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From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez
Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship

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  • Date Published: January 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107415072

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About the Authors
  • During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, political dictators were not only popular in their own countries, but were also admired by numerous highly educated and idealistic Western intellectuals. The objects of this political hero-worship included Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and more recently Hugo Chavez, among others. This book seeks to understand the sources of these misjudgements and misperceptions, the specific appeals of particular dictators, and the part played by their charisma, or pseudo-charisma. It sheds new light not only on the political disposition of numerous Western intellectuals - such as Martin Heidegger, Eric Hobsbawm, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Susan Sontag and George Bernard Shaw - but also on the personality of those political leaders who encouraged, and in some instances helped to design, the cult surrounding their rise to dictatorship.

    • The comparison of the positive attitudes of intellectuals toward different twentieth-century dictators offers a better understanding of the complicated political, social, and psychological context
    • The exploration of the appeal and the quasi-religious cult surrounding dictators offers a new historical perspective on dictatorships
    • Highlights the parts played by ignorance, projection, and wishful thinking in the veneration of dictators
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The author of the classic study, Political Pilgrims has produced a grim catalogue of the political misjudgments and myopia of Western intellectuals regarding modern dictatorships across the political spectrum. Paul Hollander is one of the key scholars who, in recent decades have fostered a revision of our understanding of intellectuals in politics. Against the self-image of Western intellectuals as guardians of reason, human rights, social justice and liberal democracy, Hollander offers numerous examples of intellectuals, some quite distinguished, who abandoned reason for mindless admiration of dictators, ignored gross human rights violations and dismissed abundant evidence that the objects of their enthusiasm were horrific tyrants. From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez is both an enduring work of scholarship and a timely warning.' Jeffry C. Herf, University of Maryland

    'Paul Hollander for four decades has been indefatigable in tracking down naive academics dazzled by what some dictators might accomplish. A serious and passionate scholar, Hollander previously exposed the foibles of those dazzled by the left, and now he widens his scope to include those dazzled by the right like Mussolini as well as Mao, Chavez, and Kim Jong Il.' Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus, Harvard University

    'With From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez, Paul Hollander has produced a worthy successor to his classic study, Political Pilgrims. With penetrating insight and matchless erudition, Hollander serves up a chronicle of ideological folly worthy of Solzhenitsyn and Dante.' Richard Wolin, Distinguished Professor of History and Comparative Literature and author of The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s

    '… an interesting exploration of the dark romance between the men and women of ideas, and the killers who promised to change the world, ten thousand corpses at a time. Paul Hollander summons up a wide range of sources and explores the political, psychological and intellectual roots of this bloody kinship.' Daniel Greenfield, FrontPageMag

    'Human beings, [Hollander] emphasizes, have always shown a remarkable capacity to hold a wide range of inexplicably bizarre beliefs. I take it from this thoroughly documented and heartfelt book that he doesn’t think a big change for the better is coming anytime soon.' David Pryce-Jones, National Review

    ‘Paul Hollander, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard, is well qualified to examine the impact and origins of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century love affair between many members of the Western intelligentsia and some of the most ruthless, bloody dictators and political systems of the age.’ Aram Bakshian, Jr, The National Interest

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107415072
    • length: 338 pages
    • dimensions: 232 x 153 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.51kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: intellectuals and politics
    2. Mussolini, fascism and intellectuals
    3. Hitler, Nazism and intellectuals
    4. Stalin, Rakosi, Soviet communism and intellectuals
    5. Castro, Che Guevara, and their Western admirers
    6. Western intellectuals, Mao's China and Cambodia under Pol Pot
    7. Other dictators and their admirers in more recent times
    8. Conclusions: the personal and the political.

  • Author

    Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
    Paul Hollander is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, Massachusetts. Born in Budapest, Hollander earned his BA from the London School of Economics and Political Science and his PhD from Princeton University, New Jersey. He received the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974, and was a Visiting Scholar several times at the Hoover Institution. He has published fifteen books, most of them dealing with communist systems, totalitarianism, political violence, extremism, propaganda, and the political attitude of Western intellectuals.

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