11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, incisive and immensely relevant
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...
Published on 23 Oct 2009 by Slow Lorris
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written defence of civil liberties that falls short.
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...
Published on 5 Oct 2010 by A. J. Cox
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, incisive and immensely relevant,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Society and Enlightenment Values (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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TO THINK - OR TO ACCEPT,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Society and Enlightenment Values (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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written defence of civil liberties that falls short.,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values (Paperback)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. On a broader note, his support for an International Criminal Court does not come with any questioning of the rights of Western powers to intervene in foreign conflicts e.g. Yugoslavia, and does not examine the possible motives and interests of Western powers (the very people who set up bodies like the ICC) in taking sides in these particular conflicts. That is not to say that the idea of all 'war criminals' being brought to justice isn't a bad thing, but somehow I can't see the day when any American, British or Western leaders or officers will be put in the dock. He fails to see the ICC for what it is: a symbol of Western dominance, and an expensive, bureaucratic and undemocratic mess.
In spite of the book's flaws, its greatest strength is the polemic against the UK government's undermining of our civil liberties and our privacy. However, Grayling falls short by advocating legalistic measures to problems that themselves have been exacerbated and brought into being by too much unwarranted legislation.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delicate balance,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Society and Enlightenment Values (Paperback)This is coming from original columns in the Times, but adapted for this book. It is very readable though carefully thought through and deeply significant for our age. He has trod a delicate balance between a call for freedom of speech and liberty of thought and crossing moral and humanitarian boundaries to libertinism. A necessary read for all people thoughtful about human values in our increasingly pluralistic age.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars and the solution is..............?,
So far so good, but I felt the author understated the difficulties in handling the gray area where the exercise of free speech may lead to real harm (using the example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre). This led me on to some dissatisfaction with other aspects of the book where the author is asserting the direct applicability of enlightenment values today. In particular, I did not see many ideas about how you deal with the massive erosion of the right to privacy, given that the technological drivers for greater governmental intrusiveness are irreversible.
At its heart, the book gives quite an elitist assessment. The author notes the widespread sense that people are no longer interested in civil rights, but the real problem that is of concern is the loss of commitment among intellectuals. This section of the book is quite difficult to follow if, like me, you are not well-versed in political philosophy.
The author clearly makes the case that our rights in Britain should be better and more-formally protected. His take on the international dimension is much harder to accept as a political reality since, he seems to say that we have every reason to promote our values since they are objectively the best, but this should not be done (for example) in the manner of the invasion of Iraq.
Multilateral inter-governmentalism is the preferred route, with all its flaws. What is unclear is how or why this system should take on the values developed over the past two centuries in Europe and the US. The multilateral role becomes even more problematic because as the author himself notes, the UN Declaration of Human Rights contains both classic political rights and economic rights This latter group of rights considerably increase the ambition and scope of a rights-based approach and raise questions about economic governance and global redistribution of wealth which are dealt with in a rather cursory way
4.0 out of 5 stars Sums up the current situation on civil liberties well,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values (Kindle Edition)Great book that sums up the current situation on civil liberties, privacy and why we need them. Appendix 1, which details the laws passed that curtail the civil liberties and assault individual privacy in UK and US make for a very sobering read - at the very least this part of the book csn be read to see the creep of state powers
4.0 out of 5 stars Once you get over the panic, it's a good read.,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values (Paperback)At first I didn't have much hope for this book. It appeared to do a lot of scaremongering and doesn't always provide entire context in its mission to get the message across. However it also provides some very valid arguments and points which similar sources had not highlighted to me. Worth a read definitely.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not terrible, but the title is very misleading.,
In terms of its actual merits, the book itself isn't too bad. Grayling's actual material is interesting, but it feels a little unrefined at times and in need of a little more editing. Grayling covers very interesting ideas about philosophy and social structures, he often ends up repeating himself or using overly dense and complex legal language. The overall result is a somewhat disorientating pacing that can make it difficult to read at times, but it's still not impossible.
Overall, if you're interested in a liberal viewpoint towards modern society, rather than the examination of current law promised, this will be a hard, but rewarding, read. For those expecting what was promised on the cover, however, it will be somewhat dissapointing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Grayling's Age of Terror,
This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values (Paperback)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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and thought provoking.,
I think this is a book everyone should read and get motivated from!
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Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values by A. C. Grayling