by Paul Hollander ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 21, 1973
Professor Hollander (Sociology, Univ. of Massachusetts) doesn't subscribe to the ""theory of convergence"" -- i.e., that popular (especially among liberals and the New Left) brief that America and the USSR are growing daily more alike beneath the ideological and rhetorical facade. The current political detente, Hollander asserts, has fostered many illusions which don't square with the actual facts of the Soviet system, here characterized as ""imperfect totalitarianism"" in contrast to our own ""imperfect pluralism."" Peering mistrustfully at the Soviet political regime, he points to the unique role of the Party as unifier of elites; to elections as secular rituals of unanimity and government sponsored festiveness (the American voter has ""some choice""; ""in the USSR there is none""); and to the Soviet propaganda machine, as ubiquitous as American advertising. And what about the good-old American option of ""dropping out"" or just leaving the country? The Russians, who slight ""negative freedom,"" don't have the option. It's just like you learned in high school: the Russian people are regimented, passive, intimidated and easily manipulated. Their level of expectation whether in respect to consumer goods (a regular supply of onions in the grocery store is a considerable achievement) or civil liberties is low. Of course there are certain similarities between the two societies -- crime, juvenile delinquency, family instability and the misuse of natural resources. But despite the fashionable ""reflexive disparagement of American society"" we're still basically free and democratic while they're basically monolithic and tightly controlled. Hollander does have some interesting material here on Russian attitudes toward education, ethnic minorities, drugs and mental illness but the general impression is overwhelmingly depressing with the long shadow of Stalin still abroad in the land. Much of this could have been written by William Buckley ten years ago -- there's no doubt Hollander sees most of the ""revisionists"" as deluded and naive. In sum a very traditional assessment of their vices and our virtues.
Pub Date: June 21, 1973
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1973
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