Toward Nationalism’s End

An Intellectual Biography of Hans Kohn

Adi Gordon

Toward Nationalism’s End

Adi Gordon

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

344 pages | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
Paper $40.00 ISBN: 9781512600872 Published July 2017
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781512600865 Published July 2017
This intellectual biography of Hans Kohn (1891–1971) looks at theories of nationalism in the twentieth century as articulated through the life and work of its leading scholar and activist. Hans Kohn was born in late nineteenth-century Prague, but his peripatetic life took him from the Revolutionary-era Russia to interwar-era Palestine under the British Empire to the United States during the Cold War. Bearing witness to dramatic reconfigurations of national and political identities, he spearheaded an intellectual revolution that fundamentally challenged assumptions about the “naturalness” and the immutability of nationalism. Reconstructing Kohn’s long and fascinating career, Gordon uncovers the multiple political and intellectual trends that intersected with and shaped his theories of nationalism. Throughout his life, Kohn was not simply a theorist but also a participant in multiple and often conflicting movements: Zionism and anti-Zionism, pacifism, liberalism, and military interventionism. His evolving theories thus drew from and reflected fierce debates about the nature of internationalism, imperialism, liberalism, collective security, and especially the Jewish Question. Kohn’s scholarship was not an abstraction but a product of his lived experience as a Habsburg Jew, an erstwhile cultural Zionist, and an American Cold Warrior. As a product of the times, his concepts of nationalism reflected the changing world around him and evolved radically over his lifetime. His intellectual biography thus offers a panorama of the dynamic intellectual cornerstones of the twentieth century.
Contents
Acknowledgments • Introduction • PART 1: AUTHENTICITY AND POLITICAL RUIN, 1908–1920 • A Turning Inward: Kohn’s Youth in Multinational Late Habsburg Prague • “The Decisive Years”: The Great War and the Waning of Imperial World Order • PART 2: SEPARATING NATION AND STATE, 1919–1934 • To Tame Empire, Nation, and Man: Political Agenda in the 1920s • Nation and State in Kohn’s Scholarship and Jewish Thought • “A Disillusioned Love”: Break with Zionism • PART 3: AN AFFIRMING FLAME, 1933–1971 • “The Totalitarian Crisis” and “the Last Best Hope”: Catastrophic Americanization and Breakthrough • Nationalism in the American Century • Coda: The Endurance of Kohn’s Jewish Question • Afterword • Notes • Abbreviations • Archives • Index
Review Quotes
American Historical Review
“Well-written and satisfying. . . . Gordon’s clear-sighted study draws on vast archival research in the United States (where Kohn largely deposited his papers), in Israel, and in Denmark; he looks at sources in German, Hebrew, and English, and the work is supported by a close reading of Kohn’s prolific oeuvre. The biography is organized into three parts, each representing a major ideological “shattering” and turn. There is much here of interest for students of comparative nationalism, nationalism theory, twentieth-century intellectual history, and the peripatetic twentieth-century Jewish experience.”
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