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The Shape of the New:
Four Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World
Scott L. Montgomery & Daniel Chirot
With a new preface by the authors

One of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015
One of Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best Books of 2015, chosen by Diana Farrell
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016

Paperback | 2016 | $18.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691173191
512 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400884254 |
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Reviews | Table of Contents
Introduction[PDF] pdf-icon

A Q&A with Scott L. Montgomery & Daniel Chirot

This panoramic book tells the story of how revolutionary ideas from the Enlightenment about freedom, equality, evolution, and democracy have reverberated through modern history and shaped the world as we know it today.

A testament to the enduring power of ideas, The Shape of the New offers unforgettable portraits of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx—heirs of the Enlightenment who embodied its highest ideals about progress—and shows how their thoughts, over time and in the hands of their followers and opponents, transformed the very nature of our beliefs, institutions, economies, and politics. Yet these ideas also hold contradictions. They have been used in the service of brutal systems such as slavery and colonialism, been appropriated and twisted by monsters like Stalin and Hitler, and provoked reactions against the Enlightenment's legacy by Islamic Salafists and the Christian Religious Right.

The Shape of the New argues that it is impossible to understand the ideological and political conflicts of our own time without familiarizing ourselves with the history and internal tensions of these world-changing ideas. With passion and conviction, it exhorts us to recognize the central importance of these ideas as historical forces and pillars of the Western humanistic tradition. It makes the case that to read the works of the great thinkers is to gain invaluable insights into the ideas that have shaped how we think and what we believe.


"I was struck again and again by the extraordinary breadth, erudition and lucidity of this book."--Fareed Zakaria, New York Times Book Review

"This is a gem of a book in that it has the audacity to paint in big strokes to portray a great intellectual history that puts our often competing, current belief systems into their 18th and 19th century contexts. In light of the increasingly perplexing news headlines, this type of bold context setting is a real gift."--Diana Farrell, President and chief executive officer, JPMorgan Chase Institute in Bloomberg Best Books of 2015


"This is a wonderful book. Montgomery and Chirot combine double-barreled scholarship, lucid prose, and considerable wisdom to offer us a fascinating excursion into the history of ideas. For anyone who wants to understand today's emerging conflicts--and what it will take for Enlightenment liberalism again to prevail--The Shape of the New is essential reading."--Jeffrey Gedmin, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"The Shape of the New is an ambitious book and a joy to read. The scholarship is brilliant. In contextualizing the great ideas of modern history, Montgomery and Chirot provide a holistic framework with which to understand the processes of social change and ideological conflict."--Paul Froese, coauthor of America's Four Gods: What We Say about God--and What That Says about Us

"This fantastic book offers an impressively learned and evenhanded treatment of the Enlightenment's key ideas and the reactions to them over the past two centuries. I guarantee that anyone who reads it will be a lot smarter, more cultured, and a far more intellectually interesting dinner companion."--Zoltan Barany, author of The Soldier and the Changing State: Building Democratic Armies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas

More Endorsements

Table of Contents:

Preface to the Paperback Edition ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction: Ideas as Historical Forces 1
1 Adam Smith: The Science of Man, Morality, and Money 19
2 Karl Marx: The Tragic Consequences of a Brilliant Theory 81
3 Charles Darwin: Struggle and Selection in the Realm of Ideas 148
4 Making Democracy: The Jefferson-Hamilton Debates 215
5 Counter-Enlightenment: From Antimodernism to Fascism 281
6 Christian Fundamentalism: The Politics of God in America 336
7 Purifying Islam: The Muslim Reaction against the Western Enlightenment 379
Conclusion: The Power of Ideas and the Importance of the Humanities 418
Bibliography 439
Index 473

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Daniel Chirot:

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Scott L. Montgomery:

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