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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 ...

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 ...

Baseball’s Loss

Geoffrey Hawthorn: The Unstoppable Hugo Chávez, 1 November 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope 
by Tariq Ali.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, November 2006, 9781844671021
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Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today 
by D.L. Raby.
Pluto, 280 pp., £18.99, July 2006, 0 7453 2436 3
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Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s Revolution, Latin America Report No. 19 
by International Crisis Group.
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... In Venezuela at the end of June, Evo Morales, Hugo Chávez and Diego Maradona, three heroes of the people in Latin America, kicked off the Copa América. Morales, pleased with his dribbling, kept possession for rather longer than might have been thought polite. When he passed, Chávez, instinctive politician that he is, at once flicked the ball on to the feet of the Hand of God ...

This is a book review

Geoffrey Hawthorn: John Searle, 20 January 2011

Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilisation 
by John Searle.
Oxford, 208 pp., £14.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957691 3
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... It’s striking nowadays to hear a philosopher say that ‘we want a unified account of our knowledge’; even more striking to hear him say ‘I think we can get it’; very striking indeed to hear this from a philosopher of language. That wouldn’t always have been so. A hundred years or so ago, there was great enthusiasm for looking closely at the structure of sentences and at the distinction Frege had drawn between their sense and reference (the difference between saying that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn and saying that Samuel Clemens did – Clemens was Twain’s real name – where the sense, the cognitive significance, is different but the reference is the same); a great will, too, to separate sentences that were true by definition from those that weren’t, and among those that weren’t, to admit only those that could be independently verified ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn: Max Weber, 27 August 2009

Max Weber: A Biography 
by Joachim Radkau, translated by Patrick Camiller.
Polity, 683 pp., £25, January 2009, 978 0 7456 4147 8
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... More than most, Max Weber’s reputation reflects the aspirations of others. His wife, Marianne, did much to establish it in Germany, rapidly turning his articles and drafts into books and writing a biography. Liberal émigrés were what one of his American editors, Günther Roth, describes as its shock troops in the English-speaking world. Marianne’s biography appeared in German in 1926, in English in 1975, and has been regarded as the most authoritative ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... He​ ‘understands what you’re going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy – ‘reactionaries’ who sweep everything into a single vision, Kantian ‘progressives’ committed to the view that ethical advance lies in the elaboration of connections between ‘freedom, autonomy, inner responsibility, moral obligation and so forth’, ‘deniers’ like Richard Rorty who were inclined to reduce talk of the true and the right to what we find it convenient to believe – were discomfited by his dazzle ...

Pareto and Elitism

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 July 1980

The Other Pareto 
edited by Placido Bucolo.
Scolar, 308 pp., £15, April 1980, 0 85967 516 5
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by G. Lowell Field and John Higley.
Routledge, 135 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7100 0487 7
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Elites in Australia 
by John Higley and Don Smart.
Routledge, 317 pp., £9.50, July 1979, 9780710002228
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... Elitists are a cheerless class and Vilfredo Pareto was no exception. He certainly led a cheerless life. He gave up a career as an engineer for writing and politics, but although he succeeded Léon Walras to the Chair of Political Economy at Lausanne he never obtained an academic post in Italy itself, and on the two occasions on which he stood for parliament in that country he was defeated (as he saw it) by corruption ...

Things Keep Happening

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Histories of Histories, 20 November 2008

A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the 20th Century 
by John Burrow.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, December 2007, 978 0 7139 9337 0
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What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe 
by Anthony Grafton.
Cambridge, 319 pp., £13.99, March 2007, 978 0 521 69714 9
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The Theft of History 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £14.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 69105 5
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Thucydides and the Philosophical Origins of History 
by Darien Shanske.
Cambridge, 268 pp., £54, January 2007, 978 0 521 86411 4
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... and 16th, of what has come to be called ‘humanist history’. It is an entertaining section: Geoffrey of Monmouth on the achievements of the probably inexistent Arthur (and his spear, called Ron), an account, Burrow observes, which seems so convincing, yet does not convince; the scurrilities of Matthew Paris, not least about Matthew’s own abbey at St ...

What would socialism be like?

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 March 1984

In the Tracks of Historical Materialism 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 112 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 86091 776 2
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The Dialectics of Disaster 
by Ronald Aronson.
Verso, 329 pp., £5.95, February 1984, 9780860910756
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Rethinking Socialism 
by Gavin Kitching.
Methuen, 178 pp., £3.95, October 1983, 0 416 35840 3
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The Economics of Feasible Socialism 
by Alec Nove.
Allen and Unwin, 244 pp., £12.95, February 1983, 0 04 335048 8
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The Labour Party in Crisis 
by Paul Whiteley.
Methuen, 253 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 416 33860 7
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... Joseph Schumpeter had a refreshing sense of socialism. For him, it had almost no fixed sense at all. ‘A society may be fully and truly socialist and yet be led by an absolute ruler or be organised in the most democratic of all possible ways; it may be aristocratic or proletarian; it may be a theocracy and hierarchic or atheist and indifferent to religion; it may be much more strictly disciplined than men are in a modern army or completely lacking in discipline; it may be ascetic or eudemonist in spirit; energetic or slack; thinking only of the future or the day; warlike and nationalist or peaceful and internationalist; equalitarian or the opposite; it may have the ethics of lords or the ethics of slaves; its art may be subjective or objective; its forms of life individualistic or standardised ...

Capitalism without Capital

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 26 May 1994

The Endangered American Dream: How to Stop the United States from Becoming a Third World Country and Win the Geo-Economic Struggle for Industrial Supremacy 
by Edward Luttwak.
Simon and Schuster, 365 pp., $24, October 1993, 0 671 86963 9
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Japan’s Capitalism: Creative Defeat and Beyond 
by Shigeto Tsuru.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £24.95, June 1993, 0 521 36058 7
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... Even at the end of his new book, it’s not clear where Edward Luttwak is coming from, as they say in his country. He leaves no doubt, however, about where he dreads coming to. Instead of being smoothed through ‘the spotless elegance of Narita or Frankfurt or Amsterdam or Singapore’, the hapless international traveller who comes into New York’s Kennedy Airport will walk into one of the tatty terminals that near-bankrupt airlines no longer maintain, mildly surprised at the naked plywood and unfinished gypsum board ...

Hayek and His Overcoat

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 October 1998

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations 
by David Landes.
Little, Brown, 650 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 316 90867 3
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The Commanding Heights 
by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw.
Simon and Schuster, 457 pp., £18.99, February 1998, 0 684 82975 4
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... There was an occasion on which the ruler of Balkh, in Central Asia, went to make war. Nomads, taking advantage of his absence, seized the city. The inhabitants put up a good fight, for themselves and their ruler, but lost. The ruler returned, despatched the invaders, and upbraided his subjects. War, he told them, was his business: theirs was to pay and obey ...

Plan it mañana

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Albert O. Hirschman, 11 September 2014

Wordly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman 
by Jeremy Adelman.
Princeton, 740 pp., £27.95, April 2013, 978 0 691 15567 8
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The Essential Hirschman 
edited by Jeremy Adelman.
Princeton, 367 pp., £19.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 15990 4
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... In June 1940​ a French lieutenant issued false passes. ‘Sauve qui peut,’ he said. ‘Il faut se débrouiller.’ Get out of this as best you can. Albert Hirschman would say that he’d been a débrouillard all his life. He’d left Berlin in 1933, sought an education in Paris and London, fought in Spain, worked in Trieste, fled back to France, enlisted, and with the rest of his émigré platoon now had to avoid arrest by Vichy ...

Be Spartans!

James Romm: Thucydides, 21 January 2016

Thucydides on Politics: Back to the Present 
by Geoffrey Hawthorn.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £21.99, March 2014, 978 1 107 61200 6
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... Athenian navies now chasing each other about the Aegean. It is in this anomalous eighth book that Geoffrey Hawthorn, until his death at the end of last year an emeritus professor of international politics at Cambridge, finds the truest and most revealing aspects of Thucydides’ thought. Here more than elsewhere, ...
Plausible Worlds: Possibility and Understanding in History and the Social Sciences 
by Geoffrey Hawthorn.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £27.50, September 1991, 0 521 40359 6
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New Philosophy of Social Science: Problems of Indeterminacy 
by James Bohman.
Polity, 273 pp., £35, October 1991, 0 7456 0632 6
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... Certainly not the saddest for historians, according to Geoffrey Hawthorn’s wonderfully playful and intelligent book: rather, the most instructive. Hawthorn is intrigued by the philosophical standing of counter-factuals – hypothetical ‘other worlds’ – and their usefulness for historians and social scientists ...

Enemies Within

Peter Clarke, 7 February 1985

... be disabling, even if unkind critics carp that this is merely because Volvos don’t run on coal. Geoffrey Hawthorn (LRB, Vol. 6, No 17) seized on ‘the extraordinary fact about Thatcher’, that ‘no one is standing up to her,’ as affording ‘some reason, even if one is not a miner, and even if one accepts the most optimistic view of the supply of ...

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