Those who think otherwise, though they may fail, deserve our attention, says H. Stuart Hughes. In Sophisticated Rebels, Hughes shows what happened to the revolutionary spirit after the 1968 suppressions in Prague and Paris: dissenters learned their lesson and began to pursue their goals in patient, realistic, limited fashion, eschewing violence and inflammatory ideological rhetoric. Yet theirs were the voices protesting what even conformists recognize as social evils; the manipulative routine of bureaucratic authority, public and private; the soullessness of life in the sprawling conurbations European cities have become; the deadening of sensibility that allows us to screen out from consciousness the possibility of nuclear war. Hughes takes up in turn the innovations in dissidence during a reactionary age: the foreign workers, especially Moslems, who flooded the more prosperous countries of Europe in the 1970s, creating a large underclass; the advocates of local cultural autonomy, such as the Welsh and Bretons; the independent-minded theologians Hans Kung and Edward Schillebeeckx and Leonardo Boff arrayed against Pope John Paul II, who was himself rebelling against a dilution of Catholic theology; Poland's Solidarity and with it the longing for reunification of a sundered continent; the frustration of Soviet dissent, from the hope of Khrushchev's thaw' to the sufferings of Sakharov; the collapse of Eurocommunism and the falterings of democratic socialism; and the slow advance of the German Greens toward a society on a human scale. Although European dissent, with the exception of the Greens, has failed to shake the hold of conservative rule, Hughes believes the subject matter of dissent--notably the protest against the nuclear menace--has lost none of its timeliness for the century ahead, and the dissenters themselves face the future with both stoicism and hope. Serving as markers throughout the route are brief analyses of the relevance of novelists and social critics, among them Milan Kundera, Adam Michnik, Yuri Trifonov, Roy Medvedev, and Jurgen Habermas.
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(222mm x 146mm x 10mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A succinct yet informative review of the spirit of dissent in the last two decades in Europe, by Hughes (History/Univ. of Cal. at San Diego), author of several books including The Obstructed Path (1968) and Prisoners of Hope: The Silver Age of the Italian Jews, (1983). Offering wide scope in this brief study, Hughes takes up, in turn: Moslem workers who flooded the labor pools of West European countries in the 1970's, creating a large underclass when those economics faltered and they found themselves trapped by their own children, who had become westernized; advocates of local autonomy, such as the Bretons and the Welsh, who were not salved by signs of British or French good will; dissident theologians Hans Kung and Edward Schillebeeckx, squared up against a new Polish Pope who stood four-square against the dilution of traditional theology; the Solidarity movement in Poland; Sakharov and his dissenting cohorts in the Soviet Union; the collapse of Eurocommunism and even the retreat of democratic socialism in the face of the victories of Thatcher and her partners in idealism across the continent; the growth of the German "Greens" in their quest for building a society on a human scale. Along with this, Hughes even finds time to analyze some of the works of such novelists or critics as Milan Kundera, Roy Medvedev, Adam Michnik, and Jurgen Habermas. Hughes depicts dissenters as both angry (the Paris rebels of 1968 were "ignorant of actual violence" but "cultivated its rhetoric") and suffused with the feeling that "Gargantuan laughter alone could encompass the absurdity of the century's last quarter." In sum, Hughes reveals a dissenting spirit considerably tempered from the revolutionary zeal of the earlier 20th century. This is an excellent short introduction for anyone wishing to take a quick course in the sometimes abstruse waters of European intellectualism. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - H. Stuart Hughes
H. Stuart Hughes is Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, San Diego.