Books and Periodicals Received

Nationhood and Political Theory, by Margaret Canovan. Cheltenham, UK - Brookfield, US. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. [Old Post Rd, Brookfield, VT 05036] 1996. vii + 159 pages. Bibliography, index. Hardcover. $65.00.

Easily the best book on matters pertaining to nationhood, nationalism, and national identity since Anthony D. Smith`s The Ethnic Origins of Nations [1986]. Canovan, a professor of politics at the University of Keele, considers various theories of nationalism, liberal democracy, and political power, and she points out the reasons why political scientists have generally been opposed to the creation of new nation states. She excels at pointing out inconsistencies and utopian assumptions in the thinking of those who proclaim the primacy of political and legal loyalties over the loyalties based on nationhood and ethnicity.

She points out that nationhood plays a central role in all kinds of mediation, many of which escape the language of political science. Nationhood poses a problem for contemporary political theory as well as for political practice. "This problem," she says, "is a tension between universalism and particularism: not only the philosophical tension between universal validity and particular cultural traditions, but [also] the political dilemmas that arise because general humanitarian principles and projects presuppose a power base sustained by particular solidarity, while the maintenance of that power base contradicts the very principles it renders plausible."(133) Putting it differently, "modern liberal democratic ideals depend for their plausibility on the collective power generated by national loyalties that are inconsistent with the ideals themselves...." (137). Thus to articulate a political philosophy of nationalism in conditions of democratic society is a feat no one has yet accomplished. On the other hand, we face the increasingly conflicting demands between universal principles and human rights on the one hand, and on the other, the necessity to preserve those nation states in which these principles have been operative. A fascinating and well-argued book, well worth buying if you are interested in matters of nationhood and nationalism.

Kremlin Capitalism: Privatizing the Russian Economy, by Joseph R. Blasi et al. Foreword by Andrei Shleifer. Ithaca and London. Cornell University Press. 1996. xv + 224 pages. Index, maps, tables. Paper. No price given.

The book considers such issues as privatization, ownership, restructuring, power, the future of reform. It includes numerous tables detailing the Russian transformation. This is the first book to date to deal in some detail with the transformation of Russian economy. But we have grave reservations about the figures listed in some of the tables and pertaining to the GDP, exports, imports, and subsidies. Nowhere in the book do the authors indicate that they have evidence that the subsidies were slashed from 32% in 1992 to 5% in 1994. Furthermore, in discussing the military, the book does not sufficiently differentiate between the military budget as part of the state budget, and direct purchases by the state detailed, among others, in Richard F. Staar's publications.

Polish, by Krystyna and Ryszard Olszer. New York. Hippocrene Books [171 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016]. 1996. 132 pages. Paper. $11.95.

A short dictionary cum phrasebook (contains derivatives, too) for those who have a smattering of Polish and would like to take a step forward. A handsome little book for students, travelers and teachers of Polish. It contains just enough basic grammar to serve as a handy reference tool.

Windswept House: A Vatican Novel, by Malachi Martin. New York. Doubleday [1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036]. 1996. 646 pages. Hardcover. $24.95 US, $32.95 Canada.

An exasperating yet fascinating read. We have always enjoyed Malachi Martin's hefty novels, yet this one goes beyond the pale. Martin has plenty of back-seat-driver advice for the present Pope, and he embellishes it with stories of covens active inside the Vatican (never mind the Masons!) and huge betrayal schemes plotted by many dignitaries of the Catholic Church. We hear that Satanism has made its nests in places we least suspect. In the midst of all this is the Slavic Pope with his childlike belief in Our Lady, in human solidarity and in God's mercy.

The novel takes to task almost everybody including the Pope, but its action takes place almost exclusively among the rich and powerful of this world (globalism gets a beating). Ever an elitist, Martin seems to believe that the poor are forever content to cook and clean for the rich in total self-abandonment, and that unless one's wealth runs into tens and hundreds of millions (or their equivalent in influence), one plays no role in the decline and possible revival of the Catholic Church in first world countries (the third world is discreetly absent). Martin is confident that he knows what ails the Catholic Church in America in the 1990s. Yet he also knows - or should know - that the Church owes its survival to the saints of every generation, regardless of whether they are widely known or not. Too much Realpolitik has never served the interpreters of the Church well. Also, Martin turns a blind eye to the inevitable changes in popular understanding of many seemingly unshakeable concepts, owing to instant communication and travel made possible by modern technology.

Still, the action is brisk, and the countries and nations covered include the United States, Poland, Russia, Belgium, and other areas of Europe, and, of course, the Vatican. Among the thinly-disguised celebrities, the cardinal of Centurycity (Bernardin of the Windy City) stands out. We watch the Pope travel to Ukraine and Russia and, on his way back, stop at the monastery in Czestochowa. What will his decision be? Martin leaves us panting even as we throw the book down saying, "millennarian garbage." There have appeared many such millennarian books lately, and no wonder: we are four years away from the year 2000. We hear that speculation about the end of times was also rife toward the end of the first millennium.

Other Books Received

Crossing Many Bridges: Memoirs of a Pharmacist in Poland, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Nebraska, by Witold Saski. Manhattan, KS. Sunflower University Press [P.O. Box 1009,1531 Yuma, Manhattan, KS 66505-1009]. 1996. 256 pages. Illustrations, index. Paper. $15.95 + $2.50 postage. ISBN 0-89745-110-4.

One more book of memoirs by the few who survived World War 2 deportations of the Polish professional classes to the Soviet gulag. Most of the 1.5 million disappeared into the gulag; Dr. Saski survived to tell the story.

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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 12/20/96