Power : A New Social Analysis, Paperback Book

Power : A New Social Analysis Paperback

Part of the Routledge Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The key to human nature that Marx found in wealth and Freud in sex, Bertrand Russell finds in power.

Power, he argues, is man's ultimate goal, and is, in its many guises, the single most important element in the development of any society.

Writting in the late 1930s when Europe was being torn apart by extremist ideologies and the world was on the brink of war, Russell set out to found a 'new science' to make sense of the traumatic events of the day and explain those that would follow. The result was Power, a remarkable book that Russell regarded as one of the most important of his long career.

Countering the totalitarian desire to dominate, Russell shows how political enlightenment and human understanding can lead to peace - his book is a passionate call for independence of mind and a celebration of the instinctive joy of human life.


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Despite its promises, "Power" isn't really a new analysis of anything, but it is an interesting, and sometimes bracing, meander through the subject. Russell was writing at a particularly tense point in history -- the Second World War was coming on, but hadn't broken out yet -- and so it's not surprising that many of his arguments tend to revolve around what some might term "statism." Still, it's nice to hear from a twentieth-century thinker not in thrall to either Marxism of free-market absolutism, and the author often focuses on some of the emotional or crypto-religious dimensions of power that these philosophies often gloss over as too subjective or unserious for study. Even if you're not inclined to agree with Russell, however, this one is, for a book its type, a surprisingly entertaining read. Reading this one, you can imagine sitting around with the author -- whose intellectual breadth was hugely impressive -- as he expounded what he saw as the basic rules of the power game and illustrated them with examples from the ancient Greeks to the present day. For that reason alone, readers interested in Russell's intellectual background and thought process will likely find a lot to to gnaw on here. For everyone else, "Power" is an interesting lecture in book form, given by a lecturer with an exquisitely lively and organized mind.

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