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Book Cover for: Dominations and Powers: Reflections on Liberty, Society, and Government, George Santayana

Dominations and Powers: Reflections on Liberty, Society, and Government

George Santayana

In what must be ranked as a foremost classic of twentieth-century political philosophy, George Santayana, in the preface to his last major work prior to his death, makes plain the limits as well as the aims of Dominations and Powers: "All that it professes to contain is glimpses of tragedy and comedy played unawares by governments; and a continual intuitive reduction of political maxims and institutions to the intimate spiritual fruits that they are capable of bearing."

This astonishing volume shows how the potential beauty latent in all sorts of worldly artifacts and events are rooted in differing forms of power and dominion. The work is divided into three major parts: the generative order of society, which covers growth in the jungle, economic arts, and the liberal arts; the militant order of society, which examines factions and enterprise; and the rational order of society, which contains one of the most sustained critiques of democratic systems and liberal ideologies extant.

Written at a midpoint in the century, but at the close of his career, Santayana's volume offers an ominous account of the weakness of the West and its similarities in substance, if not always in form, with totalitarian systems of the East. Few analyses of concepts, such as government by the people, the price of peace and the suppression of warfare, the nature of elites and limits of egalitarianism, and the nature of authority in free societies, are more comprehensive or compelling. This is a carefully rendered statement on tasks of leadership for free societies that take on added meaning after the fall of communism.

The author of a definitive biography of Santayana, John McCormick provides the sort of deep background that makes possible an assessment of Dominations and Powers. He permits us to better appreciate the place of this work at the start no less than conclusion of Santayana's long career. For the author of The Life of Reason himself admits to having led a life in unreason--deeply impacted by the war of 1914-1918, ^and then again, 1939-1945.

McCormick provides in his opening essay a careful story of Santayana's exile from his Anglo-American homeland, a deeply embittered figure in search of options to annihilation at the military level and an alternative to false and fatuous ideologies at the spiritual level. We know better now how to cope with this profound, yet disturbing classic in political thought.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Publish Date: Dec 31st, 1995
  • Pages: 506
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.00in - 6.38in - 1.10in - 1.52lb
  • EAN: 9781560008200
  • Categories: PoliticalHistory & Theory - General

About the Author

Santayana, George: -

George Santayana (1863-1952) was a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. Expressing a theme that remained a lifelong characteristic, he explains why he gave up -academic lumber- and went into retirement. The pursuit of pure philosophy became his revolt against intellectual dissolution and anarchy. His writings were substantial, including a five-volume work, The Life of Reason, and a four-volume work, Realms of Being.

Praise for this book

"A great panorama of illuminating wisdom."

--D. C. Somervell, International Affairs

"With characteristic aloofness, Santayana has again combined his mastery of words, his acuteness of expression and his sharp, though hardly contemporary, insight into man's relationship with man to form a truly remarkable treatise on politics in general, and the application of reason to circumstance in particular. . . . There are several compelling reasons, however, why one should read Dominations and Powers. It is tremendous in its scope, vast in its searching, and suggestive in its expression; ever-encouraging the reader to seek deeper and deeper into the realm of thought. It is the kind of writing that disturbs habits of thought and poses the type of questions which must seek fresh and live answers. And, whether it is agreed with or not, it is none the less stimulating."

--Irvin C. Ryder, Military Affairs

"A great panorama of illuminating wisdom."

--D. C. Somervell, International Affairs

"With characteristic aloofness, Santayana has again combined his mastery of words, his acuteness of expression and his sharp, though hardly contemporary, insight into man's relationship with man to form a truly remarkable treatise on politics in general, and the application of reason to circumstance in particular. . . . There are several compelling reasons, however, why one should read Dominations and Powers. It is tremendous in its scope, vast in its searching, and suggestive in its expression; ever-encouraging the reader to seek deeper and deeper into the realm of thought. It is the kind of writing that disturbs habits of thought and poses the type of questions which must seek fresh and live answers. And, whether it is agreed with or not, it is none the less stimulating."

--Irvin C. Ryder, Military Affairs

-A great panorama of illuminating wisdom.-

--D. C. Somervell, International Affairs

-With characteristic aloofness, Santayana has again combined his mastery of words, his acuteness of expression and his sharp, though hardly contemporary, insight into man's relationship with man to form a truly remarkable treatise on politics in general, and the application of reason to circumstance in particular. . . . There are several compelling reasons, however, why one should read Dominations and Powers. It is tremendous in its scope, vast in its searching, and suggestive in its expression; ever-encouraging the reader to seek deeper and deeper into the realm of thought. It is the kind of writing that disturbs habits of thought and poses the type of questions which must seek fresh and live answers. And, whether it is agreed with or not, it is none the less stimulating.-

--Irvin C. Ryder, Military Affairs