2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Some good insights mixed with questionable politics,
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This review is from: Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited (Kindle Edition)
"Remembering the 20th Century Limited" is a book that doesn't live up to its promise. Matthew Stevenson has certainly had an interesting life, living as an expatriate in Switzerland for many years, and he has been privileged to know some very interesting people (including Alger Hiss!). But, as seems to often be the case with expats, he appears to have lost touch with the intimate details of American politics, and sees only a sort of distorted caricature of what's happening here.
His interesting insights on the Middle East are weakened by intemperate comments about the Bush administration. His long disquisition on Alger Hiss appears to be yet another attempt to excuse apparent treachery by a "well meaning" individual. Mr. Hiss' motivations may never be understood (perhaps not even by him), but something really did happen. There were indeed a number of young, idealistic Americans who were drawn to the notion of an all-powerful government of wise technocrats. Mr. Stevenson seems to lack the knowledge of political history that would help him understand how the yearnings for a "philospher king" so often lead to fascism. As Winston Churchill famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government in the world -- except for all the others".
So ultimately I was disappointed in this book. It is well written, and there are insights to be had. Mr. Stevenson is a good investigator, but he is not a particularly knowedgeable historian, nor a political scientist. And that is where his book falls short.
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Initial post: Jun 8, 2012 10:02:31 AM PDT
Jeff Kisseloff says:
Matthew Stevenson isn't excusing treachery;he doesn't believe it occurred, and nor is he alone. Many of those who have diligently done their historical research without bias and who have taken the time to actually read the trial record agree with him. Nor do I suppose that Mr. Stevenson is the first person to make intemperate comments about the Bush administration. Given the path of subsequent events I'd suggest that such comments only enhance Mr. Stevenson's credibility, not detract from it.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 10:53:37 AM PDT
R. Resor says:
I made no judgement on whether or not treachery occurred; note, please, the word "apparent". Also, my citation of "intemperate comments" referred only to his chapter on the Middle East, not to everything ever said by anyone about the Bush administration. I've done quite a lot of reading on both Alger Hiss and the Middle East, and don't need a lecture on either, thank you.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 8:12:49 PM PDT
Jeff Kisseloff says:
good to hear you've read up on the case. any time you would like to discuss the "apparent treachery" feel free to reach me at www.algerhiss.com
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