Useful and interesting socialist takes on 20th-century history, but far short of the compelling social prophecy to which it...



An analysis of 20th-century social reform that explores Western history and economics in order to comment on the current state and future prospects of socialism.

The 1989 Eastern European revolutions, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and China’s slow but steady implementation of capitalist reforms cause many political commentators to dismiss socialism as an outdated and discredited philosophy. Birnbaum (The Crisis of Industrial Society, not reviewed) provides his new social history in response to such assertions. Offering as his foundation a detailed chronicle of reform movements in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, Birnbaum detects key shifts in social concerns over the course of the century. He argues that these Western nations reacted to the totalitarian nature of the Stalinist Soviet state by approaching social reform tentatively rather than embracing socialist doctrine. According to Birnbaum, this resulted in the rise of Reaganism and Thatcherism and a corresponding loss of faith in the Marxist idea of historical progression. Despite the beleaguered state of socialism today, Birnbaum sees hope for the socialist spirit. He points to Americans’ dedication to New Deal and Great Society programs like Social Security and Medicare, and to the entrenched social welfare systems of Western Europe as evidence that a reimagined and reinvigorated socialism waits to burst upon the international scene. Birnbaum’s failure to offer clear indications about what direction this might take creates an effect opposite to that he wants to produce: rather than inspiring hope for the future of socialism, his analysis leaves the reader feeling that its chances of revival are slim indeed.

Useful and interesting socialist takes on 20th-century history, but far short of the compelling social prophecy to which it aspires.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-512005-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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


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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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