Voltaires Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West

ISBN 10: 0029277256 / ISBN 13: 9780029277256
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Synopsis: In a wide-ranging, provocative anatomy of modern society and its origins, novelist and historian John Ralston Saul explores the reason for our deepening sense of crisis and confusion. Throughout the Western world we talk endlessly of individual freedom, yet Saul shows that there has never before been such pressure for conformity. Our business leaders describe themselves as capitalists, yet most are corporate employees and financial speculators. We are obsessed with competition, yet the single largest item of international trade is a subsidized market in armaments. We call our governments democracies, yet few of us participate in politics. We complain about "invasive government," yet our legal, educational, financial, social, cultural and legislative systems are breaking down.
While most observers view these problems separately, Saul demonstrates that they are largely manifestations of our blind faith in the value of reason. Over the last 400 years, our "rational elites" have gradually instituted reforms in every phase of social life. But Saul shows that they have also been responsible for most of the difficulties and violence of the same period. This paradox arises from a simple truth which our elites deny: far from being a moral force, reason is no more than an administrative method. Their denial has helped to turn the modern West into a vast, incomprehensible, directionless machine, run by process-minded experts - "Voltaire's bastards" - whose cult of scientific management is bereft of both sense and morality. Whether in politics, art, business, the military, entertainment, science, finance, academia or journalism, these experts share the same outlook and methods. The result, Saul maintains, is a civilization of immense technological power whose peoples increasingly dwell in a world of illusion.
Already known to millions of readers as the author of novels which portray the overwhelming effects of this power on the modern individual by weaving together international finance, the oil and arms business, guerrilla warfare, drug traffic, and the world of art, here Saul lays aside the mask of fiction to speak in his own voice. Only by withdrawing from our addiction to "solutions," he argues, reclaiming the citizens' right to question and participate in public life, and recovering a common sense capacity for intelligent panic, can we find a way out of our permanent crisis.

From the Publisher: "Voltaire's Bastards is a hand grenade disguised as a book. The pages explode with insight, style, and intellectual rigor...[This book] will leave you challenged, intrigued, and at times troubled."--Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post
"This is a wise, civilized, and deeply democratic book. John Ralston Saul wants to persuade us that real enlightenment lies not in the modern cult of Answers but in the stubborn, skeptical and human pursuit of Questions, and he does this in a beautifully-argued work." --Jane Kramer

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Title: Voltaires Bastards: The Dictatorship of ...
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