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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 in the 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 motivated by highly developed ideas. Lilla begins 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 since the French Revolution, and shows how these narratives are employed 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 the tragicomic 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.
European history of the past century is full of examples of philosophers, writers, and scholars who supported or excused the worst tyrannies of the age. How was this possible? How could intellectuals whose work depends on freedom defend those who would deny it? In profiles of six leading twentieth-century thinkers—Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Alexandre Kojève, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida—Mark Lilla explores the psychology of political commitment. As continental Europe gave birth to two great ideological systems in the twentieth century, communism and fascism, it also gave birth to a new social type, the philotyrannical intellectual. Lilla shows how these thinkers were not only grappling with enduring philosophical questions, they were also writing out of their own experiences and passions. These profiles demonstrate how intellectuals can be driven into a political sphere they scarcely understand, with momentous results. In a new afterword, Lilla traces how the intellectual world has changed since the end of the cold war. The ideological passions of the past have been replaced in the West, he argues, by a dogma of individual autonomy and freedom that both obscures the historical forces at work in the present and sanctions ignorance about them, leaving us ill-equipped to understand those who are inflamed by the new global ideologies of our time.
Quietly Courageous offers practical guidance to leaders—both lay and ordained—on leading churches today. It encourages leaders to focus on their mission and purpose—what is ultimately motivating their work. It also urges a shift in perspectives on resources, discusses models of change, and offers suggestions for avoiding common pitfalls.
For nearly forty years, Ronald Reagan’s vision—small government, lower taxes, and self-reliant individualism—has remained America’s dominant political ideology. The Democratic Party has offered no truly convincing competing vision. Instead, American liberalism has fallen under the spell of identity politics. Mark Lilla argues with acerbic wit that liberals, originally driven by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, have now unwittingly invested their energies in social movements rather than winning elections. This abandonment of political priorities has had dire consequences. But, with the Republican Party led by an unpredictable demagogue and in ideological disarray, Lilla believes liberals now have an opportunity to turn from the divisive politics of identity, and offer positive ideas for a shared future. A fiercely-argued, no-nonsense book, The Once and Future Liberal is essential reading for our momentous times.
Explains how bold efforts at profound progressive change provoked a powerful reactionary backlash that led to the imposition of brutal, regressive dictatorships.
This book seeks to address the relation of political philosophy and Donald Trump as a political phenomenon through the notions of patriotism, cosmopolitanism, and civic virtue. Political philosophers have been prescient in explaining trends that may explain our political misgivings. Madison warned during the debates on the Constitution that democracies are vulnerable to factions based on passion for personalities and beliefs; various continental thinkers have addressed the problem of nihilism—the modern loss of faith in objective standards of truth and morality—that in Max Weber’s analysis pointed to the importance of charisma, in Carl Schmitt’s to the idea that politics is essentially rooted in the definition of friends and enemies, and in early Heidegger resulted in the emphasis on the enduring significance of local, rather than cosmopolitan values. The former concerns—regarding demagoguery, charisma and nihilism—will enable an evaluation of Trump as a political character, while the latter concerns—regarding the status of universal versus local values—will enable us to evaluate the content of “Trumpism.” Taken together, these essays seek to advance the public conversation about the relationship between the rise of Trump and the ideological forces that seek to justify that rise.
Important American periodical dating back to 1850.

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