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The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat [Hardcover]

Steven Lukes
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Oct 1996
By turns witty and profound, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat is a novel in the spirit of Gulliver's Travels or Animal Farm. Telling the story of the travels of a Professor Caritat, who is in search of the perfect world, Steven Lukes us on an irreverent romp through the history of western political philosophy. Doing for that discipline what Sophie's World did for philosophy in general, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat is both a refreshing humorous introduction to the clasing ideologies of our time, and a passionate defence of the much-abused Enlightenment and its core values of reason, freedom and tolerance.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (22 Oct 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859840736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859840733
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,047,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This book is a box of delights, often wonderfully funny and always deliciously clever, a contemporary political satire to set among the best." -- New Statesman and Society "A delightfully edifying comedy." -- Guardian "Knock-out satirical humour." -- Times Literary Supplement "Charming and refreshing." - Radical Philosophy "Lukes achieves both lightness and weight in a way many novelists might envy." -- Independent A counterpart to Jonstein Gaarder's bestseller, Sophie's World, for those who might be seeking an introduction to political theory." - Prospect

About the Author

Steven Lukes is Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Siena and the author of numerous works, including Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work, Power: A Radical View and What Is Left

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
By turns witty and profound, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat (the title itself is a pun), is overflowing with good things.

Caritat, a professor of the Enlightment, is imprisoned in his home state of Militaria for the dangerous crime of spreading optimism. Sprung from prison by a former student, Justin, he is recruited by the guerilla resistance group, the Visible Hand, to wander a fantastical domain in search of grounds for optimism and the best of all possible worlds.

Caritat travels through a range of idealogically-driven states, and many readers will recognise not only numerous strands of modern Western politcal thought but also the satirical caricatures of Reaganite America, Thatcherite Britain (although the predictale appearance of the phrase 'there is no such thing as society' is somewhat disingeniously taken literally) and the former Soviet Union. In each state Caritate finds aspects of its organisation and ideals worthy of admiration but each also has grave weakenesses when measured against Enlightment ideals which are increasingly exposed through Caritat's experiences and his internal dialogue with Western thinkers.

Clearly modelled on Voltaire's Candide, reminiscent of Gulliver's Travels and adopting an approach to politcal discourse similar to Orwell's Animal Farm, one might be tempted to think that Lukes novel is so rich in intertextuality that it is a 'difficult read'. Not so. Lukes' style is so fluid, his story-telling so light-handed (most of the time), so elegant, that even the most novice reader is carried through Professor Caritat's adventures as skis glide over snow: the pages just keep turning.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful and Profound 22 Aug 2003
Format:Hardcover
This book is a perfect combination of the playful and the profound. It is both amusing and meditative. There are wonderful one-liners which, unusually, actually add up to much more than the sum of their parts. The allegorical narrative takes a professor to various political states, where he sees the vices and virtues inherent in their organisation. One can recognise slices of the old Soviet Union, of Thatcherite Britain, or Reaganite America... but the fable is never heavy-handed, it's never jeering. Instead, it's simply about the excruciating task of finding reasons for rational optimism after the devastation of the twentieth century. It makes for a book which, despite its intellectual subject-matter, is surprising warm-hearted. Comparisons always fall short, but think of Orwell spliced with Gulliver's Travels. My copy has been through a dozen hands, and each reader spots something new, something innovative and interesting which the rest have missed. And the copy's only borrowed because Verso, inexplicably, seem to have allowed one of their greatest books to slip out of print.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
It's a fictional critical comments on major schoold of political philosophies in the West at the end of the second millennium AD from the stand point of good, old Enlightenment. I fell in love with it with my first reading, have translated and published it in Thai last year, and used it to teach my political philosophy courses with great success and general enjoyment of the students. I learn more with each time that I reread it for my classes. Strongly recommended for anyone bored with theory and philosophy. It will change your intellectual life !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funny, moving and thoughtful, worth rereading umpteen times 6 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's a fictional critical comments on major schoold of political philosophies in the West at the end of the second millennium AD from the stand point of good, old Enlightenment. I fell in love with it with my first reading, have translated and published it in Thai last year, and used it to teach my political philosophy courses with great success and general enjoyment of the students. I learn more with each time that I reread it for my classes. Strongly recommended for anyone bored with theory and philosophy. It will change your intellectual life !
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a book with a touch of both imagination and reality. 10 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Any people can read this exciting book-- with or without interest in philosophy. Steven Lukes has the talent to make the readers feel the wonders of imagination, to escape the reality for awhile. At the same time, Lukes makes the readers learn the reality of the different societies we live in. The book is filled with ideas that let us judge whether a perfect world really exists or not.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Rare You Find Something This Good 12 Mar 2000
By Sean T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm very happy to have read this book and probably will again. It's humorous, critical, reflective and gives a very entertaining perspective on Utopian Philosophies and what they value. I'd reccomend it to almost anyone interested in political theory and philosophy that enjoys a good satire.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the curious enlightenment of professor caritat 3 Jun 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a sociology major, and having to read 24 other books this past semester, I was blown away at this novel. Lukes did such an excellent job at capturing the spirit of the enlightenment with Caritat's character. As Nicholas searched for the perfect society the reader struggles with him, hoping to find a perfect place. While the ending is a little predictable, I could never bear to put it down, and was so delighted to experience Professor Caritat's journey towards finding the perfect society!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moderately Clever 20 Sep 2009
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A moderately interesting modern version of Voltaire's Candide. Lukes' hero, Professor Caritat (a reference to the philosophe Condorcet) is a scholar specializing in the Enlightenment, and is taken through of a tour of several societies. Each of these societies exemplifies an idea about how to construct a society. Authoritarianism, Utilitarianism, Communitarianism, and Libertarianism are all featured. There is a dream sequence with a Marxian utopia. All of these societies are shown to be inhumane in different ways, primarily because of a single-minded focus on one idea for constructing a society. The book ends essentially with an endorsement of moral pluralism and Rawlsian liberalism. The quality of writing is average with a fair number of perhaps excessively cute intellectual jokes. Moderately entertaining.
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