In This Review

Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century
Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century
By Jay Winter
Yale University Press, 2006, 272 pp

To anyone with a flame of utopian hope still flickering in his or her soul, this moving, wise, and passionate book can only be a blessing. Winter has no illusions either about the horrors of the twentieth century or about grand utopias that rely on the state for the improvement of humanity. What interests him here are "minor utopias," whose importance he stresses in reaction against the prevalence of "catastrophic history," which highlights "the monstrous and the shocking," and of "superior history," which confuses "cynicism with wisdom." Many of the twentieth-century minor utopias failed, but they represented moments of hope -- and some were at least partly successful in changing aspects of the human condition for the better. Winter surveys twentieth-century visions of peace, human rights, direct democracy, and global citizenship. This brand of "alternative history" may, like Winter's utopias, be minor, but, like them, it is also necessary.