit considerably tempered from the revolutionary zeal of the earlier 20th century. This is an excellent short introduction for anyone wishing to take a quick course in the sometimes abstruse waters of European intellectualism.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988