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Oscar Handlin is best known as America's leading historian of ethnicity and the immigrant experience in the new nation. In 1961 he produced what was perhaps the first critique of anti-Americanism as an ideological expression of Marxism-Leninismin the schools of higher learning. In his new opening essay to this second edition, he both tells how he was able to perceive the cancer of communist ideology early, and why this new edition is needed now.
The Distortion of America is a handbook on avoiding error, a methodological primer on how historians gather evidence, presume witnesses to be reliable or not, and develop forms of verification in the conduct of analysis and research. As such this work is an introduction to the study of history, as well as an examination of specific instances of ideology and mindless passion as ruinous ways to look at America.
Handlin shows how social history kept his vision close to the experiences of ordinary people, whose heritage of freedom and dedication to individual liberty was the necessary antidote to academic exaggeration. Six additional chapters supplement those gathered in the earlier collection. Two written in the 1950s describe the forces that later created the economic strength of the United States, while a third treats the problem of race which long contributed to the distortions of America. An account of Yugoslavia before its collapse describes the class divisions responsible for present troubles. By contrast, no inkling of the tensions that would erupt in bloody civil war caught the attention of hundreds of journalists who crowded Sarajevo in 1984. A brief article shows the relevance to China of democracy in the United States. The final new entry is a memorable piece on how the career of Arthur Koestler exemplifies the difficulties of the ex-communist in an unsympathetic environment.
These essays illustrate Handlin's working philosophy: "the study of the human past persuades me that, despite the frequent risks of failure, man has the capacity to make order an find purpose in the world in which he lives when he uses the power of his reason to do so."
|Introduction to the Transaction Edition|
|1||From Dream to Nightmare||1|
|3||The Failure of Communism - and What It Meant||40|
|4||The Gullibility of the Neutrals||59|
|5||A Note on Legality||83|
|7||Loss of Will||120|
|8||Democracy and the Intellectuals||136|
|10||Second Chance for the South||167|
|11||The Goals of Integration||180|
|13||The Worlds of Arthur Koestler||217|
|14||Reflections on Tiananmen||228|