Read Modern Times Revised Edition: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (Perennial Classics) by Paul Johnson Free Online
Book Title: Modern Times Revised Edition: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (Perennial Classics)|
The author of the book: Paul Johnson
Edition: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Date of issue: August 7th 2001
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 386 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.3
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Read full description of the books:
An agnostic wag once said, "Any fool can make fun of evangelicals, but if you really want to see a crazed doctrine, look for a conservative Catholic, preferably a conservative Jesuit." This certainly holds true for Paul Johnson, who mars what could have been a superbly written book of breathtaking scope, with points of view that aren't merely limited or blinkered, but downright crazed at times.
In the first couple chapters, I was ready to give this book an instant 5 stars, due to the author's ability to integrate economic, cultural, and political trends in a coherent whole. I did not begrudge him his tendency to paint all collectivist thought with a broad brush, if only because the world needed an appropriately sober look at the crimes of Lenin as well as Stalin.
But by the time we get to the 1930s, Johnson's oddball rejection of all modernist trends became a bit much to take. If he had been a traditional social conservative, or an economic conservative of the Stockman-Laffer school, one could accept his biases and move on. But Johnson is just plain weird, combining a Libertarian-like view of the power of the individual and a rejection of economic collectivism, with a near-devout belief in the power of empire. He rightly chides particular failures of the British empire in decline, like Anthony Eden's 1956 failure at Suez, but at the same time longs for a British and an American empire that would assert itself without regard to the consequences.
In his review of the 1930s, it's no surprise that he'd call FDR an aristocratic publicity-seeker and populist quack, and he'd be right in part. It's also predictable that he'd link the elder Philby's adventures in the Middle East to young Kim Philby's dalliances with the KGB. But to link all strands of 1930s liberal thought to the gay dilettantes of the Bloomsbury group in the UK? Not only does this hold a latent homophobia which Johnson displays throughout the book, but it attributes too much power to this group, in the same way modern conservatives are sure all 21st-century left-wingers have read Saul Alinsky. It just ain't so, folks.
Johnson's fractured-funhouse view of current events veers out of control as we hit the 1950s and 1960s. His analyses of Castro and other socialist "heroes" are traditional conservative views, not that far off base but not particularly interesting. But his demonization of former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold as the man who allowed Third World risings and non-alignment to get out of hand is downright laughable. Memo to Johnson: whether the Soviets manipulated Third World struggle or not, the traditional empires were bound to fall - there wasn't a thing the US or UK could have done to retain their protected domains. At least Piers Brendon, the author of 'Decline and Fall of the British Empire', understood this far better than Johnson did, and provided a far more accurate narrative of the British geographical decline in the 20th century as a result.
The last 100 pages of Johnson's book are comical enough to skip entirely. Of course the strikes at the end of the 1970s doomed Britain, but only a fool still sees Maggie Thatcher as a savior. Of course the liberal media manipulated Watergate, but to try and call John Sirica a "judicial terrorist" is beyond the pale. Face it, seeing Nixon and Reagan as unvarnished heroes of the century, while seeing Jimmy Carter as an unvarnished villain, is a nonsensical two-dimensional view of the world.
Even in the latter chapters of the book, I enjoyed seeing Keynesianism get a tweaking, I loved the way Johnson linked Jean-Paul Sartre with Nazism and commented that all romanticism is close to fascism (which I certainly believe to be the case with Rousseau, Goethe, Schiller, Byron, Shelley, etc.). And I loved his quote about Utopianism being not that far from gangsterism. But Johnson ruins what would have been a provocative book in the Christoper Hitchens tradition with a series of loony conclusions about human behavior that are downright unsustainable, no matter what your political or economic beliefs may be.
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Read information about the authorPaul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.
Paul Johnson has published over 40 books including A History of Christianity (1979), A History of the English People (1987), Intellectuals (1988), The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815—1830 (1991), Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the Year 2000 (1999), A History of the American People (2000), A History of the Jews (2001) and Art: A New History (2003) as well as biographies of Elizabeth I (1974), Napoleon (2002), George Washington (2005) and Pope John Paul II (1982).