Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century

Course No. 8313
Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
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Course No. 8313
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Course Overview

From the trenches of World War I to Nazi Germany to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the 20th century was a time of unprecedented violence. According to best estimates, in that 100-year span more than 200 million people were killed in world wars, government-sponsored persecutions, and genocides. Such monumental violence seems senseless. But it is not inexplicable. And if we can understand its origins, we may prevent even greater horrors in the century to come.

This is the premise of Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century. Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius traces the violent history of that era, beginning with its early roots in the American and, especially, the French revolutions. With each passing lecture, you will see how the 20th century's violence was the result of specific historical developments that eventually combined, with explosive results.

The Fuse that Made the 20th Century Explode

The French Revolution proved that ideological movements could mobilize the public and, when willing to use violence, could indeed transform society.

The Industrial Revolution and subsequent technology created vastly more powerful weapons—including some that were entirely new, such as the airplane and rocket—that raised the potential for bloodshed to new heights.

Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection was perverted into Social Darwinism and eugenics: racist pseudosciences that provided excuses to repress or eliminate entire groups of people.

These events created a dangerous backdrop for the most sinister development of all. This was the notion that utopia was not just a perfect paradise to look forward to in the afterlife. Instead, utopia could be built right now, in this life.

Such 20th-century ideologies as Marxism, Nazism, Communism, and Fascism embraced this idea willingly—even enthusiastically—and used terror to implement it. These ideologies functioned as political religions, demanding fanaticism, commitment, and sacrifice in return for an ultimate reward in this life rather than the next.

Understanding Totalitarian Governments: Gangsters and Machines

Professor Liulevicius offers an intellectual framework though which to understand the totalitarian governments of the last century or, for that matter, of today. Such governments, and the terror they spread, share key characteristics and strategies.

For example, their leaders can be seen not as politicians but as mobsters, an organized conspiracy that uses criminal methods inspired by gangsters. They gain and maintain power by manipulating masses of people, often exploiting societies with many uprooted and alienated citizens, such as existed in Europe after World War I.

In addition, you will see that these regimes create fear and command allegiance through the use of "machines." These are not literally machines, but bureaucracies that carry out a set of deliberate, interrelated strategies. These include:

  • The cult of the leader, or the cult of personality. These make the dictator seem larger than life, or superhuman. After Italy annexed Ethiopia in 1936, Mussolini's followers declared him to be a new god in human form. In the Soviet Union, long ovations after Stalin's speeches were common, as no one wanted to be seen as the first to stop applauding.
  • The Big Lie, or deliberate distortions of the truth. During the Hundred Flowers Campaign, Mao Zedong seemed to promote free speech, then killed some half million dissidents when they came out in the open.
  • Secret police. An estimated 274,000 people worked with the East German secret police, the Stasi, from 1950 to 1989. When informers were added, this translated into one secret policeman for every 6.5 persons.
  • The media. Radio, film, and television were used to rewrite history and manipulate the masses. The Bolsheviks produced documentary films that made their October Revolution seem much more dramatic and deadly than it was (a common joke was that more people were injured during filming than in the actual event).

The portrait Professor Liulevicius paints is that 20th-century violence, while horrific and massive, was not chaotic or random but deliberate and calculated. Very often, it was based on precedent.

In using concentration camps, Hitler and Stalin essentially adopted a strategy that had first been employed by the Spanish in 1896 in Cuba and by the British against Dutch settlers during the Boer War (1899–1902).

Hitler's plan to exterminate Germany's Jews was inspired by the 1915 genocide of Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, an atrocity barely noticed by the international community. The fact that "no one remembered the Armenians," as Hitler is said to have declared, convinced him that his Final Solution would work.

Lessons Learned: A Hopeful Conclusion

In the final lectures, Professor Liulevicius considers recent figures such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and assesses terrorism in the contemporary world. What is the future of terror? What lessons have been learned by the hard experience of the past century?

These questions hinge on several issues, including our attitudes toward human nature, our ability to remember and learn from past atrocities, and our use of technology. But an especially optimistic note is the notion of resistance. If the 20th century was plagued by repressive regimes, it was also blessed with those who resisted them.

Unlike the story of totalitarianism, which is about the state, the story of resistance is one of individuals who ignored personal risk to oppose violence. These "witnesses to the century," as Professor Liulevicius calls them, include novelists George Orwell and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, and political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

Their examples offer a hopeful conclusion.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Defining Utopia and Terror
    The 20th century saw the rise of brutal ideological regimes that promised total solutions. The key elements of such modern regimes are: 1) masses, 2) machines and mechanisms for control, 3) the seizure of the state by mobsters (political criminals), and 4) ideological master plans. x
  • 2
    The Legacy of Revolutions
    Nineteenth-century revolutions set the agenda for the 20th century. The French Revolution ushered in a new mass politics, while the Industrial Revolution created new productive power and confidence in science and progress. Both contributed to "utopian socialism," the point of departure for further revolutions. x
  • 3
    Omens of Conflict
    The 20th century began with optimism, but darker omens also appeared: the growing influence of Marxism, a wave of anarchist terrorism and assassinations, the brutal rule of worldwide imperialism, and premonitions of a coming world war. x
  • 4
    World War I
    World War I brutalized Western civilization through such innovations as poison gas, aerial bombing, and targeting of civilians. x
  • 5
    Total War—Mobilization and Mass Death
    This lecture considers implications of modern industrial war, or "total war," including use of violence against civilians, expansion of strong central states, propaganda as a tool of persuasion, and modern genocide: the massacre of a million Armenians in 1915. x
  • 6
    Total Revolution in Russia
    Total war led to a new kind of political upheaval: total revolution. Led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia in 1917 and began a vast revolutionary experiment. x
  • 7
    War's Aftermath—The Hinge of Violence
    The peace treaty of Versailles set the terms for new conflicts that inevitably arose. The little-known movements of millions of refugees displaced by the war set a dire precedent for subsequent massive "population transfers." x
  • 8
    This lecture traces the early outlines of Soviet power: the establishment of the Cheka secret police and the Red Army, the use of propaganda campaigns, the repression of internal dissent, and, after Lenin's death, the emergence of Josef Stalin. x
  • 9
    Josef Stalin, the "Man of Steel," made himself synonymous with the state. This lecture examines obscure beginnings, his rise to power, and the cult of personality deliberately crafted around him. x
  • 10
    Soviet Civilization
    The new society of the U.S.S.R. was self-consciously revolutionary and modern, heralding the construction of a "new man" and "new woman." Foreign visitors enthusiastically hailed what they saw as a vision of the "future that works." x
  • 11
    Coming to power in 1922 through the falsely mythologized "March on Rome," the Fascists brutalized their opponents, prepared to mobilize society in a "total state," and chanted slogans of "Believe, Obey, and Fight." The Fascist style of "Il Duce," Mussolini, was imitated by would-be dictators worldwide. x
  • 12
    The 1930's—The "Low Dishonest Decade"
    The 1930's were marked by deepening worldwide economic crisis, the rejection of liberal ideas, and the ominous revival of imperialist desires. Poet W.H. Auden called it the "low dishonest decade." The Japanese invasion of China foreshadowed World War II, while the Spanish Civil War was its dress rehearsal. x
  • 13
    This lecture surveys the origins of the Nazi movement, its ideological roots, and its rise to power in Germany. All of these were linked to the brutalizing legacies of World War I. x
  • 14
    Adolf Hitler, the man behind the Nazi movement, was indispensable to its success and its growing radicalism. This lecture profiles Hitler and considers the keys to his effectiveness as a dictator, in particular his capability for boundlessly cynical propaganda. x
  • 15
    World War II
    The Second World War was unleashed by Hitler in 1939 with help from Stalin. On all sides, this "perfected" total war resulted in massive civilian casualties, especially in war from the air, culminating in the opening of the atomic age. x
  • 16
    Nazi Genocide and Master Plans
    This lecture considers the Nazis' program of mass murder against the Jews, beginning with escalating persecutions and culminating with extermination camps like Auschwitz. x
  • 17
    The Cold War
    No sooner had World War II ended than a new confrontation emerged: ideological blocs of countries faced off against one another in the Cold War. x
  • 18
    After decades of civil war and struggle, Chinese Communists came to power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This lecture examines the society formed by the ideology of "Mao Thought," the "Little Red Book," the uniform dress of "Mao suits," and the cultural break with a rich past forced by the regime. x
  • 19
    Cambodia and Pol Pot's Killing Fields
    In 1975, Cambodian Communist leaders educated in France and led by the mysterious Pol Pot turned their own land into a social experiment. In the three years of their rule, the Khmer Rouge killed some 2 million people, more than 25 percent of Cambodians. x
  • 20
    East Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea
    During the Cold War, different variants of communist regimes emerged. The German Democratic Republic was considered a success story. In the Soviet Union, the system lurched towards stagnation. North Korea enshrined its militarized isolation from the world in the ideology of "juche" or self-reliance. x
  • 21
    From the Berlin Wall to the Balkans
    As the 20th century neared its end, the spirit of the times sent mixed signals. From 1989 to 1991, Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union fell with astonishing speed. Yet, as Yugoslavia began to crumble, Europe saw a reversion to the crimes that had marked World War II. x
  • 22
    In 1994, horrific events unfolded in the central African country of Rwanda. The Hutu-dominated government organized the mass murder of the Tutsi minority. In 100 days, 800,000 people were slaughtered; the international community failed to intervene. x
  • 23
    Saddam Hussein's Iraq
    This lecture traces how Hussein established his personal dictatorship in Iraq, modeling himself on long-ago despots and surrounding himself with elite Republican Guards. His eight-year war against Iran resembled World War I in its ferocity. x
  • 24
    The Future of Terror
    Ultimately, what are the lessons of the 20th century's linked experiences of the promise of utopia and the reality of terror? This lecture poses the urgent question of how to be vigilant against the revival of movements such as those surveyed, and examines the growing appeal of Arab radicalism and groups like al-Qa'ida. The question of whether these global trends are likely to continue is of vital importance. x

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Your professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

About Your Professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 121.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Flawed Concept In this course Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius argues that Western utopian political thought, beginning with the Enlightenment and the emergence of Marxian socialism, birthed the terrorist dictatorships and genocides of the twentieth century. In his opening lecture he defines “utopia” as an imagined ideal society and “terror” as the organized use of violence for political ends with the deliberate targeting of civilians. When linked these two tendencies have led the state’s revolutionary rulers to draw up plans for perfecting society and then to beat down all resistance by mass imprisonment and murder while continuing to promise a bright future. In a long narrative, Liulevicius guides watchers and listeners through World War I and its totalizing effects, the Russian Revolution, the Stalinist “second revolution,” the rise and fall of fascism and Nazism, the Cold War, Maoist China, Pol Pot’s “killing fields” in Cambodia, the end of the Cold War, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Rwandan genocide, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and the rise of Al Qaeda. He concludes by proposing individuality, virtuous thinking and historical memory as the best defenses against the rise of new criminal regimes. The course has serious problems. First there is the conceptual slippage. Utopianism makes sense in helping to explain Stalinism, Maoism, the Khmer Rouge and perhaps early North Korea, but it’s hard to argue fascism, Nazism, Ba’athism or Hutu Power had any sort of comprehensive blueprint for an ideal society. To justify including them in the course, Liulevicius changes his selection filter from “utopia” to “ideology.” Yes, these horrible regimes had ideologies, but every state, including the USA, has an ideology of some sort to keep its political and economic elites in power. Then there were the Eastern European Communist regimes that may have professed utopian ideals, but as obsequious subjects of the USSR could hardly do it convincingly. In East Germany the Socialist Unity Party had to openly confess failure by fortifying the intra-German border and criminalizing “desertion from the Republic.” Second, the decision to relegate militant Islam to a few minutes in the final lecture is truly surprising. If Liulevicius was looking for a revolutionary utopian and antiliberal force in the last two decades of the twentieth century, this was it. The Shi’ite Islamic regime that came to power under Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 in a whirlwind of popular mobilization was a far better fit than the Ba’athists, and of course it is still in power today. The Islamist utopia lies as much in the medieval past as much in the future, but it is still a totalizing one—an imagined world where Islam is everywhere victorious, and every action, gesture and thought complies with the detailed requirements of Islamic law. Third, the professor makes little use of images that would have really enriched the course, especially the art he describes in the lecture on “Soviet Civilization.” On the other hand, one of the images he does use, the famous photo purporting to magnify Hitler’s ecstatic face in the crowd celebrating the outbreak of World War I in front of Munich’s Feldherrnhalle in August 1914, has long been debunked. It was a product of Hitler’s personal photographer after the war. Fourth, the professor’s framework ignores terrible crimes against humanity committed since 1945 in the name of fighting communism. Foremost among these was the great Indonesian massacre of 1965, in which the American CIA was complicit; at least a half-million died. I won’t tell you to avoid the course. You may enjoy—I use that word guardedly—this tale of the twentieth century’s worst governments but be aware of the flaws.
Date published: 2018-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relevant and Thought Provoking This is not a new course (2003) but the themes and concepts help me view the world leaders and their trajectories in a new and sometimes frightening light. It also provided a new perspective on the 20th century and my own times.
Date published: 2018-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must see! This is a course that Everyone should see to be prepared for the future! I must for young people to understand the past! Please see this to understand what can and must not happen again. The recommended reading list is very good too. Great professor!
Date published: 2018-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Is How We Got Here. I bought this course a while ago, and finally got around to watching it. I became completely wrapped up in the explanation of the forces of history and ideology that have brought the world to its current state. I found it both terrifying and reassuring to see how history is repeating itself, and it gives me hope that we can recover from the current backsliding toward nationalism and violence, as we did aftern World War II. It illustrates how constant vigilance is necessary to keep humanity human. The professor is an excellent lecturer, clearly and logically presenting the events and forces that shaped the 20th Century. His voice is pleasant to listen to and easy to understand. I'm looking forward to consulting the authors he cited in his lectures to better comprehend their ideas. Toward the end of the course, I was becoming distressed at how current events are mirroring some of the events leading up to totalitarian regimes of the past, but in the final lecture Prof. Lielevicius gives reassurance that, with attention to what is happening and active participation in our communities, humanity might be able to avoid reverting to violence. I recommend this course, without reservation, to anyone concerned about the current state of the world, or with an interest in modern history. I have several more of Prof. Lielevicius's courses that I am looking forward to watching.
Date published: 2018-07-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A most biased lesson I am a great fan of the Great Courses. I must have got and listened up to now to close to 750 hours of Great Teaching. Several of these courses, I have listened to many times. This series of lectures by Prof. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius actually is a good review of historical facts: I have nothing to say against that. However, I find it horribly biased: firstly, everybody in the story is bad except for Americans who seem never to have committed any crime: even the two atomic bombs over Japan within 3 days are passed over in less than a minute without any value judgment about it; secondly, when talking about the tyrannical leaders (we all agree about Lenin, Stalin, Mao and so on), no mention is ever made about the conditions which were made to these people and which led them to their revolutions: nothing about colonialism or, if so, only about colonialisms by others than Americans, nothing about the inhuman treatment made to them mostly by great western capitalists. I could keep up throwing examples of the same sort but I won't. I think my message must have been received by now: this is clearly an example of poor intellectual rigor and honesty.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century I listened to these lectures approximately a year ago. They are some of the finest, if not THE finest lectures I have ever heard. The author does a magnificent job of outlining the various governments which have resulted in mistreatments and torture of innocent human beings. EVERY single citizen of our free country should hear these lectures to understand how fortunate we are to live in a free country, which we tend to take for granted. I commend the author for making all of this very important information available. Lowell Gill
Date published: 2018-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from solid facts and info was good to listen too - not as powerful presentation as others - but good none the less
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from draws me in Important information for learning from history. But fairly depressing.
Date published: 2018-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information As a teacher of high school World History, I found this course to be just what I needed to brush up before class each morning and evening as I drove to school. Due to the lectures, I was able to spice my lessons up with tidbits not found in the textbook. Win-win for me and the students.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Real history for the 20'th century A very well presented history of conflict in the 20'th century. The author spends most time on the European scene, but that is to be expected. Best history course I have ever taken.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dated But Still Informative This course is getting a little dated, but it is still informative and interesting. The course could use an update to reflect how the events of the later part of the 20th century impacted the War on Terror of the early part of the 21st century. That being said, the course has much to offer. The professor is clear in his presentation and handles difficult topics with grace and sensitivity while not sugarcoating facts. I particularly enjoyed the lectures on Rwanda and Pol Pot, two topics that are often not covered in history classes.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must-See/Must-Hear for Everyone Amazing course and very prescient for our world today. I found the course to be surprisingly thorough given the number of lectures. The professor is able to draw a bridge between societies attempting to attain utopia, and how their attempts inevitably lead to the exact opposite. Throughout the course the professor maintains a neutral distance, lending further credibility to his lectures. Even when discussing a charged topic, he remains composed, and he views it through as unbiased eyes as possible - the way a historian should. I feel it is a must-have history course for anyone, but especially for high school and college students who may not have experienced or knew family/friends who experienced regimes of terror. My only criticism is that it just covers the 20th century.
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This professor is outstanding. This is a great course. I intend to buy more courses from Professor Liulevicius. This a well presented and informative course on the ideologies of the 20th century.
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best is yet to come! Have only seen 3 of the 24 lectures. I have already seen 2 other courses by this lecturer so I know it will be good
Date published: 2017-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly What You Expect When they promise utopia, EXPECT authoritarian terror! Too bad the course neglected the holy inquisition and some of the other abuses of faith. But the course was very good.
Date published: 2017-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Depressing... This is a depressing course: reviewing all the terror-practicing and genocidal governments the 20th Century has seen. But it is an excellent review and spares no one: not only are the obvious movements included (Hitler, Stalin) but East Germany and Saddam Hussein are covered. A good entry for a 20th Century history course.
Date published: 2017-08-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from no visual aids I would recomment that you get the audio version. The professor stands and lectures. He uses almost no visual aides whatever, sometimes not even a useful map. No photos, no slides, no diagrams or images of documents. Just him talking. I gave up.
Date published: 2017-08-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Static Speaker While all the CD and audio download courses have been excellent, I should have learned from a previous Great Courses video that it tortures me to have "watch" a speaker standing at a lectern just...speaking. I watched the first 8 minutes of this one and wanted to pull my eyes out.
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Utopia & Terror in the 20th Century The prof seems very much in command of the facts. I would recommend the course to anyone.
Date published: 2017-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Food for Thought I bought this course, Utopia and Terror, out of intrigue with it’s title, but it turns out to be pretty much to a course on communism, something that I have been wanting to see from TGC. As the title suggests, this is no celebration of communist revolutions, but it actually does a good job explaining the roots of Marxist ideology, from the perspective of it’s originators, and tries to explains how a rational and moral person, notably Robespierre, could come to embrace mass murder. The course is frank about the severity of means used to effect change in the multiple communist revolutions it surveys, and the course eventually becomes a catalog of atrocities, not all of which stem from communist ideology. There is an important story here, one worth pondering for anyone interested in 20th century world history, political science, economic inequality, or the role of idealism in human affairs. This is 2003 production, from a period the company did little in terms of visual presentation in its courses. This, and other courses from that period, consist of filming a professor delivering a lecture from a podium, shot from two angles. The visuals pale in comparison to the production values of the company’s most recent courses, but it is not too different from taking a college course live and in person. Professor Liulevicius’s presentation is probably the most effective that I have yet seen from this company. You can’t have a great movie without great acting, and you can’t have a great college course without a professor who is passionate about their topic and cares enough about it to present the material in a carefully reasoned and balanced manner, as this professor does. I would recommend this course for former communists and former communist-haters alike. And for anyone given to utopian thoughts about better worlds.
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and timely I listened to this course over about a 3 month period on long car trips. I have been interested in making sense of the 20th century and many of the heinous regimes that have existed in my own lifetime, but of which I have been largely ignorant. This course has me following the bibliography to expand my knowledge of these events and encouraging friends to do the same. I found Prof. Liulevicius to be an excellent lecturer and look forward to his production of other courses (I also have his history of Eastern Europe.) Please encourage him to offer more!
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Why was the 20th century so violent? This was an excellent review of the many horrible, violent events of the 20th century. The lecturer looks at many of them as inspired by utopian ideas of what the perfect society should be like. Communism, Socialism, Nazism, Fascism, Baathism and the like. He draws some excellent themes from these events, beyond utopianism, noting the number of the leaders who imitated and feed off of each other's ideas, both before coming to power and after coming to power. Particularly interesting was his descriptions of the use of terrorism after coming to power, to eliminate opposition, potential opposition, those who are viewed as imperfect for the new society and some of the leader's early supporters. He also did a good job of illuminating the differences among the communist regimes, as they adapted to circumstances in their country that did not fit the Marxist description of how countries would be ready for communism. I did not rate this course as 5 stars, however. If it were an option, I would have gone with 4.5 stars. I felt that his conclusions were not broad enough. Utopianism, generically, is a source of the ideology behind quite a few of these terrible regimes. But he did not discuss how some of the regimes in the later part of the 20th century were less utopian and more simply an expression of the leaders' "will to power." They weren't trying to create a new type of society so much as they wanted to be the all powerful ruler. I also felt that he underplayed the degree to which utopian ideas were based on the idea of the perfectibility of human beings. He mentioned this only briefly in the last lecture but it should have been raised when discussing the ideologies' rise to power and their rule after reaching power. If utopian ideologies led to all of this violence and suffering, then where do we go from here? How can government not, ultimately, become totalitarian in pursuit of an ideal vision of the way society should be organized. Do we abandon the idea that there is an obtainable perfect society? If the answer is yes, because trying to get to a perfect society has led to horrible suffering for millions of people, then what do we do? What should governments be doing? Finally, he mentions the failure of other countries to intervene in some cases of national governments oppressing their own people, such as the Khymer Rouge. But I think there should have been some discussion of what principles apply to determine when such intervention would be justified and when it would not. It is clear, for example, that he feels the invasion of Iraq was fully justified, but there, obviously, are still people in the United States who think we should have let Saddam do what he wanted to do to his people.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timely course, but will it help you? My review will illustrate the course’s ideas and sometimes add a (hopefully relevant) current events question. No matter what side of the posed questions you take, the goal is help you decide if this course is useful to you. L11: “We pride ourselves on modernity, but the terrible violence of the 20th century contradicts and challenges that confidence.” L12: Eugenics, (cleansing of society of the infirm) was an implementation of social Darwinism. Is “Death with dignity” its modern cousin? L12: Lebensraum: A small Elite demands worldwide conformity to their pseudo-scientific Geopolitical of a Utopian world. Political (not economic) Globalism? L13: Political corruption of language. “PC”? Politicians became adept at prying apart earlier social solidarities and dividing up societies. Hitler’s technique was to the pulse of the crowd & push their agenda. L11: Mussolini’s observation that crowds could gain energy by opposing other crowds. Have we seen politics of division in the last decade? L15: Arendt’s Totalitarianism mechanics: ideological infallibility of a “Utopian dreamer” leader enforced by courts, approval of violent demonstrations, hierarchies of believers and elites, atomized masses, intimidation, & constant motion. Is this occurring in the West? L8-10 & 18-21: In the US it is PC to talk about the horrors of fascism. These chapters recall the much larger slaughters, starvations, and cleansings of Socialism. L21: Political rationale for voiding the word “genocide”. The negative Darwinian selection of Totalitarianism. L23: Saddam stated he lost the Gulf War because he had ”no nuclear weapons”. Is Iran’s nuclear go-ahead relevant? SUMMARY: Liulevicius has provided a framework for understanding the political methods of a post-Enlightenment era. CONS: from Goran’s critical review: "completely clears ... the actors who instigate, finance, support and defend the mentioned regimes time and time again with purely pragmatic and secular motives, often being the sole reason for their existence."
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and scary I purchased this course because I loved Professor L's course on The Great War, in which he makes a reference to future dictators. I found this course informative, especially the use of propaganda and how the mode of transmission changed with technology. While I wish there was more information on lesser-known governments (especially outside of Europe), by the end of the course I was numb from too much horror. I would love to see an updated version, or even a blog post or audio podcast to hear Professor L's assessment of current events. Everyone should be aware of these types of governments, along with the possibility that it can happen at any time - and anywhere in the world. This course is another great lesson in why you should always think for yourself and be an active participant in your government. Note that most of the course is focused on Eastern Europe, but that is the birthplace of these terrible governments, so a lot of time is spent explaining the original philosophies and how they were implemented before exported to other parts of the world. Also, Eastern Europe is Professor L's specialty, so these lectures felt more thorough. I listened to the audio version and felt I didn't miss anything.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the instructors command of the subject is impressive I bought this course because he was the teacher
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well researched and delivered Liulevicius does an excellent job of preparing the background in history for the great moments and movements of the 20th century. His presentation is easily addressed and clear and his knowledge of his subject is very evident. I have already worked through a previous course in The Great Courses offered by Liulevicius and would be happy to see more.
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Although this course was taped in the early 2000s, it remains a relevant and useful survey today. The professor takes a chronological approach and attempts to describe and explain various movements in the 20th century that employed terrorist methods in pursuit of utopian ideals. His method is thorough and insightful, and I think the course presents a valuable perspective on an uncomfortable but highly relevant subject matter. I listened to the audio version and thought that was entirely satisfactory.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Utopia and Terror in the Twentieth Century The Professor is an expert in Eastern Europe. I have his 'Great Course' course on Eastern Europe, which was excellent. His knowledge of the history of Eastern Europe means that he makes very important connections and explains the overall nature of twentieth century utopias much better than experts who only really know the history of Western Europe. For example, the history of the First World War and of the immediate post-World War I period was very different in Eastern Europe as opposed to what happened in Western Europe. If you want to understand why using violence, lies and terror to reach your political goal is not merely wrong but doesn't work, this course will be very illuminating to you.
Date published: 2016-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely interesting, but scary in its content. This course should be seen by everyone. The disturbing parts are that some of the terrors could happen again.
Date published: 2016-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very timely course As noted repeatedly in the course, the mass movements of the 20th century enabled by mass media persist into the 21st. The relevant question becomes: Have we learned to resist such tendencies? Populist sentiments here and abroad do not bode well for our times. This course definitely provides food for thought.
Date published: 2016-10-12
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