Smith, “Modernity and Its Discontents”

From the author of what was a helpful book on the thought of Leo Strauss for Smithnovices like me, here is a very interesting new book about the modern condition and its pathologies: Modernity and Its Discontents: Making and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Bellow (YUP), by the political theorist Steven B. Smith. A special bonus: the book has a chapter on “The Political Teaching of Lampedusa’s The Leopard,” which includes this line: “the book is a profound meditation on the problem of modernity.” Professor Smith’s book is worth purchasing for that chapter alone.

Steven B. Smith examines the concept of modernity, not as the end product of historical developments but as a state of mind. He explores modernism as a source of both pride and anxiety, suggesting that its most distinctive characteristics are the self-criticisms and doubts that accompany social and political progress. Providing profiles of the modern project’s most powerful defenders and critics–from Machiavelli and Spinoza to Saul Bellow and Isaiah Berlin–this provocative work of philosophy and political science offers a novel perspective on what it means to be modern and why discontent and sometimes radical rejection are its inevitable by-products.

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