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Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New…
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Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism

by Bernard-Henri Lévy

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The Post New Left Leftists

What does it mean to be a Leftist after the end of the 1960's New Left in this post Cold War era? That is the central question that Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) attempts to answer in this extended essay. Arguably, BHL is a humanist, against all forms of Totalitarianism or what he calls "Barbarism".

The book begins with BHL having a conversation with Nicolas Sarkozy whom BHL considers to be an old acquaintances. When BHL refuses to write a puff piece for his "friend", Sarkozy lashes out at BHL criticizing him for being "soft" after being discredited by his supposed "Leftist family". This prompts BHL to confront his past as a Leftist and to outline a pessimistic vision of the future of the Left in Europe.

In laying out his argument BHL does a historical introspection of France's dark past. He highlights four specific events in 19th/20th century French history which have fundamentally shaped various post-modern "reflex" responses. These four events in order of importance are: Vichy Collaboration, the "dirty war" in French Algeria, 1968 student radicalism, and the Dreyfus Affair.

What follows is BHL's critique of the various "reflexes" as BHL calls it. The many emerging European intellectual movements based on the many anti "isms" like anti-Americanism, anti-fascism, anti-semitism, anti-communism, anti-totalitarianism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism. BHL's argument is that all these new movements can be traced to France's past, in the context of those four major historical events. The Post New Left Leftists are caught in this complex web of anti "isms" which often contradict each other resulting in new forms of "barbarism". An example BHL gives of this kind of hypocrisy are the anti-colonial non-interventionists who look the other way when leaders like Mugabe replace their former colonial oppressors. Or the new forms of anti-semitism masked as anti-Zionism.

What is great about the book is the text is translated in a very colloquial way. Sure, you'll need to have a little background on European intellectual history, but he doesn't muddle the text with too much academic jargon. I definitely recommend reading this book especially if you consider yourself a Leftist. ( )
  bruchu | Oct 8, 2008 |
I am attracted to read this because I heard an interview with this author on Charlie Rose's program on TV, PBS. He was very clear and very precise about what makes anti-American sentiment in France and elsewhere. He spoke about the Chinese government and the Olympics regarding their decision to get all the poor people out of Bjeing for the duration of the time the Olympics ran.
  normaleistiko | Sep 24, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140006435X, Hardcover)

In this unprecedented critique, Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of the world’s leading intellectuals revisits his political roots, scrutinizes the totalitarianisms of the past as well as those on the horizon, and argues powerfully for a new political and moral vision for our times. Are human rights Western or universal? Does anti-Semitism have a future, and, if so, what will it look like? And how is it that progressives themselves–those who in the past defended individual rights and fought fascism–have now become the breeding ground for new kinds of dangerous attitudes: an unthinking loathing of Israel; an obsessive anti-Americanism; an idea of “tolerance” that, in its justification of Islamic fanaticism, for example, could become the “cemetery of democracies”; and an indifference, masked by relativism, to the greatest human tragedies facing the world today? Illuminating these and other questions, Lévy also brings to life his own autobiography, highlighting the thinkers he has known and scrutinized and the ideological battles he has fought over thirty years–revealing their bearing on the present.

Above all, Lévy offers a powerful new vision for progressives everywhere, one based neither on the failed idealisms of the past neither nor on their current misguided, bigoted, and dangerously sentimental attachments but on an absolute commitment to combat evil in all its guises. The “new barbarism” Levy compellingly diagnoses is real and must be confronted. At a time of ideological and political transition in America, Left in Dark Times is a polemical, incendiary articulation of the threats we all face–in many cases without our even being aware of it–and a riveting, cogent stand against those threats. Surprising and sure to be controversial, wise and free of cynicism, it is one of the most important books yet written by one of the crucial voices of our time.

Praise for Bernard-Henri Lévy’s American Vertigo

“An entertaining trip, as much in the tradition of Jack Kerouac as Tocqueville.”
The New York Times

“Perceptive, pugnacious, passionate [and] exquisitely written.”
The New York Observer

“It’s difficult to remember when a writer of any nationality so clearly and thoughtfully delineated both the good and bad in America. [Grade:] A.”
Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)

“Lévy is a true friend of the American experiment and a comrade in the American struggle against the barbarisms.”
The New Republic

“Lévy writes brilliantly. American Vertigo is filled with insights and goodwill.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Provocative . . . [Lévy is] a writer of enormous power and vitality.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“Vigorous . . . impressive.”
–The Boston Globe

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:39 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Bernard-Henri Levy, one of the world's leading intellectuals, revisits his political roots, scrutinizes the totalitarianisms of the past as well as those on the horizon, and argues powerfully for a new political and moral vision for our times. Are human rights Western or universal? Does anti-Semitism have a future, and, if so, what will it look like? And how is it that progressives themselves - those who in the past defended individual rights and fought fascism - have now become the breeding ground for new kinds of dangerous attitudes: an unthinking loathing of Israel; an obsessive anti-Americanism; an idea of "tolerance" that, in its justification of Islamic fanaticism, for example, could become the "cemetery of democracies"; and an indifference, masked by relativism, to the greatest human tragedies facing the world today? Illuminating these and other questions, Levy also brings to life his own intellectual autobiography, highlighting the thinkers and politicians he has known and scrutinized and the ideological battles he has fought over thirty years - revealing their bearing on the present." "Above all, Levy offers a powerful new vision for progressives everywhere, one based neither on the failed idealisms of the past nor on their current misguided, bigoted, and dangerously sentimental attachments but on an absolute commitment to combat evil in all its guises. The "new barbarism" Levy compellingly diagnoses is real and must be confronted. At a time of ideological and political transition in America, Left in Dark Times is a polemical, incendiary articulation of the threats we all face - in many cases without our even being aware of it - and a stand against those threats."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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