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Facts of Life

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 July 1982

by Robert Hinde.
Oxford/Fontana, 320 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 19 520370 4
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Social Anthropology 
by Edmund Leach.
Oxford/Fontana, 254 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 19 520371 2
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by Leszek Kolakowski.
Oxford/Fontana, 235 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 19 520372 0
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Historical Sociology 
by Philip Abrams.
Open Books, 353 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 7291 0111 8
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... Textbook writers set examinations. The rationale is clear, the interest transparent. In what in the United States is called ‘behavioural science’, such people have a standard first chapter and a standard first question. What is behavioural science the science of? In BS101, the standard first course, some more or less elaborate padding with examples of the answer ‘just that, behaviour’ will do ...

Hegel’s Odyssey

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 October 1985

Hegel: The Letters 
translated by Clark Butler and Christine Seiler.
Indiana, 740 pp., $47.50, January 1985, 0 253 32715 6
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... Ottilie von Goethe recalled a lunch in Weimar in October 1827. Her father-in-law, as usual, had not bothered with the introductions. Silent bows on both sides. During the meal Goethe was comparatively quiet. No doubt so as not to disturb the free speech of his very voluble and logically penetrating guest, who elaborated upon himself in oddly complicated grammatical forms ...

The Moral Life of Barbarians

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 18 August 1983

The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology 
by Anthony Pagden.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £24, September 1982, 0 521 22202 8
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... Spain was in doubt about its new dominion in the Antilles. In 1493, the Pope Alexander VI had granted Ferdinand and Isabel the right to conquer and also to enslave the inhabitants of the islands. But only two years later, Isabel was intervening to stop the sale of some that Columbus had sent back to Seville. It was not that she or anyone else objected to slavery itself ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 April 1983

A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. I: The Methodology of Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24906 6
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... By the time he was 34, Thomas Macaulay had had a fellowship at Trinity, practised law for a year or two, sat in the Commons for four, and been appointed to a seat on the Supreme Council in India. On the boat to Calcutta, he wrote to Ellis, he had read the Iliad and the Odyssey, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Don Quixote, Gibbon on Rome, Sismondi on France, Mill on India, ‘the seven thick folios of Biographica Brittanica’ and ‘the 70 volumes of Voltaire ...

Someone else’s shoes

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 23 November 1989

A Treatise on Social Justice. Vol. I: Theories of Justice 
by Brian Barry.
Harvester, 428 pp., £30, May 1989, 0 7450 0641 8
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Innocence and Experience 
by Stuart Hampshire.
Allen Lane, 195 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 7139 9027 9
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... As Brian Barry suggests, the question of justice arises when custom loses its grip; when the prevailing social myth and what Stuart Hampshire calls its ‘fallacy of false fixity’ – that relations cannot be other than they are – is exposed. This is not to say that new fixed entities are never then proposed to replace the myth. Plato’s divisions of the soul and their reflection in the state, the liberals’ titles rooted in first possession, the Marxists’ resolution of real contradictions, and Moore’s directly intuited Good are only four of the more notorious past instances ...

Staying in power

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 7 January 1988

Mrs Thatcher’s Revolution: The Ending of the Socialist Era 
by Peter Jenkins.
Cape, 411 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 224 02516 3
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De-Industrialisation and Foreign Trade 
by R.E. Rowthorn and J.R. Wells.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £40, November 1988, 0 521 26360 3
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... In November, Norman Tebbit spoke to the Financial Times of a ‘long revolution’, lasting perhaps twenty years. Nevertheless, he said, ‘when you’ve run through health and education, and had another hard look at the structure of welfare benefits, then it’s difficult to see where the revolution could go on from there.’ Indeed, the Conservatives could then perhaps ‘go back to being the party of saying everything is going reasonably well ...

Daughters, Dress Shirts, Spotted Dick

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 April 1980

... An anthropologist friend despairs at his subject. It has, he says, collapsed into the assertion of necessary relations between brothers-in-law and beavers. It is obsessed with classification. He barely exaggerates. Its history, as Douglas and Isherwood proudly recall,* has been one of ‘continuous disengagement’ from the ‘intrusive assumptions of common sense ...

Hyenas, Institutions and God

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 20 July 1995

The Construction of Social Reality 
by John Searle.
Allen Lane, 241 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 7139 9112 7
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... John Searle is in a café in Paris. The waiter arrives. ‘Un demi,’ Searle asks, ‘Munich, à pression, s’il vous plaît.’ The waiter brings the beer. Searle drinks it, puts a few francs on the table, and leaves. ‘An innocent scene’, he agrees, ‘but its metaphysical complexity is truly staggering, and its complexity would have taken Kant’s breath away if he had ever bothered to think about such things ...
India’s Economic Reforms 1991-2001 
by Vijay Joshi and I.M.D. Little.
Oxford, 288 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 19 829078 0
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... Fifteen thousand candidates contested 545 seats in the Indian lower house, the Lok Sabha, in the May General Election. Four hundred million of the 590 million who were eligible to do so voted. It was the largest election in history. Yet it might have seemed odd. The Congress Government has been introducing far-reaching reforms. But the economy was not discussed ...

False Alarm

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 13 May 1993

Preparing for the 21st Century 
by Paul Kennedy.
HarperCollins, 428 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 00 215705 5
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... In The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, which touched the anxieties of conservatives as well as liberals at the end of Reagan’s expensive two terms in the White House, Paul Kennedy suggested that like other great powers before it, the United States was dissipating the resources that had made it great. It was in ‘imperial overstretch’. And its political system, like that of Britain earlier in the century, would make the decline more difficult to stop ...

Schumpeter the Superior

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 27 February 1992

Joseph Schumpeter: His Life and Work 
by Richard Swedberg.
Polity, 293 pp., £35, November 1991, 0 7456 0792 6
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Joseph Schumpeter: Scholar, Teacher and Politician 
by Eduard März.
Yale, 204 pp., £22.50, November 1991, 0 300 03876 3
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... The greatest horseman in Vienna, the greatest lover in Austria, the greatest economist in the world. This, Joseph Schumpeter used to say, is what he’d set out to be. In one of them, he added, he’d failed. But he never said which. A horse, almost certainly, had let him down. He had a slightly lopsided walk, the result, it was said, of a fall. About women, there is less doubt ...

Poor George

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 7 March 1991

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power 
by Daniel Yergin.
Simon and Schuster, 877 pp., £20, January 1991, 0 671 50248 4
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... On 3 April 1986, at his filling-station in north Dallas, Billy Jack Mason was protesting about the fall in the price of oil. Cars came from as far as Waco, and by breakfast, the queue was six miles long. He was offering unleaded at zero cents a gallon. Reporters sought Billy’s opinion on the future. ‘That’s overseas. Nothing we can do about that till the Arabs get the price right ...

Sociology in Cambridge

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 6 November 1986

... Cambridge has re-appointed to its chair of sociology. The chair is still not established, and will have to be argued for again when it’s vacated. The argument for filling it at least once more was conservative: there has been a professor since 1970, there was a department of social and political sciences and a degree which included the subject, and these had to have a head ...

What’s wrong with the SDP?

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 21 November 1985

Capitalism and Social Democracy 
by Adam Przeworksi.
Cambridge, 269 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 521 26742 0
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... Those who voted for the Alliance at the last election tended to be as hostile as Tories to nationalisation. They were nearly as fierce about the Unions too. But they were well disposed to redistribution, as keen on creating jobs as those who’d voted Labour, and on several of the ‘moral’ issues markedly more liberal. Who are they? Tories had the vote of two-thirds of the managers in private concerns; Labour of two-thirds of the workers in public ones; the Alliance, of nearly half of all graduates ...

Ideal Speech

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 19 November 1981

Hegel contra Sociology 
by Gillian Rose.
Athlone, 261 pp., £18, May 1981, 0 485 11214 0
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The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School 
by George Friedman.
Cornell, 312 pp., £9.50, February 1981, 9780801412790
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by Garbis Kortian, translated by John Raffan.
Cambridge, 134 pp., £12.50, August 1980, 0 631 12779 8
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The Idea of a Critical Theory 
by Raymond Geuss.
Cambridge, 99 pp., £10, December 1981, 0 521 24072 7
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The Politics of Social Theory 
by Russell Keat.
Blackwell, 245 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 631 12779 8
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Critical Hermeneutics 
by John Thompson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £17.50, September 1981, 9780521239325
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Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences 
by Paul Ricoeur, translated by John Thompson.
Cambridge, 314 pp., £20, September 1981, 0 521 23497 2
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... Natural man is born free but is everywhere in chains. ‘Civilised man’, unfortunately, ‘is born and dies a slave. The infant is bound up in swaddling clothes, the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life man is imprisoned by institutions.’ Optimists will insist, as Helvétius did to Rousseau, that ‘l’éducation peut tout.’ Pessimists will reply, like de Maistre, that sheep are born carnivorous but everywhere eat grass ...

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