The essays collected in this new volume reveal Isaiah Berlin at his most lucid and accessible. He was constitutionally incapable of writing with the opacity of the specialist, but these shorter, more introductory pieces provide the perfect starting-point for the reader new to his work. Those who are already familiar with his writing will also be grateful for this further addition to his collected essays.
The connecting theme of these essays, as in the case of earlier volumes, is the crucial social and political role--past, present and future--of ideas, and of their progenitors. A rich variety of subject-matters is represented--from philosophy to education, from Russia to Israel, from Marxism to romanticism--so that the truth of Heine's warning is exemplified on a broad front. It is a warning that Berlin often referred to, and provides an answer to those who ask, as from time to time they do, why intellectual history matters.
Among the contributions are "My Intellectual Path," Berlin's last essay, a retrospective autobiographical survey of his main preoccupations; and "Jewish Slavery and Emancipation," the classic statement of his Zionist views, long unavailable in print. His other subjects include the Enlightenment, Giambattista Vico, Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Herzen, G.V. Plekhanov, the Russian intelligentsia, the idea of liberty, political realism, nationalism, and historicism. The book exhibits the full range of his enormously wide expertise and demonstrates the striking and enormously engaging individuality, as well as the power, of his own ideas.
"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 civilization."--Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, 1958.
This new edition adds a number of previously uncollected pieces, including Berlin's earliest statement of the pluralism of values for which he is famous.
"A volume which covers the key areas of Berlin's interests in an unusually accessible way; it will take its place as, quite simply, the best short introduction to his thinking. . . . [A]ll the arguments most closely associated with Berlin--above all, about freedom and human values--can be found here."--Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph (London)
"Berlin's views on such disparate topics as Marxism, romanticism, liberty and Zionism are all covered in this excellent collection of his essays. . . . Ideas aren't what they used to be, but there is no one better able than Berlin to relate their glorious and not so glorious history. Each of the essays fulfils Raymond Carver's criterion for the short story: to leave the reader's body temperature a degree higher or lower than when the book was opened."--Nicholas Fearn, Independent on Sunday (London)
"If he did nothing else, Berlin put the ideas back into history. . . . This posthumous collection, containing some of his best work, show how seriously he took the task of inspiring the general reader."--Daniel Johnson, Daily Telegraph
"The collection is thoroughly eclectic and engaging to read. You never know what the next morsel will taste of and, like a delectable plate of appetisers, the variety whets the appetite."--Judith Armstrong, Australian's Review of Books
"The Power of Ideas . . . captures, in crystalline fashion, not just the power of ideas in history but the utility of Berlin's own ideas in understanding what is happening today in the world."--Strobe Talbott, author of At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Henry Hardy:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Isaiah Berlin:
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Avishai Margalit:
A Selection of the Reader's Subscription Book Club
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