An intriguing, if at times over-reaching work.

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THE VICTORY OF REASON

HOW CHRISTIANITY LED TO FREEDOM, CAPITALISM, AND WESTERN SUCCESS

A panoramic study of Western history, designed to draw a connection between Christianity and the rise of democracy and capitalism.

Stark (Social Sciences/Baylor Univ.) takes the reader on a selective tour of Western history. The title concept of reason is certainly brought up throughout, but it is overshadowed by the roles of Christianity and personal freedom. Stark begins with a question: What caused the West to take such a dominant role in world history? His answer is complex, and he opens by examining the role of Christianity, which facilitated a particularly forward-thinking and progressive worldview. It encouraged adherents to utilize reason in examining scripture and matters of theology. The Church’s positive view of human progress, coupled with reason, led to unparalleled advances in technology and science. Stark then moves on to the rise of capitalism, which he contends began within early monastic communities and came to fruition in Northern Italian city-states by about the 12th century. From Italy, capitalism spread to Northern Europe. Echoing modern libertarian authors, Stark points out that economic success was consistently born out of freer societies; command economies over the past two millennia may have often wielded power, but they did so at the expense of their people's well-being and of technological progress. These trends then spilled over into the New World. In making his arguments, Stark utilizes plenty of solid research. However, he also expands great effort on matters that get in the way of his point, such as devoting an entire chapter to convincing the reader that the “Dark Ages” were anything but dark.

An intriguing, if at times over-reaching work.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6228-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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