The Hero in History

Cosimo, Inc.
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Considered by some the most controversial American philosopher of contemporary times, SIDNEY HOOK (1902-1989) was infamous for the wild swing in his political thought over the course of his career, starting out as a young Marxist before the Great Depression and ending up a vehement anti-Communist in his later years. Hook's conception of history and the individual's impact upon it is the subject of this intriguing work, first published in 1943. Subtitled A Study in Limitation and Possibility, it examines the concept of the "hero" as it relates to leadership in the modern world, the hero as a child of crisis, how the character of rulers affects society, how history swings on the contingent and the unforeseen, and much more. With sections on the Russian revolution and the influence of the hero on democracy, this unexpectedly entertaining book is an enthralling look at the theories that shaped Hook's thought and guided his changes in political alliance.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Cosimo, Inc.
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Published on
Dec 1, 2008
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Pages
292
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ISBN
9781605203744
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
Philosophy / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Sidney Hook
The interaction of the individual in history and politics has posed major theoretical questions of historical analysis for the past two centuries: is social destiny shaped by forces beyond the power of the individual, or can the future be mastered by collective effort under the outstanding leadership of heroic men and women? In this classic study, a major philosopher and social theorist of the twentieth century offers a searching examination of the conditions under which individuals make choices that significantly alter the course of historical events and presents a scathing critique of various forms of social determinism that deny the individual freedom of action or a decisive role in history.

The myth of the hero as the savior of the tribe or nation, as Hook notes, is older than written history. Until the ninteenth century, the hero functioned not merely as a cult figure but as a principle of historical explanation, a key to the rise and fall of countries and even of cultures. The exaggerations and omissions of this point of view produced an equally simplistic reaction with the formulation of determinist historiographies in which physical, racial, social, and economic forces replaced individuals as the dynamic factors in the development of events. Hook singles out orthodox Marxism as the most all-encompassing determinist system and subjects the historical thinking of Engels, Plekhanov, and Trotsky to sharp and meticulous scrutiny. Using the Russian Revolution as a test case, Hook observes that while the February 1917 Revolution was an inevitable development, the October revolution was, according to the best historical evidence, contingent upon the personality and actions of Lenin.

In his 1978 reconsideration of the subject of heroism, appearing new to this edition, Hook defines a middle ground between the extremes of voluntarism and determinism that explains why the presence of strong personalities are decisive under certain conditions while under others key actors would appear to be almost interchangeable. He points us toward an understanding of a fascinating problem in history and raises essential questions about the role of "great" men and women in a democracy. "The Hero in History "will be of interest to intellectual historians, philosophers, political scientists, and sociologists.

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