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Power of Ideas
ISBN 069105018X / 9780691050188 / 0-691-05018-X
Publisher Princeton University Press
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Winner of the Erasmus, Lippencott, and Agnelli Prizes for intellectual history the late Isaiah Berlin is--or ought to be--as highly regarded outside intellectual circles as he is inside. The now classic Four Essays on Liberty alone might have ensured his seat in the republic of letters; the sum of his works guarantee it. The Power of Ideas is a collection of shorter, easily accessible essays selected and edited by Henry Hardy, (one of Berlin's literary trustees) and intended for newcomers.
The social and political power of ideas is the general theme connecting such seemingly diverse topics as the Enlightenment, German Romanticism, historical necessity, value pluralism, Zionism and the Russian Intelligentsia (to name but a few). Berlin's wonderfully clear prose makes him an intellectual historian for lay folk and professionals alike; an historian whose greatest strength lies in his ability to bring ideas and people to life. Giambattista Vico, Alexander Herzen and Vissarion Berlinsky are, once met, never forgotten figures.
Woody Allen once said that if writers were food, then Tolstoy is a full meal with a vitamin pill and extra wheatgerm. Think of the bite-size essays in The Power of Ideas as a tantalising starter. Try The Roots of Romanticism, Against the Current, or the recently republished Three Critics of the Enlightenment for the main course. Those familiar with Berlin's work will find much to enjoy though little that is new in a book ideally suited to newcomers. --Larry Brown [via]