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Power: A New Social Analysis (Routledge Classics) Paperback – March 2, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415325072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415325073
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"'Extremely penetrating analysis of human nature in politics' - The Sunday Times; 'An acute and learned study.' - The Economist"

About the Author

Betrand Russell (1872- 1970). The leading British philosopher of the twentieth century, Russell made major contributions in the areas of logic and epistemology. Politically active and habitually outspoken, his ethical principles twice led to imprisonment.

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Wade Finger on February 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bertrand Russell's Power is very ambitious in scope. Support for his thesis that the taming of power should be of chief concern to thinking people (his favorite audience in the three Russell books I've read) includes support from references to ancient China, medieval Europe, Machiavelli, the American businessman, the rise of the Catholic Church, American reverence for the Constitution, causes of the Protestant Reformation, ancient Greece and Rome and their governments, and more. As is to be expected of Lord Russell, his writing is an edifying, entertaining glimpse into the mind of a genius.
Russell's descriptions of the motivations behind power seeking individuals and organizations, the appeal of leaders, types of power and the basis for authority are compelling. The means for acquiring and exercising power are described by Russell in a systematic, conspiratorial manner. By understanding its appeal and the methods by which it is attained, Russell argues, mankind can hope to tame power. I felt that in this book Russell sought to deliver a "world-view" a la Karl Marx, whose communist ideas were based on the belief that the source of conflict in the world was man's alienation. With a twist, Russell might say that man's (and man's organizations, which he grants develop an organic life of their own) grasping for power is the chief cause of pain, stifled freedom, and stunted progress.
It's important to keep in mind that this book was first published in 1938 - though it's not hard to do while reading since Russell continuously warns of an impending great war. He refers to WWI as the "War" and an imminent WWII as the "Great War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harold E. Quillin on December 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All I have read by Bertrand Russell is wonderful and this is no exception. Although written years ago seem up-to-date and Powerful (pun) and his views on how powers were being considlated was on the mark in my opinion. Not since THE PRINCE have I read anything that even comes close to explaining everything I wanted to know about POWER. HarOLD
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jordan Bell on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
I feel this book has too much vague history, e.g. in the village there was autocracy/democracy/fill in the blank. I agree with his thesis that power is a fundamental quantity that should be studied, like energy in physics, and that it's better to talk about desire for power than just economic power or political power. I also liked how he says that religious leaders are not really power abdicating unless we don't know about them; if I make a point of starting to spread my creed then I'm really not someone who wants to retire from the world. Kind of like how if you make a donation in your name, then it's partly inspired by love of respect. Followers follow a leader because they feel it's the best way to get a share of power. Devolution of government is a good way to solve problems whenever possible.

The following page numbers refer to the Allen & Unwin edition of the book.

p. 139: "If, in the name of Reason, you summon a man to alter his fundamental purposes- to pursue, say, the general happiness rather than his own power- you will fail, and you will deserve to fail, since Reason alone cannot determine the ends of life."
p. 299: "The temper required to make a success of democracy is, in the practical life, exactly what the scientific temper is in the intellectual life. Truth, it holds, is neither completely attainable nor completely unattainable; it is attainable in a certain degree, and that only with difficulty."
p. 300: "Expose children to the most vehement and eloquent advocates on all sides of every question, past and present! Then have the children summarize the arguments used. This will gently show that eloquence is inversely proportional to solid reason. Learn from advertisers, who have led the way in the technique of producing irrational belief.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rerevisionist on June 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Russell intended this book to found a new science, of human power, in the societal sense. Power meaning 'the production of intended effects'.

Although this book is well worth reading, five stars for breadth of content, there are innumerable difficulties; which I'll try to sketch out... starting from the chapter headings -

These chapters try to synthesis practical needs (e.g. houses have to be built somewhere) with giving and taking orders. 'Some men's characters lead them always to command, others always to obey; between these extremes lie the mass of average human beings..' (Russell seems pretty completely to discount competence and learning the ways things are done). He regards people as being influenceable in three ways--direct force, economic effects--goodies vs fines--and beliefs. He goes on to look at variations on these themes...

Russell identifies 'power' as a central concept, like energy in physics, presumably derived in the same way by slowly noticing phenomena have things in common. Quite often he uses metaphors evidently based on things like kinetic energy, or stored energy. It's never quite clear whether his examples are idiosyncratic, one-off, unrepeatable illustrations which are only used e.g. to show power coalescing into ever-larger units, or whether the processes they illustrate are in principle considered to be capable of recurring. For instance, he says at one point that given a totalitarian state, all the forms of power he's considered become outdated and only of historical interest.
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