This major narrative history of the people and ideas that shaped the modern world is a brilliantly reasoned examination of the thought and individuals that made twentieth-century culture. From Freud to Babbitt, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the books range is encyclopedic, covering the major writers, artists, scientists, and philosophers who produced the ideas by which we live. Beginning with four seminal ideas that were introduced in 1900 -- the unconscious, the gene, the quantum, and Picasso's first paintings in Paris-Peter Watson has produced a fluent and engaging narrative of the intellectual tradition of the past century.
The book is divided into four parts -- Freud to Wittgenstein; Spengler to Animal Farm; Sartre to the Sea of Tranquillity; the counterculture to Kosovo -- and there are forty-two chapters. Watson emphasizes that "the century may be understood as a period during which the scientific method colonized all modes of thought and changed the way thinking is done." He sees the first half of the century as a period of discovery and the last half as a period of analysis, synthesis, and understanding, and he explores the role of the United States in setting the century's agenda in many areas. Unlike more conventional histories, in which the focus is on political events and personalities, The Modern Mind is an illuminating blueprint of twentieth-century thought and culture and the men and women who created it.
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Peter Watson has been a senioreditor at the London Sunday Times, a New York correspondentof the London Times, a columnist for theLondon Observer, and a contributor to the New YorkTimes. He has published three exposés on the world ofart and antiquities, and is the author of several booksof cultural and intellectual history. From 1997 to 2007he was a research associate at the McDonald Institutefor Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.He lives in London.From Publishers Weekly:
Just as the 20th century dawned with an unparalleled optimism regarding the moral, social and scientific progress of humanity, it ended with an unshakeable confidence in the promises of technology and the power of free-market economics to deliver a better life for all humankind. British journalist Watson's (War on the Mind; The Caravaggio Conspiracy; etc.) panoramic survey traces various 20th-century ideas and their power to bend and shape society and individuals. At a frenetic pace, he gallops through the modern intellectual landscape, pausing long enough to graze the founts of philosophy (from Wittgenstein to Richard Rorty to Alasdair MacIntyre), literature (Kafka, Woolf, Mann, Rushdie), literary criticism (F.R. Leavis to Jacques Derrida), art (Picasso to Warhol), economics (Milton Friedman to John Kenneth Galbraith), science (Linus Pauling to E.O. Wilson) and film (D.W. Griffiths to Fran?ois Truffaut). He also briefly examines the significance of a wide range of political and cultural movements, such as socialism, communism, fascism, feminism and environmentalism. Watson's rich narrative covers every corner of intellectual life in the 20th century, yet the style is so breezy and anecdotal that it lacks the deep learned elegance of a history of ideas by, for example, Isaiah Berlin or Jacques Barzun. Unfortunately, for all the book's breadth, Watson's workmanlike approach has the feel of a handful of school assignments cobbled together from encyclopedia articles rather than of work drawn from years of thoughtful reflection and an intimate acquaintance with, and love of, ideas.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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