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Communism Through Rose-Colored Glasses - The New York Times
-- some(two) states in India thrived under communism but they probably functioned well because they were economically and politically embedded within a democracy.
communism  socialism  critique  20th_century  world_history  left  united_states_of_america  NYTimes 
6 weeks ago by rvenkat
Red Famine by Anne Applebaum | PenguinRandomHouse.com
In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization—in effect a second Russian revolution—which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least five million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.

Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: after a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic’s borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases, they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil.

Today, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, has placed Ukrainian independence in its sights once more. Applebaum’s compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.
book  famines  communism  ussr  20th_century  autocracy  socialism 
6 weeks ago by rvenkat
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962: Frank Dikötter: Bloomsbury USA
"Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives." So opens Frank Dikötter's riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that "fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era." Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of "one of the most deadly mass killings of human history,"--at least 45 million people were worked, starved, or beaten to death--but also of "the greatest demolition of real estate in human history," as up to one-third of all housing was turned into rubble). The experiment was a catastrophe for the natural world as well, as the land was savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments. In a powerful mesghing of exhaustive research in Chinese archives and narrative drive, Dikötter for the first time links up what happened in the corridors of power-the vicious backstabbing and bullying tactics that took place among party leaders-with the everyday experiences of ordinary people, giving voice to the dead and disenfranchised. His magisterial account recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.
book  famines  communism  china  20th_century  autocracy  socialism 
6 weeks ago by rvenkat
The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics – New York Review Books
European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and scholars who supported or excused the worst tyrannies of the age. How was this possible? How could intellectuals whose work depends on freedom defend those who would deny it?

In profiles of six leading twentieth-century thinkers—Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Kojève, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida—Mark Lilla explores the psychology of political commitment. As continental Europe gave birth to two great ideological systems in the twentieth century, communism and fascism, it also gave birth to a new social type, the philotyrannical intellectual. Lilla shows how these thinkers were not only grappling with enduring philosophical questions, they were also writing out of their own experiences and passions. These profiles demonstrate how intellectuals can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results.

In a new afterword, Lilla traces how the intellectual world has changed since the end of the cold war. The ideological passions of the past have been replaced in the West, he argues, by a dogma of individual autonomy and freedom that both obscures the historical forces at work in the present and sanctions ignorance about them, leaving us ill-equipped to understand those who are inflamed by the new global ideologies of our time.
history_of_ideas  philosophy  nihilism  post-modernism  20th_century  book  fascism 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
Wolin, R.: The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Paperback and eBook) | Princeton University Press
Fifteen years ago, revelations about the political misdeeds of Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man sent shock waves throughout European and North American intellectual circles. Ever since, postmodernism has been haunted by the specter of a compromised past. In this intellectual genealogy of the postmodern spirit, Richard Wolin shows that postmodernism's infatuation with fascism has been widespread and not incidental. He calls into question postmodernism's claim to have inherited the mantle of the left--and suggests that postmodern thought has long been smitten with the opposite end of the political spectrum.

In probing chapters on C. G. Jung, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot, Wolin discovers an unsettling commonality: during the 1930s, these thinkers leaned to the right and were tainted by a proverbial "fascination with fascism." Frustrated by democracy's shortcomings, they were seduced by fascism's grandiose promises of political regeneration. The dictatorships in Italy and Germany promised redemption from the uncertainties of political liberalism. But, from the beginning, there could be no doubting their brutal methods of racism, violence, and imperial conquest.

Postmodernism's origins among the profascist literati of the 1930s reveal a dark political patrimony. The unspoken affinities between Counter-Enlightenment and postmodernism constitute the guiding thread of Wolin's suggestive narrative. In their mutual hostility toward reason and democracy, postmodernists and the advocates of Counter-Enlightenment betray a telltale strategic alliance--they cohabit the fraught terrain where far left and far right intersect.

Those who take Wolin's conclusions to heart will never view the history of modern thought in quite the same way.
Richard Wolin is Distinguished Professor of History and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His books, which have been translated into eight languages, include Heidegger's Children (Princeton) and Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption. His work has also appeared in The New Republic and Dissent.
history_of_ideas  philosophy  nihilism  post-modernism  20th_century  book  fascism 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America - Encounter Books
A compelling case can be made that violent crime, especially after the 1960s, was one of the most significant domestic issues in the United States. Indeed, few issues had as profound an effect on American life in the last third of the twentieth century. After 1965, crime rose to such levels that it frightened virtually all Americans and prompted significant alterations in everyday behaviors and even lifestyles. The risk of being mugged was a concern when Americans chose places to live and schools for their children, selected commuter routes to work, and planned their leisure activities. In some locales, people were afraid to leave their dwellings at any time, day or night, even to go to the market. In the worst of the post-1960s crime wave, Americans spent part of each day literally looking back over their shoulders.

The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America is the first book to comprehensively examine this important phenomenon over the entire postwar era. It combines a social history of the United States with the insights of criminology and examines the relationship between rising and falling crime and such historical developments as the postwar economic boom, suburbanization and the rise of the middle class, baby booms and busts, war and antiwar protest, the urbanization of minorities, and more.
book  sociology  violence  crime  criminal_justice  united_states_of_america  20th_century 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat
Now out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989 | World Politics | Cambridge Core
Like many major revolutions in history, the East European Revolution of 1989 caught its leaders, participants, victims, and observers by surprise. This paper offers an explanation whose crucial feature is a distinction between private and public preferences. By suppressing their antipathies to the political status quo, the East Europeans misled everyone, including themselves, as to the possibility of a successful uprising. In effect, they conferred on their privately despised governments an aura of invincibility. Under the circumstances, public opposition was poised to grow explosively if ever enough people lost their fear of exposing their private preferences. The currently popular theories of revolution do not make clear why uprisings easily explained in retrospect may not have been anticipated. The theory developed here fills this void. Among its predictions is that political revolutions will inevitably continue to catch the world by surprise.
european_politics  revolutions  20th_century  social_behavior  contagion  homophily  ?  social_psychology  institutions  norms  collective_dynamics  judgment_decision-making  dmce  teaching  timur.kuran 
7 weeks ago by rvenkat

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