Gray's book, a collection of essays first published in the New Statesman offers a refreshingly different perspective on issues such as war, the environment, Europe, and Blair's leadership amongst other things. Gray uncompromisingly undermines and exposes the illusions which support liberal ideas and the stranglehold which these ideas have on western society. He is to the liberal establishment as a pin is to a baloon. The author's prose style is sharp and his arguments are delivered in a logical and accessible way.
'Heresies' is broken up into three parts: Part 1 is called 'The Illusion of Progress'. It is in this section that Gray expounds his thoughts on how 'Progress', in a technological sense, does not result in increased peace and stability or requisite 'progress' in human values. The human animal, the author explains, will always be infected by certain dersires, often negative, and 'progress' means only that those who benefit from better technology can pursue their desires with increased efficiency. Thus 'Progress', for Gray, leads to the ability to destroy the human species with nuclear weapons and the destruction of hundreds of other species. The modern faith in progress then, as something which will lead us towards a brighter, better future is horribly delusional.
In section 2 'War, Terrorism, and Iraq', Gray heralds the 'resumption of history' which began with 9/11 and the end of the dream of a peaceful, globalised world. He argues that we are seeing a return to a Westphalian inter-state world in which the competition for scarce resources is becoming ever more fierce. It is in this context that Gray places the US 'War on Terror'. Devastatingly accurate in his views on the debacle in Iraq, the author shatters the illusion that anything good could come from the invasion of that country.
In the third, and final, section 'Politics Without Illusions', Gray addresses issues such as the rise of the Far Right in Europe, the cult of celebrity, and Blair's Premiership. This part of the book does not see Gray at his strongest, however it's subject matter reveals the author's breadth of vision.
Gray is perhaps at his best when denouncing - and not without ample evidence - both market liberalism and Marxism as 'secular religions', whose belief in the possibility of a Utopian future is utterly misplaced. Understandably however, points that Gray makes in one essay are repeated later in others and while this is slightly annoying at times, this does not detract from the value of the book.
'Heresies' is not a book for those who are in need of an optimistic take on the prospects for improving the depressing state into which we humans have flung ourselves with such vigour. It is a candid, logical, and effortlessly elegant attempt to make us aware of the ways in which most people in the West have been deceived into thinking that 'free trade', 'liberal values' and their spread to the rest of the 'uncivilized' world will leave us better off. Even if one does not agree with Gray's arguments - something which is probably common - this collection of essays will encourage debate. Further, it is refreshing and necessary to lend an ear to the arguments of someone who is unafraid to go against the mainstream grain. Heresy is no bad thing.