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Pride and Solace

Functions and Limits of Political Theory

By (author) Norman Jacobson
Format: Hardback
Publisher: University of California Press, Berkerley, United States
Published: 30th Sep 1978
Dimensions: w 150mm h 230mm
Weight: 506g
ISBN-10: 0520034384
ISBN-13: 9780520034389
Barcode No: 9780520034389

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Kirkus US
Most students of political thought would agree that the "great tradition" of political philosophy came to a rather abrupt close in the last century with Hegel or Marx or Mill, depending on one's view. Many attempts have been made to explain or interpret this - Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision and Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition being among the most monumental. Berkeley's Jacobson has set a smaller scale, but his aim is no less encompassing. He argues that traditional political philosophy is concerned with offering "solace" to humanity in the form of public schemes for the amelioration of individual suffering and uncertainty. The motivation for this solace-inducing activity is "pride" on the part of the theorist who accepts the challenge of attempting to provide meaning in the face of chaos. Jacobson briefly discusses Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau, arguing that each of them tried to provide solace through the idea of the nation-state and the image of the Legislator. His reading of Rousseau is subtle and provocative, as befits the master of irony in political writing - in this interpretation, The Social Contract is a warning against the pretensions to certitude of rulers, and marks the beginning of the decline in the legitimacy of the state. This decline, and the transformations it engendered in political theory, has led to modern theories of existential politics which seemingly refuse solace by denying certitude beyond experience - Jacobson's "culture heroes" are Orwell, Camus, and Arendt. But despite their rootedness in experience, Jacobson sees their project as involving solace as well; only this time it is the solace of companionship in individual doubt rather than in the creation of false collectivities. Only Arendt can seriously be considered on the level of the classics, and Jacobson skips the entire 19th century, which would be the key period for his interpretation - in fact, Nietzsche should be the key itself. Nevertheless, Jacobson's meditations are urgent and deeply-felt, and will be of considerable interest to both theorists and their public. (Kirkus Reviews)