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6 August 1992
... If you are already aware of John Gray (1866-1934), you may well have a particular interest in the 1890s, or in certain aspects of Catholicism.* You may have fleetingly met the name in period biographies – Beardsley’s, Yeats’s, Wilde’s. Wasn’t Gray supposed to be model for ‘Dorian’? Or you may simply have come across an extraordinary poem called ‘The Flying Fish’, which more than anything has roused and tantalised curiosity ...

The Catastrophist

Malcolm Bull: The Apostasies of John Gray

1 November 2007
Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia 
by John Gray.
Allen Lane, 243 pp., £18.99, July 2007, 978 0 7139 9915 0
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... historical question. Sometimes, however, there are simple explanations for complex events, and John Gray has one to offer: ‘Modern politics is a chapter in the history of religion.’ This might appear a sweeping generalisation, but, for Gray, seemingly diverse historical phenomena are manifestations of a ...

Ecoluxury

John Gray

20 April 1995
The Fading of the Greens: The Decline of Environmental Politics in the West 
by Anna Bramwell.
Yale, 224 pp., £18.95, September 1994, 0 300 06040 8
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The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature’s Debt to Society 
by Andrew Ross.
Verso, 308 pp., £18.95, October 1994, 0 86091 429 1
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Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism 
by Martin Lewis.
Duke, 288 pp., $12.95, February 1994, 0 8223 1474 6
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... The new conventional wisdom has it that environmentalist movements emerge in post-materialist cultures, along with a sense of economic satiety. They are creatures of economic growth, conceived in urban environments in the wake of consumer affluence; in peasant economies, or in the newly industrialising countries, we don’t find anything resembling Western concern with the integrity of the environment ...

We simply do not know!

John Gray: Keynes

19 November 2009
Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism 
by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller.
Princeton, 230 pp., £16.95, February 2009, 978 0 691 14233 3
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... The last two years, in which capitalism has suffered one of its periodic shocks, have given John Maynard Keynes a new lease of life. Events have demonstrated the limits of the theory that economies can be relied on to be stable if they are lightly regulated and otherwise left to themselves. There is now much talk of the paradox of thrift, whereby the rational choices of individuals can prove collectively ruinous, and of the need for government to counteract the inherently anarchic tendencies of markets ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future

22 April 2010
The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... These moves were not without precedent: Neil Kinnock had fought hard-left factionalism, while John Smith had abolished the union block vote. Blair was more systematic in his reforms, installing a version of democratic centralism under the guidance of Peter Mandelson. Where he diverged from his predecessors was in his objective, which was to continue ...
12 July 1990
Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... resurrected for some time to come. Coincident with the end of socialism in any meaningful sense, John Gray tells us that ‘a liberal political philosophy is an impossibility,’ and Ted Honderich announces that Conservatism is a nullity. If both of them are right and can be taken at face value, there does not seem to be much left. Dr ...

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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... Recent discussion of the Soviet collapse, even when not echoing the shallow triumphalism of Western conservatives and neo-liberals, 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 nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomising the rest of society ...

Progressive, like the 1980s

John Gray: Farewell Welfare State

21 October 2010
... to deal with its consequences. He may justify passing over Ed Balls and appointing Blairite Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor as part of a process of renewal in which internecine rivalries are left behind; but the decision looks more like a continuation of such rivalry, with Miliband determined to avoid a threat to his leadership of the kind Brown posed to ...

On the Coalition

LRB Contributors

10 June 2010
... Stalinist stalwart of the CPGB, later authoritarian and ever-loyal Blairite home secretary, John Reid. An hour later, as I’m leaving, the following conversation takes place: Reid: Halloo. Me: Glad you jumped ship in time? Reid: I left after Blair resigned. Last three years and Broon a total disaster. Me: I agree. But you think Blair would have ...
4 November 1993
Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 195 pp., £19.99, June 1993, 0 415 09297 3
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... and in many areas health indicators have collapsed to Third World levels or worse. The thesis of John Gray’s new book is that Green movements in the West have yet to come to terms with the implications of the socialist environmental disaster, and that when they do, they will turn naturally to ideas associated with the conservative defence of free ...
10 November 1994
Eternal Russia: Yeltsin, Gorbachev and the Mirage of Democracy 
by Jonathan Steele.
Faber, 288 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16368 8
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Post-Communist Societies in Transition 
by John Gray.
Social Market Foundation, 45 pp., £8, February 1994, 1 874097 30 5
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... institutions are debated more widely and more knowledgeably. Both Jonathan Steele’s book and John Gray’s essay sharpen a critique which has so far been fragmentary and diffuse. They articulate deeply-felt arguments against the type of reform Russia is undergoing and warn of the dangers of social upheaval if it continues in the same way. Both ...

Don’t Just Do Something, Talk

Slavoj Žižek: the financial crisis

10 October 2008
... are forced to make choices without having the knowledge that would enable us to make them; or, as John Gray has put it: ‘We are forced to live as if we were free.’ Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that, although there is a growing consensus among economists that any bailout based on Henry Paulson’s plan won’t work, ‘it is impossible for ...
24 November 1994
The Principle of Duty 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 288 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 1 85619 474 4
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... trumpet against the yobbo Left; President Clinton bought a copy when he visited Oxford in June, John Patten praised it, the Home Secretary says Selbourne has proved conclusively that Tony Blair cannot turn the Labour Party into a ‘civic’ party, and so, more or less endlessly, on. What has got into editors, politicians and the public? A variety of ...

Unpranked Lyre

John Mullan: The Laziness of Thomas Gray

13 December 2001
Thomas GrayA Life 
by Robert Mack.
Yale, 718 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 300 08499 4
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... It is said that, the night before the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759, General Wolfe read Gray’s Elegy aloud to his officers as they crossed the St Lawrence River. ‘I would rather have been the author of that piece than beat the French tomorrow,’ he is supposed to have said. Presumably his men didn’t suddenly start to worry that they were being led into combat by some absurd literary connoisseur ...

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