Towards the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights That Made the Modern West Paperback – 1 Sep 2008
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'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 ... In describing the human cost of each victory over these forces, Grayling underlines the seriousness of today's threats to our liberties' Metro 'Grayling covers a huge historical and geographical span, he has done an impressive amount of reading, and he tells some fascinating stories' Independent on Sunday 'Grayling charts the progress of liberty from its modern roots in the Reformation through the end of absolute monarchy to contemporary conventions on human rights, pointing out every bloodstain on the way' Independent
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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Top Customer Reviews
Graylings details several other important junctures in the advancement of an enlightened West. For example the American Civil War. He doesn't just detail facts but makes some very interesting points. For example, one reason why Southern states were more reticent about ditching slavery was because their economy was more dependent on it. The Cotton, Tobacco and rice plantations were labour intensive and built on slave labour.Read more ›
His central thesis I thought important and relevent. Free speech, tolerance but, vitally, the ability to ciritise have been vital to our progression as societies, and imporved the lives of countless. Constant vigilence is necessaray to avoid a backslide, and the undoing of all the sacrifice people have made.
Whether or not his conclusions are valid is not certain, I think he overstates the case (ID cards are not as great a threat to liberty as the stifling intellectual environment we came from). But it was certainly eye-opening and enjoyable.
Modern technology - like this - makes so many aspects of life more enjoyable, easier and interesting but it also facilitates communication between gangs, rioters and looters. The result may be severe limitations placed on certain aspects of social and other media in the future. Liberty, the first victim again.
Grayling, in a comprehensive summary and analysis of the advancement of freedom across many areas of the globe, charts how freedom expanded in hard fought struggles to become the treasure we have today. This historical sweep, seen through the eyes of an erudite, exceptionally well-researched and clear-headed philosopher, establishes the ways in which these abstract ideas became the reality we live today.
Grayling shows the ways in which these hard-won freedoms can also be lost more easily than they were won, against the backdrop of today's challenging and violent world with all its sophisticated technologies, e.g. much of the hindsight policing is now being done using the ubiquitous CCTV camera footage which constantly monitors us being free, "for our safety and security".
PS For a much less philosophical approach to the same subject but no less interesting or challenging, read Bruce Bawer's "While Europe Slept", Doubleday 2006, ISBN 0385514727. He concentrates on post 9/11 and the effects of radical Islam.
If you are looking for detailed analysis, or balanced history then this book is likely to disappoint - it would be a rare feat to capture 500 years of nuanced development in 300 pages. Similarly, despite the author's reputation as a fine thinker, the quality of the prose leaves a great deal to be desired and an impression, frankly, of something finished in a hurry.
However, it's best to take this for what it is, which is a relatively readable review of some of the first, and hence most significant, steps on the long road to the position we enjoy today where we are able to take many of our freedoms for granted. For example, few can fail to be inspired by the example of Sebastian Castellion, who may have been the first to debate publicly whether it was a good idea to burn heretics. Similarly, it helps frame the context and significance of a number of key thinkers including Milton and Locke, albeit without any great discussion of their views.
For anyone looking for a thought provoking and accessible entry to the history of political freedoms and ideas, then Towards the Light (at least the first 2/3) may be just the library ticket.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book on a vital subject. Grayling brings to life the personal stories and sacrifices that have been made in the name of greater freedom, and in the process gives... Read morePublished on 21 Feb. 2014 by Streetbard
Though I haven't read the book yet,which was highly recommended by my lecturer. I can comment on the delivery, which was super fast and the book is pretty much brand new even... Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2013 by N.i
Philosopher A.C. Grayling provides a tour de force through 5 centuries of European history, highlighting some of the key events, personalities and struggles that led to the... Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2012 by Nick Stavrakis
Picking his way carefully through the troubled history of ideas of freedom and liberty, Grayling inspires his reader to recognise basic human rights and to consider the modern... Read morePublished on 10 Mar. 2010 by S. Bloxham
I found this in a second-hand bookshop; the hardback jacket design is in the style of an 18th century 'notice'. Read morePublished on 16 Jun. 2009 by Rerevisionist
I quite enjoyed this outing from Prof. Grayling.
It is a brief overwiew of the struggles for freedom and liberty over the past 500 years, for a non-specialist, it is an easy... Read more