This is pretty much everything you could ask for in a biography of Mill. It covers the whole spectrum, from his personal life to his work to the intelThis is pretty much everything you could ask for in a biography of Mill. It covers the whole spectrum, from his personal life to his work to the intellectual and political contexts in which he did it, and does so with sympathy and verve. You could do much worse for a history of the progress and development of liberal reform in Victorian England, which is appropriate since his ideas were so central to it. What's unique here is that the author makes it clear that Mill was much more than a man of ideas, and that his was a throughgoingly humanist life, in which he was willing to put his fortune and reputation on the line to fight for his beliefs, even when the times were not yet ripe and the odds weren't in his favor.
The one strange exception to his universal generosity and esteem was his family, and it was a bit jarring to learn that someone who I admire so much and who seemed so far ahead of his time on so many issues, could be so callous to some of the people closest to him in life, albeit for complicated reasons arising from his nonconformist beliefs and his famed relationship with Harriet Taylor. That's a good lesson though, and reinforces the need to judge the personal, political, and intellectual spheres separately and on their own merits....more
One, to get an idea of what the turmoil of the '60's looked like to the older establishment liberal elites of theI read this for a couple of reasons.
One, to get an idea of what the turmoil of the '60's looked like to the older establishment liberal elites of the time, what they thought of the counterculture and the youth movements and so on. I figure Schlesinger is a fairly representative figure of that class and age, and is as good a source as any for that.
The other was to get an idea of what people were thinking the last time America faced major turmoil and social upheaval. Since the economic crash and Obama's election and all the craziness and paralysis that's ensued, I've been reading lots of stuff from past eras of crisis in America, to try to get an idea if it has been like this before, or we're in unique circumstances, or what. So this was in line with that interest, to kind of see what Establishment types were thinking after the events of '68 and everything that led to them.
Unfortunately, if this is any indication, what they were thinking is pretty much what you'd expect, and kinda trite at that. It was interesting to get a little time capsule view of what it was like to face that time and those events from a leadership position, but it wasn't particularly enlightening or insightful in its own right, and you kind of see in retrospect that all of that turmoil and concern sort of burnt itself out or was subsumed by the overwhelming mass of the 20th century consumer economy.
I guess that's valuable perspective, but you can get it almost anywhere in American history, which is rife with this sort of turmoil / burnout / quiescence cycle....more
A critical and contextual look at the Populist and Progressive movements in American politics; where they succeeded and failed, what forces shaped theA critical and contextual look at the Populist and Progressive movements in American politics; where they succeeded and failed, what forces shaped them and what their legacy was. Good background into a movement that I view as a big part of my political legacy. It has definitely removed any rose-colored view of them I might have had, but I’m still left with the lasting and important message that they accomplished a lot of worthwhile social and political change with minimal chaos and violence, whatever their faults may have been. This basically re-affirms why I identify as a Progressive to begin with....more