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How To Be A Liberal

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  249 ratings  ·  30 reviews
From Brexit Britain to Donald Trump's America, nationalists are launching an all-out assault on liberal values. In this groundbreaking new book, Ian Dunt tells the story of liberalism, from its birth in the fight against absolute monarchy to the modern-day resistance against the new populism.

In a soaring narrative that stretches from the battlefields of the English Civil W
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 2020 by Canbury Press
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Tom Richards
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ian Dunt has multiple personas: the sweary critic of Remainiacs and Twitter, lambasting Parliamentary dunces with choice invective (“brain like a piece of crumpled paper, spluttering out little scraps of bullshit”); the polemicist of, destroying absurd political logic with withering put-downs (“It’s not just their brains that are small, but their hearts”); and the non-sweary but still biting political commentator on the TV. I was wondering which Ian Dunt would show up for this boo ...more
Tom Ives
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dunt in fine form. Informed and passionate. A call to think and call to arms to protect liberal ideas.
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ian Dunt is an excellent writer and starts off the book with a summary of the development of liberalism, which though succinct, is comprehensive and incisive. His view that John Stuart Mill's work on liberty should be regarded as a join effort with Harriet Taylor is a refreshing (and I’m sure accurate) reassessment of their contribution - throughout the book he rightly refers to them jointly.

The latter part of the book examines the modern rise of populism and the challenge it poses to liberal de
Nov 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent exploration of liberalism that doesn't go easy on its failings and current challenges. I highly recommend you pick it up if you want to gain a wider historical context for the current political situation and better understand your own liberal perspective. ...more
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ho divorato questo libro. Mi ha insegnato molto, fatto pensare, preoccupato, entusiasmato.
Mi ha fatto riflettere su quali siano i doni, i rischi, le sfide di una società liberale. E soprattutto ha richiamato l'impegno che ci è richiesto per promuovere e conservare una società aperta, solidale, rispettosa di ogni singola persona.

Quanto ci racconta e ricorda Ian Dunt rappresenta una call to action alla quale non possiamo sottrarci.
Andy Gray
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Details of historical events and movements I just didn’t know about, combined with analysis and commentary of modern situations I didn’t fully understand, all contained in an accessible work.
I think I might be a better person going forward for reading this - I’ll certainly be much more aware, in so many areas.
Sue Chant
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Charting the history and development of liberal ideals from Descartes onwards this book also delineates the many enemies of liberal thought, including communism, fascism, nationalism, and identity politics. It shows how those enemy ideologies seek to homogenize - "the will of the people" - and tribalize - anyone who disagrees is shouted down rather than engaged in debate. To be honest, the last couple of chapters covering the extreme nationalism and outright lies of politics in recent days left ...more
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Threaded together various ideas and events I had vaguely learned about through school, university with topics from today’s world and made me see the connections between them. Clear, easy style. Definitely recommend. (Also if you are on Twitter, follow Ian live tweeting from parliamentary debate, v entertaining!)
Dec 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Five phrase review.
very eurocentric and western focussed
That thing when you think the biggest problem in the world is the problem you're worried about.

I liked it. It was well worth reading. But the "how to be" in the title doesn't really come across for me.
Trudy Oldroyd
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great read. Intellectually meaty yet accessible. The first couple of chapters are a bit of a slog but keep going; it is well worth it. As a layman, I particularly like the way this book appears to seamlessly move from questions of philosophy, politics, economics, anthropology, psychology and sociology without the reader even noticing.
A very interesting and enlightening look at where we are and how we got here, and more importantly how we can step into a different future if we choose to do so.
Jeff Kaye
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ian Dunt's writing for and elsewhere have been an important part of my continued education for some time. Liberalism has formed the basis of the principles that I have tried to adhere to throughout my life. The combination of the two promised much and Ian has succeeded in fulfilling that hope.

The book is not about politics - he eschews any notion of adhering to a party political broadcast within the book's 448 pages. I will return to this issue, but fully understand why he has do
Christopher Bounds
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This examination of liberal thought since Decartes was bloody fantastic! Some of it took me back to first year philosophy, and other bits I had no idea about, and then pulled it all together in a coherent explanation. It provided me with some kind of a foundation for explaining my somewhat unformed response to nationalism and identity politics. With the defeat of Trump and his lunatic warriors, we have some cause for confidence in the robustness of democratic instructions in the US, and a hope t ...more
Bob Brussack
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
In academia, the highest praise generally is reserved for works anointed as “original,” and I’m not well-enough versed in the canon of political or moral philosophy to know whether Ian Dunt’s “How to Be a Liberal” plows significant new ground, but I take it that Dunt’s objective, exceptionally executed, was rather to make a broad expanse of old ground readily accessible to the modern reader and to show its urgent relevance today. If you are a liberal in the sense Dunt means, or if you’re curious ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I tend to prefer fiction to fact books. However, this was a surprisingly easy read for a book that covers such a wide sweep of western political history and philosophical ideas. It was well structured, well researched and I loved how he linked the personal to the political in his exploration of key figures. It was also quite uplifting (ideas persist and evolve even if we live in difficult times) and empowering (each of us has a part to play and can choose how we do this). The sign of a good book ...more
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Never knew there was so much to being a Liberal. Not conviced I fully understand now, but I do believe that being of a Liberal disposition, must be better than many of the alternatives. Some chapters were a bit difficult to get through, but my favoutite part was page 126 . . .

"There was no will of the people. There never had been. There was only the varied will of individuals, which even they would struggle to articulate in a consistent way"

. . . . all the more poignant after brexit vote here
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book may change your life, and for once I'm not being hyperbolic. A hugely readable, meticulously researched history of liberalism, up to the current nationalist wave that is sweeping the world. The final two chapters made me upset and despairing at the state of things; thankfully they are followed up with a rousing call to action that's full of hope. Recommend if you want to be educated and inspired. ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book for our time. Written in Dunt's trademark 'svelte' prose, it romps along through history drawing clear lessons why liberalism has succeeded and failed at various points in time.

If you have any interest in how liberalism can rediscover it's 'mojo' and stop the nationalists and nativists from continuing their march to power then read this.
Richard Linter
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Takes the same insight and analysis used in "Brexit. What the Hell Happens now?" (and in the Remainiacs podcasts) into a history of liberalism (without the Remainiacs swearing, but with the same passion for the subject).
Both books accessibly informative and both worth keeping on the shelves as reference.
Highly recommended
Steve Mitchell
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
They say that there are more questions than answers, and this book is a fantastic illustration of that. I know that that first sentence sounds like a criticism but it is not. This is an ideal starting point for understanding how liberalism works whilst simultaneously being a great resource for further reading to extend that knowledge.
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The title is pure centerist dad but the book is really good. I started reading chapters that looked interesting. One on Mill then the English Civil war etc. That way I got through a doorstopper of a book pretty fast.
I prefered the historical chapters to the ones on what is happening now. But that could just be because I hate what is happening now.
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Superb history of the birth and development of liberal democracy, and the ideas and individuals that drove that progress. A welcomed rallying cry to 'liberals' to continue to defend and support liberal democracy and its institutions. ...more
Keith Love
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Ian has a great writing style that draws you in - before I knew it I was addicted to the subject matter and I have had my horizons completely broadened. Highly recommended.
Chris Wallace
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best book on political theory I've ever read. I would probably not have defined my politics as particularly liberal prior to reading, but it's such a brilliantly written book that your own views going into it really don't matter, it's still a great read. ...more
Mike O'Brien
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A hugely rewarding read, vividly telling of the story of liberalism and its changing shape over time. It sets out a powerful argument for the need for progressive liberalism as a challenge to the rise of the authoritarianism we see all around us.

Highly recommended.
George Thomson
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Pretty solid book, don't take the title literally, it isn't an instruction and more a history of liberal movements. ...more
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Timely, thoughtful - an excellently narrated audiobook
David Ellis
Love Ian Dunt so much. <3
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Engaging and informative, providing a framework for understanding without talking down to you. A genuine call to arms in defence of the liberties too many of us take for granted.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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