The connecting theme of these essays, as in the case of earlier volumes, is the crucial social and political role--past, present and future--of ideas, and of their progenitors. A rich variety of subject-matters is represented--from philosophy to education, from Russia to Israel, from Marxism to romanticism--so that the truth of Heine's warning is exemplified on a broad front. It is a warning that Berlin often referred to, and provides an answer to those who ask, as from time to time they do, why intellectual history matters.
Among the contributions are "My Intellectual Path," Berlin's last essay, a retrospective autobiographical survey of his main preoccupations; and "Jewish Slavery and Emancipation," the classic statement of his Zionist views, long unavailable in print. His other subjects include the Enlightenment, Giambattista Vico, Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Herzen, G.V. Plekhanov, the Russian intelligentsia, the idea of liberty, political realism, nationalism, and historicism. The book exhibits the full range of his enormously wide expertise and demonstrates the striking and enormously engaging individuality, as well as the power, of his own ideas.
"Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilization."--Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty, 1958.
This new edition adds a number of previously uncollected pieces, including Berlin's earliest statement of the pluralism of values for which he is famous.
This new edition features a revised text that supplants all previous versions, English translations of the many passages in foreign languages, a new foreword in which Berlin biographer Michael Ignatieff explains the enduring appeal of Berlin's essay, and a new appendix that provides rich context, including excerpts from reviews and Berlin's letters, as well as a startling new interpretation of Archilochus's epigram.
Political Ideas in the Romantic Age is the only book in which the great intellectual historian Isaiah Berlin lays out in one continuous account most of his key insights about the period he made his own. Written for a series of lectures at Bryn Mawr College in 1952, and heavily revised and expanded by Berlin afterward, the book argues that the political ideas of 1760-1830 are still largely ours, down to the language and metaphors they are expressed in. Berlin provides a vivid account of some of the era’s most influential thinkers, including Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel, Helvetius, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, and Schelling. Written in Berlin’s characteristically accessible style, this is his longest single text. Distilling his formative early work and containing much that is not to be found in his famous essays, the book is of great interest both for what it reveals about the continuing influence of Romantic political thinking and for what it shows about the development of Berlin’s own influential thought.
The book has been carefully prepared by Berlin's longtime editor Henry Hardy, and Joshua L. Cherniss provides an illuminating introduction that sets it in the context of Berlin's life and work.
This new edition, illustrated for the first time, also features a new foreword by philosopher John Gray, in which he discusses Berlin's belief that the influence of romanticism has been unpredictable and contradictory in the extreme, fuelling anti-liberal political movements but also reinvigorating liberalism; a revised text; and a new appendix that includes some of Berlin's correspondence about the lectures and the reactions to them.