The Unfinished Twentieth Century

Overview

In this brief, elegant, urgent work, Jonathan Schell, the author of The Fate of the Earth, proposes that the defining characteristic of the twentieth century was the uncontrolled acceleration of humankind’s capacity for self-destruction, manifested in ‘policies of extermination’, which culminated in the construction of the species-threatening nuclear arsenals of the Cold War.

Schell examines the legacy this leaves for the new millennium: the more than 30,000 nuclear weapons that...

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Overview

In this brief, elegant, urgent work, Jonathan Schell, the author of The Fate of the Earth, proposes that the defining characteristic of the twentieth century was the uncontrolled acceleration of humankind’s capacity for self-destruction, manifested in ‘policies of extermination’, which culminated in the construction of the species-threatening nuclear arsenals of the Cold War.

Schell examines the legacy this leaves for the new millennium: the more than 30,000 nuclear weapons that remain in existence, the crisis of nuclear arms control that has arisen with the unraveling of the ABM treaty, the stalemate of the START talks, the attractive illusion of missile defense, the arrival of nuclear weapons in South-Asia, and the threat of their spread to East Asia and the Middle East. Schell suggests that the world now faces a difficult but inescapable choice between the abolition of all nuclear weapons and their rapid proliferation as nuclear technology and materials seep around the world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Surveying the century ‘of the Somme, of the Gulag, of the Holocaust’ and of the atomic bomb, [Schell] wonders at a certain implicit optimism among historians ready to call it ‘short.’”—The Nation

“This compelling exploration ... frames the nuclear debate in terms stark enough to rouse even the most politically ambivalent reader.”—UTNE Reader

“Readers who’ve been emptying bookstores in search of instant wisdom on low-tech terrorism and early Islam would be wise to pick up The Unfinished Twentieth Century that tells how we got into this nuclear mess and how we might get out of it.”—New York Times

“His somber plea for the major nuclear powers to adopt an abolitionist agenda before the minor nuclear players do us all in ... comes freighted with a poignant urgency.”—New York Times Book Review

“With the Senate’s failure to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty and President George W. Bush’s unwillingness to use a treaty to formalize further weapons reductions, Schell’s pessimism over the direction of arms control is well-founded.”—Times Higher Education Supplement

“Jonathan Schell’s The Unfinished Twentieth Century is a brilliantly lucid, cogent, calm, and historically grounded study of our nuclear inheritance. It is not a political book—its reasoning transcends politics. It is not a jeremiad of despair—the quality of mind it brings to the subject is, in fact, thrilling. But as it rings of truth, and shines with a wisdom that from all evidence is unavailable to the present administration in Washington, it may well be an act of prophecy for our time.”—E. L. Doctorow

“Our nuclear weapons policies are indeed unfinished business of the 21st century. Jonathan Schell, in an extraordinarily well-reasoned book, points to the actions we should consider in dealing with the problem.”—Robert McNamara

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859847800
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Schell teaches at Wesleyan University and the New School University. A Fellow at the Nation Institute and co-founder of a recently formed citizen’s initiative to negotiate the abolition of nuclear weapons, he is the author of nine books including Fate of the Earth, which was published in twenty countries.
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