What's Left?: How the Left Lost its Way Paperback – Oct 1 2007
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'A roaring polemic of outrage against the moral and political crisis of the liberal tradition. It is already one of the most discussed current affairs books of the new year…At the very least it forces anyone on the left to think carefully about where their movement has ended up in the modern world.' The Guardian
‘The book is a superbly sustained polemic.' Sunday Times
‘Exceptional and necessary…Do not feel you have to be a leftist or liberal to read it, because it engages with an argument that it crucial for all of us, and for our time.’ Christopher Hitchens, Sunday Times
‘This is a brave, honest and brilliant book. Every page has a provocative insight that makes you want to shake the author's hand or collar him for an argument. Who could ask for more?’ The Observer
'(He writes with) a genuine passion and human sympathy about people who have experienced appalling suffering.' Michael Burleigh, The Evening Standard
‘Undoubtedly controversial and provocative “What’s Left?” is, as its title suggests, a bleakly witty but perhaps dimly hopeful examination of what it means to be liberal in an age where the lines that have been drawn in the sand are in danger of being washed away.’ Waterstones Books Quarterly
‘One of the most powerful denunciations of the manner in which the Left has lost its way…Cohen's is a brave voice.'
Michael Gove, The Spectator
'Nick Cohen explains how contemporary liberals have lost their way with his usual polemical brio.' The Observer
'An essay of wide reference and great brilliance.' John Lloyd, Financial Times
About the Author
Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer, The New Statesman and The Evening Standard. In his Channel Four documentaries and general media appearances, he has proved himself to be the witty and excoriating voice of the left. He commands a loyal readership, as his groaning weekly postbag attests. He is the author of two books. ‘Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous’, a collection of his journalism, was published by Verso in 1999 and ‘Pretty Straight Guys’, a dissection of the Blair leadership.
Top Customer Reviews
Third world democrats, feminists and liberals have been betrayed by those who so style themselves in the West. The fall of communism and the disappearance of a coherent set of principles have liberated Western leftists into a kind of nihilism that is akin to modern consumerism. Now you can pick your issue du jour from an anti-Western smorgasbord. Cohen chronicles the etiology of the disease - how it started with postmodern theorists and obscure fringe groups, entered the mainstream and led to the failure of left-liberals to confront genocide in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Middle East until it grew into an all-consuming fever. He also attempts to salvage the best of the liberal-left's internationalist and democratic traditions. In this regard, please consult A Matter of Principle edited by Thomas Cushman.
The author chronicles these developments in part by telling the story of Iraqi human rights campaigner Kanan Makiya who exposed Saddam's atrocities in the book Republic of Fear and was later shunned by his former so-called comrades.Read more ›
I suppose the fact that this book is written by an avowed lefty tells me that he is at least trying very much to be honest to the best of his ability, and that is a plus. Honesty does not necessitate knowing fully what one is talking about. He breezily alludes to a number of historical and economic 'facts' which I know quite matter-of-factly to be rubbish. Widely accepted by the left of course, but rubbish nonetheless. For all his talk of fairness and honesty, when the topic vears to Israel he reflexively alludes to the same garbage that Islamists and anti-Semites have been spouting for decades. I suppose for a lefty, it's almost a Pavlovian response, such as spitting whenever the name Bush is mentioned or swooning over Obama's glistening torso.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mr. Cohen writes very succinctly, avoids over dramatization and his book is chock full of specific examples. His tone is a mixture of sadness and surprise that the "left" has reduced itself to supporting military, fascist dictatorships as long as they oppose the U.S. and most specifically President Bush. Occasionally, to be true to his roots, he descends into polemics of the uncaring "right" or its inability to see injustice. It's probably too much to expect him to divest himself of such language. But most importantly, he doesn't lose sight of his subject and takes deadly aim at the "left's" enormous moral failings and that they have turned themselves quite clearly into what they claim they most oppose -- facists.
This book is eminently readable. Anyone who wants to understand, from an insider's point of view, how they found themselves in this moral quagmire would do well to read this book.
The privileged of the West, in other words, found solace in identity politics which led them to support of fascism. And this, in turn, led them to identify those who support fascism with the Left.
A simple argument, as I have said. But this book (which is so rich and so filled with wonderful anecdotes--from professorial mumbo jumbo to Hamas' Charter) is much more than a mere argument. It is a call to action. For this wonderful book ends by pointing out that a group of "politically aware citizens" who were not "intellectual celebrities" met at a pub in Euston to draw up a manifesto spelling out what the Left truly is. And that, by restating what should have been obvious (but wasn't) these men and women found a way to make a difference. Because they did not abandon the effort, the hope, the principles of the Left.
Just as Nick Cohen hopes (and hope is the last word in this book) that he has made a difference with his book. So now it's your turn and mine. What do you say?