Desolation and Enlightenment

Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust, anniversary edition

Ira Katznelson

Columbia University Press

Desolation and Enlightenment

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231197892

208 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231197885

208 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: August 2020

ISBN: 9780231552394

208 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Desolation and Enlightenment

Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust, anniversary edition

Ira Katznelson

Columbia University Press

During and especially after World War II, a group of leading scholars who had been perilously close to the war’s devastation joined others fortunate enough to have been protected by distance in an effort to redefine and reinvigorate liberal ideals for a radically new age. Treating evil as an analytical category, they sought to discover the sources of twentieth-century horror and the potentialities of the modern state in the wake of desolation. In the process, they devised strikingly new ways to understand politics, sociology, and history that reverberate still.

In this major intellectual history, Ira Katznelson examines the works of Hannah Arendt, Robert Dahl, Richard Hofstadter, Harold Lasswell, Charles Lindblom, Karl Polanyi, and David Truman, detailing their engagement with the larger project of reclaiming the West’s moral bearing. In light of their epoch’s calamities, these intellectuals insisted that the tradition of Enlightenment thought required a new realism, a good deal of renovation, and much recommitment. This array of historians, political philosophers, and social scientists understood that a simple reassertion of liberal modernism had been made radically insufficient by the enormities and moral catastrophes of war, totalitarianism, and the Holocaust. Confronting dashed hopes for reason and knowledge, they asked not just whether the Enlightenment should define modernity but also which Enlightenment we should wish to have.

This anniversary edition of Desolation and Enlightenment features a new introduction in which Katznelson reflects on recent challenges.
In this masterful excursion into the history of ideas, Katznelson explores how a 'reconstructionist' generation of political scholars has since attempted to make sense of these dark times and rethink the bases of political theory and liberal community... Although the book was written largely before the attacks of September 11, 2001, it speaks powerfully to today's struggles to reconcile liberal values with a new threat of violence. G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
Katznelson's book remarkably (re)describes post-World War II American political studies... This is an important book. Maurice Meilleur, Antioch Review
Katznelson's book is an excellent study of one episode in the history of social sciences, an episode that is by no means interesting only to historians. Historical institutionalism is still a very productive approach andDesolation and Enlightenment helps to identify the strengths and limitations of this approach that may be hidden to its contemporary advocates and critics... Katznelson's work shows how real the dilemmas of the political studies enlightenment group are to all of us. Kamila Stullerova, European Journal of Social Theory
Desolation and Enlightenment is a passionate call to arms.... [Katznelson's] book provides inspiration and considerable guidance for anyone who believes in the social responsibilities of intellectuals. Ethics & International Affairs
Katznelson's book is well written, a clear yet crystalline, multifaceted examination of the plight of Enlightenment thought. Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Beyond Common Measure
2. The Origins of Dark Times
3. A Seminar on the State
4. A New Objectivity
Index

About the Author

Ira Katznelson is interim provost, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, and deputy director of Columbia World Projects at Columbia University. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including When Affirmative Action Was White (2005) and Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013).