The important thing was not to admit you were wrong in any fundamental way.
—Tom Wolfe, “The Land of Rococo Marxists”
Political-intellectual currents in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Communism continue to stimulate compelling questions, some of them timeless, others closely linked to the historic event. How do people acquire strong political beliefs and commitments, and why do they retain them even after they have proven to be destructive, foolish, contradictory, or irrational, as the case may be? Under what conditions do idealism and fanaticism become indistinguishable? How do moral and political values intersect?
Such questions remain relevant because of the familiar spectacle of fanatics slaughtering, with a clear conscience, their perceived enemies to advance a cause and rid the world of undesirables. Puzzling...