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Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  197 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
By the author of the best-selling Straw Dogs, this book is a characteristically trenchant and unflinchingly clear-sighted collection of reflections on our contemporary lot. Whether writing about the future of our species on this planet, the folly of our faith in technological progress, or the self-deceptions of the liberal establishment, John Gray dares to be heretical lik ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Granta UK (first published January 1st 2004)
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Mar 30, 2017 ATJG added it
Shelves: 2017
Another home-run for Gray. Heresies comprises essays and editorials Gray wrote between 1999 and 2003, including a series of eerily prescient observations on the Bungle in Mesopotamia. In these, Gray lays out the woeful future then ahead of Iraq, and one wonders why, if a British academic and philosopher could so clearly see the inevitable anarchy that would follow removing the keystone of an artificial multi-national state and the disintegration of Sykes-Picot and even the rise of apocalyptic cu ...more
Russell Warfield
Jun 04, 2012 Russell Warfield rated it really liked it
A really thought provoking writer. A range of essays on subjects as diverse as religion, technology, animals (love the stuff on animals), Iraq, British politics and celebrity - all stemming from the notion that universal peace and prosperity will never be attained through human ingenuity, and that a utopian global civilisation is an inherently unrealistic prospect. In his arrival at this conclusion, he postulates atheism to be a form of Freudian repression, comparing present day secularism to Vi ...more
Daniel Cunningham
Jan 09, 2014 Daniel Cunningham rated it liked it
Shelves: dead-trees, philo
As always with Gray, keen observation, a realistic/pessimistic outlook, and a consistent, convincing synthesis. But many of the essays, taken together in book form, are heavily repetitive. And since this is a time-slice of essays, a first time reader (which I am not) of Gray would likely not get the development of the ideas; they would just come from nowhere, as mere assertions.

The narrowness of the time, too, from 1999 to 2004, also makes for a bit of repetition; though the number of unresolved
Sep 27, 2011 Treamo rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
John Gray is much like a modern day Nietzsche raging against the delusions and hypocrisies of our modern age. In this slim and easy to read volume many of the ideas become repetitive, it’s easy to spot this collection of essays was taken from numerous sources the editor should have culled some of the ideas that pop up continuously.

Liberals, Conservatives, Marxists, Neo-Cons, believer and non-believer alike, no escapes his vitriol in these essays. Although the chapters about Bush and Blair alrea
May 15, 2017 Paulisbored rated it liked it
A mixture of truisms and eerily prescient insight, this collection of magazine articles hasn't aged brilliantly well. The middle section on the Iraq war, for instance, has lost much of its lustre even if many of its predictions did come to pass. Other parts, though, seem uncannily relevant, especially his prediction of, and explanation for, the rise of The Right in Western politics.
John Hodson
Jan 02, 2014 John Hodson rated it liked it
A collection of essays grouped into three categories: The Illusion of Progress, The War on Terror/Iraq and Politics without Illusion. Gray's views on progress reminded me of Postman and his scorn for the liberal elite is amusing and well developed (Black Mass and Strawdogs elaborate on this theme further). Although I don't agree with Gray entirely on Green issues, it is hard to dismiss his concerns concerning population growth, the fallacy that technology will alleviate the problems caused by it ...more
Aug 03, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
I didn't know that the book is a collection of columns from the British magagazine The Spectator. It feels a bit dated as the latest article is from 2003. There is a lot of discussion regarding the Iraq war. While John Gray was spot on with his predictions regarding a civil war in Iraq, the discussion of British politics is mostly relevant as a historic document.

Despite the shortcomings, I found the description of our modern society very insightful and appreciate John Gray as one of the deepest
Steph Bennion
Jan 07, 2012 Steph Bennion rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The pieces on the Iraq war, though written much closer to the time, still seem very fresh and poignant today. As for the rest, I liked the idea that Europe has a destiny to become the world power needed to balance US 'imperialism', though I suspect that honour may well eventually go to China or India. The last few chapters on the fate of the Labour and Conservative parties however have not dated well, written as they were when Blair was still in power and Howard had just become leader of the Tor ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Δnd rated it liked it
Much of the thoughts found in this collection are to be found in "Straw Dogs". It seems that Gray stitched together these different pieces from the New Statesman for the creation of the further fleshed out and unified piece that is "Straw Dogs". The repetition of these ideas does not make them any less potent though it does make this collection a little superfluous if you have already read his previous magnum opus. There are a few interesting scraps here and there that were not incorporated into ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Jorg rated it really liked it
A brilliant collection of essays. Although somewhat dated (collecting essays written between 1999 and 2004), it is still worthwhile, if only for the spot-on predictions of the Iraqi quagmire (uncanny in their detail), and of course the awesome skewering of Wolfowitz's et al thinking about torture (beautiful sarcasm in that one). Perhaps not a good place to start reading Gray, but a useful corrective of yeaterday's (and today's) political thought.
Nov 30, 2015 Dana rated it it was ok
I liked that some of the information in this book was very new, such as about the Church of positivism and the link between ideologies and religion. It certainly added a new perspective to the way I view the world.

I didn't like the repetitiveness of the ideas in the book and the fact that he didn't provide much information about how he came to his conclusions.

I very much disliked his chapter on how we should legalize torture.

Overall, I'm not impressed, but still glad I read it.
Nic Brisbourne
Jul 23, 2011 Nic Brisbourne rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting read, even if I don't agree fully with Gray's opinions. His idea that our faith in (technological) progress is a secular reshaping of christian ideas is instructive, and his later essays on UK government have left me thinking Blair achieved less than I had previously thought.
Jul 20, 2015 Derrick rated it it was amazing
Gray is at his best writing aphoristically. This collection reads splendidly - lots of individual chapters not too long, wherein you can digest Gray's gloomy worldview. His philosophy is very tough minded, but perhaps he is right. Also recommend his "A Point of View" podcasts on BBC's radio four.
Apr 08, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
Super interesting thoughts on society, esp atheism and liberalism, and such themes.
Jon Beech
May 09, 2010 Jon Beech rated it really liked it
toilet fodder really. collected from the new statesman. when he stopped columnizing, i let my subscription lapse
Gerard Walsh
Mar 01, 2010 Gerard Walsh rated it really liked it
A series of political essays that are thought provoking in the sense that that provoke thought rather that just irritate or act as an echo chamber.
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John Nicholas Gray is a English political philosopher with interests in analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. He retired in 2008 as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, where he is the lead book reviewer.
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“But we should recognize that, if we redesign nature to fit human wishes, we risk making it a mirror of our own pathologies. A world that has been rebuilt into a factory producing the things humans need or want will be a world without wilderness and from which many of the species with which we share the planet will disappear.” 0 likes
“There is no power in the world that can ensure that technology is used only for benign purposes. Partly this is because we cannot agree on what such purposes are. Partly it is because even when enough people are agreed there is no power that can enforce the consensus. The institution on which we would have to rely for such enforcement – the modern state – is not up to the job.” 0 likes
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