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A tour de force of scholarly passion, sheer intellectual perseverance and a very personal commitment. Professor Barrows' mammoth primer on political thought in the Western world is set in the form of a class struggle- though without the customary party line dialectics- ""of a long contest between members and leaders for control over organizational doctrine"", and it is grounded on the assumption that ""events, now obviously going on, have been going on since antiquity"". Thus we have ""truth, falsity, heresy, orthodoxy tumbling over one another in a style half-tragic and half-absurd"" from the Greeks onward. The professor's style is nowhere as sleek and spirited as Brinton or Mueller; it is nearer to Will Durant's and sometimes gets moored in mountains of material. Moreover, his essential bent towards the progressive and optimistic leads to some bloopers, such as that ""the whole of modern history is a record of catastrophic defeat for right-wing politics"" from the popes who lost to the imperialists who are losing; that totalitarianism today is just as much, if not more, tied with the Left as with the Right, seems to leave him unmoved. Also he soft-soaps the ambiguities and contradictions of socialism and its future. Nevertheless, studded throughout are assessments of Socrates, Augustine, Henry VII, Joan of Arc, Luther, Copernicus, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Marx and Darwin, along with blossoming discussions on religious schisms, ideological war whoops, the transformation radical into reactionary and vice-versa, and the conflicting claims of the supernatural and scientific. The scale is, spectacular.

Publisher: Knopf