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No Haute Cuisine in Africa

Ernest Gellner, 2 September 1982

Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 24455 2
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... The brilliant, illuminating and intellectually cohesive tradition known as social anthropology has long been dominated in Britain by the thought and research styles established by Bronislaw Malinowski. Those who were close to him and who attended his seminar at the LSE were the Companions of the Prophet. Many of them are still with us, active and productive: but they are by now, all of them, in academic retirement ...

Our Way

John Gray, 22 September 1994

Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals 
by Ernest Gellner.
Hamish Hamilton, 225 pp., £18.99, August 1994, 0 241 00220 6
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... has interpreted that collapse as an episode in the global spread of civil society – defined by Ernest Gellner as ‘that set of diverse non-governmental institutions which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and, while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role of keeper of the peace and arbitrator among major interests, can ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest GellnerAn Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... When Ernest Gellner was teaching at the Central European University in Prague in 1995, the last year of his life, he cultivated informal social relations with the graduate students there. One student ‘confessed to unease when Gellner sat down to watch television with him – saying it was as if Max Weber had dropped by ...


Edmund Leach, 2 August 1984

Nomads and the Outside World 
by A.M. Khazanov, translated by Julia Crookenden.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £37.50, February 1984, 0 521 23813 7
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The House of Si Abd Allah: The Oral History of a Moroccan Family 
edited by Henry Munson.
Yale, 320 pp., £17.95, April 1984, 0 300 03084 3
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Ruth Benedict: Patterns of a Life 
by Judith Modell.
Chatto, 255 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 7011 2771 6
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... in the field at this level of intensity, and perhaps even for those who are, the 16 pages of Ernest Gellner’s ‘Foreword’ provide essential reading. Khazanov’s book takes for granted a general framework of Russian Marxist ideas which will be unfamiliar to most English readers. Within that framework it makes a contribution to a long-standing ...

Gellner’s Grenade

Rosalind Mitchison, 21 June 1984

Nations and Nationalism 
by Ernest Gellner.
Blackwell, 150 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 631 12992 8
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... This is a small book, but one of high density, both in ideas and, at times, in expression. Gellner’s field of concern is the modern world, and though occasionally he casts a look at Mediaeval Europe and Islam, it is in the 20th century that his interest lies, as does what evidence he can muster to support his themes ...


Rosalind Mitchison, 17 September 1987

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 160 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 86091 759 2
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Culture, Identity and Politics 
by Ernest Gellner.
Cambridge, 189 pp., £8.95, June 1987, 0 521 33667 8
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The Ethnic Origins of Nations 
by Anthony Smith.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 631 15205 9
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Us and Them: A Study of Group Consciousness 
by W.A. Elliott.
Aberdeen University Press, 164 pp., £12.50, November 1986, 9780080324388
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... can claim a long past, even if his theory implies that most of it was a past without nationalism. Ernest Gellner, who has written before on nationalism, and here adds a short but concentrated essay, together with related pieces, has attributed its rise to the capitalised industrial economy of the modern world. Those movements of the 19th century that ...

It’s a Knock-Out

Tom Nairn, 27 May 1993

The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... no place in it. This is not just because he fails to mention Fukuyama. Anderson, Roberto Unger, Ernest Gellner, or other significant contributors. More serious is the fact that he believes himself dispensed from doing so in virtue of a special insight bestowed by the Judaic inheritance. A Jew, he writes, naturally ‘reflects the deepest eddies of the ...

What next?

W.G. Runciman, 27 October 1988

Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History 
by Ernest Gellner.
Collins, 288 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 00 217178 3
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... If human history does, indeed, have a structure, it is, as Professor Gellner emphasises, discernible only with hindsight. The path which has led, in his words, ‘from the cosy social cocoon of early man to the expanding, cognitively powerful, and socially disconnected world of modern man’ was not merely invisible to those who were treading it: it was inconceivable ...

Keeping the show on the road

John Kerrigan, 6 November 1986

Tribute to Freud 
by H. D.
Carcanet, 194 pp., £5.95, August 1985, 0 85635 599 2
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In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism 
edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane.
Virago, 291 pp., £11.95, October 1985, 0 86068 712 0
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The Essentials of Psychoanalysis 
by Sigmund Freud, edited by Anna Freud.
Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 595 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 7012 0720 5
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Freud and the Humanities 
edited by Peregrine Horden.
Duckworth, 186 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 7156 1983 7
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Freud for Historians 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.50, January 1986, 0 19 503586 0
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The Psychoanalytic Movement 
by Ernest Gellner.
Paladin, 241 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 586 08436 3
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The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 
by Leo Bersani.
Columbia, 126 pp., $17.50, April 1986, 0 231 06218 4
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... case, like Dora’s, unresolved. ‘Freud – Freude’. Helped by a compositor’s reckless id, Ernest Gellner goes further and writes of ‘Anna Fraud (once described by her father as his only son)’. If the parapraxis is unjust, the parenthesis, like much in The Psychoanalytic Movement, is crudely apt. Betrayed by schismatic disciples, Freud settled ...

Living within the truth

Onora O’Neill, 13 June 1991

The Political Responsibility of Intellectuals 
edited by Ian MacLean, Alan Montefiore and Peter Winch.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £27.50, December 1990, 0 521 39179 2
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... reason and morality – have betrayed them. This theme is broached in a fine introductory essay by Ernest Gellner, who offers an exemplary exposition of Julien Benda’s much mentioned but little read La Trahison des Clercs of 1928. Benda called intellectuals to task for deserting old standards of truth, objectivity and morality. But as ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... other hand, Paul Hyams hailed it as a blast of fresh air and the sort of book we need more of, and Ernest Gellner was equally enthusiastic about its intellectual daring. I thought it was a splendid piece of work: a small book with large implications. Moreover, in its main claims it was clearly right, and none of its critics have in the least disturbed its ...

The Experts

Adam Phillips, 22 December 1994

... trappings; wisdom as the tyranny of disingenuousness. ‘The concept of the unconscious,’ Ernest Gellner writes, ‘devalues both the individual’s autonomy and all inner rational compulsion, and the authority of evidence.’ Once we have language, desire, dream-work in the picture – rather than, say, insight, mastery and empiricism ...
Dark Continent: Europe’s 20th Century 
by Mark Mazower.
Penguin, 496 pp., £20, March 1998, 0 7139 9159 3
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... century Mazower describes, into fewer, more solid patches of relative ethnic homogeneity. As Ernest Gellner observed, the picture has gone ‘from Kokoschka to Modigliani’. But Mazower’s conclusions are grim indeed for those parts of the Balkans, such as Macedonia, which still have the Kokoschka ethnic mix. And what of the Baltic states and ...

Onward Muslim Soldiers

Malise Ruthven, 1 October 1981

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Deutsch, 399 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 233 97416 4
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Muslim Society 
by Ernest Gellner.
Cambridge, 267 pp., £18.50, June 1981, 0 521 22160 9
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... attach themselves to non-kinship groups, such as revolutionary brotherhoods. Islam, as Professor Gellner points out in this collection of his writings, is unique among world religions in ‘maintaining its pre-industrial faith in the modern world’: a feature which, when it combines with political aspirations, makes a potent agent of political mobilisation ...

What nations are for

Tom Nairn, 8 September 1994

The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994 
by Edward Said.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, July 1994, 0 7011 6135 3
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Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures 
by Edward Said.
Vintage, 90 pp., £4.99, July 1994, 0 09 942451 7
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... War over and over again. The obsessive undertow of Orientalism brought Said into conflict with Ernest Gellner. Reviewing a successor-volume, Culture and Imperialism, in the Times Literary Supplement, Gellner accused him of ‘inventing a bogy called Orientalism’ and attributing to it a far too pervasive cultural ...

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