A book of profound substance that challenges many pet beliefs and illustrates the dark side of “progress.”



A dissertation that explores the astonishing gains in science and politics during the past two or three centuries, arguing that such progress brought a simultaneous decline in traditional values such as religion, art, education, morality, and philosophy.

O’Hear (Philosophy/Univ. of Bradford) writes of the tensions between the apostles of Enlightenment materialism and progress versus people who have a strong respect for tradition, order, local roots, and religious beliefs. The Enlightenment’s fundamental themes of the pursuit of pleasure and elimination of pain have dominated the thinking of recent centuries. O’Hear views Socrates as an Enlightenment philosopher who questioned the Athenian culture so strongly that the Olympian gods could not survive. He reviews the opinions of philosophers of the Enlightenment and looks at the famous rationalists (Darwin, Marx, and Freud) as false gods hiding behind pseudoscientific facades. He supports the position of Darwin’s contemporary Wallace that our rationality, pursuit of knowledge, moral and religious sense, and love of beauty could not possibly be explained in terms of survival theory. Wallace found Darwin’s conclusions unconvincing and not remotely plausible, and O’Hear rejects the idea that humans are mere gene-survival machines or proven decedents of lower forms. He sees Marxist materialism as a crude and dishonest interpretation of history and capital, and he considers centralized planning to be one of the worst legacies of Enlightenment thinking still remaining in the politics of today. Freud purported to offer a scientific explanation for human behavior in his speculation that we are subject to strong, hidden psychic pressures that must be released. This theory allows little room for free will and civilized restraint. O’Hear concludes that religious optimism (of the sort offered by the Judeo-Christian tradition) gives hope and urges the maintenance of tested old values such as honor, virtue, religion, and family.

A book of profound substance that challenges many pet beliefs and illustrates the dark side of “progress.”

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-58234-040-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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