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No 65. Critique of Modern Barbarism. Essays on fascism, anti-Semitism and the use of history

By: Enzo Traverso
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Enzo Traverso: Critique of Modern Barbarism

In this new collection of essays, Enzo Traverso examines the relationships between anti-Semitism, modernity and the Holocaust. Traverso analyses multiple dimensions of the destruction of the European Jews, debates over the historical memory and left-wing debates on the nature of anti-Semitism.

Inspired by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and the heterodox Marxism of a thinker like Walter Benjamin, Traverso argues that after Auschwitz,  critical thought needs to reconsider the notion of progress as such.

Enzo Traverso is the Susan and Barton Winokur Professor in the Humanities at Cornell University. His publications include more than then authored and edited books and are widely translated. His recent books include: The New Faces of Fascism, Populism and the Far Right, Verso, 2019; Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory, Columbia University Press, 2017, The End of Jewish Modernity, Pluto Press, 2016; Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914–1945, Verso, 2016; The Origins of Nazi Violence, New Press, 2003.

“The essays and book chapters collected in this remarkable volume represent a watershed in the history of Marxist critical thinking. For the first time, a comprehensive reflection of the historical meaning of Auschwitz as a “civilisational break” is developed, from a Marxist viewpoint which critically analyses the limitations, and sometimes blindness, of most Marxist writings on the Holocaust. In our days, when post-fascist or neo-fascist regimes are in spectacular rise on a planetarian scale, this book is not only timely: it is an indispensable intellectual tool for the resistance against Barbarism.”- Michael Löwy

Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 10 and 12 were published in ''Understanding the Nazi Genocide. Marxism after Auschwitz'' (London, 1999).

Table of contents:

Foreword 9

Introduction 13

Part I - Interpreting history 19

1. Auschwitz, Marx and the twentieth century 21

2. To brush against the grain: The Holocaust and German-Jewish culture in exile 45

3. The blindness of the intellectuals: Historicising Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew 83

4. The uniqueness of Auschwitz: Hypotheses, problems and wrong turns in historical research 106

Part II - Debates 129

5. The Shoah, historians and the public use of history: On the Goldhagen affair 131

6. Uses and misuses of memory: Notes on Peter Novick and Norman Finkelstein 150

7. Warping history: Timothy Snyder interprets the Holocaust 165

8. Claude Lanzmann: A critical appraisal 178

Part III - The left and anti-Semitism 

9. The lessons of a defeat: The German left confronted with Nazi anti-Semitism 191

10. On the edge of understanding: From the Frankfurt School to Ernest Mandel 204

11. For an ethical refoundation of socialism: Norman Geras and political philosophy after Auschwitz 235

12. The debt: The Warsaw ghetto uprising 254

Bibliography 268

Index 292

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