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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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... My architecture is about presence and absence.’ The lecture hall at the American Academy in Rome was dark and on the projection screen before us was an image of jagged fields of colour. The speaker, a black-clad young architect from New York, was delivering his Fellow’s Lecture. Since most of the previous lectures had been given by historians occupied with mapping the drainage ditches of ancient Pompeii or cataloguing the patronage of Renaissance door jambs, his rambling ‘deconstructivist’ reflections on modern buildings brought a nervous titter from the unknowing audience ...

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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... The modern social sciences were born out of modern political philosophy. Overtime, those sciences declared their independence one by one from the philosophical tradition, then tried to reshape it after their own image. The intimate relation between economics and Anglo-American liberal thought, now centuries old, offers a classic example. A similar story might be told on the Continent, though for different social sciences in different countries ...

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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... was Beccaria guilty of ‘rationalism’? Did Diderot’s and Lessing’s literary works really mark them as ‘unfeeling’ prophets of cultural ‘intolerance’? Did Voltaire’s despairing cry after the Lisbon earthquake, ‘il y a du mal sur la terre’, actually inspire others to plan mad utopias or ‘sacrifice themselves’ on the altar of ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 21 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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... general election that he believed Theresa May could dominate British politics for a generation. Mark Lilla, a professor at Columbia and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, wants the Democratic Party, which under Bill Clinton captured ‘Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny’, to abandon identity politics and help ...

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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... who did most to unmoor Western understandings of politics from Western understandings of God (what Mark Lilla nicely calls ‘the Great Separation’). Seen from this perspective, Hunt’s cursory treatment of Hobbes becomes somewhat less defensible. A final question that she prompts is why and how the idea of human rights appealed so powerfully and so ...

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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... and detestation of ‘social justice warriors’ unites figures as seemingly disparate as Mark Lilla, Steven Pinker, Elon Musk, Niall Ferguson and Jordan Peterson. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign confirmed, however, that socialist ideals exist, beyond the experience of communist tyranny, as what John Stuart Mill called ‘one of the most ...

Confronting Defeat

Perry Anderson: Hobsbawm’s Histories, 17 October 2002

... conceived early on as a trilogy, and the last, which is more self-standing, with features that mark it off from its predecessors. Covering the epoch from the French Revolution to the First World War, the trilogy follows a consistent scheme, classically Marxist in its logic: each volume begins with an account of the economic foundations of the period, then ...

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