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Berlin's main theme in these essays is the importance in the history of ideas of dissenters whose thinking still challenges conventional wisdom - among them Machiavelli, Vico, Montesquieu, Herzen and Sorel. With his unusual powers of imaginative re-creation, he brings to life original minds that swam against the current of their times, and in the process offers a powerful defence of variety in our visions of life.
Roger Hausheer's introduction surveys Berlin's whole oeuvre, and the full bibliography of his pubication has been updated for this Pimlico edition.
'Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilisation' - Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, 1958.
The nineteen essays collected here show Isaiah Berlin at his most lucid: these short, introductory pieces provide the perfect starting point for the reader new to his work. Their linking theme is the crucial social and political role of ideas, and of their progenitors. The subjects vary widely - from philosophy to education, from Russia to Israel, from Marxism to romanticism - and the appositeness of Heine's warning is exemplified on a broad front.
The contents include Berlin's last essay - a retrospective autobiographical survey and the classic statement of his Zionist views. As a whole the book exhibits the full range of his expertise, and demonstrates the enormously engaging individuality, as well as the power, of his own ideas.
'I was exhausted at the end, & yet I am sure that if ever I saw & heard anyone in a true state of inspiration it was then.'
So wrote a listener to her friend after attending one of the lectures based on the book. Political Ideas in the Romantic Age is the text Berlin wrote for four of the lectures, delivered in 1952. He revised what he had written extensively afterwards but never published it. It is his longest work and also the only connected account he gave of his key insights into the history of the ideas that dominate the political arguments of our own time.
As he put it in his Prologue, 'The age of which we speak was singularly rich in original conceptions; they transformed our world, and the words in which they were formulated speak to us still'.
EDITED BY HENRY HARDY AND ROGER HAUSHEER AND WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY ANDREW MARR
Isaiah Berlin was one of the leading thinkers of the century, and one of the finest writers. The Proper Study Of Mankind selects some of the best of his essays. The full (and enormous) range of his work is represented here, from the exposition of his most distinctive doctrine - pluralism - to studies of Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Churchill and Roosevelt. In these pages he encapsulates the principal movements that characterise the modern age: romanticism, historicism, Fascism, relativism, irrationalism and nationalism. His ideas are always tied to the people who conceived them, so that abstractions are brought alive. His insights both illuminate the past and offer a key to the burning issues of the today.
Although Isaiah Berlin liked to say that he left philosophy for the history of ideas after the Second World War, there is a decided continuity between his more purely philosophical writings, most of which are collected in this volume, and the more historical work for which he is better known.
Included here are Berlin's early arguments against logical positivism and later essays which more evidently reflect his life-long interest in political theory, intellectual history and the philosophy of history.
In two related pieces he gives his view on the philosopher's task, to uncover the various models - the concepts and categories - that we bring to our experience, and that help to form it. In his own words 'The goal of philosophy is always the same, to assist men to understand themselves and thus operate in the open, and not wildly, in the dark.'
'Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.' Immanuel Kant
Isaiah Berlin was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century - an activist of the intellect who marshalled vast erudition and eloquence in defence of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political plurality. In The Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our own time: between the Platonic belief in absolute truth and the lure of authoritarianism; between the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century Fascism; between the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant - and sometimes genocidal - nationalism that convulses the modern world.
This new edition features a revised text, a new foreword in which award-winning novelist John Banville discusses Berlin's life and ideas, particularly his defence of pluralism, and a substantial new appendix that provides rich context, including letters and previously uncollected writings by Berlin, notably his virtuoso review of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.
Isaiah Berlin's celebrated radio lectures on six formative anti-liberal thinkers were delivered on the BBC's Third Programme in 1952. They are published here for the first time, fifty years on. Freedom and its Betrayal is one of Isaiah Berlin's earliest and most convincing expositions of his views on human freedom and the history of ideas, views which later found expression in such famous works as 'Two Concepts of Liberty', and were at the heart of his lifelong work on the Enlightenment and its critics.
In his lucid examinations of sometimes difficult ideas Berlin demonstrates that a balanced understanding and a resilient defence of human liberty depend on learning both from the errors of freedom's alleged defenders and from the dark insights of its avowed antagonists. This book throws light on the early development of Berlin's ideas, and supplements his already published writings with fuller treatments of Helvétius, Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel and Saint-Simon, with the ultra-conservative traditionalist Maistre bringing up the rear.
Freedom and its Betrayal shows Berlin at his liveliest and most torrentially spontaneous, testifying to his talents as a teacher of rare brilliance and impact. Listeners tuned in expectantly each week to the broadcasts and found themselves mesmerised by Berlin's astonishingly fluent extempore style. A leading historian of ideas, who was then a schoolboy, records that the lectures 'excited me so much that I sat, for every talk, on the floor beside the wireless, taking notes'. This excitement is at last recreated here for all to share.
This enthusiastically received collection contains Isaiah Berlin's appreciation of seventeen people of unusual distinction in the intellectual or political world - sometimes in both. The names of many of them are familiar - Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chaim Weizmann, Albert Einstein, L. B. Namier, J. L. Austin, Maurice Bowra. With the exception of Roosevelt he met them all, and he knew many of them well.
For this new edition four new portraits have been added, including recollections of Virginia Woolf and Edmund Wilson. The volume ends with a vivid and moving account of Berlin's meetings in Russia with Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova in 1945 and 1956.
Isaiah Berlin (Author) , Aileen Kelly (Introducer), Henry Hardy (Edited by), Aileen Kelly (Edited by), Henry Hardy (Edited by), Aileen Kelly (Introducer)Few, if any, English-language critics have written as perceptively as Isaiah Berlin about Russian thought and culture. Russian Thinkers is his unique meditation on the impact that Russia's outstanding writers and philosophers had on its culture. In addition to Tolstoy's philosophy of history, which he addresses in his most famous essay, 'The Hedgehog and the Fox,' Berlin considers the social and political circumstances that produced such men as Herzen, Bakunin, Turgenev, Belinsky, and others of the Russian intelligentsia, who made up, as Berlin describes, 'the largest single Russian contribution to social change in the world.'
In Empire Lite, Michael Ignatieff explores both sides of what he sees as a new global empire - the imperial and the humanitarian - and argues that the international community has failed to engage intelligently with the problems of nation building in the aftermath of apocalyptic events.
The collapse of political order around the world is now seen as a major threat, and a new international order is emerging, one that is crafted to suit American imperial objectives. This presents humanitarian agencies with the dilemma of how to keep their programs from being suborned to imperial interests. Yet they know that it was American air-power that made an uneasy peace and humanitarian reconstruction possible, first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo, and finally in Afghanistan.
This is the new world of geopolitics we live in and must try to grasp. The vivid, cogent essays in this book attempt to understand the phenomenon of state collapse and state failure in the world's zones of danger and the gradual emergence of an American led humanitarian empire. Focussing on nation building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, Ignatieff reveals how American military power, European money and humanitarian motive have combined to produce a form of imperial rule for a post-imperial age.
Drawing on his own experiences of war zones, and with an extraordinary account of life in Afghanistan, Ignatieff identifies the illusions that make a genuine act of solidarity so difficult and asks what can be done to help people in war-torn societies enjoy the essential right to rule themselves.
Published: 16 Nov 2010
John Gray's The Immortalization Commission: The Strange Quest to Cheat Death raises vital questions about the 'truths' science can offer, the technology we are still exploiting for immortality - and exactly what it means to be human.
At the heart of all human experience lies our obsession with death. For many years, we turned to religion for our answers, but at the turn of the twentieth centuries ideas from evolution and politics seemed to suggest that our lives - and afterlives - were in our own hands.
These ideas would have both trivial and terrible effects, from the nightmares of H. G. Wells's science fiction and the wild, sweeping craze of séances to the murder of millions in the Stalinist terror.
'Our sharpest critic of utopian fantasies skewers the crazed but enduring dream of cheating age, time and death'
Boyd Tonkin, Independent
'Elegant ... He is on to something important regarding the delusion that science consists of indefinite progress'
'One of the most important and insightful polemicists currently writing in English... humanism's most vocal critic'
'Gray is an engaging writer, an entertaining historian and a controversialist whose opinions can never be taken for granted'
John Gray has been Professor of Politics at Oxford University, Visiting Professor at Harvard and Yale and Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. His books include False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia and Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. His selected writings, Gray's Anatomy, was published in 2009.
Fascism was the major political invention of the twentieth century and the source of much of its pain. How can we try to comprehend its allure and its horror? Is it a philosophy, a movement, an aesthetic experience? What makes states and nations become fascist?
Acclaimed historian Robert O. Paxton shows that in order to understand fascism we must look at it in action - at what it did, as much as what it said it was about. He explores its falsehoods and common threads; the social and political base that allowed it to prosper; its leaders and internal struggles; how it manifested itself differently in each country - France, Britain, the low countries, Eastern Europe, even Latin America as well as Italy and Germany; how fascists viewed the Holocaust; and, finally, whether fascism is still possible in today's world.
Offering a bold new interpretation of the fascist phenomenon, this groundbreaking book will overturn our understanding of twentieth-century history.
John Kenneth Galbraith's international bestseller The Affluent Society is a witty, graceful and devastating attack on some of our most cherished economic myths.
As relevant today as when it was first published over forty years ago, this newly updated edition of Galbraith's classic text on the 'economics of abundance', lays bare the hazards of individual and social complacency about economic inequality.
Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - artificial 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why begrudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the economy? Classical economics was born in a harsh world of mass poverty, and has left us with a set of preconceptions ill-adapted to the realities of our own richer age. And so, too often, 'the bland lead the bland'. Our unfamiliar problems need a new approach, and the reception given to this famous book has shown the value of its fresh, lively ideas.
'A compelling challenge to conventional thought'
The New York Times
'He shows himself a truly sensitive and civilized man, whose ideas are grounded in the common culture of the two continents, and may serve as a link between them; his book is of foremost importance for them both'
The Times Literary Supplement
John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) was a Canadian-American economist. A Keynesian and an institutionalist, Galbraith was a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism and progressivism. Galbraith was the author of 30 books, including The Economics of Innocent Fraud, The Great Crash: 1929, and A History of Economics.
Published: 5 Aug 1999
TLS BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2016
'Gray must be one of the best read of contemporary philosophers, trawling insouciantly through high-, middle- and low-brow literature with the sharp-eyed eclecticism of a magpie of genius' John Banville, Guardian
'Like Isaiah Berlin with a thing for sci-fi' Tibor Fischer, Spectator
Everyone thinks they want to be free - or do they? John Gray's thought-stirring new book on freedom draws together insights from Gnosticism, science fiction, ancient sacrifice and the occult to show that freedom is an illusion and that, like fairground puppets, humans dream of escaping the burden of choice altogether.
Ben Rogers (Author)Freddie Ayer (1910-89) was one of the most influential philosophers of his generation, while his television and radio appearances, especially in the original `Brains Trust', made him Britain's first 'media philosopher'. In this lively, penetrating study - the first, fully authorised, biography - Ben Rogers relates Ayer's ideas to his remarkable life, strangely troubled beneath its glamorous surface. The 'quintessentially British' thinker was the only child of a Swiss-French father and Dutch-Jewish mother; after a lonely childhood he found his true role at Oxford. A friend of Isaiah Berlin, and a follower first of Bertrand Russell, and then of Wittgenstein. Ayer won fame at twenty-four with his brilliantly iconoclastic LANGUAGE, TRUTH AND LOGIC - an essential text for students ever since. Ben Rogers shows Ayer at work, in London, Oxford and America, and also at play, as a passionate follower of cricket and football, a great dancer, a lover of witty conversation and beautiful women. Married four times, Ayer was a leading figure in London 'cafe society', yet he was also a controversial public figure and broadcaster, vehemently left-wing in the 1930s, and later President of the British Humanist Association and the Homosexual Law Reform Society. Colourful, inimate, zestful and often poignant, this is a powerful biography.
Published: 10 Jun 1999