The Shipwrecked Mind

The Shipwrecked Mind

On Political Reaction

Book - 2016
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"We don't understand the reactionary mind. As a result, argues Mark Lilla in this timely book, the ideas and passions that shape today's political dramas are unintelligible to us. The reactionary is anything but a conservative. He is as radical and modern a figure as the revolutionary, someone shipwrecked inthe rapidly changing present, and suffering from nostalgia for an idealized past and an apocalyptic fear that history is rushing toward catastrophe. And like the revolutionary his political engagements are motived by highly developed ideas. Lilla unveils the structure of reactionary thinking, beginning with three twentieth-century philosophers--Franz Rosenzweig, Eric Voegelin, and Leo Strauss --who attributed the problems of modern society to a break in the history of ideas and promoted a return to earlier modes of thought. He then examines the enduring power of grand historical narratives of betrayal to shape political outlooks ever since the French Revolution. These narratives are employed to serve different, and sometimes expressly opposed, ends. They appear in the writings of Europe's right-wing cultural pessimists and Maoist neocommunists, American theoconservatives fantasizing about the harmony of medieval Catholic society and radical Islamists seeking to restore a vanished Muslim caliphate. The revolutionary spirit that inspired political movements across the world for two centuries may have died out. But the spirit of reaction that rose to meet it has survived and is proving just as formidable a historical force. We live in an age when thetragicomic nostalgia of Don Quixote for a lost golden age has been transformed into a potent and sometimes deadly weapon. Mark Lilla helps us to understand why"--
Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, [2016]
ISBN: 9781590179024
Branch Call Number: 320.01 LILLA
Characteristics: xxi, 145 pages ; 21 cm


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May 08, 2017

This is a make work piece that neither addresses the subject it claims to address nor advances our understanding of the era of political reaction we are currently enduring. Academics often take sabbaticals in attractive locations on the promise of producing research work of substance, and having wiled away the time, gather together odds and ends they vainly try to assemble into a coherent whole. As is often the case, they fail to do so successfully, which seems to be what has occurred in this case. This is an incoherent ramble that includes past articles and book reviews. How a professor in the USA can address political reaction without actually examining the decades of Koch Brothers' driven political reaction in their own country is beyond me. What about the Tea Party? What about the attacks on the university/academic community by David Horowitz, and other Koch and their billionaire colleagues' initiatives? This scant book just obfuscates the subject. The shipwrecked mind of this piece is that of the author. Save your time and read something serious on a subject of real concern.


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