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From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  76 ratings  ·  14 reviews
An in-depth intellectual history of the Western idea and a passionate defense of its importance to America's future, From Plato to NATO is the first book to make sense of the legacy of the West at a time when it is facing its greatest challenges. Readers of Francis Fukuyama, John Gray, Samuel Huntington, and other analysts of the dilemmas of Western nations in the twenty-f ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published May 19th 2004 by Free Press (first published July 13th 1998)
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Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I am older so the Plato to Nato cold war narrative of the west was a staple in my education in the 1980s. Multiculturalism was a new and rising thing at the time but had not much influenced the Jesuits at my High School and University which were still in cold war mode. This book is about that narrative and the challenges in the 1990s (the time of writing) to it. It is challenged by more sinister players than the postmodernists in the English department these days. The alt-right is bringing back ...more
Charles J
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a ferociously erudite book. The author, David Gress, offers an analysis and synthesis of essentially all thought on the idea of the West, from the Greeks to the postmodernists, in a book that seems to contain more than its actual six hundred pages of small print. The amount of thought he presents is astounding. My habit is to write down interesting-sounding books to which an author refers, then buy them. I probably bought thirty books, maybe more, as a result of reading "From Plato to NA ...more
Chris Reichman
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People with time
This is an excellent book following the attempts of Western Culture to define itself. It is especially concentrated on the period from the rise of Germany on when the prevalence of media allowed people to conciously form or change what the general populace thought of as its national identity. It is especially good in examining how leaders in Germany and America very intentionally structured education and locla literature to form distinctly German and American national identities.

The stopping poi
Jun 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
The idea that the west is inherently democratic and freedom loving is absolute crap. Western civilisation emerged in the 6th century with the Germano-Roman kingdoms of the Merovingian Franks, Angles etc. and for half of western history the western half of the continent has been subject to feudalism etc. Additionally, this book proliferates the idea that greek philosophy is an essential core of western society, whilst greek philosophy was partially forgotten in Western Europe and then re-discover ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A bit meandering at points, especially in the second half. The very end falls flat, giving no real practical prescription other than to remember the past more accurately. Nevertheless, the overall thesis of the book, and the vision of the West it puts forward, is accurate.
Fred R
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Don't be put off by the schlocky airport bookstore title; David Gress by and large (although not without a few exceptions) manages to avoid the breezy, information-lite tone predicted by it. It's a book about Western History and Western Historiography, with the goal of correcting our understanding of how the West became the West (the origin of its virtues, etc). His biggest enemy is the comfortable Great Books consensus view, which, in drawing a direct line of descent between Greek Rationalism a ...more
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It a book not about history, it's a history about history. It's a meta-history book.

Where to begin? This book contains so much information, it's impossible to remember it all from reading it only one time... The amount of things I've learned about the western history from this book is immense. The topics presented in this book are wide; from philosophy, religion, art, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, war, science, literature, imperialism, everything western related... Where to start?

With this
Thomas Achord
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
An ok overview of Western ideals. The author aims to show that the Western narrative of Chicago’s “Great Books” program is not so airtight. One of his main arguments is that much of the old world is incompatible with the modern. But Gross overlooks the fact that the story of the West is not one of appropriating and transmitting ideas, values, religion, etc., in a one-for-one fashion, but in learning from a shared past, memories, stories, lessons, places. This can be demonstrated easily enough wi ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I obtained this tome from the library: an incredibly dense, often dry, account of the idea of the West and the uses to which narratives about the West have been put, historically.
Jonathan Harrison-Walsh
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great read. Gives a good introduction to key philosophers.
Thomas Keller
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ideas, history
Starting from the canon wars of the 1980s/90s as a point of departure the author here lays down a monumentis cultural history of the idea of the West which is a real lap slapper of an ideological construct problematizing the more conventional historical emergence/periodization of the "West". Of course anyone with a more indepth understanding of any of these events or figures would see how naive this presentation is nonetheless it can still serve as an adequate launching ground from which the mor ...more
David S
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Gress argues an interesting point: the Western world, particularly the democratic society of the United States, is not a direct descendant of ancient Greece. He argues his point convincingly, but I have two major problems with the book, both of which have to do with writing style. First, it is a long book that doesn't hold the reader's attention well, meaning that it takes a very long time to get through it unless you're well-practiced at skimming. Second, Gress comes across as being both concei ...more
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A good introductory source for some of the most influential minds from Western Civilisation.
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