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The Temptation of Innocence - Living in the Age of Entitlement Paperback – November 1, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific essayist and novelist Bruckner (a winner of France's prestigious Medici Prize) offers a gracefully erudite, deliciously mordant critique of a recent species of human self-deception: infantilism and victimization, the idea that powerlessness is a virtue without responsibility. Among those skewered by Bruckner's biting wit are parents who identify with the children they pamper, feminists who bastardize men, and ethnic nationalities (most especially the Serbs) who tout past sufferings as warrant for persecuting others. Bruckner's European education, which he wears lightly; his unpreachy, aphoristic style; and his obvious delight in paradox save this book from the ranks of a tedious diatribe against permissiveness. Citings of Europe's philosophical and literary masters (Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche among many others) help Bruckner, who is French (this admirable translation is not, alas, credited), make the case that the modern individual, weakened by responsibilities of freedom too great to bear, finds freedom in weakness itself: the freedom from moral constraint. In consequence, the distinction between genuine weakness, which merits compassion, and self-promoting distortions of it is obscured. Bruckner's paradigmatic antidote to resentment is decidedly French: the inventive lover for whom suffering is less a virtue than an unavoidable risk, made bearable not by self-deception but by acknowledging and tolerating ambiguity. In a final variation on Bruckner's theme of things becoming their opposites (e.g., victims who persecute), a childlike Cupid points individuals, social groups and nations away from childish self-pity into responsible relations with others. Bruckner should find a ready audience among philosophically inclined readers who bring a skeptical eye to contemporary trends and agree that freedom from responsibility is no freedom at all.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Algora Publishing; 1 edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892941562
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892941565
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Juan Camaney on May 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Don't miss this book. Pascal Bruckner, along with Alain Finkielkraut and Andre Glucksmann, is one of the foremost French intellectuals. They are controversial in that they are not the typical anti-US, hip multicultural, thinkers. They go deeper than that. They question the post-modern way of living, thinking and behaving.

This book by Bruckner is stunning, and its study of modern man's malaise is fascinating and thought provoking. Many of the ideas which are being discussed right now politically and philosophically, Bruckner addresses in this book, which he wrote a while ago.

If you want to go deep into some of the deepest troubles facing the Western World, pick this up now! You will not regret it.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Noone Inparticular on March 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good thoughts, but uneven writing, sometimes clumsy translation (does not even say who did it, my feeling is, the author himself). It is really more of a collection of essays than a book with a consistent line of thought. On a good side, lots of detailed references and interesting, unorthodox ideas. It is still worth reading but could and should have been better.

The main themes, infantilism and (self)victimization of modern man have been circumscribed but not elaborated.
It feels like Bruckner is broadly painting the surrounding areas and lets us divine the substance of his thoughts.
And despite the title, there is very little word in the book about the expectation of entitlement, the malaise from which Europe, even more than US, definitely suffers today.

(Had I not expected more, maybe it would have been a 4 star book...) => obsolete comment, see below

Update Jan 2015: re-reading the book after 3 years, I think it actually does merit 4 stars. It is refreshing to see the modern philosopher on the left call things as they are, not as the political correctness would want them to be. I do recommend reading the book.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Halifax Student Account on August 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Bertrand Russell says somewhere that philosophers who existed only in books are divorced from the hurt locker we experience day to day. These ivory tower guys are still debating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 250 years later; or they are still chewing over Thrasymachus' argument about the iron fist being more real than the rioting down the street.

Pascal is very ivory tower, however, this book is intellectual ammunition and the critique of democracy and consumerism hits the spot. Pascal calls humanism 'slave morality'.

Slave morality is from Nietzsche and, well if we stick to the ivory tower, it's true. I recently listened to a guy on a podcast talking about how we should kill disabled people! This sound better coming from Pascal's ivory tower than it does coming from a dumb american who's read some Nietszche.

Friedrich Nietzsche fans suffer from the same wilderness of life that all awakened people suffer. When read correctly, Nietzsche is able to crab you by the short and curlies and throw your mind into higher states of awareness. But 10 years later, Nietzschian whining becomes tiresome and so one craves a Nietzsche for our time. Nietzsche is still my God, but these days, reading Nietzsche is like watching my favourite movie, over and over, forever. So, like an addict searching for a better drug, I search for a better philosopher. Pascal Bruckner is a contender. He is a very clever man, and, very importantly, he does not breathe in the academic bubble. However, he is a rich ivory tower man; I've never met one of those before.

This ongoing dialogue with the immortals is the intellectual mortar of the West, very true, however, to the uninitiated; a dialogue from beyond the tomb sets eyeballs rolling.
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