Power and the Idealists by Paul Berman essay

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“Berman, P. (2005). Power and the idealists, or, The passion of Joschka Fischer and its aftermath. Berkeley, California: Soft Skull Press, 311pp.” is a book that explores the issues that emerged from a scandal that involved Joschka Fischer, a German foreign minister and a group of leftist street toughs assaulting a cop. This happened in the January of 2001 where a series of photos from 1968 were revealed showing the minister. The author being among the scholarly historians of the New left, utilizes this occurrence as a springboard to replicate on an important question for the democracies of the West in the contemporary world about whether the violence-tinged radicalism experienced in the 1960s and the 1970s was an effort for social good or rather it was for social ill.

Paul Berman examines a wide-ranging past of anti-totalitarianism that closely investigates the response of Left to the abuse of human rights across the universe. The author traces an intellectual evolution of figures in the book to assert that liberals who are ready to use power to offer protection to human rights are the true recipients of the radical sixties. Again, the totalitarianism impulse of Islam identified by Paul Berman in New York Times best seller entitled “Terror and Liberalism” should be opposed with the strongest terms possible.

In a nutshell, the “Power and the Idealists” takes the narration on to the international conflicts and political ructions provoked by the devastation of the TwinTowers. Berman is a multilingual person who has produced a very dense, rich and discursive book.  Taking the form of five linked essays, it meanders through philosophical reflection, personal anecdote because Berman is a 1968 vintage leftist, political biography and cultural history.  The book offers a distinctive opinion on the obligation of politics to counter a new yet ominously conventional force in politics and a resurgent totalitarianism for that matter. Again, Berman also gives a constructive account of the tragedy of Iraq invasion where what could be seen is presented as a struggle of ending totalitarian which was ended through incompetence in politics and a bruising diplomacy.

The idealists in the title are the 1968 generation members who came to take into account the dilemmas of practicing power and particularly force for humanitarian ends.  These included Daniel Cohn-Bendit whose anarchist history immunized him against the fable with communism that quite a number of his friends succumbed to. Others include the founder of Doctors without Borders, Bernard Kouchner and Regis Debray accounted for the Che Guevara cult. Adam Michnik who had a first hand experience with totalitarianism is also featured amongst others while prominently including Joschka Fischer.

This book offers a detailed account of the arguments amongst the author’s selected 1968ers group over the war on Iraq.  The political blunders done by the Bush administration in impeaching the case for a fair and important war are well acknowledged, and so dreadfully are the occasional failures and sometimes disasters of an ill-planned action. The specific strength of the author as a writer is the ability he shows to pass on the reality of sometimes mysterious debates clearly and concisely.  In describing the response to the 9/11, Berman states that various intellectuals and writers in Western Europe rushed to their computers to compile essays to accuse the United States having prompted these attacks on her self. Berman apparently highlights this as a commonplace of all contemporary theory in politics. The book is remarkable. It is in part a collective biography and partly a work of modern history and again in part, a political article and argument concerning the things that have occurred to the radical left over a period of thirty years.  It explores both ethical and political issues of the paramount seriousness and challenges everybody on the left at the most deep level.

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