The Cunning of Unreason Making Sense of Politics

John Dunn, Author
John Dunn, Author Basic Books $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-465-01747-8
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-465-01748-5
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The promises of the modern democratic republic far exceed its performance, concludes political theorist Dunn in this very abstract discussion of fundamental political questions. Beginning with the basics--what is politics and why does it occur?--he outlines the major answers suggested by philosophers, then launches theoretical examinations of the state, political knowledge and the making of political judgments. The limitations of human beings--especially limits to knowledge and rationality--are recognized throughout and become most prominent when Dunn considers post-1979 British politics. When the contemporary democratic republic is ""directly encountered,"" he states, ""it is quite obviously (and, in all probability, irreversibly) corrupt and feckless."" Yet he does not champion an alternative, for the sometimes disappointing performance of modern states must be cast in the context of the overwhelmingly difficult agenda they face. Politics is ""the balance of conflict and cooperation,"" and there is usually a surplus of conflict; this makes politics ""a site of danger,"" the experience of which is likely to be ""irritating"" and ""all but invariably disappointing."" But Dunn argues that we owe these states our loyalty because they have, at least to this point, worked to our advantage. After traversing considerable and difficult intellectual terrain to reach this tepid, almost clich d conclusion, the reader may very well be disappointed with Dunn's book as well as with politics. (Sept.)
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