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The Threat to Reason: How the Enlightenment was Hijacked and How We Can Reclaim It

A vital defence of the Enlightenment as a democratic force against state and corporation.

Today, media commentators, intellectuals and politicians declare that western science and rationality are threatened by irrational enemies. Evangelicals, postmodernists, and Islamists are on the march, they say. The Rome that science built is under siege. But there’s a problem with these stirring attempts to defend the truth. They aren’t true.

In this urgent new book, Dan Hind confronts the great machinery of deception in which we live, and which now threatens to destroy our civilization. In particular, he takes to task a group of prominent intellectuals who have exaggerated the threat posed by the so-called forces of unreason—religion, postmodernism and other “mumbo-jumbo.” The commentators, says Hind, distract us from much more pressing threats to an open democratic society based on freedom of speech and inquiry.

This book shows that the real threats to reason aren’t wacky or foreign or stupid; they reside in our state and corporate bureaucracies — and, one way or another, they probably pay your salary. In recovering the idea of Enlightenment, Hind explores its vital importance and reveals how it can help us to achieve a truly democratic politics, in which we have a genuine say in the decisions that are taken on our behalf.

Reviews

  • “A profound and much-needed contribution ... In the spirit of Enlightenment thinkers, he both reveals the contradictions and hypocrises of contemporary politics, and also points a way forward.”
  • “Since September 11 2001, the idea of Enlightenment has been ripped from university textbooks and airlifted into battle between the West and its irrational enemies. In this elegant polemical essay, Dan Hind rightly quibbles with this supposedly Manichean tussle between the guarantors of Enlightenment in the West and everyone else. Hind wants to rescue the idea of Enlightenment from its usurpers, while pressing it into the service of something better.”
  • “Fine, lucid and sharp ... well written and worth reading before the next wave of western tanks crosses a border, somewhere in the Middle East.”
  • “In this thoughtful polemic Dan Hind argues that we are being misled by a debased 'Folk Enlightenment' which has little in common with the Enlightenment initiated by Bacon and championed by Voltaire, Hume and Kant.”

Blog

  • Nothing 'mindless' about these riots—Dan Hind

    Dan Hind, author on The Return of the Public and The Threat to Reason, writes for Al Jazeera about the recent rioting across Britain.

    Although cautious of the fact that any single, unified explanation for this civil unrest is unlikely to be forthcoming, Hind urges that we cannot treat recent events as mere 'mindless' violence, devoid of political or social meaning.

    [..]broadly, any breakdown of civil order is inescapably political. Quite large numbers of mostly young people have decided that, on balance, they want to take to the streets and attack the forces of law and order, damage property or steal goods. Their motives may differ - they are bound to differ. But their actions can only be understood adequately in political terms.

    Hind notes that although the rioting may take on the guise of political meaning through the opportunism of politicians and commentators;  root causes are at risk of being ignored in the sensationalist media reporting and political point-scoring that will undoubtedly emerge in the aftermath of the unrest.

    Highlighting the high rates of youth unemployment, economic inequality, and cuts to youth services, the article draws attention to the deeper meaning of the riots. Speaking of these issues, Hind writes:

    All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?

    [...]Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.

    Vist Al Jazeera to read the full article.

    Visit Mother Jones for a basic summary of the causes and effects of the rioting, including a reference to Dan Hind's Al Jazeera piece.

  • "More than resistance": Dan Hind on the cuts and the need for alternatives

    Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason and The Return of the Public, makes a number of important  interventions concerning the Coalition spending cuts and the need for an alternative programme.

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  • Set Knowledge Free: Dan Hind on the new student movement

    As students at the London School of Economics are the latest to go into occupation, Dan Hind, author of The Threat to Reason and The Return of the Public, comments on the significance of the new student movements and the prospects for radical change:

    The events of the last few weeks far exceed the student demonstrations in Britain in 1968, in terms of their scale and arguably their significance. The students now have the potential to develop and popularise, in partnership with other groups, a program to tackle Britain's many economic and social problems. Their insistence that education is a

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