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Against Passion

James Meek: Passionate Politics, 30 November 2017

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 160 pp., £19, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction 
by Mark Lilla.
NYRB, 166 pp., £9.99, September 2016, 978 1 59017 902 4
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... you don’t like that’s fighting for its interests as fiercely as yours does? Or is it, as Mark Lilla puts it in The Once and Future Liberal, ‘a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition’? The book belongs to the genre of responses to Donald Trump’s election in which liberal American academics ...

Pseuds’ Skyscraper

Mark Lilla, 5 June 1997

The Ethical Function of Architecture 
by Karsten Harries.
MIT, 414 pp., £29.95, January 1997, 0 262 08252 7
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... of the church, the other with individual sentences culled from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. His remarks were incomprehensible to me, but the perfectly clad and coiffed students took it all in, scribbling away furiously in perfect notebooks with perfect pens. Architectural theory is now a vast enterprise, not a small pseuds’ corner like academic literary ...

Separation Anxiety

David Hollinger: God and Politics, 24 January 2008

The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West 
by Mark Lilla.
Knopf, 334 pp., $26, September 2007, 978 1 4000 4367 5
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... door is to ask me to expel the Holy Spirit from my life when I serve as a congressman,’ declares Mark Souder, a conservative Republican from Indiana, ‘and that I will not do.’ Such affirmations of the legitimacy of religion in the civic sphere are increasingly common in the United States, even among liberal democrats stung by accusations of secularist ...

The Sober Science

Mark Lilla, 20 April 1995

German Ideology: From France to Germany and Back 
by Louis Dumont.
Chicago, 259 pp., £25.95, March 1995, 0 226 16952 9
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... itself stalled between hierarchy and individualism, barbarism can result. Dumont’s cryptic remarks about totalitarianism were not made casually. He had spent much of the Second World War in a German POW camp, where he learned both Sanskrit and German, and refers obliquely to this experience when discussing the development of his research. Although he ...

History Man

John Robertson, 4 November 1993

G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern 
by Mark Lilla.
Harvard, 225 pp., £29.95, April 1993, 0 674 33962 2
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The Rehabilitation of Myth: Vico’s ‘New Science’ 
by Joseph Mali.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £35, September 1992, 0 521 41952 2
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... years on, the strength of Berlin’s interpretation continues to be evident in the new books by Mark Lilla and Joseph Mali, both of which range Vico against the Enlightenment. Both writers are, however, aware of recent Italian scholarship on Vico, which has in the same period taken a more specifically historical direction. They differ from Berlin over ...

The trouble with the Enlightenment

Mark Lilla, 6 January 1994

The Magus of the North: J.G. Hamann and the Origins of Modern Irrationalism 
by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy.
Murray, 144 pp., £14.99, October 1993, 0 7195 5312 1
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... the opposition between the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment, it offers us yet another remarkably vivid portrait of an important thinker, in an essay form which Berlin has perfected. As in his portrait of Vico, he once again shows us how a philosopher forgotten shortly after his time managed to anticipate (in Vico’s case) or indirectly influence ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 20 September 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism 
by Edward Luce.
Little, Brown, 240 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 4087 1041 8
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The Fate of the West: Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea 
by Bill Emmott.
Economist, 257 pp., £22, May 2017, 978 1 61039 780 3
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The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 
by David Goodhart.
Hurst, 256 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 799 9
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 143 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam 
by Douglas Murray.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 4729 4224 1
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... of Anglo-America that hosted, post-1989, the noisiest celebrations of liberalism, democracy, free markets and globalisation. Bill Emmott, the former editor of the Economist, writes that ‘the fear now is of being present at the destruction' of the ‘West’, the ‘world’s most successful political idea’. Edward Luce, for example, a Financial Times ...

From Lying to Leering

Rebecca Solnit: Penis Power, 19 January 2017

... of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome,’ Mark Lilla wrote in the New York Times, ‘is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end,’ and he condemned Clinton for calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop. ‘This,’ he said, ‘was ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment, 15 November 2007

Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... that ‘autonomy and empathy are cultural practices.’ They have histories, and both changed remarkably during the 18th century. Which is where the novels come in. Happily, Hunt does not depend solely on novels to make her point, and rapidly sketches in a much broader cultural background. She draws on Norbert Elias, and his story of the ‘ever-rising ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights, 21 June 2018

The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... on Iraq, Michael Ignatieff recommended in 2003 a new American empire whose ‘grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known’. The United States, Power asserted as Obama’s nominee for US ambassador to the United Nations in 2013, ‘is the greatest country on Earth’, and ...

Confronting Defeat

Perry Anderson: Hobsbawm’s Histories, 17 October 2002

... yet acute sense of regional difference; polymathic fluency, equally at ease with crops and stock markets, nations and classes, statesmen and peasants, sciences and arts; breadth of sympathies for disparate social agents; power of analytic narrative; and not least a style of remarkable clarity and energy, whose signature is ...

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