Synopses & Reviews
Ernest Gellner (1925-95) was a multilingual polymath and a public intellectual who set the agenda in the study of nationalism and the sociology of Islam. Having grown up in Paris, Prague, and England, he was also one of the last great Jewish thinkers from Central Europe to experience directly the impact of the Holocaust. His intellectual trajectory differed from that of similar thinkers, both in producing a highly integrated philosophy of modernity and in combining a respect for nationalism with an appreciation of the power of modern science. Gellner was a fierce opponent, in private as well as in public, of such contemporaries as Michael Oakeshott, Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor, Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. As this definitive biography shows, he was passionate in the defense of reason against every form of relativism--a battle that his intellectual inheritors continue to this day.
Gellner has been brought back to life--alongside his combative ideas and his maverick approach to intellectual combat--in a sympathetic but by no means reverential biography by his former pupil John A. Hall.Ernest Gellner was a great twentieth-century intellectual, and John Hall"s fine biography conveys a vivid sense of the man and of the extraordinary range of his ideas, while commenting with great intelligence upon them. A must read. -- Michael Mann, Professor of Sociology, UCLA
This is a fascinating biography of one of the seminal and most interesting thinkers of the later twentieth century ' John Hall has done a great deal to make clear the complex background and underlying motives of this remarkable man and thinker. -- Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus at McGill University in Montreal
Ernest Gellner (1925'"95) was one of the last great thinkers from Central Europe to be condemned by his Jewish background to experience the worst horrors of the twentieth century. He was a multilingual polymath, able to set the agenda in the study of nationalism and the sociology of Islam. His intellectual trajectory differed from that of similar thinkers both in producing a highly integrated philosophy of modernity and in combining a respect for nationalism with an appreciation of the power of modern science. In this definitive biography, particular attention is paid to his Prague roots, and to debates with Michael Oakeshott, Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and many others.
The first and monumental biography of the life and thought of the groundbreaking historian and writer on nationalism.
About the Author
John A. Hall is the James McGill Professor of Comparative Historical Sociology at McGill University in Montreal. His books include Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography, Powers and Liberties, Liberalism, Coercion and Consent, International Orders, and (with Charles Lindholm) Is America Breaking Apart? He taught at the Central European University in the early 1990s, when Gellner had returned to Prague, and gained an appreciation at that time of his background in Central Europe.