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A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968 Paperback – October 17, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0393316759 ISBN-10: 0393316750 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393316750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316759
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #922,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Tale of Two Utopias is actually four separate lengthy essays by Paul Berman on the worldwide student rebellion of 1968, the gay liberation movement in the United States, Vaclav Havel and the overthrow of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and the response of French intellectual community to the "end of history" theory. What ties these subjects is a strange contrast. The student movement of the 1960s was rooted in peace and other left-leaning ideals; the overthrow of Communism sprung from a desire of free-market economics. Berman doesn't always make these connections obvious; rather he presents well-analyzed, intellectual writings that allow the reader to chart a course through modern history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Long identified with the left, Berman (editor of Debating P.C.) writes with ambition and savvy about an impossibly broad subject: the left's journey from its multiple 1968 revolutions?not merely the student and cultural uprisings, but the world attack on Western imperialism and the counterattack, within the communist bloc, against the entrenched dictatorships. Though he does not take on topics like feminism or race, Berman's global reach?he discusses generational splits in left-wing movements from Mexico to France?makes his book intriguing and provocative. He then assays "the gay awakening," charting the Stonewall-era assumption of group identity to the rise of world gay consciousness. Next, he shifts to discuss Vaclav Havel, who he argues exemplified a movement not for socialist reconstruction but for personal integrity and became influenced by the French "'68er" Andre Glucksmann, who scored Western peaceniks for underestimating the oppression and expansionism of the Soviet Union. Finally, in the wake of the 1989 revolutions against communism, Berman tests Glucksmann's pessimism about progress with conservative Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis about the inevitable success of Western democracy. Thanks to his biographical exegesis of Glucksmann's thought, Berman finds the Frenchman more convincing and, somewhat chastened, suggests the route from 1968 to 1989 should leave the world "humble, skeptical, anxious, afraid, shaken." Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on April 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is probably the most optimistic of the Berman books I have read thus far for in it he imparts to the reader (by the wonderful flow of his writing as much as in the stories he tells) something of the spirit of 1968. "A utopian exhilaration swept across the student universe," he writes. "Almost everyone in my own circle of friends and classmates was caught up in it. ... Partly it was a belief, hard to remember today, that a superior new society was already coming into existence. And it was the belief that we ourselves--the teenage revolutionaries, freaks, hippies and students--stood at the heart of a new society." And the revolutionaries worked hard to create this new society. They held endless meetings, endless debates, marched, protested, sang, sometimes risked their lives all in the name of democracy and a better world. And then something went wrong.

Somehow the idealists found themselves allied with terrorists; their democratic societies either disbanded or taken over by totalitarians until in 1972 (after the racism, the anti-Semitism, the assassination campaigns, and the kidnappings had gone un-commented because "you couldn't speak ill of the guerrillas") "there were Israeli corpses stretched out on the German soil."

How did this happen? It happened, Berman explains because the idealists didn't "know the difference between democrats and totalitarians" and thus concluded that the totalitarians were "social democrats with courage"--and let the totalitarians take over their organizations. And once the totalitarians took over, the assassinations and the mayhem began and the drive for a liberal democracy (if it remained a goal at all) was put very much on the back burner.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Peter Pan on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
I had to read this for my modern American grad history course. Not knowing who Paul Berman was, I picked up the book expecting very little. Naturally, Berman's perspective revolutionized my intellectual outlook.

Hard to classify, Berman believes that the ultimate legacy of '68 is not radical Leftist polemics (which ultimately descended into totalitarianism itself) but rather the rise of identity politics--a new means to express every aspect of who one is.

Berman writes in the long tradition of great Americans like Daniel Bell who challenged dogma in favor of individualism and freedom. Finally, a true LIBERAL who eschews radicalism and shows some faith in mankind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By howardyork on May 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I value this book for two principal reasons: (1) Berman clarified many events that occured during this period but that I did not directly observe. Because , at that time, my informatioln was so well controlled by the corporate/ government press I was simply unaware that anything of much substance was going on. Protests were simply presented a childish tantrums of spoiled fools. Their worldwide nature was kept obscured by the propaganda system.
(2) Additionally, the utopian nature and severe disconnect from reality of much of what was occurring had not been clear to me. The weaknesses of so many who see themselves as "pholosophers" was brought out by Berman. This accords with my evolving view that one does best when he fixes on relieving a specific problelm rather than looking for an overall solution to many problems at once. This view has come to me in my old age. Probably it would be too frustrating for me in my youth.
At times the book was slow going; but, then he would make a worth while point and redeam himself. I'm glad I read it ; but, I wouldn't suggest it for a general readersh such as a book club.

s
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By Sandra Rumbler on April 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Read this book for a book club. Can't say I liked it. The book read very much like a textbook. And I came of age in the 60s. It was a turbulent and interesting time. The author, in my opinion, did not capture the era.
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