THE TOTALITARIAN TEMPTATION by Jean-Francois Revel

THE TOTALITARIAN TEMPTATION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Having been largely discredited in scholarly circles as more obfuscating than enlightening, the concept of totalitarianism is nonetheless still selling well among journalists, for whom the jingoistic sound of the word is apparently irresistible. Revel, a columnist for the French newsweekly L'Express and author of the pop success Without Marx or Jesus, expertly exploits the concept's imprecision and ambiguity to project a fearful image of the inexorable march of anti-democratic forces in Europe and the world. Revel uses ""totalitarianism"" and ""Stalinism"" interchangeably, whereas the latter used to be considered as merely one form of totalitarianism. He employs both terms to refer to whatever he chooses at any particular paint, so that he includes the Chilean government of Salvador Allende, Nasser's Egypt, and the Italian Communist Party all under the heading of Stalinist. The book is a classical exercise in the non sequitur, as Revel hops from continent to continent and personality to personality in order to create the impression that he has some unifying structure at work other than his own conservative social-democratic biases. In the context of current French politics, Revel's real objective is obviously to discredit the French Socialist Party and their coalition with the Communists. This is partisan politics masquerading as social analysis.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday