Discipline is simply the art of making the soldiers fear their officers more than the enemy… Claude Adrien Helvetius


The same philosophe who uttered that nonsense is also quoted as saying, Genius is nothing but continued attention, without having the wit to understand that it applied to himself and, regrettably the whole cast of characters that Isaiah Berlin dedicated his life to trying to make sense of. These were the philosophers of the European revolutions of the 1840’s that, having failed, supplied so many immigrants to the northern states along with the contagion of their ideas. Where previously the divergence between north and South might be characterized as an argument between Hobbes and Locke suddenly the north was constipated with continental thought that had no basis in the founding or subsequent sociology of the Republic. It may be called German romanticism but it all ends in the goose step.

Political ideas in the romantic age : their rise and influence on modern thought  Isaiah Berlin ; edited by Henry Hardy ; with an introduction by Joshua L. Cherniss  Princeton : Princeton University Press, c 2006  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. lx, 292 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. lv-lx) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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It was sometimes said that essayist Isaiah Berlin was incapable of writing a big book. But in fact he developed some of his most important essays – including “Two Concepts of Liberty” and “Historical Inevitability” – from a book-length manuscript that he intended to publish but later set aside.

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Published here for the first time, Political Ideas in the Romantic Age is the only book in which Berlin lays out in one continuous account most of his thoughts about the history of ideas in the Romantic age. Distilling his formative early work in the history of ideas, the book also contains much that is not found elsewhere in his writings. The last of Berlin’s posthumous books, it is of great interest both for his treatment of the subject and for what it reveals about his intellectual development.

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Written for a series of lectures at Bryn Mawr College in 1952, and heavily revised and expanded by Berlin afterward, the book argues that the political ideas of the Romantic age are still largely our own – down to the language and metaphors they are expressed in. Vividly expounding the central political ideas of European thinkers in the period 1760-1830, including Helvetius, Condorcet, Rousseau, Saint-Simon, Hegel, Schelling, and Fichte.

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The book has been carefully prepared by Berlin’s longtime editor Henry Hardy, and Joshua L. Cherniss provides an illuminating introduction that sets it in the context of Berlin’s life and work.

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