Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony R. Judt.
If you'd like to read a review, click here.
Here's a couple paragraphs from the review:
"Most general histories," he says, "even very good general histories, don't quite know what to do with culture — ideas, novels, film, and art — and either ignore it completely or else pop it in a little section called 'Culture.' I was determined neither to ignore it nor to segregate it."
Along with a dose of cultural history, Mr. Judt also dispenses judgments that will raise eyebrows, especially in the United States. Poststructuralist theory, for instance, takes a few sharp knocks. (In one footnote, Mr. Judt writes of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan that "even by the lax standards of Sixties-era Paris he remained quite remarkably ignorant of contemporary developments in medicine, biology, and neurology, with no discernible harm to his practice or reputation.")
Quizzed about those barbs, Mr. Judt observes that "one of the distorting effects" of theory's influence in American academe is that theory's totemic figures — Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Julia Kristeva — are "seen as much more prominently at the center of European thought than they actually are. Whereas I deliberately 'decentered' them, to use a cliché, and put them where I think they belong, which is within the intellectual and cultural world of Europe, but much more at the periphery."
Today's European intellectuals, he adds, have lost their public platform. As an example, he cites the apathy surrounding a 1993 essay project, led by Derrida (who died in 2004) and the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, to forge a European response to growing American unilateralism. "The whole project sputtered out," writes Mr. Judt. "One hundred years after the Dreyfus affair, 50 years after the apotheosis of Jean-Paul Sartre, Europe's leading intellectuals had thrown a petition — and no one came."