Friday, June 10, 2005

Dangerous Reading

Third in a series of lists (previous: academic books for the 'lay' reader and great Americans), here is my contribution to the debate about dangerous books, prompted by the conservative Human Events' top ten most harmful books of the last couple of centuries.

Human Events quite rightly puts Mein Kampf up there, at #2, pipped to the top slot by Uncle Karl's Communist Manifesto, one of my favourite books. They claim that "The Evil Empire of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice." The Manifesto, of course, was not in any sense put into practice in Russia: the Manifesto attacks the idea of a Communist Party and calls for the shrinking away, not building up, of the state.

Mao is quite rightly in the top 3 - Mao's thoughts actually were put into practice by evil states.

To gauge where Human Events are coming from, the Kinsey report and Dewey's Democracy and Education (which shockingly suggests that children should be taught thinking skills instead of have facts drilled into them by rote).

Nietzche is there of course (Beyond Good and Evil) - apparently inspired the Nazis, although only because they didn't read it.

I was pleased to see Auguste Comte there - I thought I was the only person who thought he was evil.

One genuinely evil book gets into the runners up - Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, homage to Stalinism by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the grandparents of Blair's Third Way. (Although I'm not sure it had that dangerous an effect on the world.)

Finally, I think only a dictator would actually find Mill's On Liberty or Adorno's Authoritarian Personality dangerous.

Blog links: Bookworm: Dangerous Reading, Princeton Progressive Review: Why Robert George is the Right-Wing's Ramsey Clark, Althouse: List-o-mania., Better Living: Jesus and Marx - Brother Philosophers?, editrx: dangerous books & deep throat

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