The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History

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A landmark defense of civilization that illuminates the political degradations and intellectual fetishisms of our world.

From the author of The Harvest of Sorrow and one of the world's most respected humanists comes this long-awaited work of history and philosophy.

The Dragons of Expectation—in the tradition of Isaiah Berlin's The Crooked Timber of Humanity and George Orwell's Essays—brilliantly traces how seductive ideas have come to corrupt ...

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New stated first edition, first printing hardcover and dust jacket in excellent condition. Protective mylar cover. 1 x 9.4 x 6.1 Inches 272 pages A landmark defense of ... civilization that illuminates the political degradations and intellectual fetishisms of our world.From the author of <I>The Harvest of Sorrow</I> and one of the world's most respected humanists comes this long-awaited work of history and philosophy. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A landmark defense of civilization that illuminates the political degradations and intellectual fetishisms of our world.

From the author of The Harvest of Sorrow and one of the world's most respected humanists comes this long-awaited work of history and philosophy.

The Dragons of Expectation—in the tradition of Isaiah Berlin's The Crooked Timber of Humanity and George Orwell's Essays—brilliantly traces how seductive ideas have come to corrupt modern minds, to often-disastrous effects. From the onset of the Enlightenment to the excesses of democracy, Stalinism, and liberalism, Robert Conquest masterfully examines how false nostrums have infected academia, politicians, and the public, showing how their reliance on "isms" and the destructive concepts of "People, Nation, and Masses" have resulted in a ruinous cycle of turbulence and war. Including analyses of Russia's October Revolution, World War II, and the Cold War that challenge common historical views, The Dragons of Expectation is one of the most important contributions to modern thought in recent years.

Author Biography: Robert Conquest, author of Reflections on a Ravaged Century and The Great Terror, is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He lives in Stanford, California.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This occasionally brilliant and at times idiosyncratic book is a frontal assault on the pieties of the left. At its heart is Conquest's critique of a deluded idealization of the Soviet Union and the underestimation of the danger it posed to the West-the focus of Conquest's long and distinguished career (The Great Terror, etc.). But his targets here are far broader: if dreamy-eyed socialism has died, its ghost lives on, he says, in a mishmash of icons and fetishes ("democracy," "liberty," "progress"), held together by uncritical utopianism and reducing our intellectual culture to cerebral jelly. The original nursery of dragons, he suggests, was the French Enlightenment; today, these beasts dwell in academic corridors, where professors speak in jargon and channel the repressive spirit of the medieval Inquisition. His St. George, bearing the banner of the "Law-and-Liberty" tradition, is English-speaking: the United States and the United Kingdom. Responding to the war against Islamist barbarians, Conquest assails veneration of the U.N., the EU, the International Criminal Court, a knee-jerk intellectual anti-Westernism and the presumption that benevolent colonial intervention is necessarily bad. This pithy book, which concludes with a strange, poetic composition masquerading as an epilogue, will infuriate as many readers as it gladdens. But Conquest has thrown down a gauntlet to which we should all respond. 3 b&w illus. (Jan. 24) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The cranky elder statesman of international politics is back with another terse and reasoned jeremiad. As in his earlier Reflections on a Ravaged Century, Conquest presents a series of case studies to make his point that we continue to live in dangerous times while liberals are generally deluded by the realities of the modern world. Conquest devoted most of his scholarship in the 1960s and 1970s to the Soviet Union under Stalin. Thus, it is not surprising that he draws on familiar Cold War situations in this book. Conquest, however, is wide-ranging in his critique of misguided assumptions and accommodations to an "intellectual anti-Westernism." He injects learned doses of political theory, human psychology, and social history into his essays as he cautiously ponders the future. He argues for the development of stronger "law and liberty cultures" in the world but fears that our current ideological delusions may prevent this. Conquest is always provocative and worth reading, regardless of one's political position. Recommended for most academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/04.]-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 withthis 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059335
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.68 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. I Heads above water and vice versa 3
Ch. II Lemming lore 11
Ch. III Harpooning some word-whales 23
Ch. IV Choose your enlightenment 37
Ch. V After utopia 45
Ch. VI Internationalism, supranationalism 57
Ch. VII Slouching towards Byzantium 71
Ch. VIII 1917 : "revolution" and reality 87
Ch. IX Revolutionary high finance : some notes on a neglected theme 95
Ch. X Into the planned economy 101
Ch. XI Inside the new society 111
Ch. XII With and against Hitler 125
Ch. XIII Cold war : heated imaginations 135
Ch. XIV A gaggle of misleaders 145
Ch. XV A collapse of unreality 165
Ch. XVI The whys of art 175
Ch. XVII Bureaucracies and barbarism 191
Ch. XVIII Awake to affirmation 203
App. A "No one foresaw the collapse of the Soviet system" 213
App. B An Anglosphere in the neosphere (a political exercise) 221
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