Western Intellectuals and the Challenge of Totalitarianism

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Alan Sked E503


This course is available on the MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is also available to General Course students as an outside option where regulations permit and with the permission of the course convenor.

This course is to be capped at 1 group.


Course content

The period studied extends from the late nineteenth century to the present day. The area covered is primarily Europe and the United States. The views and careers of a number of intellectuals are used to highlight certain political themes. Introductory topics will include: the role and responsibility of the "intellectual"; the various means of diffusing ideas; the concept of the "West"; and the concept of "totalitarianism". Time permitting, themes will include: Marxism and revisionism before 1917; political racism in Europe and the United States before 1933; the intellectual origins of fascism before 1922 and its intellectual appeal afterwards; anti-semitism as a political force in Europe and the USA; fellow-travellers of right and left; pacifism and isolationism between the wars; the failure of marxism as a political cause in Britain and the USA before and after 1945; the post-war French debate over communism; the perspective of the Italian communists; the rise and fall of Eurocommunism; Titoism and the Yugoslav model; the German problem as one of post-war national identity; red scares and McCarthyism in the USA; Hollywood and the Cold War; the New Left and the rediscovery of Marxism in Europe; the cultural New Left and the crisis of American liberalism; the American New Right and the rise of neo-conservatism; the intellectual background to US foreign policy debates; anti-Americanism in Europe and elsewhere; the persistence of liberal and social democracy. Intellectuals covered include (in no particular order): Bernstein, Blum, Sartre, Aaron, Camus, Gramsci, Togliatti, d'Annunzio, Marinetti, Heidegger, Spengler, Schmitt, Maurras, Brasillach, Barbusse, Yeats, Pound, Wyndham Lewis, H.G.Wells, Bernard Shaw, J.M.Keynes, E.H.Carr, Habermas, Grass, Enzensberger, Marcuse, Hook, Howe, Kennan, Beard, Kahn, Kissinger, Podhoretz, Rostow, Schlesinger Jr., Orwell, Koestler, Furet, Lasch, Kristol, Vidal, Chomsky, Fukuyama and others.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 6 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students are required to produce two essays during the year. There will also be a mock exam (a one-hour timed essay).

Indicative reading

Jeremy Jennings and Anthony Kemp-Welch (eds) Intellectuals in Politics. From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie (1998); Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism. The West European Left in the Twentieth Century (1996); Alistair Hamilton, The Appeal of Fascism, 1919-1945 (1971); Tony Judt, Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1946-1956 (1992); Jan-Werner Müller, Another Country. German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity (2000); H.W. Brands, What America Owes the World. The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy (1998); Richard H. Pells, Radical Visions and American Dreams. Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years (1998); Richard H. Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age. American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s (1989); Paul Berman, A Tale of Two Utopias: the Political Journey of the Generation of 1968 (1996); David H. Bennett, The Party of Fear. From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (1990); John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses,. Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (1992); Giles Scott-Smith and Hans Krabbendam (eds), The Cultural Cold War in Western Europe, 1945-1960 (2003); Hilton Kramer, The Twilight of the Intellectuals. Culture and Politics in the Era of the Cold War (2000); Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind. Intellectuals in Politics (2001); Leszek Kolokowski, Main Currents of Marxism , 3 Vols, 1978; Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain. From Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front (1998); Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth. The Rise and Fall of Socialism (2002); François Furet, The Passing of an Illusion. The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century (1999); Enzo Traverso, The Marxists and the Jewish Question. The History of a Debate, 1843-1943 (1994); and E.J.Hobsbaum, Revolutionaries (1977 and other editions).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: 12

Average class size 2012/13: 12

Value: One Unit

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