The Hero in History : A Study in Limitation and Possibility book cover
1st Edition

The Hero in History
A Study in Limitation and Possibility

ISBN 9781138516038
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
182 Pages

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Book Description

The interaction of the individual in history and politics has posed major theoretical questions of historical analysis for the past two centuries: is social destiny shaped by forces beyond the power of the individual, or can the future be mastered by collective effort under the outstanding leadership of heroic men and women? In this classic study, a major philosopher and social theorist of the twentieth century offers a searching examination of the conditions under which individuals make choices that significantly alter the course of historical events and presents a scathing critique of various forms of social determinism that deny the individual freedom of action or a decisive role in history.The myth of the hero as the savior of the tribe or nation, as Hook notes, is older than written history. Until the ninteenth century, the hero functioned not merely as a cult figure but as a principle of historical explanation, a key to the rise and fall of countries and even of cultures. The exaggerations and omissions of this point of view produced an equally simplistic reaction with the formulation of determinist historiographies in which physical, racial, social, and economic forces replaced individuals as the dynamic factors in the development of events. Hook singles out orthodox Marxism as the most all-encompassing determinist system and subjects the historical thinking of Engels, Plekhanov, and Trotsky to sharp and meticulous scrutiny. Using the Russian Revolution as a test case, Hook observes that while the February 1917 Revolution was an inevitable development, the October revolution was, according to the best historical evidence, contingent upon the personality and actions of Lenin.In his 1978 reconsideration of the subject of heroism, appearing new to this edition, Hook defines a middle ground between the extremes of voluntarism and determinism that explains why the presence of strong personalities are decisive under certain conditions while under others key actors would appear to be almost interchangeable. He points us toward an understanding of a fascinating problem in history and raises essential questions about the role of "great" men and women in a democracy. The Hero in History will be of interest to intellectual historians, philosophers, political scientists, and sociologists.

Table of Contents

I. The Hero as Event Problem 1. Leadership in the Modern World. 2. The Cultivation of the Hero. 3. The Hero as a Child of Crisis. 4. The Hero and the Philosopher of History. 5. Psychological Roots of Hero-Interest. II. The Heroes of Thought, 1. Literature, Music, and Painting. 2. Philosophy and Science. 3. Religion. 4. The Historical Hero. III. The Influences of Monarchs, 1. The Character of Rulers and Historical Conditions. 2. Some Striking Correlations. 3. Royalty by Right of Gametes. 4. Interpretations of Wood’s Findings. IV. Social Deterimism 1. The Hegelian World-Spirit. 2. The Common Assumptions of Determinism. 3. The Spencerian Formula. V. Social Deterimism, V I. The Framework of Heroic Action, 1. The Heritage of Social Determinism. 2. Heroic Action and Historical Alternatives. 3. The Hero as Puppet. VII. " If " in History 1. Drouet’s Cart and the Fall of France. 2. The Invasion of England. 3. The Persian Victory at Marathon. 4. Winston Churchill on Lee’s Victory at Gettysburg. 5. The Fanciful "If " and Scientific "If ." 6. The Hazards of Prophecy. VIII. The contingent and the Unforseen, 1. The Variety of Historical Perspectives. 2. The Meanings of Contingency. 3. The Limits of Contingency. 4. The Lost Chances of History. IX. The Eventful Man and the Event Making man X. The Russian Revolution 3. Lenin as an Eventful Man or Historical Hero. 4. A World Without Lenin. 5. Lenin’s Political Portrait. XI. The hero and Democracy x. Can a Democracy Trust Heroes? 2. The Hero as a Demagogue. 3. Heroes and Delegated Powers. 4. The Democratic Philosophy of the Hero. 5. The Critics of Democracy: Mosca, Pareto, and Michels. XII. Law , Freedom , and Human Action. The Scope of Historical Laws. 2. Degrees of Social Necessity. 3. Responsibility and Freedom. 4. The Alternatives Before Us

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Sydney Hook