In This Review

Sophisticated Rebels: The Political Culture Of European Dissent, 1968-87
Sophisticated Rebels: The Political Culture Of European Dissent, 1968-87
By H. Stuart Hughes
Harvard University Press, 1988, 172 pp

A well-known historian analyzes the European dissidents after the shattered illusions of 1968, when the student movement in Paris collapsed and Dubcek's effort at establishing "socialism with a human face" was crushed by Soviet-led forces. These events "together mark the single clearest caesura in the history of Europe since 1945." As representatives of the more realistic, more skeptical mood after 1968, Hughes selects various figures-from the novelists Michel Tournier and Milan Kundera to the theological opponents of the Polish pope-and movements, such as the Greens or Solidarity, all of whom tried by different means and under different conditions to improve life, individual and collective. Written with Hughes' usual elegance, with an appealing mixture of engagement and detachment, the book gives a vivid picture of people who "had in common a resolute moral sense." The chapters are a bit uneven, varying with Hughes' own familiarity and sympathy, but altogether an astoundingly compact and most informative sketch of contemporary dissidence, of individuals and groups insufficiently known in the United States, in what Hughes rightly and regretfully calls "a society of specialists."