In September 2012, University of California Press will release Vladimir Tismaneanu's latest volume, The Devil in History.
The Devil in History is a provocative analysis of the relationship between communism and fascism. Reflecting the author’s personal experiences within communist totalitarianism, this is a book about political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals, and their catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century’s experiments in social engineering. Vladimir Tismaneanu brilliantly compares communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. He examines the inherent ideological appeal of these radical, revolutionary political movements, the visions of salvation and revolution they pursued, the value and types of charisma of leaders within these political movements, the place of violence within these systems, and their legacies in contemporary politics.
The author discusses thinkers who have shaped contemporary understanding of totalitarian movements—people such as Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, François Furet, Tony Judt, Ian Kershaw, Leszek Kolakowski, Richard Pipes, and Robert C. Tucker. As much a theoretical analysis of the practical philosophies of Marxism-Leninism and Fascism as it is a political biography of particular figures, this book deals with the incarnation of diabolically nihilistic principles of human subjugation and conditioning in the name of presumably pure and purifying goals. Ultimately, the author claims that no ideological commitment, no matter how absorbing, should ever prevail over the sanctity of human life. He comes to the conclusion that no party, movement, or leader holds the right to dictate to the followers to renounce their critical faculties and to embrace a pseudo-miraculous, a mystically self-centered, delusional vision of mandatory happiness.
Vladimir Tismaneanu is Professor of Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of several books, including Stalinism for All Seasons: A History of Romanian Communism (UC Press), Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism and Myth in Post-Communist Europe, and Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel.
“The Devil in History is a lengthy essay on the intellectual origins, crimes, and failures of the twentieth century’s worst totalitarian types of regimes, fascism and communism. There are few scholars as conversant with this material, or as able to explain it as well, as Vladimir Tismaneanu, who gives a good sense of why utopian ideals meant to overcome the ills of capitalist, bourgeois democracy went so sensationally wrong and produced such massive evil.” (Daniel Chirot, co-author of Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder)
"The Devil in History is a very important work of intellectual history that considers a basic question of the twentieth century and represents vast and ecumenical learning and well-considered personal experience. It has moments of indubitable brilliance."
(Timothy Snyder, author of The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999)