Philosophy & Law

Kant Come Alive

Stuart Jeffries

17 June 2021

Siegfried Kracauer sought out the zeitgeist in places where professional philosophers disdained to tread, and specialised in finding the profound in the superficial. Thirty years later, Roland Barthes compared Citroëns to cathedrals and identified the mythical appeal of washing powder. But Kracauer dived into the shallows first. 

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On Muhammad

Tariq Ali

17 June 2021

The​ most stimulating, balanced and sympathetic secular biography of the Prophet of Islam was written by a left-wing French Jewish intellectual in 1961. Maxime Rodinson’s Life of Muhammad was . . .

Intimations of Morality

Thomas Nagel

3 June 2021

To evaluate states of affairs we use the concepts of good and bad, better and worse. To evaluate actions we use in addition the concepts of right and wrong. The classical problem is whether there is an . . .

Classical China

Peter C. Perdue

20 May 2021

In​ the 1950s, Western scholars and Chinese émigrés were writing extensively on the classical tradition in China, but historians in the People’s Republic were constrained by a . . .

Horoscopy

Claire Hall

20 May 2021

It​ was an auspicious beginning: ♄☌♃. On 25 October 1979, the date of the first issue of the London Review of Books, Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction in the sign of Virgo . . .

Bantu in the Bathroom

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2015

Pistorius was surely not aware that when he insisted the person he shot in the bathroom was an intruder he was re-enacting one strand of his nation’s cruellest past.

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The Adulteress Wife: Beauvoir Misrepresented

Toril Moi, 11 February 2010

In June 1946 Simone de Beauvoir was 38. She had just finished The Ethics of Ambiguity, and was wondering what to write next. Urged by Jean Genet, she went to see the Lady and the Unicorn...

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Where is my mind?

Jerry Fodor, 12 February 2009

If there’s anything we philosophers really hate it’s an untenable dualism. Exposing untenable dualisms is a lot of what we do for a living. It’s no small job, I assure you. They...

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Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching: Richard Dawkins

Terry Eagleton, 19 October 2006

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology....

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No, it’s not anti-semitic: the right to criticise Israel

Judith Butler, 21 August 2003

Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-semitic in...

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You can’t build a new society with a Stanley knife: Hardt and Negri’s Empire

Malcolm Bull, 4 October 2001

Forget Bob Geldof, Bono and the other do-gooders, Genoa’s only significance was as the latest battle in the war of Neoliberalism. It was a clear victory this time for the...

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Why anything? Why this?

Derek Parfit, 22 January 1998

It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists.

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Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson, 4 December 1986

It was nice to be awoken on 12 November by the BBC informing us that the Queen’s Speech would announce measures ‘to strengthen the jury system’. It is, after all, a very ancient...

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The Contingency of Language

Richard Rorty, 17 April 1986

About two hundred years ago, the idea that A truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe. The French Revolution had shown that the whole vocabulary of social...

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Short Cuts: Courthouse Hotel

Duncan Campbell, 20 May 2021

Fifteen​ years after its closure, Bow Street Magistrates’ Court, which over its 271-year history provided a stage for Oscar Wilde, Emmeline Pankhurst, Dr Crippen, ‘Lord...

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The ‘unconstitution’ has worked only because England’s ruling elites, out of decent self-interest, have never fully exploited its incredible lack of formal constraint on executive power....

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At the House of Mr Frog: Puritanism

Malcolm Gaskill, 18 March 2021

No one wants to be ‘puritanical’: better to be thought fun-loving, broadminded, easygoing, even (perhaps especially) if we’re not. Puritans hold a mirror to the anxious self-image of...

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Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Gimmickry is the séance during which some commodities, at least, have begun to dance as if of their own free will. Marx’s term for ‘of its own free will’ is ‘aus freien Stücken’...

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Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna, 4 March 2021

Just like the term ummah, the practical salience of the concept of dar al-islam waxed and waned throughout history. Cemil Aydin wants to remind us that Muslims have always lived in discrete empires, spoken...

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The Sun and the Daily Mail needed individuals for their readers to hate or fear: scroungers who made piles of cash out of trivial or imaginary injuries, whingers who turned their self-regarding grievances...

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The Ramsey Effect

Kieran Setiya, 18 February 2021

Picture,​ if you can, a single person with the talents of Keats, Schubert and Seurat: an inspired poet, a prodigious composer, a revolutionary painter, a figure of unlimited promise who died, like...

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Charlie’s War

Jeremy Harding, 4 February 2021

In an email to staff shortly before his murder, Samuel Paty explained that his class was meant to confront students with the following question: should cartoons of the Prophet not be published in order...

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Name the days: Holy Spirits

Marina Warner, 4 February 2021

The strangeness of such religious material again and again makes it incomprehensible that such figures should be considered holy, but if you look instead at their adventures as a remedy for the drudgery,...

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In this febrile yet curiously static environment of competing claims on our subjecthood and sympathy, we could all do with bearing in mind Wollstonecraft’s distinction between real and affected sentiment....

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Cynical Realism: Supreme Court Biases

Randall Kennedy, 21 January 2021

Although anxiety about the court is spreading, there is little chance that major reforms – the end of life tenure, for instance, or substantial enlargement of the number of justices – will...

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The Bergoglio Smile: The Francis Papacy

Colm Tóibín, 21 January 2021

It’s easy to see why Bergoglio would have been selected for early promot­ion by the Jesuits and then by the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires and then by the Papal Conclave. He exudes authority...

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Short Cuts: The Classic Apocalypse

Nick Richardson, 7 January 2021

One reason these stories are oddly comforting, for all their horror, is that they clear up the issue of what we’re doing here and who’s responsible. You may be doomed to burn in hell for all...

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Short Cuts: RBG’s Big Mistake

Frederick Wilmot-Smith, 8 October 2020

Should Trump’s nominee be confirmed, the Supreme Court will shift to the right, probably far to the right, and will remain there for a generation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the lion’s share...

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Bats on the Ceiling: The Gospel of St Karen

James Lasdun, 24 September 2020

Certainly one wants at times to shake off this clammy individual, to say: pah, sociopath, case closed, not interesting. But something about this artful, artless wife-of-Jesus scheme of his, spreading out...

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Whatever Made Him: The Bauman Dichotomy

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 10 September 2020

Do we need biographies of public intellectuals? Is knowledge about a scholar’s life relevant to an understanding of their work? The Polish-Jewish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman thought not, and sedulously...

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Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley, 16 July 2020

The poet​ and songwriter Sydney Carter – remember ‘Lord of the Dance’? – wasn’t the only observer to notice that the 1950s British folk song revival was being...

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Cultural conservatives aren’t trying to protect language from politics; they are simply sanguine about the politics that language already has. 

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