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The Rise and Fall of Communism by [Brown, Archie]
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The Rise and Fall of Communism Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Length: 736 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"A riveting and magisterial work." -- Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and author of THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

"Historical writing and political analysis of the highest order."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This book requires and deserves space on all important book shelves for decades to come."--Gary Hart, United States Senator (Ret.)

"Readable and judicious...both controversial and commonsensical...'The Rise and Fall of Communism' is a work of considerable delicacy and nuance."--Salon.com

"A sweeping, engrossing history. . . . Brown does a fine job of describing the social and political conditions that led people to embrace communism. And how, when the charms of the system wore off, these people found themselves ensnared by a totalitarianism that gave them no way to opt out."--Dallas Morning News

"Condensed with information that is both well-researched and well-placed within textbook history, [Brown's] book is a rewarding read. It is an important book for the time--a sober reflection on the physical, objective results of ideological thought."--Sacramento Book Review

"For decades this volume will remain a definitive study of communism."--Literary Review (UK)

"Consistently superb"--Dwight Garner, New York Times

"A riveting and magisterial work."--Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and author of THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

"Ranging wisely and lucidly across the decades and around the world, this is a splendid book."--William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

"Archie Brown's The Rise and Fall of Communsm is a rare thing, meticulously researched history that is immensely readable and, even better, a disinterested overview of the most deeply divisive topic of the past 100 years that has been highly praised by critics on the Right and Left."--Australian Nonfiction Books of the Year

"[Brown's] account is studded with delightfully pertinent and pithy personal observations and anecdotes...It is easy to be polemical about communism. Mr. Brown strives to be fair-minded...As a single-volume account of mankind's biggest mistake, Mr. Brown's book is hard to beat."--The Economist

Ranging wisely and lucidly across the decades and around the world, this is a splendid book. --William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era"

This book requires and deserves space on all important book shelves for decades to come. --Gary Hart, United States Senator (Ret.)"

[Brown s] account is studded with delightfully pertinent and pithy personal observations and anecdotes...It is easy to be polemical about communism. Mr. Brown strives to be fair-minded...As a single-volume account of mankind s biggest mistake, Mr. Brown s book is hard to beat. --The Economist"

A sweeping, engrossing history. . . . Brown does a fine job of describing the social and political conditions that led people to embrace communism. And how, when the charms of the system wore off, these people found themselves ensnared by a totalitarianism that gave them no way to opt out. --Dallas Morning News"

Historical writing and political analysis of the highest order. --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"

A riveting and magisterial work. --Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and author of THE GREAT EXPERIMENT"

For decades this volume will remain a definitive study of communism. --Literary Review (UK)"

Readable and judicious...both controversial and commonsensical The Rise and Fall of Communism is a work of considerable delicacy and nuance. --Salon.com"

Consistently superb --Dwight Garner, New York Times"

Archie Brown s The Rise and Fall of Communsm is a rare thing, meticulously researched history that is immensely readable and, even better, a disinterested overview of the most deeply divisive topic of the past 100 years that has been highly praised by critics on the Right and Left .--Australian Nonfiction Books of the Year"

Condensed with information that is both well-researched and well-placed within textbook history, [Brown s] book is a rewarding read. It is an important book for the time a sober reflection on the physical, objective results of ideological thought. --Sacramento Book Review"

Literary Review

'the crowning achievement of Archie Brown's career... this volume will remain a definitive study of communism... Thank you, Archie Brown'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2616 KB
  • Print Length: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (17 Aug. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ZDO8WU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #153,243 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Archie Brown offers a lifetime's reflections on the rise and fall of Communism in this excellent survey. It is not the survey of an idea, communism with a small `c', but of a political movement, with a capital `C'. The idea still persists of course but the regimes that went under this designation have mostly vanished or been transfigured, such as China, or ossified like North Korea.

The book starts with a brief survey of the utopian antecedents of Communism before moving to cover the Bolshevik revolution, Stalin's forced industrialisation of the Soviet Union, the Chinese revolution, through to the gradual fracturing and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union and its protégé regimes in Eastern Europe in the late 80s/early 90s. It treats developments in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the best, China satisfactorily but is less comprehensive about Communism in the developing world. Vietnam, Cuba and Laos are barely covered. However I think that this emphasis is valid as a book that charts the decline of Communism as a political movement should devote space to the very places where it started and where it ended.

Communism was not monolithic. There were substantial differences in the operations of the various Communist regimes. They even, as in the case of the case of Vietnam and Kampuchea, fought one another. Indeed, the Soviet Union and China fought fatal clashes on their border in the Far East in the late 1960s, which nearly came to all out war. However, all communist regimes were united by the following features:

1. The monopoly political power of the ruling party.
2. Democratic centralism.
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Excellent!
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No review can do justice to a book like this. Archie Brown has tossed off the definite one volume history of communism. Though for those not enthused with the idea of plunging into 700 pages of politburo paperwork, then Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes is still the most entertaining and readable history of communism, with sparingly fewer pages. (There is another new book by Priestlan called Red Flag, also 700 pages thick; I'm gonna read that sometime and so I would like to know what other people think of the two books side by side).

There are tons of facts in Archie Browns book and also funny asides, such as Brown's own experiences with real commies and other delude nut-jobs and the book got exciting towards the end with Boris Yeltsin's dismantling, rather than collapse, of the Soviet empire.

Though the later parts were entertaining, I must say, the first few chapters on the history of utopian ideas, Karl Marx, and the general 'coming of god on earth' atmosphere were a bit rushed (only around 30 pages). No harm done there, as it's only a one volume book. However, academics or students wanting to research this period can get more information by nipping into any library and picking a book on the actual period. I thought Brown's version read like a synopsis of planned chapters.

Also, the exciting revolutionary period he is covering only took place about three generations ago and so it would be worth reading the actual books from the period to get a flavour of this excitement. Archie Brown, wisely, isn't a true believer.
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I think it can appeal to historians and academics as well as readers who are not normally that much into history. There are references and bibliography and the linguistic and political neutrality of academics, but at the same time the story is accessible, engaging, narrated in good structure and unpretentious language.

Personally, I prefer economic and social histories more than political or institutional ones, and this book is mainly about the latter, but that makes sense considering the top down, authoritarian regimes described. Perhaps it's a small weakness that the economy parts are a bit sparse and also that the author's speciality shows when he talks about his topic (the USSR), the parts on other communist countries go a little bit too quickly. There is some repetition (especially in conclusions, summaries and in the last chapter), perhaps it's not necessary as the history is very well written and allows the reader to make up his own mind. Details like the above are probably inevitable in such an ambitious, wide-ranging book, I couldn't put them down as faults.

About the usual question (in such books) of perceived bias, I can't imagine many people being put off, the author casts a critical eye on communism and explains why elements of totalitarianism/authoritarianism go together with communism. But even if the reader disagrees, the point is not unpleasantly forced, the book focuses on story, not rants or polemics. There's no obvious right wing bias either, the occasional successes of communism are also explained and communism is contrasted to democratic socialism and people on the left like Orwell or Bevan who I thought are portrayed in a flattering light.
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