The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality

Overview

The seduction of some of the twentieth century's great thinkers by Communist ideology and ideals is one of the most intriguing stories in the history of that ill-fated century. How was it that these distinguished intellectuals, public figures, and revolutionaries could enlist in the service of ideas which, when put in practice, proved repressive? Much has been written about the durable attraction of communism; we know far less about the disillusionment it spawned. In The End of Commitment, the distinguished ...
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Overview

The seduction of some of the twentieth century's great thinkers by Communist ideology and ideals is one of the most intriguing stories in the history of that ill-fated century. How was it that these distinguished intellectuals, public figures, and revolutionaries could enlist in the service of ideas which, when put in practice, proved repressive? Much has been written about the durable attraction of communism; we know far less about the disillusionment it spawned. In The End of Commitment, the distinguished sociologist Paul Hollander investigates how and why those individuals who were attracted to communism finally abandoned the cause that moved them. His is the first book to take a comprehensive, historically comparative view of disillusionment with Communist ideologies and systems, both in the countries where they were introduced and in the West. Relying chiefly on the autobiographies and memoirs of defectors, exiles, and dissidents from Communist states (the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, and in the Third World) as well as similar writings of major Western figures, Mr. Hollander examines and compares the sources and expressions of this political disenchantment. Concentrating on the moral conflicts created by the clash of unrealized ideals and actual practice, The End of Commitment sheds new light on the failings and malfunctions of these systems that were fully grasped only by those who lived under them. In a final, provocative section, Mr. Hollander explores the attitudes of some distinguished Western intellectuals who resisted disillusionment and clung to their commitment in the face of a welter of discrediting information. In all, his book offers a new insight into the patterns and processes of political attitude formation, persistence, and change in different social and historical settings.
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Editorial Reviews

American Communist History
Hollander's analysis of "secular messianism" and the disillusionment that it bred will not surprise readers of, say, The God That Failed (1950). However, The End of Commitment does a very useful, informative job updating editor Richard Crossman's classic. Hollander ranges far more widely-from Ethiopia to China, from Cuba to Vietnam-and his critical energies are especially mordant in addressing the gullibility, self-righteousness, and dogmatism of some leftist intellectuals (Susan Sontag, Edward Said, and Noam Chomsky) who are in no sense ordinary hacks or dupes.
National Review Online
Illuminating.
California Bookwatch
The first to pair a history of Communist systems with a social survey of how its ideology spread...
National Interest
Remarkable....Thoroughly tantalizing.
— Juliana Geran Pilon
Journal Of Cold War Studies
The life-stories collected in Hollander's new book are interesting, the intellectual trajectories...intriguing.
— Arthur Eckstein
National Review
Illuminating.
Journal of Cold War Studies
The life-stories collected in Hollander's new book are interesting, the intellectual trajectories...intriguing.
— Arthur Eckstein
Walter Laqueur
There is no one better placed than Paul Hollander to a provide sober and reliable explanation.
Richard Pipes
The story is of great importance.
Robert Conquest
A lively biographical presentation.
Anne Applebaum
A fascinating study of the nature of ideological fervor.
Harvey Klehr
An indispensable portrait of one of the great issues of the twentieth century.
National Interest - Juliana Geran Pilon
"Remarkable....Thoroughly tantalizing."
Journal of Cold War Studies - Arthur Eckstein
The life-stories collected in Hollander's new book are interesting, the intellectual trajectories...intriguing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566636889
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 6/25/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Hollander is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the classic Anti-Americanism as well as Understanding Anti-Americanism; Political Will and Personal Belief; Decline and Discontent; The Many Faces of Socialism; and Political Pilgrims. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

1 Political belief and personal morality 3
2 Behind the Iron Curtain : the Soviet Union and eastern Europe 30
3 In the Third World : Vietnam and China 91
4 In the Third World : Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia 137
5 Disillusionment in the West : I 172
6 Disillusionment in the West : II 202
7 Disaffection and resisting it : the rank and file in the West 240
8 Patterns of disillusionment 272
9 Resisting disillusionment 285
10 Conclusions : "regions where no persuasion can penetrate" : the personal and the political 352
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