[Ideas in Action: Political Tradition in the Twentieth Century]

Article excerpt

This book is a sweeping survey of twentieth century social and political theory that also has much to say about world politics. It will appeal especially to those with an interest in 'critical theory' and in contemporary debates about the problematic nature of 'progressive' politics after the cold war.

Among many other claims, Bronner suggests a need to formulate an adequate challenge to globalization -- a concept he equates with the narrow interests of transnational capitalists. To mount the challenge, he states that people on the Left need to rethink the links between 'ideas' and 'action.' The book contains a series of brief, lucid chapters on how ideologies in general, and those of the Left in particular, concede and misconceive the task of reforming political institutions for the sake of human 'emancipation.' In Bronner's view, only a reconstructed 'liberal-socialism,' applied globally, can realize the traditional goals of progressive politics.

Unfortunately, while Bronner is clear on the deficiencies of previous and existing strands of progressive thought -- namely Frankfurt School critical theory, existentialism, post-structuralism, and feminism -- he fails to provide anything beyond the most vague descriptions of his preferred amalgam of 'liberal-socialism. …