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Politics without Vision: Thinking without a Banister in the Twentieth Century Hardcover – April 20, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (April 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226777464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226777467
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,488,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An outstanding study of twentieth-century political thought, conceptually challenging but accessibly written. Strong's unmistakable voice is at once lyrical and sober, and Politics without Vision is erudite and illuminating at every turn.”
(Patchen Markell, University of Chicago)

“This is an important book that has needed to be written, that Tracy Strong is perhaps uniquely positioned to write, and that some of us have been waiting for him to write for a long time. He does so expertly and knowledgeably with an astonishing grasp of a rich variety of texts.”
(Joshua Foa Dienstag, University of California, Los Angeles)

“What does it mean to ‘think without a banister,’ without the support of the certitudes previously supplied by religion, science, and the philosophy of history? In Politics without Vision, Tracy B. Strong provides a remarkable and searching survey of the responses given by seven twentieth-century thinkers as they struggled to articulate the relation between morality and politics in a post-Christian, post-Enlightenment, and post-historicist world. The results are both surprising and bracing, moving judgment, decision, and action into the space previously occupied by falsely systemic accounts of the relation between theory and practice.”
(Dana Villa, University of Notre Dame)

“A marvelous tour de force brimming with intellectual excitement. With extraordinarily impressive scholarship, Tracy B. Strong carefully constructs the historical context of each of the thinkers he engages, while simultaneously keeping a laser-like focus on the urgent goal of accumulating pieces to the puzzle as to what sense we might be able to give to ‘the political’ in a world where we must think, as Arendt said, ‘without banisters.’ A book not to be missed.”
(Stephen K. White, University of Virginia)

“I’ve been waiting for this book all my life. If Strong’s aim is to look on the past with new eyes, then he is undoubtedly successful. Each chapter provides a heady mixture of intellectual energy, scholarly passion, and fresh perspectives. And, like all good books, it raises as many questions as it answers. . . . This is a book that demonstrates Strong’s rare gift for discussing complex issues in an accessible manner, and his capacity for bridging ‘politics as theory’ and ‘politics as practice.’”
(Times Higher Education 2012-05-17)

“A magisterial exploration of solutions to what Tracy Strong sees as one of the key philosophical and political problems of modernity: the unavailability of authoritative foundations for knowledge and action. Politics without Vision is a frequently surprising treatment of major political thinkers.”
(Perspectives on Politics 2013-09-27)

About the Author


Tracy B. Strong is distinguished professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He is a former editor of Political Theory and the author or editor of many books, including Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Politics of the Ordinary, and The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yehezkel Dror on September 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hanna Arendt coined the term "thinking without a banister", interestingly applied in this book to main 20th century thinkers, including Kant, Nietzsche, Max Weber, Freud, Lenin, Carl Schmidt, Heidegger and Arendt. The discourse on the various thinkers is enlightening. It might perhaps be better not to rely on the glaring Nazi activities of Schmitt and Heidegger as a main key to their thinking, but this is a minor point. More disturbing is lack of a framework clarifying the meanings and implications of "without banister."
Expanding on Arendt, thinking without a banister, in the sense of lacking a deep grounding which guides thinking and action, such as a transcendental faith, a clear moral system or a guiding philosophy, is both an advantage and a disadvantage (as briefly recognized by the author on page 385). It is an advantage because pondering is not constrained and therefor may be more creative. But lacking a banister is also a disadvantage, because pondering may lack directions and get lost in mental labyrinths, up to moral relativism and nihilism.
Different and very dangerous is having misleading banisters which misdirect thinking and action. But this is quite different from having no banisters. Thus, Lenin clearly had banisters which he further developed in his impressive theoretic thinking which served as guide for his policies. Also, Lenin had a vision casting doubts on his inclusion in a book the main title of which is "Politics Without Vision." His banister and vision were in part wrong and therefore put the Soviet Union on an erroneous trajectory, which became tragic under Stalin, but this is another matter.
The author well presents and discussed some of the central views of the selected thinkers.
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By Shahrzad on August 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great review and analysis of significant political theorists.
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