In these early modern sources, Nacol contends, we see three crucial developments in thought on risk and politics. While early modern thinkers differentiated uncertainty about the future from probabilistic calculations of risk, they remained attentive to the ways uncertainty and risk remained in a conceptual tangle, a problem that constrained good decision making. They developed sophisticated theories of trust and credit as crucial background conditions for prudent risk-taking, and offered complex depictions of the relationships and behaviors that would make risk-taking more palatable. They also developed two narratives that persist in subsequent accounts of risk—risk as a threat to security, and risk as an opportunity for profit. Looking at how these narratives are entwined in early modern thought, Nacol locates the origins of our own ambivalence about risk-taking. By the end of the eighteenth century, she argues, a new type of political actor would emerge from this ambivalence, one who approached risk with fear rather than hope.
By placing a fresh lens on early modern writing, An Age of Risk demonstrates how new and evolving orientations toward risk influenced approaches to politics and commerce that continue to this day.
“Its theme is political fanaticism, with which it deals severely and brilliantly.” —New Yorker
A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer—the first and most famous of his books—was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.
Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., this landmark in the field of social psychology is completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today as it delivers a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.