[Paleopsych] TLS: (John Gray) Robert Grant: Politics
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Tue Jun 21 17:01:54 UTC 2005
Robert Grant: Politics
The Times Literary Supplement, 5.3.11
HERESIES. Against progress and other illusions. John Gray. 216pp.
Granta. Paperback, £8.99. - 1 86207 718 5.
A former Oxford Philosophy, Politics and Economics don, Thatcher
supporter and expositor of Friedrich Hayek and Isaiah Berlin, John
Gray is now a prominent controversialist and Professor of European
Thought at LSE, whose bookshop devotes an entire shelf to his works.
Heresies collects twenty-four of his New Statesman columns since 1999.
Gray is often accused of being a turncoat. But he has always been a
ferocious sceptic, so no past, present or future changes of mind on
his part should surprise us. He has never believed in progress, a
notion for which he here reserves particular scorn, since it is
permanently negated by the core conviction of Heresies, that is, the
reality of original sin. He has, however, championed neo-liberalism
and free markets, things now long consigned to the flames along with
every other kind of Enlightenment universalism (including Marxism and
socialism). The current US-led crusade for global democracy and human
rights he sees sometimes as hopelessly naive, sometimes as a cover for
the Iraq invasion, which he reads as being driven neither by
capitalist greed nor by (initially reasonable) fears concerning WMD,
but as a geopolitical stratagem for securing the energy supplies
essential to First World survival.
But survival is not Gray's thing. In his gloomy, dark-Green way, he is
as deterministic as Francis Fukuyama and the other optimists, utopians
and technophiles whom he ridicules. He foresees ever-increasing wars
over resources, ethno-religious strife and environmental devastation,
culminating in the extinction of homo rapiens (as he calls us) and the
planet's return to its mute, pre-human equilibrium. Whether Gray's
scenario is more plausible than its sunnier rivals, or than sheer
agnosticism, is hard to judge solely from the evidence and arguments
presented, since his enforced aphoristic brevity necessarily restricts
their scope. Nevertheless, Heresies makes for exhilarating and
unsettling reading, which we should definitely take seriously.
Reviewing him in the TLS eleven years ago, I called John Gray "a
restless, powerful and scrupulous mind". He still is, even if we must
here take the scruples largely on trust.
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