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Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century

Length: 12 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (271 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the trenches of World War I to Nazi Germany to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the 20th century was a time of unprecedented violence. Yet while such monumental violence seems senseless, it is not inexplicable. If we can understand the origins of violence, we may prevent even greater horrors in the century to come.

These 24 necessary lectures trace the violent history of the 20th century, beginning with its early roots in the American and, especially, the French revolutions. With each passing lecture, you will see how the 20th century's-violence was the result of specific historical developments that eventually combined, with explosive results.

You'll see how

  • the French Revolution proved that ideological movements could mobilize the public and, through violence, transform society;
  • the Industrial Revolution and subsequent technology created vastly more powerful weapons; and
  • Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection was perverted into Social Darwinism and eugenics.

The most sinister development of all, however, was the notion that utopia was not just a perfect paradise to look forward to in the afterlife. Instead, utopia could be built right now, in this life. Such 20th-century ideologies as Marxism, Nazism, Communism, and Fascism embraced this idea willingly - even enthusiastically - and used terror to implement it.

You'll see how leaders of totalitarian governments act as mobsters, and how regimes create fear and command allegiance through the use of bureaucratic "machines," such as the cult of the leader, secret police, and the media. In the final lectures, Professor Liulevicius considers recent figures such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and assesses terrorism in the contemporary world.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses

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A Great Lecture Series

Where does Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The thread that haunted my understanding of modern history is why so many utopian dreams degenerate into mass murder, aggressive suppression of human rights and war.. At last, here is a rational and well documented explanation that gets away from the petty details in individual events that weighs down the usual histories. Utopian-ism is bound to fail because its components (unreasonable promises, the making of opposition illegal and inevitable terror) at always seen as necessary and used to justify all forms of crime. This should be heard by everyone.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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One of my favorites from the Great Courses series

I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture. It is easy to tend to listen to history from the middle ages or ancient history and forget about recent history. This lecture probably does more to help you understand the world we are currently living in than any other out there. You can't understand the present if you don't have a solid foundation of historical context to build upon. It is akin to walking into a movie that is near the end and attempting to figure out what is going on. I was never bored. This is one of the few audio books that I fully intend on listening to for a second time.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Informative

Professor is well spoken and unbiased. Good overview of communism, Islamist and nazism. Would recommend.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Excellent course!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century?

The consistency across various totalitarian regimes that I had heard about but before this course did not have much knowledge about.

Any additional comments?

This definitely increased my understanding of how totalitarian regimes come to be, and the importance of both being an active citizen as well as recognizing the dignity of each human being.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding content

Definitely worth your time! You'll probably learn things you didn't know about these totalitarian regimes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The Last Stretch of Modern History

This course explores the biggest global movers and shakers of the twentieth century, covering events leading to the World Wars up to the first Gulf War. While the Professor tries to present ideas in unbiased form, it is obvious that he is strongly biased against some of them.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Listening to ONE book this decade? PICK THIS!

HIGHLY RELEVANT for the current politico-socio-economic issues we're facing in the US today.

Now and then a book comes along that manages to arrange threads from different (artificially separated) areas into a whole fabric in a profoundly meaningful way. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius does this, and I think this is The Most Important book/course currently given its perfectly broad, yet limited scope, accessibility and clarity that can make dangers of today very visible.

This books shed an important 'hidden' layer of seemingly well-meaning ideas and ideologies and potentially well-intentioned actions, mobilizing hostile masses into super-drones towards a future we don't want, but if it goes too far we might not be able to stop causes set in motion. We can learn about the dangers of the kind of ideas we're heralding as 'good', with an increased focus on collectivistic solutions, hostility and calls for violence, reinforcing negative stereotypes through a new modern technology: social media, that can mobilize the masses at an unprecedented rate today. We need to get these kind of group-identity-politics out of our ideological make-up - cutting in ALL directions - but I see a growing use of exactly the recipe that have lead to brutal murder of certain groups based on what they ARE, multiple, multiple times during the 19th century. There is more talk about groups than individual freedoms and rights, based on universal human rights, than ever before, and a demonizing of others.

Past horrors have been committed, and we would be wise, in trying to correct for these, not to create an even more horrific future by creating scape-goats and create solutions based on groups with immutable characteristics. The best path towards the future for EVERYONE would be to keep up strong institutions protecting individual freedoms and human rights, improve equal opportunities such as education and health care - not engineer special solutions, as it WILL bite back in the future. It might seem slow and not 'revolutionary' enough, and not empathic with past sins, I wish there was a faster and better way, but I don't think there is, and I fear for the current political and societal climate here in the US, with clear signs of what's outlined here. I fear the worst.

I wish more people would listen to this course, so at least mutually respectful, educated solution-oriented discussions (without historical amnesia) could be held in public. I feel as though the 'terror' has already begun. I wish we could be wiser and avoid the horrific future that might await ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and create a future for everyone based on individual universal human rights.

This books is highly important for today. I wish it could be discussed in mainstream media etc, to broaden our thinking as a society about ideological roots etc, and through which means horrors have been created, and how good - far from perfect - societies have been created, and how we can choose this path forward, as a society, with no one left behind.

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Engrossing

The best nonfiction book I’ve read in 10 years. Absolutely recommend it for anybody interested in being a human.

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Contains an important warning 4 the West

Every American should be exposed to this lecture series, and in particular those who are easily swayed by the calls to fundamentally transform the society and politics of the founders of our United States.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good, but not as outstanding as his other courses

I am a YUUUUGE fan of Prof. L. His other two courses are exceptional. This one was not. Although his delivery and fairness are outstanding, the structure doesn't make sense to me. Most of these events are not really related. "Greatest Hits of Modern Atrocity."

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Shaun gaines
  • 09-24-16

moshe

Rarely do you listen to a lecture or a read book that can transform your understanding and that takes you òn a journey through history. I'm tempted to listen to the series straight away.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 11-10-15

Perfect balance

This presentation was one of the most informative I have listened too. The presentation has added greatly to my understanding of this important period .A perfect balance between detailed information historical events and dates made for compelling listening.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 12-06-14

Excellent

A lot better than I thought and my only complaint is I wanted more. A broad overview of idealistic movements devolving into, well words don't do it justice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • DaveW
  • 11-19-15

Same old rather lame perspective

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This is an academic-centric version, rather than an objective history.

What in particular is unforgivable is the omission of the Oxford Union King or Country debate, when on the topic of Hitler's motivating factors in the 30's.

It smacks of an academic conveniently side stepping his own profession's culpability.

What other book might you compare Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century to, and why?

Churchill's diaries. Churchill could 'write'.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The subject it covers is fine, but how can't you trust what is a version?

Any additional comments?

As a rule, I love the Great Course's series.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • George S.
  • 01-01-19

Good overview, however lacks detailed analysis

This course is a well researched catalogue of the horrors of twentieth century ethnic and social engineering projects. Missing, however, is any reference to Latin America, which was a bit disappointing. Also, there is little in the way of deep analysis, with the lecturer simply listing different regimes and their respective crimes.

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  • Giulia
  • 11-15-17

Great examples to add gravity to the finally chapt

Great examples to add gravity to the finally chapter.
have listened to several chapters more than once.