The British bestseller Straw Dogs is an exciting, radical work of philosophy, which sets out to challenge our most cherished assumptions about what it means to be human. From Plato to Christianity, from the Enlightenment to Nietzsche and Marx, the Western tradition has been based on arrogant and erroneous beliefs about human beings and their place in the world. Philosophies such as liberalism and Marxism think of humankind as a species whose destiny is to transcend natural limits and conquer the Earth. John Gray argues that this belief in human difference is a dangerous illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned. The result is an exhilarating, sometimes disturbing book that leads the reader to question our deepest-held beliefs. Will Self, in the New Statesman, called Straw Dogs his book of the year: "I read it once, I read it twice and took notes . . . I thought it that good." "Nothing will get you thinking as much as this brilliant book" (Sunday Telegraph).
Straw Dogs is a radical work of philosophy that sets out to challenge our most cherished assumptions about what it means to be human. From Plato to Christianity, from the Enlightenment to Nietzsche and Marx, the Western tradition has been based on arrogant and erroneous beliefs about human beings and their place in the world. Philosophies such as liberalism and Marxism enthrone humankind as a species whose destiny is to transcend natural limits and conquer the Earth. Even in the present day, despite Darwin's discoveries, nearly all schools of thought take as their starting point the belief that humans are radically different from other animals. In Straw Dogs, John Gray argues that this humanist belief in human difference is an illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned.
'Straw Dogs' is a radical work of philosophy that challenges our most cherished assumptions about what it means to be human. John Gray explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned.
The powerful, beautiful and chilling sequel to the bestselling Straw Dogs John Gray draws on an extraordinary array of memoirs, poems, fiction and philosophy to make us re-imagine our place in the world. Writers as varied as Ballard, Borges, Freud and Conrad are mesmerised by forms of human extremity - experiences on the outer edge of the possible, or which tip into fantasy and myth. What happens to us when we starve, when we fight, when we are imprisoned? And how do our imaginations leap into worlds way beyond our real experience? The Silence of Animals is consistently fascinating, filled with unforgettable images and a delight in the conundrum of our existence - an existence which we decorate with countless myths and ideas, where we twist and turn to avoid acknowledging that we too are animals, separated from the others perhaps only by our self-conceit. In the Babel we have created for ourselves, it is the silence of animals that both reproaches and bewitches us. Reviews: 'The Silence of Animals is a new kind of book from Gray, a sort of poetic reverie on the human state, on the state, that is, of the human animal ... He blends lyricism with wisdom, humour with admonition, nay-saying with affirmation, making in the process a marvellous statement of what it is to be both an animal and a human in the strange, terrifying and exquisite world into which we straw dogs find ourselves thrown' John Banville, Guardian 'Interesting, original and memorable ... The Silence of Animals is a beautifully written book, the product of a strongly questioning mind. It is effectively an anthology with detailed commentary, setting out one rich and suggestive episode after another' Philip Hensher, Spectator About the author: John Gray has been Professor of Politics at Oxford University, Visiting Professor at Harvard and Yale and Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. He now writes full time. His books include False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals and The Immortalization Commission: The Strange Quest to Cheat Death. His selected writings, Gray's Anatomy, was published in 2009.
Fascinating, enlightening, and epic in scope, Black Mass looks at the historic and modern faces of Utopian ideology: Society’s Holy Grail, but at what price? During the last century global politics was shaped by Utopian projects. Pursuing a dream of a world without evil, powerful states waged war and practised terror on an unprecedented scale. From Germany to Russia to China to Afghanistan, entire societies were destroyed. Utopian ideologies rejected traditional faiths and claimed to be based in science. They were actually secular versions of the myth of Apocalypse–the belief in a world-changing event that brings history, with all its conflicts, to an end. The war in Iraq was the last of these attempts at creating a secular Utopia, promising a new era of democracy and producing blood-soaked anarchy and an emerging theocracy instead. John Gray’s powerful and frightening new book argues that the death of Utopia does not mean peace. Instead it portends the resurgence of ancient myths, now in openly fundamentalist forms. Obscurely mixed with geo-political struggles for the control of natural resources, apocalyptic religion has returned as a major force in global conflict. From the Hardcover edition.
From the author of Straw Dogs, John Gray's Gray's Anatomy is a pugnacious and brilliantly readable collection of essays from across his career. Why is progress a pernicious myth? Why do beliefs that humanity can be improved end in farce or horror? Is atheism a hangover from Christian faith? John Gray, one of the most iconoclastic thinkers of our time, smashes through civilization's most cherished beliefs, overturning our view of the world, and our place in it. 'The most prescient of British public intellectuals' Pankaj Mishra, Financial Times 'Gray has consistently anticipated the shape of things to come ... he teaches us that true humanism is to be found in uncertainty and doubt' Will Self 'Gray's dissection of modern delusion, cant and wishful thinking is to be welcomed in this moment of convulsion ... This is a book to learn from and argue with' Ben Wilson, Literary Review 'A thoroughly enjoyable book ... These essays cover a remarkable range of topics, from Isaiah Berlin to Damien Hirst, from torture to environmentalism. But their unifying theme is that our naïve belief in the idea of progress has turned modern life into a constant round of shadow-boxing' David Runciman, Observer 'Demolishes the theory that we have reached the "end of history", the dogmas of secular liberalism, the weaknesses of financial casino capitalism and the limits of energy-intensive economic growth' Economist John Gray is most recently the acclaimed author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions, Al Qaeda and What It Means To Be Modern and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia. He is Emeritus Professor of European Thought at the University of London.
A great philosopher will change the way you think about your life. For most of human history, religion provided a clear explanation of life and death. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries new ideas — from psychiatry to evolution to Communist — seemed to suggest that our fate was now in our own hands. We would ourselves become God. This is the theme of a remarkable new book by one of the world's greatest lving philosophers. It is a brilliant and frightening look at the problems and opportunities of a world coming to grips with humankind's now solitary, unaided place in the universe. Gray takes two major examples: the belief that the science-backed Communism of the new USSR could reshape the planet, and the belief among a group of Edwardian intellectuals — popularized through mediums and automatic writing — that there was a non-religious form of life after death. Gray presents an extraordinary cast of philosophers, journalists, politicians, charlatans and mass murderers, all of whom felt driven by a specifically scientific and modern world view. He raises a host of fascinating questions about what it means to be human. The implications of Gray's book will haunt its readers for the rest of their lives. From the Hardcover edition.
powerful and prophetic challenge to globalization from a former partisan of the New Right. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as both ''a convincing analysis of an international economy '' and a ''powerful challenge to economic orthodoxy, '' False Dawn shows that the attempt to impose the Anglo-American-style free market on the world will create a disaster, possibly on the scale of Soviet communism. Even America, the supposed flagship of the new civilization, risks moral and social disintegration as it loses ground to other cultures that have never forgotten that the market works best when it is embedded in society. John Gray, well known in the 1980s as an important conservative political thinker, whose writings were relied upon by Margaret Thatcher and the New Right in Britain, has concluded that the conservative agenda is no longer viable. In his examination of the ripple effects of the economic turmoil in Russia and Asia on our collective future, Gray provides one of the most passionate polemics against the utopia of the free market since Carlyle and Marx.
Compared with that of humans, the life of the marionette looks more like an enviable state of freedom In his brilliantly enjoyable and freewheeling new book, John Gray draws together the religious, philosophic, and fantastical traditions that question the very idea of human freedom. We flatter ourselves about the nature of free will and yet the most enormous forces—logical, physical, metaphysical—constrain our every action. Many writers and intellectuals have always understood this, but instead of embracing our condition we battle against it, with everyone from world conquerors to modern scientists dreaming of a "human dominion" almost comically at odds with our true state. Filled with wonderful examples and drawing on the widest possible reading (from the Gnostics to Philip K. Dick), The Soul of the Marionette is a stimulating and engaging meditation on everything from cybernetics to the fairground marionettes of the title.
John Gray is the bestselling author of such books as Straw Dogs and Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern which brought a mainstream readership to a man who was already one of the UK's most well respected thinkers and political theorists. Gray wrote Enlightenment’s Wake in 1995 – six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and six years before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Turning his back on neoliberalism at exactly the moment that its advocates were in their pomp, trumpeting 'the end of history' and the supposedly unstoppable spread of liberal values across the globe, Gray’s was a lone voice of scepticism. The thinking he criticised here would lead ultimately to the invasion of Iraq. Today, its folly might seem obvious to all, but as this edition of Enlightenment’s Wake shows, John Gray has been trying to warn us for some fifteen years – the rest of us are only now catching up with him.
From the provocative author of Straw Dogs comes an incisive, surprising intervention in the political and scientific debate over religion and atheism When you explore older atheisms, you will find that some of your firmest convictions—secular or religious—are highly questionable. If this prospect disturbs you, what you are looking for may be freedom from thought. For a generation now, public debate has been corroded by a shrill, narrow derision of religion in the name of an often vaguely understood “science.” John Gray’s stimulating and enjoyable new book, Seven Types of Atheism, describes the complex, dynamic world of older atheisms, a tradition that is, he writes, in many ways intertwined with and as rich as religion itself. Along a spectrum that ranges from the convictions of “God-haters” like the Marquis de Sade to the mysticism of Arthur Schopenhauer, from Bertrand Russell’s search for truth in mathematics to secular political religions like Jacobinism and Nazism, Gray explores the various ways great minds have attempted to understand the questions of salvation, purpose, progress, and evil. The result is a book that sheds an extraordinary light on what it is to be human.
'The suicide warriors who attacked Washington and New York on September 11th, 2001, did more than kill thousands of civilians and demolish the World Trade Center. They destroyed the West's ruling myth.' So John Gray begins this short, powerful book on the belief that has dominated our minds for a century and a half - the idea that we are all, more or less, becoming modern and that as we become modern we will become more alike, and at the same time more familiar and more reasonable. Nothing could be further from the truth, Gray argues. Al Qaeda is a product of modernity and of globalisation, and it will not be the last group to use the products of the modern world in its own monstrous way. Gray pulls up by the roots the myth that the human condition can be remade by science and progress or political engineering. He describes with mordant irony the rise of Positivists, the strange sect that put science and technology at the centre of the cult and developed a religion of humanity. Through their influence on economists, politicians and biologists, they still powerfully affect the way we think. Gray looks at the various attempts to remake humanity, from the Bolshevik and Nazi disasters to the utopian experiments of modern radical Islam and the dreams of the prophets of globalisation. And he gives a scathing account of the real sources of conflict in the world, of American power and its illusions, and of the ways in which cultures will resist the reshaping we might wish on them.
Like its widely praised predecessor False Dawn, Two Faces of Liberalism, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as ''elegant and powerful, '' offers a thoughtful and provocative analysis of the liberal tradition in politics. John Gray, an eminent professor at the London School of Economics, ''picks large and interesting topics and says arresting things about them, '' according to the New York Review of Books. Two Faces of Liberalism argues that, in its beginning, liberalism contained two contradictory philosophies of tolerance. In one, it put forward the enlightenment vision of a universal civilization. In the other, it framed terms for peaceful coexistence between warring communities and between different ways of life. In this major contribution to political theory, Gray''s new book ''takes us beyond the current debate''(The New York Times Book Review) of traditional liberalism to keep up with the complex political realities of today''s increasingly divided world.
By the author of the best-selling Straw Dogs, this book is a characteristically trenchant and unflinchingly clear-sighted collection of reflections on our contemporary lot. Whether writing about the future of our species on this planet, the folly of our faith in technological progress, or the self-deceptions of the liberal establishment, John Gray dares to be heretical like few other thinkers today.
Not available since the 1980s, this up-dated edition by the leading political philosopher, John Gray, outlines his new position on Hayek. In a substantial new chapter, Gray assesses how far the historical development of the last ten years can be deployed in a critique of Hayek's thought. His reassessment is not only a provoking study of a classical philosopher. It is also a timely contribution to the debate over the future of conservatism, as Gray argues that Hayekian liberalism - 'the most well-articulated political theory of the new right' - is flawed.
The original novel on which Sam Peckinpah's controversial movie Straw Dogs was based, and the inspiration behind a brand-new movie by Rod Lurie, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Kate Bosworth - due for release in September 2011. American professor George Magruder, his wife Louise and their daughter rent an old, isolated house known as Trencher's Farm in Cornwall, so George can finish writing his book. When George accidentally runs over a convicted child killer on the loose from a mental asylum, he confronts the brutal locals and sets in train a series of violent events that threaten his very survival and that of his family.
Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) was the greatest intellectual historian of the twentieth century. But his work also made an original and important contribution to moral and political philosophy and to liberal theory. In 1921, at the age of eleven, Isaiah Berlin arrived in England from Riga, Latvia. By the time he was thirty he was at the heart of British intellectual life. He has remained its commanding presence ever since, and few would dispute that he was one of Britain's greatest thinkers. His reputation extends worldwide--as a great conversationalist, intellectual historian, and man of letters. He has been called the century's most inspired reader. Yet Berlin's contributions to thought--in particular to moral and political philosophy, and to liberal theory--are little understood, and surprisingly neglected by the academic world. In this book, they are shown to be animated by a single, powerful, subversive idea: value-pluralism which affirms the reality of a deep conflict between ultimate human values that reason cannot resolve. Though bracingly clear-headed, humane and realist, Berlin's value-pluralism runs against the dominant Western traditions, secular and religious, which avow an ultimate harmony of values. It supports a highly distinctive restatement of liberalism in Berlin's work--an agnostic liberalism, which is founded not on rational choice but on the radical choices we make when faced with intractable dilemmas. It is this new statement of liberalism, the central subject of John Gray's lively and lucid book, which gives the liberal intellectual tradition a new lease on life, a new source of life, and which comprises Berlin's central and enduring legacy. In a new introduction, Gray argues that, in a world in which human freedom has spread more slowly than democracy, Berlin's account of liberty and basic decency is more instructive and useful than ever.
John Gray has become one of our liveliest and most influential political philosophers. This current volume is a sequel to his Liberalisms: Essays in Political Philosophy. The earlier book ended on a sceptical note, both in respect of what a post-liberal political philosophy might look like, and with respect to the claims of political philosophy itself. John Gray's new book gives post-liberal theory a more definite content. It does so by considering particular thinkers in the history of political thought, by criticizing the conventional wisdom, liberal and socialist, of the Western academic class, and most directly by specifying what remains of value in liberalism. The upshot of this line of thought is that we need not regret the failure of foundationalist liberalism, since we have all we need in the historic inheritance of the institutions of civil society. It is to the practice of liberty that these institutions encompass, rather than to empty liberal theory, that we should repair.
A brief foray into a moral thicket, exploring why should protect nature despite tsunamis, malaria, bird flu, cancer, killer asteroids, and tofu.
In 1979 two events occurred that would shape the next twenty-five years. In America and Britain, an era of weary consensus was displaced by the arrival of a political marriage of fiery idealists: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher transformed politics with a combination of breezy charm and assertive "Victorian values." In Iran, the fundamentalist cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini set out to restore a regime that had last existed almost 1,300 years ago. Between them they succeeded in bringing the twentieth century to a premature close. By 1989, Francis Fukuyama was declaring that we had now reached the End of History. What colonized the space recently vacated by notions of history, progress and reason? Cults, quackery, gurus, irrational panics, moral confusion and an epidemic of idiocy, the proof of which was to be found in every state, every work-place, and every library. In Idiot Proof, columnist Francis Wheen brilliantly evokes the key personalities of the post-political era—including Princess Diana and Deepak Chopra, Osama bin Laden and Nancy Reagan's astrologer—while lamenting the extraordinary rise in superstition, relativism and emotional hysteria over the past quarter of a century. In turn comic, indignant, outraged and just plain baffled by the idiocy of it all, Idiot Proof is a masterful depiction of the daftness of our times and a plea that we might just think a little more and believe a little less.