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Michael Walzer's latest



Michael Walzer has a new book out, THE PARADOX OF LIBERATION, from Yale University Press. (And no, the photo here isn't of him.)

I haven't read the book and confess I probably never will: there are just so many books falling off the presses every day....

For many books, even if they seem of interest, I have to settle for an evocative review. For this purpose, a review by an admirer of the author is always preferable (a hostile review can not be relied upon to give a fair summary of the contents).

Fortunately, Walzer -- who has been a figure of importance in US intellectual circles, especially of the leftward sort, for decades -- has an admirer in Michael Ignatieff, who has written a review of this book for the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS.

The book is about three revolutions/liberations of the mid-twentieth century that, in Walzer's review, started out promisingly and went bad. I'll just quote two paragraphs from the portion of Ignatieff's review devoted to summary:

The paradox of liberation, Walzer argues, is that the liberators looked down on the people they came to liberate. None of Kant's 'crooked timber of humanity' for these revolutionaries; they all believed that the timber made crooked by oppression could be planed straight as a board. Liberation was always an ambiguous project: to free the people from the colonial power and then to free them from their own submissiveness and psychological subjugation.

The Algerian FLN's Soummam conference platform of 1956 positively seethes with scorn toward 'the torpor, fear, and skepticism" if of Algerian population in general. The revolutionary militants of the FLN vowed that they would shock their people into militant consciousness and awaken 'their national dignity' after a century of colonial occupation. If it took bombs and the assassination of collaborators with the French to do that, so be it. Through this trial by fire, Frantz Fanon, the Algerian revolution's leading theorist, proclaimed, "a new Algerian man" would be born.

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That is Fanon's photo at the top of this post.

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