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Fear: The History of a Political Idea

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  23 reviews
For many commentators, September 11 inaugurated a new era of fear. But as Corey Robin shows in his unsettling tour of the Western imagination--the first intellectual history of its kind--fear has shaped our politics and culture since time immemorial.
From the Garden of Eden to the Gulag Archipelago to today's headlines, Robin traces our growing fascination with political
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 26th 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2004)
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Aug 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Corey Robin's "Fear: The History of a Political Idea" is a curious little book. Its title promises something far more comprehensive than what is actually delivered. A partial treatment of what is potentially a vast subject can be defended. What cannot are the bizarre omissions and strange choices of emphasis which plague Robin's analysis of the place of fear in liberal political thought. Robin does offer several interesting insights on this issue, which is his real subject, but they are diluted ...more
Conor Ahern
I began following Corey Robin on Facebook a few years ago, and at some point I made some snarky comment to him. Apparently he is one of these public personalities who engages with his followers, and he really let me have it. At first he just made a snide remark about my comment being Spiro Agnew-esque, and I rolled my eyes and snarked back. We got into a pretty heated back-and-forth, and I don't think it was either of our best sides on display. But, although I still don't love his Facebook comme ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
A somewhat bizarre book. The first half offers a solid history-of-ideas focused on the political idea of fear in a leading theorist from the 17th century (Hobbes, who was concerned with the use of fear in establishing the modern state), 18th century (Montesquieu, who saw fear as what made political liberalism necessary), 19th century (Tocqueville, who regarded anxiety as the natural condition of egalitarian democracy), and 20th century (Arendt, who theorized the relationship between state and ma ...more
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Both an intellectual history and an intervention into current political and theoretical debates. This is very worth reading, at least the first half. What Robin does seems obvious now that I've read it, but I never would have thought of it: he traces the role of "fear" (and, to a lesser extent, "anxiety") in modern political thinkers, notably Hobbes, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, Arendt. His point is that the current invocations of fear/terror, as an attempt to unify a putatively disintegrating soci ...more
Christopher McQuain
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
O carte din două părți. Prima parte comentează și critică lucrări fundamentale ale științei politice - interesant mai degrabă pentru cercetători și specialiști decât pentru cititorul amator, care ar vrea să acceadă rapid o vedere de ansamblu. Destul de des te lovești de referiri la teorii obscure pentru un neavizat și de concepte insuficient definite (cum ar fi anxietatea socială). Nu știi dacă sunt lacune ale tale, scăpări ale autorului sau erori de traducere.

Partea a doua încearcă să aducă con
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book consists of two parts. In the first, Robin traces the intellectual history of fear and terror, and the role these concepts play and have played in political thought, culminating in a very interesting discussion of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil . In the second, he talks about the role fear plays in American politics and civil society, paying special attention to the problem of ‘civil society repression.’ ...more
Corey Robin is most renowned (and controversial) for his work on conservatism, but his first book largely deals with fear and liberals. Emerging from the post-9/11 gestalt where pro-war/pro-security-state liberalism ala Chris Hitchens was the big new intellectual thing, “Fear” comes to grip with both the history and the contemporary practice of political fear. As it turns out, it’s liberals — Robin specifically focuses on Montesquieu, Alexis de Tocqueville, Hannah Arendt, as well as the less cat ...more
Sharad Pandian
Complicated, uneven, and probably the most important book I've read in a long time.

The book can be thought of as made up of three sections. In the first, we're given a tour of the treatment of political fear by several major political thinkers (with particular emphasis on Hobbes, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Arendt). The second is a close look at McCarthyism and how, contrary to what is usually assumed, the very liberal institutions meant to protect freedom can be used with startling success a
Lette Hass
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: more-than
para descanso de las "pre":

resultados. Ahh, no. aquí no hay "pre".

Janice Feng
Very problematic.
Sami Eerola
Jun 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2021
Great insights on how liberal elites uses fear to control people in democratic societies. The only problem is that the last half of the book concentrates too much on the US.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
May 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Not yet read al of this book but is an excellent one and esp; "much needed' as reviewers say, "in our present today situations"--
FEAR-ht elanguage of fear the fear of thought fear of wors fears of difference--fears of the econmy now added onto pof al this--
rathcehting up the fear continually
becuase thereisnothing like Fear to increase the repressivess and aggression of as coeity--agiunstits own citizens and agsintthose of anyhone it can point to and projectits paranoia and "evil aspects" on to
R.J. Gilmour
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ironically enough I finished a last night Corey Robin's Fear: The History of a Political Idea (New York: Cambridge, 2004). The book is one of those increasingly rare, well-written and argued geneaologies of an idea, tracing the concept of political fear through Hobbes, Montesquieu, Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt. The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years waiting to be read and as I had no other reading from the library I found myself scouring my shelves for something to read ...more
Apr 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
Fear is a treatise on the place of "fear" in American life. It goes through time looking at different philosopher's conceptions of fear, finally ending with Hannah Arendt's philosophy on the totalitarianism of the 20th century. Corey Robin talks about an incredibly complex topic and helps to clarify its place in time...and how it has morphed (and yet still controls us) in the modern age.
Must, must read.
Luke Echo
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Part I, in which Robin develops a comparative analysis of fear in the political theory of Hobbes, Montesquieu, Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt, was really rather insightful. A compelling presentation of the role of fear through the respective authors and what

The turn in Part II, to mostly US (and mostly 20th C) issues had its entertaining moments, but to be honest I skimmed through some of the detail.

Joe Donohue
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anarchy, cowards
Or why you wouldn't want to live a society of heroes.

Cowards worry about mortgages, social standing, and retirement packages -- they plan for future, and that's what holds society together.

A society of heroes cares only about history and will prefer to die than yield to anyone-- and make lousy neighbors.

Think about it.
Leonard Pierce
May 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Robin has written an interesting, thorough and increasingly relevant book on the use of fear and moral panic as a social governor by political actors.
Ngan Ha
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: englishie
The author raised plenty of excellent points! By combining what I have learnt this year so far and the information in this book, I can relievedly complete my paper!
Jagati Bagchi
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book transcends all ages and help us to understand why there is a rise and effective control of people in powerover society.
rated it it was amazing
Jun 23, 2007
Francisco Lepe
rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2014
rated it liked it
Oct 04, 2011
rated it really liked it
Jun 01, 2017
Anton Sorkin
rated it really liked it
Jun 27, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2021
rated it it was ok
Dec 10, 2013
Rafael Nardini
rated it it was amazing
May 09, 2022
Jake Coffey
rated it really liked it
May 20, 2014
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Goodreads Librari...: add cover and complete missing data XII 3 13 Jun 26, 2017 09:19AM  

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Corey Robin is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College.

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