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Enlightenment's Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age (Routledge Classics)

Enlightenment's Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age (Routledge Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John Gray
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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'Gray is one of our best social and political theorists ... This powerful and radical work opens as many doors as it closes.' - New Statesman

'Gray is a clever and energetic political theorist in the analytical mode. He is also dauntingly well-read and up-to-date.' - Guardian

Product Description

John Gray is the bestselling author of such books as Straw Dogs and Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern which brought a mainstream readership to a man who was already one of the UK's most well respected thinkers and political theorists.

Gray wrote Enlightenment’s Wake in 1995 – six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and six years before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Turning his back on neoliberalism at exactly the moment that its advocates were in their pomp, trumpeting 'the end of history' and the supposedly unstoppable spread of liberal values across the globe, Gray’s was a lone voice of scepticism. The thinking he criticised here would lead ultimately to the invasion of Iraq. Today, its folly might seem obvious to all, but as this edition of Enlightenment’s Wake shows, John Gray has been trying to warn us for some fifteen years – the rest of us are only now catching up with him.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (3 July 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SJWG3C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #352,142 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two cents... 14 Dec 2009
I don't usually write reviews but because this lacks one, and because as a student of politics and history this has been invaluable help, I'll offer my thoughts.

This is not a polemic like Gray's more recent works; instead it is a series of essays written in the early 1990s which range from issues of toleration and agonistic liberalism to the transition of post communist societies. The broad thesis is that the collapse of the Soviet Union will, instead of heralding victory for liberalism, precipitate a legitimacy crisis and ultimately a return to classic geopolitical conflicts centred around ethnic, religious and resource conflicts. But whilst later books such as 'Black Mass' focus on the practical results of this, Enlightenments Wake is an exploration of the philosophical foundations of the Enlightenment and the implications to classical liberalism and society in general of its collapse.

Though Gray isn't a particularly original thinker, like his mentor Isaiah Berlin, he is extraordinarily well read, has an uncanny feel for the trends of his time, and is an extremely perceptive and critical interpreter of other thinkers. For anyone with any interest in politics he is an invaluable introduction to late liberal thought and often ignored thinkers such as Illich, Oakeshot and McIntyre. In particular the final eponymous essay is, in my opinion, the greatest ever written on the subject of political philosophy.

`The dissolution of morality, as that was conceived in both classical and Christian terms, and the fracturing of the inherited of the inherited Western world-view into a diversity of incommensurable perspectives, which is accomplished in Nietzsche's thought, are irreparable, and any cultural losses they may entail are irretrievable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought 18 Feb 2011
John Gray is concerned with the failure of the "Enlightenment Project". The peoples of the world are not converging into a universal civilization on a Western model, and the political philosophers have failed to provide a theory that can justify a single universal political morality by appeal to abstract reason alone. Liberal democracy, according to Gray, is a product of historical contingency, not necessity. We may or may not agree with Gray. It is fair to say, however, that very little has happened since this book was first published in 1995 that makes it seem less relevant or valid.

I am not convinced by all of Gray's conclusions. I found the book stimulating, however.

Gray has a tendency to repeat himself more often than is absolutely necessary. I think that this to some extent may be explained by the fact that the book is based on articles first published in various periodicals.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put your thinking cap on 4 Jun 2010
John Gray is so far ahead in thought that at times you have to stop reading and just digest what you have just read.
If hard realism and the cutting away of all the modern day illusions which we take to be truth is what you are looking for then this is just the book for you.
If, however, this is your first go at a Gray book I would strongly suggest reading Straw Dogs first as an introduction to this author as this book will be hard going for the uninitated.
Gray is a master of modern day political philosophy and you can read his books again and again.
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Toleration is a virtue appropriate to people who acknowledge their imperfectibility. &quote;
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The virtue of toleration is of universal value because of the universality of human imperfection. &quote;
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Toleration is not, then, an expression of scepticism, of doubt about our ability to tell the good from the bad; it is evidence of our confidence that we have that ability. &quote;
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