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How Hitchens Can Save the Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment (Paperback)
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Christopher Hitchens was for many years considered one of the fiercest and most eloquent left-wing polemicists in the world. But on much of today’s left, he’s remembered as a defector, a warmonger, and a sellout—a supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who traded his left-wing principles for neoconservatism after the September 11 attacks.
In How Hitchens Can Save the Left, Matt Johnson argues that this easy narrative gets Hitchens exactly wrong. Hitchens was a lifelong champion of free inquiry, humanism, and universal liberal values. He was an internationalist who believed all people should have the liberty to speak and write openly, to be free of authoritarian domination, and to escape the arbitrary constraints of tribe, faith, and nation. He was a figure of the Enlightenment and a man of the left until the very end, and his example has never been more important.
Over the past several years, the liberal foundations of democratic societies have been showing signs of structural decay. On the right, nationalism and authoritarianism have been revived on both sides of the Atlantic. On the left, many activists and intellectuals have become obsessed with a reductive and censorious brand of identity politics, as well as the conviction that their own liberal democratic societies are institutionally racist, exploitative, and imperialistic. Across the democratic world, free speech, individual rights, and other basic liberal values are losing their power to inspire.
Hitchens’s case for universal Enlightenment principles won’t just help genuine liberals mount a resistance to the emerging illiberal orthodoxies on the left and the right. It will also remind us how to think and speak fearlessly in defense of those principles.
About the Author
Matt Johnson writes for Haaretz, Quillette, The Bulwark, Areo, Arc Digital, and many other publications.
"How Hitchens Can Save the Left demonstrates how genuine liberals can resist authoritarianism on the right by refusing to tolerate illiberalism on the left. It's a beautifully written reminder that we still have plenty to learn from Hitchens today." —Iona Italia, editor-in-chief, Areo Magazine
“Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself, ‘what would Christopher say about this?’ Matthew Johnson’s brilliant reappraisal of the Hitchens corpus illuminates how Hitchens can save not just the left, but our entire, impoverished political discourse.” —James Kirchick, New York Times best-selling author of Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington and The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age