Fascism, communism, genocide, slavery, racism, imperialism--the West has no shortage of reasons for guilt. And, indeed, since the Holocaust and the end of World War II, Europeans in particular have been consumed by remorse. But Pascal Bruckner argues that guilt has now gone too far. It has become a pathology, and even an obstacle to fighting today's atrocities. Bruckner, one of France's leading writers and public intellectuals, argues that obsessive guilt has obscured important realities. The West has no monopoly on evil, and has destroyed monsters as well as created them--leading in the abolition of slavery, renouncing colonialism, building peaceful and prosperous communities, and establishing rules and institutions that are models for the world. The West should be proud--and ready to defend itself and its values. In this, Europeans should learn from Americans, who still have sufficient self-esteem to act decisively in a world of chaos and violence. Lamenting the vice of anti-Americanism that grips so many European intellectuals, Bruckner urges a renewed transatlantic alliance, and advises Americans not to let recent foreign-policy misadventures sap their own confidence. This is a searing, provocative, and psychologically penetrating account of the crude thought and bad politics that arise from excessive bad conscience.
In a critique of the West's postcolonial self-flagellating tendencies that is both fascinating and repellent, prize-winning French novelist and essayist Bruckner (Tears of the White Man) offers a broad defense of neoliberal democracy as a force for progress, enlightenment, and emancipation. In polemical tones, the author identifies how the aftermath of WWII and postcolonial liberation movements spawned a pathology of remorse and guilt corrupting the European self-image that was maintained by its own intelligentsia and by a variety of immigrants, Islamists, and Arabs. Though the book offers insightful analyses of how discourses of guilt and self-hatred can serve to mask self-glorification and assertions of cultural superiority, it is marred by a monolithic, often Franco-centric view of Europe, a tendency toward overgeneralization, and an almost total disregard for how global economic concerns and practices are linked to international dissatisfactions with the behavior of Western democracies. Nonetheless, as a work that takes seriously the challenges posed by multiculturalism and the changing face of Europe, it is a worthy attempt to resuscitate the ideals of progressive enlightenment, political action, and civic pride.