Britain’s greatest political historian and scientist shows HOW politics works. Wittily and clearly written, this unique book is the best introduction to the art and the science of politics for the student, the novice and the simply bemused.
Politics is inevitably disappointing. Why is this so?
Politics is important and obscure and difficult? Must it be so?
How can anyone even begin to understand politics?
In fact, why bother to try to understand it at all?
This, possibly the first genuinely, unblinkingly honest book about politics, endeavours to answer all these questions. The Cunning of Unreason shirks nothing, no aspect of political thought or theory. It explains first in the abstract (what is politics? etc.) and then makes this concrete, tying the ideas into a fascinating re-interpretation of Thatcher’s Britain. Dunn shows how this lasted and then fell apart, in all its complexity. The focus then becomes more general, spanning ideas of state, judgment, corruption, democracy and its failings, economics, markets, etc, etc. The final part is one of consolidation: what is political science; what are the implications of our and the world’s current political situation and how can we use this knowledge to choose better?
Very much part of the tradition of great political writing, of Aristotle, Machiavelli and Hobbes, The Cunning of Unreason offers a deeply penetrating study of the science and reality of all political structures.
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Why politics? A disingenuous question, perhaps, but John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory at King's College, Cambridge, succeeds in spinning the conceit over more than three hundred pages of closely reasoned, stimulating supposition. Matching a stridently jaunty tone to typically Oxbridge dissembling, he disarms potential cynics with his admission that politics can be a "vaguely degrading" profession that constantly disappoints, while being "blatantly unfit for gentlemen--let alone gentlewomen". However, he also allows that it can be noble, while noting that no system of human authority is more noble than the human beings who exercise it.
The initial overview builds on abstract visions of rule and political understanding, and the collision between human purposes, drawing on Aristotle, Locke, Marx, Adam Smith, Max Weber and, most appreciatively, Thomas Hobbes. Dunn applies his broad brush with deft strokes, and it's for the most part fluent, discursive writing. The middle eight, a consideration of the significant political and economic shifts during the Thatcher years, treads on more swampy ground. He proposes that the British populous was more repulsed by Labour than attracted by the Tories; a case of omission rather than commission. Thatcher, a political "dominatrix", personally interpreted her electorate, and sought to communicate what seems with hindsight more a response than a considered ideology. The subsequent Just War to systematically refashion the economy to be internationally competitive saw economism far outstrip political advances, a disparity through selective radicalism also addressed in Larry Siedentop's Democracy in Europe. The later chapters drift around more general issues, centred on the capitalist legacy of recent history, "a low dishonest quarter of a century" according to Dunn. If Harold Wilson's week was a long time in politics, this era of "globalisation" has been an eternity. But politics can still surprise. Demonstrations of public protest can wrest back power from those who may have lost sight of their elective mission. Politics may elude precise definition, but Dunn's skilful analysis provides an illuminating, and enjoyable, blazed trail through the gloom. --David VincentFrom the Back Cover:
Politics today is as baffling as ever, raiding far more questions than it answer. The luminaries of political thought – Aristotle to Machiavelli, Marx to Weber – shine through history like beacons but what do they mean to politics today? Has its nature changed profoundly? Have we ever even begun to truly understand it? What does politics mean and how does it work? John Dunn, one of Britain's most eminent and imaginative political thinkers, has written a unique book, a guide through this difficult terrain. Clearly and wittily written, 'The Cunning of Unreason' explains why politics is important, yet almost inevitably disappointing and, vitally, how we can comprehend it.
Covering politics' every aspect, Dunn explains political ideas first in the abstract and then ties them into a fascinating portrait (and reinterpretation) of Thatcher's Britain. He shows why this peculiar and very fraught experiment lasted for so long and then fell apart so thoroughly, leaving intact most of the problems it strove to remedy. He shows how the same forces which made Mrs Thatcher possible and her failure all but inevitable play out in the politics of every country in the world today; but why current political science can offer so little support to the economic and military elites throughout the world, struggling to maintain their political power. Spanning ideas of state, judgement, corruption, democracy and its failings, economics and markets, 'The Cunning of Unreason' asks what the implications of our world's current political situation really are and how we can use this knowledge to choose better.
Very much in the tradition of great western political writing, 'The Cunning of Unreason' offers a deeply penetrating study of the reality of all political structures today. Every politician, spin-doctor and civil servant needs this book while the student, the novice and the simply bemused will be enlightened, entertained and informed, agreeing with de Gaulle that politics is far too serious a matter to be left to politicians. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.
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Book Description HarperCollins, 2000. Book Condition: Good. First Edition first Printing. N/A. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP35291981
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