Part of the acclaimed Eminent Lives series, Machiavelli is a superb portrait of the brilliant and revolutionary political philosopher--history's most famous theorist of "warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed"--and the age he embodied. Ross King, the New York Times bestselling author of Brunelleschi's Dome, argues that the author of The Prince was a far more complex and sympathetic character than is often portrayed.
European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and scholars who supported or excused the worst tyrannies of the age. How was this possible? How could intellectuals whose work depends on freedom defend those who would deny it?In profiles of six leading twentieth-century thinkers--Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Koj ve, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida--Mark Lilla explores the psychology of political commitment. As continental Europe gave birth to two great ideological systems in the twentieth century, communism and fascism, it also gave birth to a new social type, the philotyrannical intellectual. Lilla shows how these thinkers were not only grappling with enduring philosophical questions, they were also writing out of their own experiences and passions. These profiles demonstrate how intellectuals can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results. In a new afterword, Lilla traces how the intellectual world has changed since the end of the cold war. The ideological passions of the past have been replaced in the West, he argues, by a dogma of individual autonomy and freedom that both obscures the historical forces at work in the present and sanctions ignorance about them, leaving us ill-equipped to understand those who are inflamed by the new global ideologies of our time.
We don't understand the reactionary mind. As a result, argues Mark Lilla in this timely book, the ideas and passions that shape today's political dramas are unintelligible to us.The reactionary is anything but a conservative. He is as radical and modern a figure as the revolutionary, someone shipwrecked in the rapidly changing present, and suffering from nostalgia for an idealized past and an apocalyptic fear that history is rushing toward catastrophe. And like the revolutionary his political engagements are motivated by highly developed ideas. Lilla begins with three twentieth-century philosophers--Franz Rosenzweig, Eric Voegelin, and Leo Strauss--who attributed the problems of modern society to a break in the history of ideas and promoted a return to earlier modes of thought. He then examines the enduring power of grand historical narratives of betrayal to shape political outlooks since the French Revolution, and shows how these narratives are employed in the writings of Europe's right-wing cultural pessimists and Maoist neocommunists, American theoconservatives fantasizing about the harmony of medieval Catholic society and radical Islamists seeking to restore a vanished Muslim caliphate. The revolutionary spirit that inspired political movements across the world for two centuries may have died out. But the spirit of reaction that rose to meet it has survived and is proving just as formidable a historical force. We live in an age when the tragicomic nostalgia of Don Quixote for a lost golden age has been transformed into a potent and sometimes deadly weapon. Mark Lilla helps us to understand why.
US Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman described Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century as "perhaps the most important book of the last decade." It has sparked major international debates, dominated bestseller lists and generated a level of enthusiasm--as well as intense criticism--in a way no other economic or sociological work has in a long time. Piketty has been described as a new Karl Marx and placed in the same league as the economist John Maynard Keynes.
The "rock star economist's" underlying thesis is that inequality under capitalism has reached dramatic levels in the last few decades and continues to grow--and that this is not by chance. A small elite is making itself richer and richer and acquiring everincreasing levels of power.
Given the sensational reception of Piketty's not-so-easily digested 800-page study, the question as to where the hype around the book comes from deserves to be asked. What does it get right? And what should we make of it--both of the book itself and of the criticism it has received? This introduction lays out the argument of Piketty's monumental work in a compact and understandable format, while also investigating the controversies Piketty has stirred up. In addition, the two authors demonstrate the limits, contradictions and errors of the so-called Piketty revolution.
Recently there has been an extraordinary international revival of interest in Hannah Arendt. She was extremely perceptive about the dark tendencies in contemporary life that continue to plague us. She developed a concept of politics and public freedom that serves as a critical standard for judging what is wrong with politics today.
Richard J. Bernstein argues that Arendt should be read today because her penetrating insights help us to think about both the darkness of our times and the sources of illumination. He explores her thinking about statelessness and refugees; the right to have rights; her critique of Zionism; the meaning of the banality of evil; the complex relations between truth, lying, power, and violence; the tradition of the revolutionary spirit; and the urgent need for each of us to assume responsibility for our political lives.
This short and very readable book will be of great interest to anyone who wants to understand the forces that are shaping our world today.
"Human history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience."--from On Disobedience
In On Disobedience, Erich Fromm writes that the authoritarian dictatorships of the 20th century produced an "organization man" to follow directives blindly, no matter how abhorrent. At the same time, a kind of conformity has arisen in western democracies, only brought about by more subtle means of massive consumerism. In democracies, where the power to implement irreversible destruction rests in the hands of the few, the individual also needs to retain his ability to dissent and to speak "no" to those in power.
In the face of these conformist pressures in whichever form they take, modern man must seek an authentic expression in order to retain his deepest sense of self. Fromm sees both capitalism and totalitarian communism moving toward a life-denying industrial bureaucracy, and berates the one system for ignoring, the other for betraying, the ideals of a true humanistic socialism in which people take precedence over things, life over property, and work over capital.
As timely today as when it was first published, On Disobedience is a significant work of the 20th century that generations of readers will turn to for inspiration.
In times of crisis, the great works of philosophy help us make sense of the world. The Harper Perennial Resistance Library is a special five-book series highlighting short classic works of independent thought that illuminate the nature of truth, humanity's dangerous attraction to authoritarianism, the influence of media and mass communication, and the philosophy of resistance--all critical in understanding today's politically charged world.
What is democracy really? What do we mean when we use the term? And can it ever truly exist? Astra Taylor, hailed as a "New Civil Rights Leader" by the Los Angeles Times, provides surprising answers.
There is no shortage of democracy, at least in name, and yet it is in crisis everywhere we look. From a cabal of plutocrats in the White House to gerrymandering and dark-money compaign contributions, it is clear that the principle of government by and for the people is not living up to its promise.
The problems lie deeper than any one election cycle. As Astra Taylor demonstrates, real democracy--fully inclusive and completely egalitarian--has in fact never existed. In a tone that is both philosophical and anecdotal, weaving together history, theory, the stories of individuals, and interviews with such leading thinkers as Cornel West and Wendy Brown, Taylor invites us to reexamine the term. Is democracy a means or an end, a process or a set of desired outcomes? What if those outcomes, whatever they may be--peace, prosperity, equality, liberty, an engaged citizenry--can be achieved by non-democratic means? In what areas of life should democratic principles apply? If democracy means rule by the people, what does it mean to rule and who counts as the people?
Democracy's inherent paradoxes often go unnamed and unrecognized. Exploring such questions, Democracy May Not Exist offers a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, why democracy is so hard to realize, and why it is worth striving for.
The writings of John Stuart Mill have become the cornerstone of political liberalism. Collected for the first time in this volume are Mill's three seminal and most widely read works: On Liberty, The Subjection of Women, and Utilitarianism. A brilliant defense of individual rights versus the power of the state, On Liberty is essential reading for anyone interested in political thought and theory. As Bertrand Russell reflected, "On Liberty remains a classic . . . the present world would be better than it is, if Mill's] principles were more respected."This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition includes newly commissioned endnotes and commentary by Dale E. Miller, and an index.
We live in an age of impotence. Stuck between global war and global finance, between identity and capital, we seem incapable of producing the radical change that is so desperately needed. Meanwhile the struggle for dominance over the world is a battlefield with only two protagonists: the forces of neoliberalism on one side, and the new order led by the likes of Trump and Putin on the other. How can we imagine a new emancipatory vision, capable of challenging the deadlock of the present? Is there still a way to disentangle ourselves from a global order that shapes our politics as well as our imagination?In this inspired work, renowned Italian theorist Franco Berardi tackles this question through a grounded yet visionary analysis of three concepts fundamental to his understanding of the present: possibility, potency, and power. Characterizing possibility as content, potency as energy, and power as form, Berardi suggests that the road to emancipation unspools from an awareness that the field of the possible is only limited, and not created, by the power structures behind it. Other futures and other worlds are always already inscribed within the present, despite power's attempt to keep them invisible. Overcoming the temptation to give in to despair or nostalgia, Berardi proposes the notion of "futurability" as a way to remind us that even within the darkness of our current crisis a better world lies dormant. In this volume, Berardi presents the most systematic account to date of his philosophy, making a crucial theoretical contribution to the present and future struggle