Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

Overview

In Ira Katznelson's view, Americans are squandering a tremendous ethical and political opportunity to redefine and reorient the liberal tradition. In an opening essay and two remarkable letters addressed to Adam Michnik, who is arguably East Europe's emblematic democratic intellectual, Katznelson seeks to recover this possibility. By examining issues that once occupied Michnik's fellow dissidents in the Warsaw group known as the Crooked Circle, Katznelson brings a fresh realism to old ideals and posits a ...
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Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

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Overview

In Ira Katznelson's view, Americans are squandering a tremendous ethical and political opportunity to redefine and reorient the liberal tradition. In an opening essay and two remarkable letters addressed to Adam Michnik, who is arguably East Europe's emblematic democratic intellectual, Katznelson seeks to recover this possibility. By examining issues that once occupied Michnik's fellow dissidents in the Warsaw group known as the Crooked Circle, Katznelson brings a fresh realism to old ideals and posits a liberalism that "stares hard" at cruelty, suffering, coercion, and tyrannical abuses of state power. Like the members of Michnik's club, he recognizes that the circumference of liberalism's circle never runs smooth and that tolerance requires extremely difficult judgments. Katznelson's first letter explores how the virtues of socialism, including its moral stand on social justice, can be related to liberalism while overcoming debilitating aspects of the socialist inheritance. The second asks whether liberalism can recognize, appreciate, and manage human difference. Situated in the lineage of efforts by Richard Hofstadter, C. Wright Mills, and Lionel Trilling to "thicken" liberalism, these letters also draw on personal experience in the radical politics of the 1960s and in the dissident culture of East and Central Europe in the years immediately preceding communism's demise.
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Editorial Reviews

Political Science Quarterly
Thoughtful and eminently readable contribution to debates about the future of liberalism.... Katznelson's argument is provocative.
Foreign Affairs
[An] unusual and inventive work.
The Boston Review of Books
Liberalism's Crooked Circleis an intellectually rich engagement with two large issues in contemporary liberalism.... Historically grounded and sociologically realistic—it is a great success.
Political Science Quarterly - William E. Scheuerman
[A] thoughtful and eminently readable contribution to debates about the future of liberalism.... [Katznelson] argues for a synthesis of the most progressive elements of political liberalism with the strengths of the socialist critique of capitalism.
The Boston Review of Books
Liberalism's Crooked Circleis an intellectually rich engagement with two large issues in contemporary liberalism.... Historically grounded and sociologically realistic—it is a great success.
Library Journal
Katznelson (political science and history, Columbia Univ.; City Trenches, 1981) here addresses the contemporary crisis of left-wing politics by redefining and "revaluing" the liberal tradition. Rather than presenting a conventional social-scientific analysis, his intervention takes the form of two lengthy epistles to Polish-Jewish dissident Adam Michnik. Katznelson's prose style is as elegant as his political stance is sophisticated. This is a subtle, searching examination of liberalism's complicated relationship to concerns about class inequality and social difference. The book should appeal to readers interested in "the pressing task of discovering an ethical and political imagination sufficiently resourceful to grapple with current challenges and responsibilities." Unrepentant leftists, as well as advocates of an undiluted capitalism, will find much to disagree with in this short, pithy volume. But they should also find Katznelson's savoir faire intellectually bracing. Recommended for all academic libraries.-Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
From the Publisher
Winner of the 1997 Michael Harrington Award, Caucus for a New Political Science section of the American Political Science Association

Winner of the 1996 Lionel Trilling Award, Columbia University

"[A] thoughtful and eminently readable contribution to debates about the future of liberalism.... [Katznelson] argues for a synthesis of the most progressive elements of political liberalism with the strengths of the socialist critique of capitalism."—William E. Scheuerman, Political Science Quarterly

"Liberalism's Crooked Circleis an intellectually rich engagement with two large issues in contemporary liberalism.... Historically grounded and sociologically realistic—it is a great success."—The Boston Review of Books

"Thoughtful and eminently readable contribution to debates about the future of liberalism.... Katznelson's argument is provocative."—Political Science Quarterly

"Katznelson's prose style is as elegant as his political stance is sophisticated. This is a subtle, searching examination of liberalism's complicated relationship to concerns about class inequality and social difference."—Library Journal

"[An] unusual and inventive work."—Foreign Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691004471
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/24/1998
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 8.87 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Does Conquest Pay? 3
Ch. 2 When Does Conquest Pay? 18
Ch. 3 Nazi-Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1944 36
Ch. 4 Belgium and Luxembourg, 1914-1918 69
Ch. 5 The Ruhr-Rhineland, 1923-1924 87
Ch. 6 The Japanese Empire, 1910-1945 99
Ch. 7 The Soviet Empire, 1945-1989 120
Ch. 8 The Spoils of Conquest 146
Notes 159
Works Cited 209
Index 243
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