Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was a central figure in twentieth-century political thought. This volume highlights Berlin's significance for contemporary readers, covering not only his writings on liberty and liberalism, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Russian thinkers and pluralism, but also the implications of his thought for political theory, history, and the social sciences, as well as the ethical challenges confronting political actors, and the nature and importance of practical judgment for politics and scholarship. His name and work are inseparable from the revival of political philosophy and the analysis of political extremism and defense of democratic liberalism following World War II. Berlin was primarily an essayist who spoke through commentary on other authors and, while his own commitments and allegiances are clear enough, much in his thought remains controversial. Berlin's work constitutes an unsystematic and incomplete, but nevertheless sweeping and profound, defense of political, ethical, and intellectual humanism in an anti-humanistic age.
Provides a comprehensive overview of the work and importance of Isaiah Berlin, including the full range of ideas and themes that motivated his work
Brings together essays about Berlin by leading political theorists and historians, offering a range of perspectives
Offers both appreciative and critical perspectives on Berlin's body of work, showing not only its relation to Berlin's own time but his enduring importance for ours
Joshua L. Cherniss is the author of A Mind and its Time: The Development of Isaiah Berlin's Political Thought (2013), and of journal articles and book chapters on Berlin, Reinhold Niebuhr, Max Weber, and other twentieth-century political thinkers. He has been a Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, and a Graduate Fellow at the Center for European Studies and the Safra Center for Ethics, both at Harvard University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
Steven B. Smith is Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He has served as the Master of Branford College at Yale and is the Co-Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Representative Institutions. His book Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity (1997) won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from Phi Beta Kappa. His most recent book, Modernity and its Discontents (2016), has been widely reviewed and the subject of book conference and panel discussions. He is currently working on a new book called In Defense of Patriotism.
Editors' introduction: why Berlin? Why now? Steven B. Smith and Joshua L. ChernissPart I. Berlin the Man: