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Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas Reprint Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0691090269
ISBN-10: 0691090262
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Isaiah Berlin was the most esteemed intellectual figure in the English-speaking world. Against the Current may be the most representative of [his] books."--Mark Feeney, Boston Globe



"Berlin expounds the ideas of half-forgotten thinkers with luminous clarity and imaginative empathy. . . . exhilarating to read."--Keith Thomas, Observer



"A most remarkable intellectual achievement. There are few books published in our time which more dazzlingly illuminate some of the most crucial problems of western culture and civilisation."--Goronwy Rees, Encounter

From the Back Cover


'This is an exceptional volume by a remarkable intellectual. Berlin's essays are wide-ranging, rich, deeply learned, and elegant."--Mitchell Cohen, City University of New York


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691090262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691090269
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,430,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fatemi@aup.edu on September 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
I like this book because it is very interesting and informative. I began reading it for pleasure, but by the time I was half way finished, I was sure of its serious nature and had decided to adopt it as a required reading in the seminar that I teach on the economic impact of globalization. The author succeeds in presenting the right mix of theory and history with sufficient analysis. It is well researched and very well organized. It should prove as interesting to the general reader as it is informative for the academics. However, its treatment of classical economists is far superior to the section dealing with contemporary writeres on free trade. Hopefully, in the second edition the author will remedy this shortcomeing.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By rsessions@planning.org on November 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
"Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas" has long been out of print and is hard to find in the used market. I wish some publisher would reprint it--I'm sure it would sell well. It was my introduction to this wonderful, careful, rational thinker and his ideas on pluralism, among many other topics. I'm not smart enough to summarize his thought for public consumption; you must read him for yourself. If you are a warm, loving, human being who is interested in how we got to our present intellectual condition, after reading him you will be a convert. Libraries often have "Against the Current," but you can also find great riches in his other books, some of which Amazon.com will be happy to send to you. Put his name in Keyword Search and check out the numerous titles they carry. (No, I'm not a salesman, just a fan.) I can recommend "Crooked Timber of Humanity" as a good start. For a (still) fresh reading of the life of Karl Marx read Berlin's biography of him. Enrich your life; READ ISAIAH BERLIN!!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on January 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Itis simply a great pleasure to read Isaiah Berlin. His richness in thought, his verbal fluency his strong sense of values and clear understanding of the historical context in which he is presenting the ideas- all this combines to make reading him an adventure of the mind. In this work the third group of his essays put together by his faithful student and friend Henry Hardy the theme is those thinkers who go against the current, who walk their own way, hear their own drummer. Macchiavelli, Vico,Hume,Montesquieu, Herzen, Disraeli,Moses Hess, Verdi, and Marx, Sorel are all interpreted here . There is an essay on' The Counter- Enlightentment, one on The Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities, one on ' Nationalism: Past Neglect and Present Power. The introduction to the volume is written by Roger Hausher.

As with all the writings of Berlin one will learn a great deal by reading this work- and have great pleasure in doing so.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By sean@mpi-sb.mpg.de on October 29, 1997
Format: Paperback
One of the great, and certainly at least in some quarters most influential, books of historical/ philosophical/ social thinking of the century. An argument for liberal pluralism, not as an abstract theory, but as a pragmatic necessity in the absence of the possibility of theoretical justification. Berlin almost obsessively (except that obsessive is the last word you could imagine applying to Isaiah Berlin) reiterates implicitly, in a collection of, originally independently published, essays on European intellectual history, his ironically simple thesis that the world is complex and contradictory, and not reducible to the terms of simple moral, social or policial ideas. Further, his prose, which - like his thinking - is in the tradition of Hume and Diderot, makes him an unalloyed pleasure to read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Francois Ascani on July 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you think the present world is full of contradictions, of opposing philosophies, and that it might be doomed, please give a chance at this set of essais by Isaiah Berlin. Not only his writing is clear and flowing, but his argumentation is very enlightening. Isaiah Berlin will never be controversial. He will never take a strong position. He will let you decide. Like an archeologist, he put back to life the ideas who were considered crazy at their time, and now looked much more reasonable. Even the introduction by Roger Hausheer gives you a lecherous taste of what is inside. And I was not disappointed. Thinking that there are ten more books on essays by Berlin, my head is spining. Did he not say already everything in this one...?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Baughman on September 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sir Isaiah Berlin was the greatest exponent of Liberal Pluralism
in the 20th Century. "Against The Current" is probably his best collection of essays. The essays on Verdi and George Sorel are worth the price of the book alone. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You will not regret it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Arturo Dalmau on August 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
I did not read the entire book, so I cannot generalize, but I have no doubt that Berlin provides very important information on the topics he investigated during his long scholarly life. However, I would recommend caution regarding some of his interpretations regarding the Storm and Stress movement. I have been reading extensively on the matter and I find the thesis about the so-called Counter-Enlightenment not persuasive.

Since Berlin's opening essay is largely responsible for diffusing the term Counter-Enlightenment, his is an essay that I have read and reread several times. Berlin's assertion of Herder as the faithful disciple of Georg Hamman is misleading. I am basing my point on Robert T. Clark's monumental biography of Herder published by the University of California Press in 1955. I do consider that up to this day Clark is the most reliable source on Herder and the Sturm und Drang movement. Norbert Elias's opening chapter of The Civilizing Process also provides additional information regarding the idea that the so-called German Counter-Enlightenment was a direct reaction against the French Enlightenment, which is Mr. Berlin's thesis. I still have some additional objections to the essay on the Counter-Enlightenment, but the ones I have mentioned are sufficient for stating my reservation regarding Mr. Berlin's interpretation of the historical meaning of the Storm and Stress movement.
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