Global Modernity and Other Essays by Tom Rubens

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Global Modernity and Other Essays by Tom Rubens

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Bone
Reviewed by Jill Bone
Summary: Eclectic essays for anyone interested in politics or philosophy.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 169 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Imprint Academic
ISBN: 9781845405632

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It’s been difficult to write this review. The book’s eclectic nature, with subject matter ranging from Nietzsche to the English Police Force, makes it difficult to summarise and secondly, I’m no academic and philosophy is just HARD.

Thankfully the essays are split into four sections, respectively dealing with similar or related themes, so there is a certain amount of continuity there. Section One deals broadly with politics and political philosophy: the title essay defines ‘Global Modernity’ as a burden of knowledge and responsibility and a moving away from a religious mind-set and ‘acquiescence in received ideas’, a break Rubens thinks is inevitable in the third world providing they can achieve sufficient economic development.

Section Two focuses on considerations of free will and morality and the third section contains the author’s musings on democracy. Rubens is a liberal who is anxious to defend the idea of ‘liberal democracy’ against left-wing cynicism; true liberal democracies needn’t be dominated by wealthy elites as they are today, the term implies ‘absence of, and opposition to, dominance of any kind’ and Rubens hopes that modern nation states will ultimately begin to manifest such principles.

The essays in Section Four have a heavily philosophical orientation and were the most difficult for me to get my head around. Having said that, they have piqued my interest in philosophy and made me want to read further, something the author sets out to do on the back cover. ‘Spinoza Today’ examines what modern society can learn from the seventeenth century scholar: his total determinism (the belief that everything that happens is the result of cause and effect and that no human action can take place outside this causal chain) is compatible with modern science, his belief in the importance of community could benefit our fractured society and his ascetic values are held up as a good example in a culture where we are pressurised to seek shallow consumerist attainment. 'Truth, Falsity and Logic' is hard-core philosophy and I didn’t get it. If the following sentences seem accessible enough then you’ll have no trouble with the rest of the book: ‘Truth, then, is not a property of existents which are extraneous to the domain of thought and statement. Those extraneous entities are objects of thoughts and statements; as such, they differ from the thoughts and statements of which they are the objects, and therefore lack the properties of those thoughts and statements.’

This diverse set of essays is an interesting examination of (or introduction to) the different subjects covered. Although the subject matter is challenging Ruben’s style is generally pretty succinct and doesn’t seem any more difficult than necessary, and I’d recommend the book to anyone with a nascent interest in political or moral philosophy.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt.

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