Reality and Delusion in the Course of History
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Essays by distinguished historian and humanist Conquest (Hoover Institute/Stanford) blame faulty worldviews for a wide variety of missteps and miscalculations.

Following up on Reflections on a Ravaged Century (1999), the author continues to reassess the effects of Western misguidance and its contributions to a protracted and costly Cold War with a Soviet Union that was itself cloaked in self-deception and political fallacies. He still holds to the general notion that the European Union is a utopian failure in its own right, and that some form of “Anglosphere,” an interdependent union of English-speaking nations sharing fundaments in law and human rights, offers the best hope for shoring up and preserving the Western tradition against all who come against it. Although he frustratingly does not elaborate, Conquest includes terrorism among the “isms” that tend to feed on imperfect research and misinterpretations of history that amount to nothing more than so much bad intelligence. He finds “fashionable academics” behind decades of terrorist recruiting worldwide, from the IRA to India, noting that “the September 11 bombers were almost all comfortably off young men, some having been to Western universities and there adopted the extreme anti-Western mindset.” The bombing itself, Conquest further notes, was celebrated by both extreme rightists (e.g., American Nazi Party) and leftists here and in Europe. In an entertaining diatribe on bureaucratic muddling that has the effect of promoting barbarism in our culture, the author rails against a “half-educated or diseducated class that puts vast wealth into purchasing objects they believe to be ‘art.’ ” While he claims America is more infected with this syndrome, Conquest’s ultimate example is London’s Tate Gallery, which acquired from the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni cans of his own excrement, artifacts created specifically to expose gullibility in art buyers.

Insightful, cantankerous pursuit of lingering lessons.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2005
ISBN: 0-393-05933-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2004


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