on 28 July 2013
Three stars might seem a bit harsh, American journo Christian Caryl writes engagingly for a mass audience and renders complex geo-political changes accessible and explicable. I dont take issue with the main theme of the book either:- that 1979 marked a turning point in 20th century history which saw the 'right' of the political spectrum winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the world's poor - Caryl cites Margaret Thatcher, Deng Xiaoping, Ayatolleh Khomeini, John Paul II and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan as key figures gaining prominence in this year - and thus fatally undermining the political left from below, as it were.
My 'harsh' star rating is based upon my misgivings as to Caryl's unapologetic neo-conservative/'Whiggish' and tendentious propagation of the view that all of this was in some way natural or inevitable like the weather and his whitewashed, hagiographic portaits of such complex individuals such as Thatcher, Karol Wojtyla and Deng Xiaoping. This is why I have awarded this book only three stars. It is marketed as a history book but it is actually a deeply political book, blurring the line between history and propaganda.
Perhaps all works of history are in some way works of propaganda? history writing is partly about spinning a story, creating a narrative, after all. Perhaps my 'harsh' rating represents my own political biases? maybe so. Despite these difficulties in judging any history book, in my own personal view; whilst history writing is not scientific in any meaningful sense, it should attempt to look at its subjects from as many angles as possible so as to obtain the clearest possible view of them. 'Strange rebels,' for all that is good about it, conspicuously does not do this, hence my rating.
on 8 March 2014
The parallel developments of Thatcherism, the Polish Pope, Islamists in Iran, the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan and Deng in China. Showing parallels and differences, a useful reminder of events.