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19+ Works 303 Membros 5 Reviews

About the Author

Paul Hollander is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Obras de Paul Hollander

Associated Works

On the Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (1989) — Contribuinte — 112 cópias
A century of violence in Soviet Russia (2000) — Prefácio — 44 cópias


Conhecimento Comum



Political Pilgrims is a trove of information that perhaps would be good to give idealistic leftwing students to read. Hollander, who escaped communist Hungary in 1956, theorizes why Western intellectuals in the 20th century became disillusioned with their own societies and looked towards authoritarian socialist states for meaning. First, the very freedom of Western news media and its sensational critiques of society encouraged a negative viewpoint. In addition, since the late 19th century public intellectuals – formerly religious thinkers in the main – no longer had a clear role in secular society. With no paradise in the next world to look forward to, they found it in this life. Foreign dictators were attractive to intellectuals as philosopher kings, a perfect combination of the man of action and the intellectual.

Many intellectuals visiting socialist states missed or ignored things we now know about, such as show trials and famines. Part of this was because they didn’t want to give up their dream of socialist utopia; another factor is what Hollander calls the techniques of hospitality. These people were welcomed and guided – made to feel important by having access to leaders and academics. They were given good food and accommodation, and most importantly saw only what the government wanted them to.

Hollander had his sights firmly fixed on characters like Italian communist Maria Marocchi. Hollander includes a quote from her singing the praises of the Chinese for being well-washed with soap and water and completely without makeup; but she seems to miss the dire effects of the Cultural Revolution. Others like Han Suyin, Bernard Shaw, Andre Gide and Jean Paul Satre also come in for criticism for their vanity, blindness and faulty analytical powers.

These luminaries allowed themselves to be duped by Potemkin villages: show villages (or hospitals or prisons) that gave a positive impression of the USSR or China. In the late 18th century, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great went on a tour of the Crimea – the “New Russia” taken off the Ottomans – to see her new subjects. Her advisor, Potemkin, arranged for his men to travel ahead of Catherine, erecting temporary villages to impress her. The technique has since been used many times, with variations: with model work camp in the Soviet Union, and in China with show fields bursting with rice during the Great Leap Forward. One might argue the entire city of modern Pyongyang is a Potemkin village.

It’s all valid stuff but he doesn’t look at the Western intellectuals who became enamoured of fascism, this would have added a nice balance to the book. To fill out the picture "Travellers in the Third Reich" by Julia Boyd would be a good one to read.
… (mais)
FEBeyer | Oct 25, 2021 |
Although the author cites some interesting studies and makes some interesting points, there are far too many sweeping generalizations made about gender, family, society, etc., to take much of it seriously. There are also a few typos which detract from the book's credibility.
resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
So very well reasoned arguments but grows repetitive toward the end
marcfitch | Jan 18, 2014 |
My reaction to reading this book in 1993.

A valueable book.

To be sure, some of Hollander’s conclusions I had reached before, namely that protestations of ethnocentrism, racism, and moral relativism are not consistently applied by the Left and anti-Americans. He also supported my suspicions that anti-Americanism is irrational. Hollander does a nice job of showing this – the book has a huge number of quotes – by showing how various leftist intellectuals are totally nonplussed, unmoved, and unrepentant about their own anti-Americanism and Marxism being discredited in Eastern Europe. They resort to the strange, but clever – and typical – semantic games of finding “structural” or “institutional” or “incipient” violence in America, hidden walls of tyranny and prejudice. Perhaps the key example of this is Bertrand Russell – a man whose qualifications as a philosopher and mathematician certainly show a talent for careful, precise use of language – and his inconsistent, shrill anti-Americanism.

Hollander shows how much of anti-Americanism partakes of a quasi-religious nature. The latter point is well-made by several quotes steeped in religious imagery. Marxism is the faith, dictators like Stalin, Mao, Castro the prophets and messiahs, the reward a city of perfection on earth. It provides, to its adherents, a sense of moral perfection (while often refusing to leave the much vilified United States for their communist utopias), an enemy to fight, a moral smugness, a belief in some human perfectibility rather than flawed humans (Leading to the “murderous urge for utopia”f), and a complete belief system.

As Hollander shows, part of this is a certain, for homegrown Anti-Americanism, silly idealism when America’s deeds don’t always live up to its principles. The Anti-American would often suggest because of this common foible (as Hollander points out, every country fails to live up to its ideals, but it is only Aamerica that is vigorously attacked for this) perhaps the principles (like the free-market, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights) should be thrown out. For the foreign anti-American there is nationalism at work as well as a certain envy of America mixed with resentment of its power, and Americans frequent ignorance of other lands. America, and the forces of anti-Communism and capitalism, seem incoherent and/or unwilling to defend themselves and constantly let their adversaries shape minds with their cultural products.

Hollander points out that the public has not bought the Left’s arguments, made by their cultural, religious (liberation theology), and media influence, have moved the entire political debate to the left, made certain topics virtually undiscussable (like hereditary/biological factors in behavior, or, in America, race), and caused a lot of false assumptions to be accepted as true. Hollander shows this with a survey of college students in 1984-1986. While they didn’t think the Soviet Union was friendly or America was uniquely evil or oppressive or stifled potential, they had many contradictory attitudes about capitalism and the military. I think some of the questions on his survey (particularly the one about using the U.S. military to aid “national liberation movements”) could have been clearer.

Hollander does a nice job in a chapter on Nicaraguan showing that (as I’ve read in less detail elsewhere) every alleged socialist utopia is the same and its sins are always glossed over by the faithful in pilgrimages and each time these faithful have fewer excuses about being duped. (I liked the insight into Nicaraguan police state tactics like staged rallies and residents of neighborhoods that will be visited by “internacionalistas” coached and warned ahead of time to voice no discontent).

Hollander identifies several roots of anti-Americanism at work in foreign lands and here: a resentment of American economic power, military might, and cultural pervasivess; attacking America because it is a symbol of modernity in its most capitalistic, individualistic, secular form. Thus Canadian and Mexican intellectuals, though different in language, cultural, religion and coming from countries different in wealth and historical relations with America, sound remarkably alike in their attacks on America. I think Hollander is right.

Environmentalism is another way that anti-capitalism and disaffection with modernity can be expressed. Here, though, its disciples can claim that if you don’t agree with them your killing the planet and humanity. I found particularly interesting his dealings with the concept of “inauthenticity”, that surprisingly common anti-American complaint manifested in bitchings about the material and cultural products of American society and mass-production. Thus Romans protest at McDonalds' restaurant in the city; diplomat George Keenan complains about “asphalted desolation”, a “lonely, air-conditioned world”, television, that “massive bundle of advertising pulp” called the Sunday Paper. (One has to ask what Keenan suggest we use for roads, if he thinks we should swelter and stop publishing papers?); a Norwegian writer complains that Americans use art for “dining-room” decorations. This complaint of material inauthenticity, often linked with reverence for Third World handicrafts, is linked to larger complaints of conformity and personal insincerity and hypocrisy. Material "inauthenticity" begs the question of an alternative. What else is a modern, industrialized, capitalistic society to do? Which is a point of view anti-Americans would agree with and then propose tearing down everything.
… (mais)
RandyStafford | Feb 13, 2013 |


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