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Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Society and Enlightenment Values Paperback – 1 Jun 2009

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Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Society and Enlightenment Values + Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century: Key Concepts for the 21st Century + What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408802422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408802427
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 881,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has written and edited many books, both scholarly and for a general readership, and has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a former Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, Patron of the UK Armed Forces Humanist association, Patron of Dignity in Dying, a former Booker Prize Judge, a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society, a member of the human rights group IHEU represented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva; and much more.

Product Description

Review

Praise for Towards the Light 'A rollicking defence of Freedom and Enlightenment in the style of Tom Paine or William Godwin' Spectator 'The even-handed tone of philosophy professor AC Grayling's latest book does not lessen the intensity of its polemical content Grayling underlines the seriousness of today's threats to our liberties' Metro

About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a multi-talented author. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, and advises on many committees ranging from Drug Testing at Work to human rights groups.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Slow Lorris on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a really helpful book if you want to understand and take part in the debates about security and human rights surrounding the "War on Terror", especially the often controversial new powers given to the police and government. The author runs through topics such as ID cards, public safety, censorship, CCTV and privacy in a lively fashion, cutting through to the underlying principles that can often be obscured by political spin and media coverage. He writes very clearly. At times the writing seems hurried and a little repetitive, but it is always extremely readable.

From a practical point of view I thought the book does two things particularly well. First, it takes rather woolly liberal ideas such as "tolerance" and "free speech" and distills them down to clear ethical principles, making them both easier to discuss and to defend. Secondly, it puts forward clear responses to the weasel-words and spin used by politicians as they seek to justify their policies.

The final third of the book - where the author engages with the ideas of other thinkers on liberty, such as Isaiah Berlin and Roger Scruton - is perhaps less effective. Again the writing is very clear and the discussion interesting, but the debates aren't really given enough space to fully flesh out the points at issue.

Overall, highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. J. Gold on 1 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
The arguments for the establishment and sustenance of Liberties and Freedoms are well rehearsed here. There is nothing which might upset the servants or the animals. What there is, however, is a cogent rephrasing and reminding of what we have achieved in the West in terms of social cohesion by respecting the first principles of Democracy - or variations of these. There is also the menacing idea of just how we are destroying these principles in the name of security. Grayling is at his most appealing when he speaks, understandably, of our continued non-thinking inertia, the surrendering of liberties and freedoms due to our complacency: a perception of which is not lost on any of the ruling political classes. I think that he over-emphazises this but, then again, perhaps he is right. If we are losing our rights and liberties in what is classed as an age of terror, then it is surely a moment for deep reflection. And that is what Grayling appears to be inciting us to do.

The second half of the book is concerned with the varying perceptions of liberality which are endorsed - or otherwise - by other philosophers. This is a cogent and necessary reminder of what other political philosophers have to say. Grayling has summarised their views and it is up to the reader to determine whether he has been accurate and fair in this project. His comments and conclusions regarding his resumé are, by nature, arbitrary and peremptory. All the same, I believe that, he has got things broadly right.

This is a superb book: it is a polemic which informs you, provokes you to think and then makes you question the current political orthodoxy which we are - until now, impassively accepting - or worse, unaware.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Cox on 5 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
AC Grayling eloquently condemns and brings to our attention how our civil liberties are being eroded under the pretext of the 'War on Terror'. He points out that many of the invasive laws in the UK were brought into being before the terrorist catastrophes of 9/11, such as the Terrorism Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000. Grayling does point out how 9/11 has made things worse with even more irrational, draconian, covert and intrusive laws being passed - very much a victory for the illiberal terrorists who crashed the planes and carried out subsequent attacks in Bali, Madrid and London. Now we are all potentially sleeping terrorist timebombs.

Another of Grayling's strengths is to show that radical Islamism is very much a product of the liberal West, as it is a violent reaction against it by people who have been exposed to western liberal education and lifestyles. However, Grayling does not adequately criticise the weaknesses of the political left and anti-war movements, who come up with the over-simplistic arguments that the war in Iraq was about oil (which Grayling agrees with) and that the wars the UK is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are inextricably responsible for terrorist atrocities carried out in the West or against Western tourists in Bali or Mumbai

The central weakness of Grayling's thesis is his belief in legalistic measures - he supports the arbitrary and draconian smoking ban; believes libel is an adequate legal redress for 'false' allegations - he should note how wealthy foreign celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, thanks to the UK libel laws, can sue British newspapers even though they are not UK citizens or residents.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RR Waller TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 2008, he wrote a philosophical history of the establishment of western freedom, a series of hard-won battles, to create the world as we know it.
In this new book, he focuses more sharply on the current and modern dangerous to that freedom; having written that, many people will be thinking of terrorists of every political and religious hue, both of which Grayling considers. Another group may spring less quickly to mind - the politicians and police charged with the role of protecting the public. Grayling considers the many ways police and politicians in the US and UK have taken measures to protect their publics from terrorists threats but in doing so, have restricted their civil and personal liberties in fundamental ways.
While many accept this as the nature of the beast and necessary in our current age, others (Grayling included) consider that, by responding in these ways to tragic but irregular acts of terrorism, the politicians and police are doing the terrorists' bidding in our everyday events, changing our lives and the laws under-pinning our civilisation forever.

Grayling's two texts, this and "Towards the Light" (Bloomsbury, 2008, ISBN 978-0747592990) make excellent companions, both highly recommended.

A less philosophical but no less interesting text on a similar theme - the erosion of the West from within - is Bruce BAWER's, "While Europe Slept" (Doubleday, 2006, ISBN 9780385514729); he explores the ways in which Muslim communities growing in the West are challenging and altering civil liberties to maintain their way of life. Governments anxious to appear tolerant to new people, racial-equality, multi-racism and multi-culturalism (even to their extreme, radical elements), are accommodating these new attitude and values, including attitudes and values contrary to our own, thereby altering the roots of our own civilisation.
Plants starved of their roots die; so too with civilisations.
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