Saturday, 29 October 2011

Meeting: 8th November 2011

Our first meeting will take place on 8th November - 5.30pm, room 2.05, 18 Buccleuch Place.

The reading for this meeting is:

Keynes, J.M. 'Am I Liberal?' [1925] The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes. Vol. 9: Essays in Persuasion. London: Macmillan, 1931. 295-306. 
--- 'Art and the State' [1936]. The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes. Vol. 28: Social, Political and Literary Writings. London: Macmillan, 1982. 341-349.
Forster, E.M. 'What I Believe' [1938]. Two Cheers for Democracy. London: Edward Arnold, 1972. 65-73

For photocopies of these texts, please e-mail me at

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Intellectual History Reading Group: 20th Century Political Thinkers (1900-1950)

This reading group focuses on a number of twentieth-century ‘political’ texts from the period roughly 1900-1950 – meaning texts from this period that directly discuss political ideas, have distinct political bearings, or simply lend themselves to political interpretation.

Our aim is to study such texts in an attempt to gain a broader understanding of the intellectual climate of this time. We hope to foster readings that relate the various ideas expressed in these texts to the literature and the general political, social and philosophical thought of the first half of the last century. We are interested in reading both prominent political thinkers (such as Keynes, Orwell, Gandhi, Churchill) and more ‘peripheral’ figures whose work remains largely understudied (for example, Storer and Gobetti). We are also interested in returning attention to lesser-known works by famous intellectuals – for example, Berlin’s “Soviet Beginnings” or “Generalissimo Stalin and the Art of Government” (actually from 1952). 

While, strictly speaking, there is no thematic unity, our selected texts will discuss one or more of the following ideas: democracy, liberalism, conservatism, syndicalism, socialism, individualism, nationalism, central government planning, violence, humanism and Progress. We may structure the reading group chronologically or thematically – moving, for example, from liberalism onto conservatism, socialism and so on.

We invite interested individuals to suggest readings that ‘fit in’ with the following texts (not all of which will be studied):

Isaiah Berlin, from Karl Marx: His Life and Environment/ “Three who Made a Revolution”/ “Soviet Beginnings”/ “Generalissimo Stalin and the Art of Government” (*1952).
J. M. Keynes, from Essays in Persuasion
Joseph A. Schumpeter, “Aptitude and Social Mobility”/ “Political Leadership and Democracy”
Carl Schmitt, “When Parliament Cannot be Sovereign”
Winston Churchill, “Speech on Rebuilding the House of Commons”
Michael Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics”
Edward Storer, Introduction to William Cowper
Piero Gobetti, from On Liberal Revolution
Irving Babbitt, from Rousseau and Romanticism/Democracy and Leadership
George Santayana, from Reason in Society (vol. 2 of Life of Reason)
Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Lecture on Ethics”
Karl Popper, from The Open Society and its Enemies
Hannah Arendt, from The Human Condition
Friedrich Hayek, from The Counter-revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason
E. M. Forster, “What I Believe” (from Two Cheers for Democracy)
Karl Jaspers, “Society and the State” (from The Idea of the University)
George Orwell, “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party”/“Notes on Nationalism”
Edward Carpenter, from The Intermediate Sex
Cyril Connolly, from Enemies of Promise
Gandhi/Tagore/Leonard Woolf/E. H. Carr – texts tbc

As we envisage it, the reading group will comprise of post-graduate students and members of staff from across the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. We will meet once a month beginning from November onwards, with the assigned reading expected to be around 30-40 pages. We hope to be able to provide .pdfs of each reading.

The first meeting will take place at 17.30 on 8th November in room 2.05, 18 Buccleuch Place. The reading for this first meeting is Keynes (extracts from Essays in Persuasion and Social, Political and Literary Writings) and Forster (extract from Two Cheers for Democracy). We will post the readings here shortly.