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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening study of some major thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries, 21 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Paperback)
Wolin's masterly monograph "The Seduction of Unreason" constitutes a major contribution to contemporary intellectual history. Wolin's study dissects various political implications and current repercussions of the ideas and modes of thinking of Joseph de Maistre, Johann Gottfried Herder, Arthur de Gobineau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Carl Gustav Jung, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Jaques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard. In two "political excursuses," he indicates how the ideas of these and other - partly, highly respected - thinkers who, in one way or another attacked some basic Western values like rationalism and human rights, have via the "Conservative Revolution," and German and French so-called "New Right" gained influence on extremely right-wing parties as well as on mainstream politics. Wolin's usage of the term "fascism" in the book's title, to be sure, could be seen as misleading in so far as only some of the protagonists of his fascinating story were full-blown fascists. Still, his study is a valuable addition not only to the history of ideas, but also to comparative fascist studies in that it presents many illuminating cases illustrating why and how ideas have consequences, in general, and in which way anti-rational and anti-democratic thought can be utilized by fascist movements to justify dictatorship, ethnic cleansing and violence, in particular. The book is thus a valuable addition not only within the fields of cultural studies and history of science, but could also be of use in seminars on extremist politics. It forcefully debunks the idea that the ideational sources of ultra-nationalism and fundamentalism in both the inter- and post-war Europe are solely to be found among marginal scholars and publicists. Wolin's study is eye-opening in that illustrates how some major trends in 20th century mainstream humanities have played the role of, and are, partly, still functioning as, catalysts for the spread and acceptance of radically ascriptive views of human beings, and extremely right-wing ideologies.
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