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Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy Hardcover – January, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kennan airs controversial opinions in this book of personal and political reflections. Deeming the U.S. to be severely overpopulated, he dreams of a decentralized America broken into 12 constituent republics. He opposes "forced desegregation" of schools and urges U.S. leaders to adopt a modest foreign policy with a minimum of external involvement and large cutbacks in foreign aid. The goal, he stresses, should be to get our own house in order. "We are a nation of bad social habits," he chides, citing the national addictions to television, the automobile and junk mail. To tap the wisdom of the citizenry, the eminent scholar-statesman (author of 18 books; former ambassador to the Soviet Union) calls for the creation of a Council of State, an advisory body to the federal government that would address public-policy issues. He also sets forth his thoughts on what he calls "the demonic side of human nature," defined as our instinctive compulsion to sexual activity and the ego's endless search for reassurance.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The guiding intellect behind the postwar policy of containment and author of a dozen books, Kennan has figured prominently in foreign policy debates since World War II. In this tightly written and somber book, he reflects on the state of his country and what needs to be done. His thoughts are wide-ranging, covering American government, political ideology, and faith. In the second part of his book, Kennan addresses both domestic and foreign policy concerns. His most novel suggestion calls for the creation of a permanent advisory body, which he calls the Council of State, consisting of citizens with various talents who would serve as a sounding board for policy debates. This is not easy reading, but it is essential for those seeking to better understand the enigma that is is George Kennan. Recommended for academic collec tions.
- Ed Goedeken, Purdue Univ. Libs., West Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st edition (January 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393034119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393034110
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
George F. Kennan, a former ambassador to the Soviet Union, looks back at the 20th century and concludes that the US needs a group of senior advisors to guide US policy. The Council, as he calls it, would be appointed by the President from a list of nominated names, perhaps two from each state. This list would be a role of honor -- just being nominated would be considered to be an honor higher than the Congressional medal of Honor.
Nine people chosen from the list would serve, as the Supreme Court does, for life or until they are seen to be unfit or until they resign. A salary would keep these Council members independent from Congress or President, since they would have a budget to 1) investigate leading questions of the day and 2) implement their suggestions on a trial basis. For example, the COuncil might conclude that donating needs to drug addicts would reduce the spread of AIDs and they could run a trial to test their conclusion. Estimated budget might run $10 million a year.
The focus of his proposal is on the wisdom of experience. People who have seen so much over 40 or 50 years of public service could be called on to give their view of an issue....and the Country would benefit from this experience.
Kennan is still alive (as of August 1998) and he welcomes response to his proposal. I met him in June 1998 and at that time he expressed dismay that not one major book reviewer took his proposal seriously. He's a member of the Princeton Class of 1925, making him 95 years young this year. If you read the book and find it interesting, I"m sure he would appreciate a letter or a postcard with you comments: you can contact him through the University:
George F.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Not only students of Kennan's foreign policy writings will get something out of this book. The topics are wide-ranging, and the observations are thought-provoking. I especially enjoyed his thoughts on our addiction to automobiles. One criticism is the writing style, which is generally stuffy and verbose. (For example: "But what, to me, distinguishes this Spirit from the all-powerful Deity of established Christian doctrine is precisely the fact that the Spirit bears, in my view, no responsibility for the natural order of things in which the human individual is compelled to live.") Nevertheless this is a worthwhile book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
George Kennan is a rare commodity--an extremely intelligent, literate man who possesses a broad and encompassing view of life and the world at large and who has devoted his life to public service without desire for recognition or acclaim. This book gives the reader an opportunity to participate in his musings and to experience clear-eyed and patriotic visions reminiscent of Jefferson.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CJ on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
George Kennan died a few years back, at age 101 if I'm not mistaken, so he wrote this book when he was around 90 years old. In case you don't know who he was: Kennan was a top American diplomat in early Cold War era, and is considered one of the prime architects of the policy that became known as "containment" of the Soviet Union, especially in the famous "Long Telegram" and "X Article." (Though unfortunately for us, we didn't stick to his original prescription, which called for a much more restrained and less hubristic policy than we actually followed from about 1950 onward. Among other things, Kennan opposed the creation of NATO and the Vietnam War.)

In AROUND THE CRAGGED HILL, Kennan, a scholarly and experienced man, reflects on many topics, including culture, philosophy, politics, and religion. Kennan clearly thinks deeply on all these things - his opinions aren't just based on whim or preference, but on the result of careful consideration.

My personal favorite part of the book - and the one with which I agreed the most - was the seventh chapter, where he addresses size in nations, and in particular in the United States. Kennan makes a compelling case for the virtues of smallness in nations and the problems and dangers of excessive size, including the tendency towards oppressive, disconnected government, regardless of its form. He even suggests breaking the United States down into between nine and twelve republics, a proposition I think makes a lot of sense and would ease many of our problems. At the very least, Kennan thinks we would be better off under a much less centralized system than we currently have.

Though written in a very academic voice, it is still very well-written and should be accessible for the educated layman.
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