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Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship Of Reason In The West by John Ralston Saul. New York. 1992. Free Press. 640 pages. Cover design by Michael Langenstein. 0029277256.

 

0029277256The pitfalls of rationalism and and the rise of bureaucracy.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

   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 show that they have also been responsible for moist 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 if 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 people 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, guerilla 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 Saul John Ralstonrecovering a common sense capacity for intelligent panic, can we find a way out of our permanent crisis.

 

 

JOHN RALSTON SAUL holds a Ph. D. in history from King's College, ran a Paris-based investment firm, worked as a Canadian oil executive, and has written extensively about North Africa and Southeast Asia. His novel, THE PARADISE EATER, won the Premio Letteratio Internazionale in 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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