BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Well, that was interesting ...

Every once in a while I totally "whiff" on a book ... plowing into a text thinking that I'm reading something about "X" when I'm actually reading a book about "Y", and this was one of those cases. I'd found Jean-François Revel's Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun referenced in something else that I was reading, and was (at the time) very pleased to discover that I was able to obtain a copy (via Amazon's new/used vendors), as it appears to have been out of print for quite a while.

Now, as regular readers of this space have probably figured out about me, I have very little patience for either Marxism/Socialism or the "major religions", so when I'd gotten wind of a book that was purportedly talking about "a new American revolution" that was "without Marx or Jesus", I was thrilled, as I was hoping to be delving into a treatise about how we were going to be building that non-Leftist Secular society, based on reason, "common sense", and meritocracy.

Well, that ain't this book. OK, so maybe this goes halfway there, with the "without Marx" part covered, but this is by no means the book that I had hoped that it was going to be. The author was a French political philosopher who, in the latter third of his life, decided to become something of a provocateur, writing a string of books that served to highlight the failings of various social situations and institutions. This is one of those books, and is focused less on America than it is pointing out the deficiencies of French, and European, cultural expectations.

One thing to bear in mind with this book is that it was written in 1970. Revel had just come over to the U.S. for an extended stay, and had been caught up in the social changes boiling up in the late 60's. This particular slice of time in America probably gave him the wrong impression on how things were vectoring here, and led him to the central focus of this book, that "the revolution" was going to come out of the U.S.A. and not from Europe or the third world. Of course, part of this prediction was based on our "mass media" in a time when many European nations were barely experimenting with TV, having only a few hours of programming on 2-3 channels each day, so in many ways this book is a "time capsule" into a culture scarcely recognizable today.

Needless to say, I was disappointed that the "religion question" was barely touched on ... he briefly notes "Jesus Freaks" and eastern influences, compares the wide variety of churches in the U.S. to the tradition of Papist ecclesiastical control in Europe, but he never gets into the vast sea of blind belief that is middle America.

Again, this book was written for a French audience, addressing their preconceptions. He takes apart Russia, China, the Third World, and most of Socialist Europe as being unable to support the sort of revolution he was promoting (which was a move towards a "New World Order" with a planetary government, oddly similar to the goals of the similarly ex-resistance "Sion" folks detailed in another book that I recently reviewed). Much of the book is spent in critiquing the rampant anti-Americanism of the French, and showing how remarkably misguided it was/is (obviously, from the current state of the Democratic Party, the sort of mindless anti-Americanism has not only survived but spread to America).

One thing I found very odd here was that the publishers had noted Trotskyite Mary McCarthy write an Afterword to the book, which seems rather contrary to much of the aims of the author, which in turn is pointed out by Revel in an "author's note" closing the book, where he refutes much of what's in the Afterword ... how odd for a writer to have to have this sort of a dust-up within the pages of their own book!

Anyway, Without Marx or Jesus is not the book that I was anticipating, and, while interesting, is so largely in a "sociological" sense of looking through it as a lens to a particular time. There are various versions of this book out there in the used channels, but unless you have a particular interest in any of the above, I don't see why you'd want to make the effort ... especially as the 1971 hardcover edition that I got in "very good" condition for $4.00 (plus shipping) is now showing up with a "good" copy at nearly $35.00!

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Tags: book review
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