Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445

Devoted as it is to the study of socialism—from its early intimations in the nineteenth century to its decline in the twentieth, Heaven on Earth analyzes the morality and feasibility of utopian state-building projects in general.

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In many ways, the master scaffolding of the modern socialist political state was built upon a foundation of murder and blood, and Muravchik does a good job examining this seemingly contradictory relationship—between utopia and suffering—throughout. The appeal of socialist government came in part from its quasi-divinity and the ability for people to speak about and make decisions on it as a matter of faith. In his Prologue, for example, Muravchik says that socialism:

is the story of man's most ambitious attempt to supplant religion with a doctrine about how life ought to be lived that claimed grounding in science rather than revelation.

As such, socialism predicated its otherwise otherworldly, future-looking promises of social egalitarianism in a justificatory rhetoric that touched upon the most influential paradigms of the nineteenth century.

It was an ideology that sought to employ the basic assumptions of scientific rationalism in order to legitimize its most fundamental principles, which exalted a promise that was familiar and desired by all: a better tomorrow. In other words, socialism was able to take the underlying message of hope that defined the Judeo-Christian worldview and express it in the language of empirical absolutism in a very convincing fashion.

A further analytical theme of Muravchik's book is the potential for certain "great men" to exercise a profound influence over patterns of thinking and the evolution of politics. Heaven on Earth fixates on the lives and contributions of the primary contributors to socialist thought and action: Gracchus Babeuf, Robert...

(The entire section contains 445 words.)

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