Friday, 28 January 2011

Lucinda's Reading Challenge: Philosophy Section

I'm blogging from a secret holiday
location and although poolside
might not be the most appropriate
place for a heavyweight piece of
political philosophy, I can't deny
that there are advantages to
reading this book in an environment
isolated from media bombardment.
John Gray's Black Mass is a thought
provoking and serious examination
of historical (Bolshevik Revolution)
and contemporary (War on Terror)
examples of Utopian ideology driving flawed policy.
Eh? I did warn you it was a dense read. He sets out his stall in very convincing manner: human societies across the globe have repeatedly sought a post-apocalyptic Utopia with generally disastrous consequences. This is more than a simple 'the grass will be greener over the hill' doctrine - the idea that we are wedded to thinking that the old must be swept away and obliterated first is a scary prospect and yet John Gray provides ample back up to his claim that left and right, religious and secular movements all appear doomed to follow this hopeful path into folly. I like the fact that Gray tries very hard to remain impartial and even when he does offer a more polarised position (such as some of his assertions about the motives and consequences of the Iraq invasion) a lot of it has probably drifted towards mainstream thinking anyway! More crucially, I managed to follow all his arguments pretty easily - with one caveat - being a piece of highbrow thinking, knowledge of political history is assumed along with some expert terminology (thank goodness for internet dictionaries). Well worth the challenge - and I hope that upon my return, I shall be able to turn a more informed eye to any Chilcot Enquiry editorials! Oh - more good news: the positives I took from Karen Armstrong's 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life can co-exist quite happily alongside this piece. Her approach calls for individuals to change - not for any political or institutional directive to impose a regime. Next up: Richard Sennett's The Crafstman, which may turn out to be the perfect holiday read...'what motivates us to work'. But right now, I'm off to catch a water taxi to the beach.

No comments: