Cover: Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, from Harvard University PressCover: Inventing the Individual in PAPERBACK

Inventing the Individual

The Origins of Western Liberalism

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Product Details


$22.00 • £17.95 • €20.00

ISBN 9780674979888

Publication Date: 10/23/2017


448 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press

United States and its dependencies only

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

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, The New Republic

[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

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

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, The Wall Street Journal

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

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

A most impressive work of philosophical history.—Robert Skidelsky

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