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Inventing the Individual

The Origins of Western Liberalism

Inventing the Individual
Afbeelding 1 van 2
Auteur: Larry Siedentop
Uitgever: Penguin Books UK
  • Engels
  • 1e druk
  • 9780141009544
  • januari 2015
  • Onbekende bindwijze
  • 448 pagina's
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An ambitious and stimulating book asking us to rethink the evolution of the ideas on which modern states are built, arguing that the core to our system of beliefs, liberalism, emerged much earlier than generally recognised. Now in paperback

This ambitious and stimulating book describes how a moral revolution in the first centuries AD - the discovery of human freedom and its universal potential - led to a social revolution in the west. The invention of a new, equal social role, the individual, gradually displaced the claims of family, tribe and caste as the basis of social organisation. Larry Siedentop asks us to rethink the evolution of the ideas on which modern societies and government are built, and argues that the core of what is now our system of beliefs emerged much earlier than we think. The roots of liberalism - belief in individual liberty, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, that equality should be the basis of a legal system and that only a representative form of government is fitting for such a society - all these, Siedentop argues, were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early church. It was the arguments of canon lawyers, theologians and philosophers from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, rather than the Renaissance, that laid the foundation for liberal democracy.

There are large parts of the world where other beliefs flourish - fundamentalist Islam, which denies the equality of women and is often ambiguous about individual rights and representative institutions; quasi-capitalist China, where a form of utilitarianism enshrines state interests even at the expense of justice and liberty. Such beliefs may foster populist forms of democracy. But they are not liberal. In the face of these challenges, Siedentop urges that understanding the origins of our own liberal ideas is more than ever an important part of knowing who we are.


A most impressive work of philosophical history.--Robert Skidelsky Siedentop's argument should change the way we look at both the Middle Ages and the formation of the modern nation-state.--Randy Rosenthal Tweed's (04/29/2015) [Siedentop] has produced what amounts to a high-altitude survey of Western ideas, meant to show that the ideal of the autonomous individual and the fact of a pluralistic civil society are both in important respects outgrowths of Christianity...Larry Siedentop has written a philosophical history in the spirit of Voltaire, Condorcet, Hegel, and Guizot. Serious scholars of history will always pick holes in these works. Yet at their most cogent and pointed, such frankly polemical metanarratives of human history help us to understand better not just the history of the present (to borrow a phrase), but also ourselves. At a time when we on the left need to be stirred from our dogmatic slumbers, Inventing the Individual is a reminder of some core values that are pretty widely shared.--James Miller The Nation (05/04/2015) In this learned, subtle, enjoyable and digestible work [Siedentop] has offered back to us a proper version of ourselves. He has explained us to ourselves... [A] magisterial, timeless yet timely work.--Douglas Murray The Spectator It is a magnificent work of intellectual, psychological and spiritual history. It is hard to decide which is more remarkable: the breadth of learning displayed on almost every page, the infectious enthusiasm that suffuses the whole book, the riveting originality of the central argument or the emotional power and force with which it is deployed. Siedentop takes us on a 2,000-year journey that starts with the almost inconceivably remote city states of the ancient world and ends with the Renaissance. In the course of this journey, he explodes many (perhaps even most) of the preconceptions that run through the public culture of our day--and that I took for granted before reading his book. Inventing the Individual is not an exercise in dry-as-dust antiquarianism, still less in pop-historical fun and games. Siedentop's aim has a breathtaking grandeur about it: to persuade us to ask ourselves who we are and where we are going by showing us where we have come from. A challenging epilogue suggests that the answers are not very flattering.--David Marquand New Republic (09/25/2014) With Inventing the Individual, Siedentop is not trying to reveal a hidden or suppressed religious impulse in Western modernity but rather attempting to trace a lost genealogy. He sees modern secularism, and its freedoms, as Christianity's gift to human society.--David Gress Wall Street Journal (12/19/2014) In his brilliant book Inventing the Individual, Larry Siedentop paints a vivid portrait of the closed world of pagan antiquity.--Matthew J. Franck First Things (02/24/2015) Like the best books, Inventing the Individual both teaches you something new and makes you want to argue with it.--Kenan Malik The Independent

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  • Een boeiende geschiedenis van het individu.
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    Een onverwachte invalshoek voor een geschiedenis van het Liberalisme en de Verlichting, namelijk vanuit de christelijke wortels en de apostel Paulus als een van de eersten die het individu als zelfstandig persoon herkende. Inspirerend.

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Onbekende bindwijze
januari 2015
1e druk
19,8 x 12,9 x 3,6 cm
Aantal pagina's
448 pagina's


Larry Siedentop
Penguin Books UK


Originele taal



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