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Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas [Paperback]

Perry Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

14 Jan 2008
Spectrum offers a critical survey of the ideas of rival intellectual groupings from the far right, the liberal center and the Marxist left, rarely considered in the same optic. The book opens with a comparative examination of four remarkable minds of the radical right: Michael Oakeshott, Friedrich Hayek, Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt. In the liberal and social-democratic center, it considers John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas and Norberto Bobbio. On the Marxist left, it assesses the work of three major historians: Edward Thompson, Robert Brenner and Eric Hobsbawm, and a great philologist, Sebastiano Timpanaro. Each is considered against the historical background institutional as well as intellectual that set the context of their ideas. Also considered is the impact of the most widely read periodicals that deal with ideas today, the Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books and London Review of Books.

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Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas + In the Tracks of Historical Materialism: Wellek Library Lectures
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (14 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844671356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844671359
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 15 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Sheer pleasure - one of the best political, historical and literary essayists of the age.' --Times Literary Supplement

'Dazzling and unyielding - Anderson remains an inspiring example of thinking in the world, about the world and for the world.' --The Nation

From the Author

Perry Anderson is the author of Lineages of the Absolutist State, Considerations on Western Marxism, Arguments in English Marxism, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, A Zone of Engagement and The Origins of Postmodernity; he teaches history at UCLA, and serves on the editorial board of New Left Review. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking studies 2 Jun 2008
Format:Paperback
This a very stimulating collection of essays, of enormous intellectual range, provoking thought about matters of politics, philosophy, economics and history.

In the first grouping of essays, on politics, he criticises the reactionaries Michael Oakeshott, Leo Strauss, Carl Schmitt, Friedrich von Hayek, Ferdinand Mount and Timothy Garton Ash. In the second, on philosophy, he examines the work of John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas and Norberto Bobbio. In his third section, on history, he surveys more approvingly E. P. Thompson, Sebastiano Timpanaro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Goran Therborn, Robert Brenner and Eric Hobsbawm. In a fourth section, he writes about the London Review of Books and also about his father's strange career in pre-revolutionary China.

Anderson is more critical of the undemocratic EU than he used to be, writing of the `dissolution of popular sovereignty at a European level', and noting, "the less immediately democratic the machinery of decision, the safer it was likely to be for the reproduction of capital."

He provides stinging critiques of idealist thinkers, Tory scoundrel Oakeshott and over-rated social democrat Habermas alike. He shows how Habermas' feeble, wishful embrace of capitalism has led him into supporting both the US empire and the growing EU empire.

Anderson explains why it was right to oppose all Labour's wars, against Habermas' initial support for the wars and subsequent equivocations. Anderson notes that Operation Horseshoe, the supposed Serbian plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, was a forgery produced by the Bulgarian secret service.

He cites the great American liberal philosopher John Rawls, who revealed the truth of American society and government when he wrote, "the purchase of legislation by `special interests' is an everyday thing."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good collection 22 July 2010
Format:Paperback
I'd review this book at greater length if Stefan Collini hadn't already written a review elsewhere on the web that says just about everything i'd want to say and more. So to understand why it deserves 4/5, just google 'Stefan Collini Spectrum Perry Anderson'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clarification of terms 28 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback
Now this is what I call 'essays' (see my previous review). I'm giving it only four stars because Stefan Collini does
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but that's in the nature of the thing 22 Jan 2006
By S. Sherman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Here Perry Anderson groups together a bunch of essays written over the last fifteen years or so under the concept of the political spectrum, from right to left (and then, with no compelling explanation, appends essays on the London Review of Books and his father). His essay on right wing theorists Oakshoot, Schmitt, Straus and Hayek is too deferential. His choice of leftists--Thompson, Therborn, Brenner, Timpanaro, Marquez and Hobsbawm--is a little sad. It is as if the left does not produce thinkers anymore--admittedly most of his choices skew old (although the book is loaded with comments on contemporary politics, the cycle of struggles epitomized by Seattle-Genoa-Prague goes virtually unmentioned, as do any thinkers associated with the global justice movement or the World Social Forum). His liveliest writing is about centrists like Rawls and Habermas. Apparently support of US military interventions in places like Yugoslovia is what really gets Anderson angry these days--much more so than support for neoliberal policies. These essays, and the ones on Timothy Garton Ash (filed under the right, but of a piece with the centrists in his support for the US) and Hobsbawm (the best essay about a leftist) are the most worthwhile. There are many little gems scattered elsewhere--his theory about Italian intellectual life (in the essay on Timpanaro), his preference for the memoir of the reactionary Vargas Llosa to Garcia Marquez, etc. Anderson is always interesting, and his indifference to contemporary academic techniques of intellectual history is tonic (and, depending on your taste, you may find his vocabulary, the most obscure of anyone writing in English since Nabokov, either brilliant or pretentious); but he exaggerates the importance of the end of the cold war, which has clearly left him in a funk; and, even for an English Marxist, he is ridiculously tone deaf on US politics.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking studies 2 Jun 2008
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This a very stimulating collection of essays, of enormous intellectual range, provoking thought about matters of politics, philosophy, economics and history.

In the first grouping of essays, on politics, he criticises the reactionaries Michael Oakeshott, Leo Strauss, Carl Schmitt, Friedrich von Hayek, Ferdinand Mount and Timothy Garton Ash. In the second, on philosophy, he examines the work of John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas and Norberto Bobbio. In his third section, on history, he surveys more approvingly E. P. Thompson, Sebastiano Timpanaro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Goran Therborn, Robert Brenner and Eric Hobsbawm. In a fourth section, he writes about the London Review of Books and also about his father's strange career in pre-revolutionary China.

Anderson is more critical of the undemocratic EU than he used to be, writing of the `dissolution of popular sovereignty at a European level', and noting, "the less immediately democratic the machinery of decision, the safer it was likely to be for the reproduction of capital."

He provides stinging critiques of idealist thinkers, Tory scoundrel Oakeshott and over-rated social democrat Habermas alike. He shows how Habermas' feeble, wishful embrace of capitalism has led him into supporting both the US empire and the growing EU empire.

Anderson explains why it was right to oppose all Labour's wars, against Habermas' initial support for the wars and subsequent equivocations. Anderson notes that Operation Horseshoe, the supposed Serbian plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, was a forgery produced by the Bulgarian secret service.

He cites the great American liberal philosopher John Rawls, who revealed the truth of American society and government when he wrote, "the purchase of legislation by `special interests' is an everyday thing."
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