Panoramaisland's Reviews > War and Civil Disobedience

War and Civil Disobedience by Howard Zinn
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's review
Feb 15, 2011

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bookshelves: nonfiction, political, war-and-peace

I consider myself something of a radical - the job of radicals being, in my mind, to challenge the dominant discourse in complex and exciting ways that serve to pull people out of their lull and realize the many ways in which our current ways of living are simply not good enough, not humane enough, not sustainable enough, not wise enough. What Zinn serves up in the course of his talk is nothing of the sort; although a positive figure in American activist history, he is also something of a cartoon radical, delivering simplistic paeans to The Ordinary Folk, assuring us that "experts" aren't good for much, inveighing against The Elites, reminding us that War Is Bad. I've not read *A People's History of the United States*, but a number of reviews describe it as being thick and well-sourced but offering up a simplistic, good-vs.-evil approach to radical history. This does not surprise me.

Deeply thoughtful intellectual figures abound on the radical Left: Eric Hobsbawm, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Sartre and De Beauvoir, Antonio Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, Terry Eagleton, Marx and Engels, Foucault, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Eve Sedgwick, Herbert Marcuse, and on and on. The leftist intellectual has become such a stereotype that some right-wing thinkers - capitalist "libertarians," especially - like to cultivate an air of rebellion about themselves, declaring themselves to be against The Academic Establishment and its evil Leftist Hegemony. Milton Friedman was known to do this. Given the embarrassment of riches in radical leftist thought, it is unfortunate that the American public needs a proponent of simplistic dualisms as one of its few icons of radicalism.

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