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The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America Paperback – June 1, 1983

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Ominous Parallels:

“[The Cause of Hitler’s Germany] offers a truly revolutionary idea…The book is clear, tight, disciplined, beautifully structured, and brilliantly reasoned. Its style is clear and hard as crystal––and as sparkling…As to my personal reaction, I can express it best by paraphrasing a line from Atlas Shrugged: ‘It’s so wonderful to see a great, new, crucial achievement which is not mine!’” ––Ayn Rand
“Extraordinarily perceptive…frightening insights…Everyone concerned with the collectivist trend in today’s world should read this book.” ––Alan Greenspan
“A fascinating weave of German history, philosophic determinism, and Objectivist polemic.”
––Chicago Tribune --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Leonard Peikoff is universally recognized as the pre-eminent Rand scholar writing today. He worked closely with Ayn Rand for 30 years and was designated by her as her intellectual heir and heir to her estate. He has taught philosophy at Hunter College, Long Island University, and New York University, and hosted the national radio talk show "Philosophy: Who Needs It."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (June 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452011175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452011175
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Harry Binswanger on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book answers the plaguing question: How could it happen? How could ordinary people, seemingly decent Germans, turn into goose-stepping, Sieg-Heil-ing robots, eager to obey any orders, even to administer the "final solution"--the Holocaust?
This book answers those questions, and makes the rise of the Nazis finally intelligible. The cause, Dr. Peikoff demonstrates, lies in certain philosophic ideas--the anti-reason, anti-self, anti-freedom ideas that were already deeply imbued in German culture long before Hitler's rise.
If one were to compile a list of the most fanatically anti-reason philosophers since the Renaissance, almost every top figure--Kant, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Heidegger--would turn out to be German.
This is not to say that German culture produced evil philosophers. Just the reverse: Germany's evil philosophers produced an evil culture. Men act on their ideas, and ideas originate somewhere. Fundamental ideas, ideas about morality, knowledge, reality, are originated by philosophers. The vast majority of people simply absorb gradually the ideas available to them in their culture. Thus, most people get their life-shaping ideas, indirectly, from the philosophers of their culture (with a time-lag for these ideas to seep down into the educational establishment, the media, the arts, etc.).
Dr. Peikoff's answer to "How could it have happened?" is: "The land of poets and philosophers was brought down by its poets and philosophers."
This book is an impassioned call to jettison the philosophy of obedience, the philosophy of unreason and self-sacrifice, in all its versions lest we follow the German path to destruction.
In regard to the U.S., Dr.
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105 of 122 people found the following review helpful By David Veksler on January 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a Jew, I have watched, read, and visited countless accounts of the Holocaust - but not one of them correctly identified the ideas that brought it about or the ideas that will prevent it from happening again. In some cases, I was first shocked by the accounts of survivors and then horrified when they offered as a solution the same ideas that created the Nazis.
"The Ominous Parallels" finally exposes the cause and answer to Fascism. Dr. Peikoff presents a compelling and cogent thesis on the evil of collectivism in terms of the fundamental ideas that shape our history by masterfully analyzing the intellectual and cultural climate that led to the Holocaust and its parallels to today's America. Along the way, he outlines the development of Western philosophy - from the glorious creation of the United States to the rise of skepticism, pragmatism, collectivism, and the Weimar culture. Broad philosophical, political, and cultural trends are analyzed and dissected according to their basic premises, as you will never hear in a history class.
Both those well read in and new to the philosophy of Objectivism will find this book accessible and the arguments reasoned out and supported by numerous examples. This is not light reading, however- I spent as much time pausing to digest and integrate the ideas in this book as I did reading it. Those unfamiliar with Objectivism may have some difficulty connecting the author's asides on abortion, physics, and religion to the central theme, but it does not detract from the overall message.
As Dr Peikoff states, it is impossible to predict the future or know whether the Holocaust will repeat itself - but it is certain that only by understanding and adopting a proper philosophy can America survive as a free country. If this book succeeds in teaching the world about the importance of ideas, then six million shall not have died in vain.
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53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Sylvia Bokor on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Ominous Parallels" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff is a brilliant study uniting philosophy and history to identify the fundamental cause of the rise of Hitler and Nazism, and more broadly, of fascism. Dr. Peikoff's theme is that actions follow from ideas. With passionate dedication to truth he quotes from the writings and speeches of the principle architects of Nazi Germany to show the ethical premises guiding their political actions and programs. The evidence is clearly presented. And it leads inexorably to the conclusion that the same ideas which made possible the horror that was Nazi Germany, currently dominates the intellectual establishment of the United States.
"The Ominous Parallels" is both a warning and an alert. It tells us what we should do to avoid becoming a fascist state. It alerts us to how far down that road we currently are.
Dr. Peikoff's "The Ominous Parallels" is also a rallying point for all of us who care deeply about the future of our country and the freedom of its citizens. It helps us to recognize that "it could happen here" if we do not change our views regarding the proper beneficiary of one's actions.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Walker on November 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a great condensation of the essence of what went wrong in Germany in the Twentieth century as it passes out of the memories of the living. It covers the topic without the second level of complexity of comparisons with America. That can come later to the interested. That way, you are free to pursue the other edition of the book, or check things out for yourself and ask yourself if the author is right. After all, he has written a follow-up that major changes will come to America, triggered by a crisis, but not caused by geography, poverty, race wars, international politics and that other nonsense, but driven by ideas originating from modern American universities. Anytime you see a social, political or religious movement, the cause can be traced to universities, even such movements as Fundamentalism, or "Left Behind" eschatology. Even Islam never fully established itself until its intellectuals found a way to answer Greek reason in a definitive statement by philosopher al-Ghazali. Peikoff's book shows the consequences when intellectuals who teach that human reason has no power and meaning train masses of mindless followers who then take over.

Over time, there may be minor scholarly clarifications of points in this book, or side notes on other totalitarian societies, thinking of Cambodia or North Korea. Others will try to draw comparisons with non-totalitarian use of concentration camps, and others might try to deny their existence or essence, a hopeless as well as unforgivable evasion. Enjoy the book for what it is--a slap on the side of the head showing that totalitarianism and freedom are driven by ideas, not accidents.
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