on 21 July 2009
In Isms and Ologies, Arthur Goldwag takes a look at 453 doctrines, ranging from the everyday to the thoroughly obscure (Mugwumpism?) and offers some wonderfully clear and sometimes quite detailed explanations. This could easily have ended up as as one of those lightweight anthologies of trivia, but Goldwag has crafted something much more meaty than that - a genuinely informative reference guide that I would almost be comfortable calling an encyclopaedia.
That said, it's not all art movements and political ideologies, and while most doctrines stay true to the title, ending in ism or ology, they don't all keep to this format (Bauhaus, Game Theory and Occam's Razor are just some of the non-conforming square pegs in this respect). The book is conveniently organised: all entries are initially indexed in alphabetical order with page numbers, then the listings themselves are categorised into 7 sections (science, economics, religion, etc.)
Explanations range from a paragraph to several pages, and for the most part the author succeeds in remaining largely unbiased. Perhaps Wikipedia would offer much similar content and more, but would it collate everything together in this way and make it so utterly readable? That's the beauty of this compilation: that it's all in one book, and comes alive with the author's clarity and wit. Isms and Ologies is both a handy reference source and a good cover-to-cover read. Definitely recommended.
This is an accessible and intellectually stimulating introduction to 453 ideas and doctrines from Anarchism & Atonalism to Zionism & Zoroastrianism.
The book is divided into seven sections: 'Politics & History'; 'Philosophy & the Arts'; 'Science'; 'Economics'; 'Religion'; Sexual Perversions' & 'Eponyms, Laws, Foreign Words'.
Anyone interested in ideas should be enlightened and fascinated by Arthur Goldway's entertaining and endlessly browsable 'Isms and Ologies'.