THE INVENTION OF THE AMERICAS

ECLIPSE OF 'THE OTHER' AND THE MYTH OF MODERNITY

A tendentious postmodern critique of modernity and the European colonization of the New World. Dussel (Philosophy/Universidad Aut¢nomo, Mexico) argues that modernity began in 1492 when Europe changed from a small cluster of semicivilized states hemmed in by the Muslim nations to a world center``a new discovering universality.'' To accompany this new global perspective, a ``myth'' of modernity was created, one that permitted any measure of European barbarity as long as it was in the name of civilization. Thus, what Dussel sees as the valuable side of modernity, its liberating potential, is a smoke screen for exploitation and that old naughty vampire, capital. From Foucault to the Frankfurt School, this is a familiar, even overly familiar, argument. Dussel's specific thesis could have been neatly wrapped up into an article, but as a book, it is hopelessly padded, as well as riven through with unnecessary academic jargon: ``Modernity will come into its fullness...by surpassing itself through a corealization with its once negated alterity and through a process of mutual, creative fecundation.'' Dussel also does disservice to his argument with his tendency toward hyperbole and ideological one-sidedness. He seems to believe that exploitation is largely a modern invention and that pre-Columbian America was an innocent Eden. There is little weight given, for example, to the fact that the Aztec Empire was a hegemonic, exploitative aristocracy. One of the main reasons it fell so easily was not, as Dussel holds, that CortÇs was thought to be a god, but that subject tribes were all too eager to ally with the Spanish and free themselves from Aztec oppression. Also for someone so Eurocritical, Dussel's argument, from his concept of modernity as liberating on, is shot through with Eurocentrism. A windy and tiresome second-hand jeremiad. (charts, maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8264-0796-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Continuum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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