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Dreams of Peace and Freedom

Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century

Jay Winter
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Dreams of Peace and Freedom
    Book Description:

    In the wake of the monstrous projects of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and others in the twentieth century, the idea of utopia has been discredited. Yet, historian Jay Winter suggests, alongside the "major utopians" who murdered millions in their attempts to transform the world were disparate groups of people trying in their own separate ways to imagine a radically better world. This original book focuses on some of the twentieth-century's "minor utopias" whose stories, overshadowed by the horrors of the Holocaust and the Gulag, suggest that the future need not be as catastrophic as the past.The book is organized around six key moments when utopian ideas and projects flourished in Europe: 1900 (the Paris World's Fair), 1919 (the Paris Peace Conference), 1937 (the Paris exhibition celebrating science and light), 1948 (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), 1968 (moral indictments and student revolt), and 1992 (the emergence of visions of global citizenship). Winter considers the dreamers and the nature of their dreams as well as their connections to one another and to the history of utopian thought. By restoring minor utopias to their rightful place in the recent past, Winter fills an important gap in the history of social thought and action in the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12751-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Minor Utopias and the Visionary Temperament
    (pp. 1-10)

    The history of the twentieth century is almost always written as the story of a series of catastrophes. Over four decades, I too have contributed to this apocalyptic vision of the recent past. Yet for many years I have felt that this dominant historical narrative is incomplete. This book is an attempt to fill in some of what has been left out. In particular, I want to tell the story of moments in the twentieth century when a very disparate group of people tried in their separate ways to imagine a radically better world. I term these people “minor utopians,”...

  5. 1 1900: The Face of Humanity and Visions of Peace
    (pp. 11-47)

    In 1900, the most compelling question writers, artists, politicians, and other thoughtful people addressed was, what would the new century bring? We, in our more cynical times, might be surprised at how positive such conjectures were.¹ To be sure, there were prophets of doom, like H. G. Wells, who conjured up a technological nightmare of aWar of the Worldsin 1898.² The Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad also brought a pessimist’s gaze to the future of the European project in hisHeart of Darkness,published first in serialized form in 1899. But these voices were in the minority. In many...

  6. 2 1919: Perpetual War/Perpetual Peace
    (pp. 48-74)

    The Great War of 1914–18 had torn up the map of Europe and, on account of imperial ties, the map of the world. In the first half of 1919, people from all over the world converged on Paris to join in the discussion surrounding the peace conference and to influence the outcome. Some were official delegates; others were there because during the war their people had a glimpse of freedom. After four years of carnage, this was a time of hope, some of it utopian, about the way the war had opened up the possibility of an enduring peace....

  7. 3 1937: Illuminations
    (pp. 75-98)

    The world’s fair of 1900 was an exuberant celebration of the muscular dynamism of imperialism and capitalism. But in fourteen years, these nations’ creative force on display turned bellicose and produced the worst bloodbath in history. The peace of Paris was framed to avoid a recurrence of industrialized violence, but by the 1930s it was obvious that the hopes of a new world order, more stable than the pre-1914 balance of power, were misplaced. In chapter 2, we explored some of the inner contradictions within the thinking behind the peace treaty which ensured this somber outcome. But the shadow of...

  8. 4 1948: Human Rights
    (pp. 99-120)

    Many people have described the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a utopia, understood as a pipe dream, a fool’s vision. In this book, I have tried to reclaim the term “utopia” and to define it in a limited and positive way as a mode of describing where we are by describing where we have not yet reached. The term “minor utopia” is more restrictive still in locating the boundaries of these visions, their tendency to rethink not all of the world, but parts of it which can be transformed.

    One minor utopian in the sense I am using the...

  9. 5 1968: Liberation
    (pp. 121-168)

    The one decade in the twentieth century marked most strikingly by utopian initiatives was the 1960s. Some entailed individual freedom, defined in terms of individual dress, comportment, music, drugs, sexuality. Others took the form of collective experiments, more focused on communal ways of living than on changing the social order as a whole. But there were broader visions, too. Many groups of people organized and attacked enduring patterns of prejudice and discrimination in Soweto, Birmingham, Londonderry. Warfare—in Algeria, in Vietnam, in the Middle East—brought out mass movements of protest against French or American or Israeli imperialism. But by...

  10. 6 1992: Global Citizenship
    (pp. 169-203)

    The decade following 1989 provided dramatic images of political transformation—the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991; the emergence of a strengthened European Union in 1992, following the Maastricht Treaty, as a confederation of 375 million people; the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1991 and the final defeat of Apartheid. Thus ended by the early 1990s what Eric Hobsbawm has termed the “short twentieth century.”¹

    In the same period there emerged a new kind of vision, one which echoed earlier ideas but which set them in a new framework, the...

  11. Epilogue: An Alternative History of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 204-210)

    Anna Akhmatova’s poem tells us much about the twentieth century, the century of total war. Her verse announces the history of the twentieth century as the story of catastrophe after catastrophe, with death as its destination and its signature. Most historians of the twentieth century have followed Akhmatova’s lead. I am among them. For nearly four decades I have been at work trying to locate the history of the 1914–18 conflict within the contours of the twentieth century. As I noted in the introduction, in doing so, I have been aware of a kind of imbalance in the historical...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 211-232)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-250)
  14. Index
    (pp. 251-262)