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Ordained as a Nation

Pankaj Mishra: Exporting Democracy, 21 February 2008

The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-Colonial Nationalism 
by Erez Manela.
Oxford, 331 pp., £17.99, July 2007, 978 0 19 517615 5
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... and protectionist in its economic; and its footprint was light in Asia and Africa, where, as even Raymond Aron conceded, the natives did not need to read or even understand Lenin, or have to deal with a repressive imperial police state, to identify Europe with imperialism. There was enough evidence for it in everyday life and memory: ‘the exploitation ...

An Example of the Good Life

Steven Shapin: Michael Polanyi, 15 December 2011

Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science 
by Mary Jo Nye.
Chicago, 405 pp., £29, October 2011, 978 0 226 61063 4
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... Isaiah Berlin exaggerated Polanyi’s stature as a scientist when he evidently said to Raymond Aron: ‘These Hungarians are strange … Here is a great scientist giving up the Nobel to write mediocre works of philosophy.’ Nye describes Personal Knowledge as ‘a dense and difficult book’. She is being charitable; for many readers, it has ...

The Getaway Car

Glen Newey: Machiavelli, 21 January 2016

Machiavellian Democracy 
by John McCormick.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 0 521 53090 3
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Machiavelli in the Making 
by Claude Lefort, translated by Michael Smith.
Northwestern, 512 pp., £32.50, January 2012, 978 0 8101 2438 7
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Redeeming ‘The Prince’: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Princeton, 189 pp., £18.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 16001 6
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... though he was pushing fifty by the time it saw the light of day in French. His thesis supervisor, Raymond Aron, described its style as ‘Proustian’, but as one slogs through its five hundred-odd pages (merely a stump of the French original), that verdict comes to seem increasingly hard on Proust. As with Thucydides and Habermas in English, the ...

The Seducer

Ferdinand Mount: De Gaulle, 2 August 2018

A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle 
by Julian Jackson.
Allen Lane, 887 pp., £35, June 2018, 978 1 84614 351 9
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... were, one suspects, undertaken largely to amuse himself and because he knew it teased. As Raymond Aron, that superbly disenchanted observer, remarked, ‘de Gaulle does not himself take seriously half the arguments he uses, and he takes a solitary pleasure in the spectacle of the polemics he unleashes.’ At times, his cynicism was ...

The End of Idiocy on a Planetary Scale

Stephen Holmes: ‘The Communist Manifesto’, 29 October 1998

The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition 
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Verso, 82 pp., £8, April 1998, 1 85984 898 2
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... for it will leave no ruins behind and no wave of barbarism will ensue. Reflecting on this fantasy, Raymond Aron gently and wisely remarked that Marx was apparently unable to distinguish between the desirable and the likely. The Manifesto’s philosophy of history denies the Law of the Conservation of Trouble, assuming that fundamental problems can be ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... worldly-wise Duke de Richleau, a monarchist exile from France, and his young friends Simon Aron, a brilliant Jewish banker, Rex Van Ryn, a brash, genial American multimillionaire, and the comparatively colourless Englishman Richard Eaton, supposedly a self-portrait. The plot (a hunt for tsarist treasure, a Bolshevik scheme for world domination – plus ...

A Ripple of the Polonaise

Perry Anderson: Work of the Nineties, 25 November 1999

History of the Present: Essays, Sketches and Despatches from Europe in the Nineties 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Allen Lane, 441 pp., £20, June 1999, 0 7139 9323 5
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... blandishments of political power, tell the same story, less gloriously. ‘We have Orwell. We have Raymond Aron’: the one supplying officialdom with a secret list of suspect acquaintances, the other keeping silent about the Algerian War for years, not to displease his employers at Le Figaro. To seek to insulate intellectuals, even such cynosures, from ...

On Complaining

Elif Batuman: How to Stay Sane, 20 November 2008

Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by William McCuaig.
Columbia, 184 pp., £15.50, November 2008, 978 0 231 14300 4
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... a five-page polemic against the spirit of our age: Jean-Paul Sartre – for or against? Raymond Aron – for or against? … Should we take a blowtorch to May 1968 and its ideas … seen now as incomprehensible, elitist, dangerous and anti-democratic? Have the protagonists of that revolution … all become little bourgeois capitalist pleasure ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming Beauvoir: A Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... a journal, Les Temps modernes (named for the Chaplin movie), with Michel Leiris, Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Aron on the editorial committee, and she went to the Ministry of Information to beg for a quota of paper. The Blood of Others came out, the first issues of Les Temps modernes were published, her play, Les Bouches inutiles, was put on, and her stock ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... heard. Professor Jacob Talmon’s writings have been praised by the Times itself, and Professor Raymond Aron has been honoured as if he were a jazz-age Montesquieu, looking admiringly across the Channel from Paris.One pauses to note that Commentary was once a critical magazine. Anyway, Birnbaum sent the essay up to Headington House, in draft form, in a ...

Union Sucrée

Perry Anderson: The Normalising of France, 23 September 2004

Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires 
by Daniel Lindenberg.
Seuil, 94 pp., €10.50, November 2002, 2 02 055816 5
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Esquisse pour une auto-analyse 
by Pierre Bourdieu.
Raisons d'Agir, 142 pp., €12, February 2004, 2 912107 19 9
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La République mondiale des lettres 
by Pascale Casanova.
Seuil, 492 pp., €27.50, March 1999, 2 02 035853 0
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... that set in from the mid-1970s onwards produced no political thinkers to compare even with Aron. But what it lacked in original ideas, it more than made up for in organisational reach. The phrase la pensée unique, coined twenty years later – though like all such terms, involving an element of exaggeration – was not inaccurate as a gauge of its ...

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