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Enlightenment's Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age (Routledge Classics) Paperback – August 14, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0415424042 ISBN-10: 0415424046 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Gray is one of our best social and political theorists ... This powerful and radical work opens as many doors as it closes.' - New Statesman

'Gray is a clever and energetic political theorist in the analytical mode. He is also dauntingly well-read and up-to-date.' - Guardian

About the Author

John Gray is one of the most internationally renowned and widely read political theorists writing today. The best-selling author of such books as Straw Dogs and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, he is currently Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.

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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415424046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415424042
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on April 2, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a book that intends to point out the flaws in the "enlightenment project" and liberalism. Particularly, the "enlightenment project" is the endeavor to find a set of universally-valid, context-independent, principles that, when followed, lead to civil society and unbounded progress. By liberalism, Gray is taking aim at ideas (proclaiming to be neutral toward any conception of the good life) that would allow individuals to live as individuals free to pursue their own visions of the good life.

Particularly, Gray (himself a former libertarian-leaning liberal) argues that there are some contradictions embedded in liberalism and the enlightenment project that he things will ultimately lead to its demise. The big contradiction he refers to is in the simultaneous quest to maintain state neutrality toward conceptions of the good life and its need to circumscribe limits to what can and cannot be pursued. The latter, of course is both necessary and antithetical to the idea of state neutrality, leaving liberalism with a conundrum. (Another problem Gray sees with liberalism is its failure to see group-membership, tradition, etc, as values that could be seen by people as overriding individual liberty. Gray, in other words, worries that liberalism simply cannot succeed in areas where group membership or [non-liberal]tradition are more appealing than individual liberty, hence showing that liberalism is not at all neutral.)

I agree with all of this (and recommend that readers also read Fish'sThe Trouble with Principle for some good argument against the idea of neutral principles.).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Lindholm on February 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
John Gray is concerned with the failure of the "Enlightenment Project". The peoples of the world are not converging into a universal civilization on a Western model, and the political philosophers have failed to provide a theory that can justify a single universal political morality by appeal to abstract reason alone. Liberal democracy, according to Gray, is a product of historical contingency, not necessity. We may or may not agree with Gray. It is fair to say, however, that very little has happened since this book was first published in 1995 that makes it seem less relevant or valid.

I am not convinced by all of Gray's conclusions. I found the book stimulating, however.

Gray has a tendency to repeat himself more often than is absolutely necessary. I think that this to some extent may be explained by the fact that the book is based on articles first published in various periodicals.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gray has superbly detailed the ghastly long tern effects of enlightenment thinking that have carried along Western Civilization for hundreds of years, a path that has led us to what is promising to be the ultimate disaster in the crash of industrial economies and out of control central bankers blinded by their greed and devoid of what was once thought of as ethics.
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By otto k on May 19, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Enlightenment's Wake delivers a superb account of the fragile philosophical underpinnings of the modern and post-modern world. All the important bases are touched: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Burke, Herder, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Mill, Rawls, Berlin, Rorty , Heidegger...Yes, there are a lot of philosophical bricks in our world. Gray believes that these bricks are are not solid and, in fact, have been crumbling for quite some time. He supports his views with keen and wide-ranging analysis that not only considers our minds and thoughts but also what has actually gone on out there in the "real world" since Kant awoke from his metaphysical slumber. While his writing style is not as felicitous as Berlin's ( one of the few savants that Gray avidly admires ) he casts a wider net into anthropology, sociology and the modern western mecca of multiculturalism. Unlike most of the twentieth century savants consigned to continental Europe Gray makes his point with aporias, differences, slippages, etc. that encumber much modern thought. The negative in "Wake" is that as a collection of mostly previously published essays, there is a bit of inevitable repetition. All in all a masterful snapshot of the view from nowhere. A must read if you want to unclog your mind from received wisdoms.
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By AnotherEmpiricist on February 26, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Compare this to any of the criticisms of neoreaction and ask yourself which is clearer.
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