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.
Pascal Bruckner is the award-winning author of many books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel Bitter Moon, which was made into a film by Roman Polanski. Bruckner's nonfiction books include Perpetual Euphoria and The Paradox of Love (both Princeton).
"With eloquence, relish, and confidence, Pascal Bruckner confronts those whose morbid addiction to self-blame has begun to flirt with the suicidal. It's not necessary to concur with him about what constitutes faith or the lack of it. More useful and surprising (and educational) is to compare his authentic quotations from Fanon with the currently received opinion of that author. This is a book that issues a challenge in every chapter, and in some chapters on every page."—Christopher Hitchens
"With controlled anger, Pascal Bruckner scrutinizes European civilization and unsparingly tells the truth, no matter how congenial: Europe is worth admiring and emulating. Its spirit of critical inquiry has produced a culture of tolerance, liberalism, and learning. Its historical sins of omission and commission are legion, yet its values have allowed us to supersede them. In attacking a republican heresy of guilt without accountability, Bruckner chooses the right target and to great effect. This is a bracing call for the universality of republican ideals."—Oliver Kamm, columnist and editorial writer for The Times (London)
"In telling the West not to die of guilt, Pascal Bruckner has laid himself open to attack from all those who think it should. But this essential book, subtly argued and scholarly though it is, has a simple formulation at its heart that would be enough by itself to convey the power of his case: the West didn't invent slavery, the West invented its abolition. His ability to focus light on propositions like that makes him one of the indispensable philosophers of our time."—Clive James, novelist, poet, and essayist
"Bruckner's writing combines wit, learning, and savage indignation. The result is a brilliant defense of liberalism and a deservedly contemptuous assault on all those intellectuals who have betrayed its best values."—Nick Cohen, author of What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way
"Pascal Bruckner might well be the most distinguished essay writer in France today. He is both inordinately talented and prodigiously politically incorrect. No one better unmasks the pieties of the reigning intellectual cant. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, he does the life of the mind an invaluable service."—Richard Wolin, author of The Wind from the East