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Uncivil Society


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About the Author

Stephen Kotkin is Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University, with a joint appointment as Professor of International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School. He is the author of the enormously influential books Magnetic Mountain-Stalinism as a Civilization and Armageddon Averted- The Soviet Collapse 1970 2000 and contributes regularly to The New York Times, The New Republic, and the BBC. Jan T. Gross a native of Poland, also teaches at Princeton, where he is the Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society. He was a 2001 National Book Award nominee for his widely acclaimed Neighbors- The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. His most recent book, Fear-Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. i>From the Hardcover edition.


In 1989, all East European Soviet "satellites" abruptly broke free, triggering a similar breakup inside the U.S.S.R. In this addition to the Modern Library Chronicles series, Princeton history professors Kotkin (Armageddon Averted) and Gross (Neighbors) deliver a perceptive account of how this happened. They deny that freedom-loving citizens ("civil society") led the transformation, pointing out that, except in Poland, no organized opposition existed. The only true establishment was the "incompetent, blinkered, and ultimately bankrupt" Communist system-an uncivil society. Even in private, all awaited the collapse of capitalism and increasingly focused on the moral superiority of socialism in the face of the unnerving economic superiority of the West. In 1989 the bottom fell out. Polish leaders agreed to a quasi-free election, which unexpectedly voted them out; faced with peaceful demonstrations and a mass exodus of citizens, East German leaders resigned. Except for a bloody attempt to stave off the inevitable in Romania, all satellite governments peacefully dissolved, often with comic-opera ineptness. Combining scholarship with sparkling prose, the authors recount a thoroughly satisfying historical struggle in which the good guys won. 16 pages of b&w photos; maps. (Oct. 13) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Kotkin (modern & contemporary history, Princeton; Armageddon Averted) and Gross (war & society, Princeton; Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz) hone in on the uprisings in East Germany, Poland, and Romania after the end of communism. They assert that it was "uncivil society" (i.e., Communist Party officials) that caused Soviet-style socialism to fall apart rather than the unorganized opposition ("civil society," i.e., those following the rule of law), although it's the opposition that's often the center of attention in studying 1989. Uncivil society's many missteps caused a "political bank run" and ultimately introduced democracy and capitalism to the Eastern bloc nations, a largely peaceful revolution. This is a scholarly work, yet it willÅsurely attract a wide variety of readers, from university students to general readers interested in this topic.-Beth Johns, Saginaw Valley State Univ., University Center, MI Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Following hard on the heels of Armageddon Averted, Stephen Kotkin has written a brilliantly original account of the fall of the Soviet empire. Almost everything on this subject up until now has been journalism. Kotkin's genius as an historian is to turn conventional wisdom on its head and force us to rethink completely a revolution we thought we understood merely because we lived through it." --Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard and author of The War of the World

"In this lively and fast-paced study, two distinguished Princeton historians, Stephen Kotkin and Jan Gross, analyze the 1989 revolution in Eastern Europe as a product of the political bankruptcy of 'uncivil society, ' meaning the communist elite. Using the case studies of Poland, Romania, and the German Democratic Republic, the authors combine deep historical analysis of the development and failures of East European communism with brilliant insights into the events of 1989 themselves. The book makes a critical contribution to our understanding of the annus mirabilis." --Norman M. Naimark, Robert and Florence McDonnell Chair of East European History at Stanford University

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