The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism

Pascal Bruckner, Author, Steven Rendall, Translator . Princeton Univ. $26.95 (239p) ISBN 978-0-691-14376-7

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. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/11/2010
Release date: 02/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 264 pages - 978-1-4008-3431-0
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-691-15430-5
Show other formats
Discover what to read next