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Societies

Perry Anderson, 6 July 1989

A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. II: Substantive Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 493 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 521 24959 7
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... Under a flat, anonymous title and in serial guise one of the most exotic – even flamboyant – intellectual projects of recent years is coming to fruition. The first volume of W.G. Runciman’s Treatise on Social Theory, devoted to the dry topic of methodology, set out in reasonable and moderate tones an agenda for social understanding combining – in so many words – ambitions of a Ranke, a Comte, a Proust and a Hart: to report accurately, to explain scientifically, to re-create imaginatively, and to judge impartially and benevolently ...

England’s Isaiah

Perry Anderson, 20 December 1990

The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas 
by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy.
Murray, 276 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 9780719547898
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... Intellectual hero to Noel Annan, whose political heroine is Margaret Thatcher, should Isaiah Berlin be left to the – ‘unfashionable’ – enthusiasms of Our Age? Or consigned to the plaudits that have broken out for his latest volume from the Spectator to the New Statesman? He himself strikes a more modest note. ‘I talk about other people. I examine their views ...

High Jinks at the Plaza

Perry Anderson, 22 October 1992

The British Constitution Now 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Heinemann, 289 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 47994 2
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Constitutional Reform 
by Robert Brazier.
Oxford, 172 pp., £22.50, September 1991, 0 19 876257 7
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Anatomy of Thatcherism 
by Shirley Letwin.
Fontana, 364 pp., £6.99, October 1992, 0 00 686243 8
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... Constitutional theorists who wish to hold our attention must charm as well as instruct; this is not so, I think, in other countries,’ writes Ferdinand Mount. Who better to illustrate the claim? Few figures in the world of English letters possess such a combination of credentials. Author of a number of novels; columnist or leader-writer for half of the nation’s press, with a record of service from the Sketch to the Spectator; champion of family values; political counsellor at Downing Street: the editor of the Times Literary Supplement seems the ideal candidate for the task in hand ...

An Entire Order Converted into What It Was Intended to End

Perry Anderson: Italy’s Decline, 26 February 2009

La Casta: Cosi i Politici Italiani sono Diventati Intoccabili 
by Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella.
Rizzoli, 285 pp., €18, May 2007, 978 88 17 01714 5
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La Deriva: Perche l’Italia Rischia il Naufragio 
by Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella.
Rizzoli, 342 pp., €19.50, May 2008, 978 88 17 02562 1
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... In 1992-94 Italy was widely held to have been reborn. The parties that had long ruled – latterly misruled – the country were all but wiped out, after their corruption had been exposed by a fearless group of magistrates, in an election under a new and, so it was felt, more functional system, even if the government that emerged from the polls was a surprise to many who celebrated the end of the old regime ...

Witchcraft

Perry Anderson, 8 November 1990

Storia Notturna: Una Decifrazione del Sabba 
by Carlo Ginzburg.
Einaudi, 320 pp., lire 45,000, August 1989, 9788806115098
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... Carlo Ginzburg has many claims to be considered the outstanding European historian of the generation which came of age in the late Sixties. Certainly few have equalled him in originality, variety and audacity. He made his debut with a spectacular discovery: the first, and still only, documented case of a magical fertility and funerary cult in the countryside of Early Modern Europe, the trances of the Benandanti in Friuli, stumbled upon unawares by the Roman Inquisition ...

Maurice Thomson’s War

Perry Anderson, 4 November 1993

Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict and London’s Overseas Traders 1550-1653 
by Robert Brenner.
Cambridge, 734 pp., £40, March 1993, 0 521 37319 0
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The Nature of the English Revolution 
by John Morrill.
Longman, 466 pp., £32, June 1993, 0 582 08941 7
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... The English Civil War occupies a strange niche in contemporary memory. To all official appearances, no episode of the country’s modern past is so parenthetical. Leaving no reputable trace in common traditions or public institutions, it looks in established retrospect like a temporary black-out in the growth of the national psyche. Our only republic remains under ban, a historical freak ...

The Dark Side of Brazilian Conviviality

Perry Anderson, 24 November 1994

... Brazil today has a larger population and gross national product than Yeltsin’s Russia. Yet, against all reason, it continues to occupy a curiously marginal position in the contemporary historical consciousness. In 15 years it has left virtually no trace in these pages. Popular images, despite increasing tourism, remain scanty: folk-villains on the run, seasonal parades in fancy-dress, periodic football triumphs ...

The Europe to Come

Perry Anderson, 25 January 1996

The Rotten Heart of Europe 
by Bernard Connolly.
Faber, 427 pp., £17.50, September 1995, 0 571 17520 1
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Orchestrating Europe: The Informal Politics of European Union 1973-93 
by Keith Middlemas.
Fontana, 821 pp., £27.50, November 1995, 0 00 255678 2
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... On New Year’s Day 1994, Europe – the metonym – changed names. The dozen nations of the Community took on the title of Union, though as in a Spanish wedding, the new did not replace but encompassed the old. Was anything of substance altered? So far, very little. The member states have risen to 15, with the entry of three former neutrals. Otherwise things are much as they were before ...

Under the Sign of the Interim

Perry Anderson, 4 January 1996

The European Rescue of the Nation-State 
by Alan Milward.
Routledge, 506 pp., £17.99, May 1994, 0 415 11133 1
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The Frontier of National Sovereignty: History and Theory 1945-1992 
by Alan Milward.
Routledge, 248 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 415 11784 4
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Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence 
by François Duchêne.
Norton, 278 pp., $35, January 1995, 0 393 03497 6
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... Mathematically, the European Union today represents the largest single unit in the world economy. It has a nominal GNP of about six trillion dollars, compared with five trillion for the US and three trillion for Japan. Its total population, now over 360 million, approaches that of the United States and Japan combined. Yet in political terms such magnitudes continue to be virtual reality ...

Peace without Empire

Perry Anderson, 2 December 2021

Conquering Peace: From the Enlightenment to the European Union 
by Stella Ghervas.
Harvard, 528 pp., £31.95, March, 978 0 674 97526 2
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... In a period​ of general ideological conformity in Western Europe, a pensée unique disturbed but not really discarded under the blows of 2008 and 2020, the once communist states of Eastern Europe have produced some of the most creative and independent minds in the EU and its borderlands. Among these exceptions to the drift of the time could be numbered such different figures as Dmitri Furman of Russia, Gáspár Tamás of Hungary and Slavoj Žižek of Yugoslavia, born in the 1940s; Jan Zielonka of Poland, born in the 1950s; and Ivan Krastev of Bulgaria in the 1960s ...

Nation-States and National Identity

Perry Anderson, 9 May 1991

The Identity of France. Vol. II: People and Production 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sian Reynolds.
Collins, 781 pp., £25, December 1990, 0 00 217774 9
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... The most renowned historian of his time. Fernand Braudel owed his international reputation to the two great volumes on the Mediterranean in the age of Philip II which he published in 1949, and to his trilogy on the material civilisation of world capitalism, which appeared between 1967 and 1979. He died a few months before the first volumes of his incomplete final work came out in 1986 ...

The Intransigent Right at the End of the Century

Perry Anderson, 24 September 1992

Rationalism in Politics, and Other Essays 
by Michael Oakeshott, edited by Timothy Fuller.
Liberty, 556 pp., $24, October 1991, 0 86597 094 7
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... A few months alter the fall of Margaret Thatcher, the most original thinker of post-war Conservatism died. Perhaps partly because of the commotion caused by the change of national leadership, the passing of Michael Oakeshott did not attract much public notice. Even the Spectator, which might have been expected to mark the event with a full salute, ignored it for half a year, before carrying a curiously distracted piece by its editor, reporting strange losses in the philosopher’s papers, without so much as mentioning his political ideas ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... Carlo Ginzburg became famous as a historian for extraordinary discoveries about popular belief, and what was taken by its persecutors to be witchcraft, in the early modern period. The Night Battles and The Cheese and the Worms, each a case-study from the north-east corner of Italy, were followed by a synthesis of Eurasian sweep in Ecstasies. The work that has appeared since is no less challenging, but there has been a significant alteration of its forms, and many of its themes ...

Dégringolade

Perry Anderson: The Fall of France, 2 September 2004

La France qui tombe 
by Nicolas Baverez.
Perrin, 134 pp., €5.50, January 2004, 2 262 02163 5
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La Face cachée du ‘Monde’: Du contre-pouvoir aux abus de pouvoir 
by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen.
Mille et Une Nuits, 631 pp., €24, February 2003, 2 84205 756 2
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... France is, of all European countries, the most difficult for any foreigner to write about. Its intractability is a function, in the first instance, of the immense output on their society produced by the French themselves, on a scale undreamt of elsewhere. Seventy titles just on the electoral campaign of spring 2002. Two hundred books on Mitterrand. Three thousand on De Gaulle ...

An Invertebrate Left

Perry Anderson, 12 March 2009

... The Italian left was once the largest and most impressive popular movement for social change in Western Europe. Comprising two mass parties, each with its own history and culture, and each committed not to ameliorating but to overcoming capitalism, the postwar alliance between Socialists and Communists, the PSI and PCI, did not survive the boom of the 1950s ...

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