THE AGE OF IDEOLOGIES: A History of Political Thought in the Twentieth Century by Karl Dietrich Bracher

THE AGE OF IDEOLOGIES: A History of Political Thought in the Twentieth Century

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In the view of German political scientist Bracher (The German Dictatorship), the wrong turns in political thinking in this century have been signaled by a crisis mentality wedded to a loss of faith in progress. Spengler's Decline of the West is an unsurprising example of the crisis mentality at work, but Bracher also cites such works as Karl Kraus' End of Mankind to capture the mood of the early part of the century. (Bracher is distressed to see this mood repeated today in the predictions of global disaster raised by the antinuclear movement and in what he perceives as the antiprogress ideology of Germany's Green Party.) This is familiar territory, particularly the early material (which formed the substance of H. Stuart Hughes' Consciousness and Society) dealing with such figures as Nietzsche, Freud, Max Weber, Henri Bergson, and other pioneers into the realm of the unconscious, intuition, and power. Bracher links national socialism and communism to the tired concept of totalitarianism, locating the crucial similarities in their anti-bourgeois radicalism, their creation of simplistic polarities of friend and foe, good and bad, and their mass mobilization. By conceptualizing totalitarianism in this way, and tying it to the flip-side of progress, he is able to see totalitarianism as a constant threat to democracy, liberalism, and technical and economic efficiency--and, not incidentally, to cast grave doubts upon anyone or any group that doesn't share his faith. Bracher's fear is genuine, a product of his central European experience, but is likely to appear overwrought to American readers. A useful survey, but one rendered less useful by the ideological preoccupations of its author.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's