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Inventing the Individual

Inventing the Individual

The Origins of Western Liberalism

Larry Siedentop

ISBN 9780674979888

Publication date: 10/23/2017

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Here, in a grand narrative spanning 1,800 years of European history, a distinguished political philosopher firmly rejects Western liberalism’s usual account of itself: its emergence in opposition to religion in the early modern era. Larry Siedentop argues instead that liberal thought is, in its underlying assumptions, the offspring of the Church.

“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.”
—David Marquand, New Republic

“Larry Siedentop has written a philosophical history in the spirit of Voltaire, Condorcet, Hegel, and Guizot…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

“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

“Like the best books, Inventing the Individual both teaches you something new and makes you want to argue with it.”
—Kenan Malik, The Independent

Praise

  • 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

Author

  • Larry Siedentop is Emeritus Fellow of Keble College, Oxford.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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