I love reading Bertrand Russell’s works, his being a historian, political activist, philosopher, logician, mathematician and Nobel Prize for Literature winner 1950 amongst other things, he manages to combine dry wit and convey big ideas with simple language that allows the lay person to understand his arguments succinctly.
My tastefully tatty old 1919 edition is from St Anne’s College Library Oxford and sadly has no dust jacket (of which more in a later post) and there seems to be a general lack of a decent blurb available online so here are some quotes from the great man to get you in the mood:
War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country.
Hunting for a suitable cover image, I was perplexed to find that most of the modern editions are titled ‘Proposed Roads to Freedom’. I can only assume this is to differentiate it from John-Paul Sartre’s later series The Roads to Freedom which was a response to events in World War Two as Russell’s is, albeit for different reasons to World War One.
The book came about at a time of European reconstruction from the ashes of war, it was the perfect time to debate the relative strengths and deficiencies of three political systems for the good of nations. It’s an excellent overview and accessible read that despite being out of date still retains some pertinent ideas, especially with today’s global political unrest.
Part one gives the reader a history of socialism, anarchism, and syndicalism, looking at the catalysts for each philosophy and the key players in turning each into the movement that it what at the time. It acts both as a grounding for the casual reader in the pros and cons of each system (that is backed up by the history) and a handy reminder for the keener students. Read the rest of this entry »