Pioneers of the Left

Pioneers of the Left

THE ORIGINS OF SOCIALISM, by George Lichtheim. New York: Frederick A. Praeger. 302 pp. $6.95 (paper $2.95).

One of the most intelligent and prolific among contemporary historians of socialism, George Lichtheim displays in almost all of his work two sides: he is often annoyingly facile and cocksure, yet illuminating to a degree more restrained authors rarely are. His most recent book, The Origins of Socialism, seems to me, however, a failure. Lichtheim surveys his subject without caring to learn much from it and without offering any strikingly new insights or information. One’s major impression is that the book, the first part of a larger history of socialism, was written in a hurry to get on to matters more interesting to Lichtheim than the antecedents of Marxism.

I think he also has been hasty, even careless, in his selection and organization of material for discussion and in many of his conclusions, but this leads to the consequences of a far more serious shortcoming: Lichtheim has little sympathy or feeling for those unfortunate enough not to have benefited from Marx’s discoveries.

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