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Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society Paperback – January 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-1560009542 ISBN-10: 1560009543 Edition: 4th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 4 edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560009543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560009542
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A horribly funny book...to be kept close at hand and reread whenever we are told of a land where...the human soul is re-engineered and human nature uplifted."

The Washington Post

"Professor Hollander has produced a book of illumination which is to a high degree entertaining...[he] brings to his task a useful detachment."

—Edward Crankshaw, The Observer (London)

"An important and timely book that will be widely read, reread and debated for years."

—William J. Wilson. University of Chicago

About the Author

Paul Hollander is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and center associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. His books include Political Pilgrims, The Many Faces of Socialism, and Soviet and American Society: A Comparison.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on June 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Political Pilgrims is the amazing story of how Western intellectuals embraced Marxist tyrants at the very moment their colleagues were rotting in prison cells, and the common people everyone claimed to be concerned for, were starving. The book relates how cultural and religious leaders from the West, including familiar names, visited the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other communist countries, and told the most appalling lies to flatter their hosts and express their contempt for Western society. It is quite an education, as another reviewer put it. Marx's revolutionary myth dominated history for the better part of the 20th Century, and if we are serious about not repeating the errors of that period, this book should be a part of our education. The short story Buddha's Smile in Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece, The First Circle, brilliantly tells the same story, from the point of view of Soviet prisoners. Lewis Feuer's Marx and the Intellectuals compares Marx and Engels themselves with the kind of people Hollander is describing. I also recommend the writings of the Rumanian philosopher, pastor, and former prisoner, Richard Wurmbrand.
Hollander retells George Keenan's story of a Norwegian radical who, when asked what country he most admired, said, "Albania." Keenan noted that the student obviously knew nothing of Albania, but chose that country "simply because it seems to be a club with a particularly sharp nail at the end of it with which to beat one's own society."
The same reactionary psychology has, it seems to me, been transferred in our day to an uncritical and naive attraction towards what is (simplistically) called "eastern religion.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book on a suggestion from an Economics professor at George Masoh University. I was doing some research about some American views of the Soviet Union while Stalin was murdering his people and my professor enlightened me towards this incredible read. It was indeed a hard book to come across, mine was the only school in the entire Metropolitan DC area to hold this. So, I considered myself lucky. And after reading with passion every single word, I now consider myself educated. For those who are fans of George Bernard Shaw, read this at your own peril. While Mr. Shaw was bordering a train heading into the Soviet Union, he threw all his food on the roadside in Poland, in belief that food in the USSR was readily available. Indeed, it was for him and the other Americans the Russians wanted to use to spread their Communist propaganda, but little did these utopian-minded citizens know, millions upon millions were being murdered right under their noses in this great utopia. Of course murder didn't stop these peaceful leftists from looking at the grim realities of life under socialism. They still found ways in which to exalt the virtues of government planned society. After the guilt overcame them in regards to the murders of Stalin, they took to Cuba. Unfortunately for them, same game plan under Castro, same result, millions of innocents dead. Realizing Cuba was not the great utopia, these American leftists took to China and Mao. AHHHH? If only these people would live the "true" socialist way. If only socialism was allowed to flourish in its true nature, with peace and love for everyone. A few peiple get murdered along the way? Its too bad but the good of the nation is more important. Hollander outlines this perfectly. Three cheers for him and for the people who have the guts to read this wonderful book.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this fascinating book, Paul Hollander exposes the self deception of 19th and 20th century intellectuals. In their search for the perfect society, they wander from Revolutionary Russia to modern-day Cuba.
In spite of massive evidence of human rights abuse, including genocide, false imprisonments, and confiscation of private property, the political pilgrims never waver in their loyalty to failed, left-wing ideals. They journey onward after each "socialist" failure, with the fervor of religious converts.
This book is meticulously documented and easy to read. Highly recommended.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Aristotle's Beast on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Paul Hollander is one of our best critics of the kind of foolishness that motivates intellectuals today and has done so for centuries. This book is well worth reading. It demonstrates most amply Hollander's contention that intellectuals are not characterized solely by their critical abilities and habits. Rather, as Hollander points out time and again, they are also characterized by their opportunistic use of these abilities, and by their incredible credulity. Sartre is only one case in point: his fabulous skepticism is employed to prevent himself from coming face to face with the fact that Stalin was a monster and that Marxism could neither save a nation nor prevent mass murder. Our hyper-politicized faculty on Kampus today employ the same kinds of denial and opportunistic critique to save thier silly beliefs in the beneficence of multiculturalism, in the existence of patriarchy and in the explanatory power of cultural critique. Hollander's book is a must read for anyone who needs distance from the nonsense of our postmodernists, deconstructionists and other allegedly radical dogmas of the aging flower children. All of them practice selective attention to their critical principles, scepticism for their enemies, and utter credultiy for their pals.
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