Forum and the Tower:How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World, from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt

By: Mary Ann Glendon

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The Forum and the Tower tackles a fascinating and perennial topic: the relationship between the academy and the world of politics. For all the talk about the remoteness of ivory tower ideas from 'the real world,' it is the case that ideas do in fact have consequences. In recent US history, the careers of Henry Kissinger and Daniel Patrick Moynihan illustrate how ideas drive politics. Oftentimes the translations of ideas into action results in severe distortions of their original meaning, but the relationship between ideas and revolutionary political and social change is a constant. The accomplished Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon traces this crucial relationship from Greek times, taking readers through the Roman Empire, Renaissance Italy, the English revolution, the Federalist era in the US, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Concert of Europe, the progressive era, and the New Deal/World War II era. Her aim is to utilize history to show how intellectuals and politicians can work productively. That has in fact happened in recent times: the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the product of a team of philosophers and political theorists working alongside Eleanor Roosevelt. That declaration has had a lasting and positive effect on world politics, revolutionizing the terms of the discussion and setting new benchmarks for states to follow. She closes with a consideration of intellectuals in American politics in more recent times.
Publication Date:
08 / 07 / 2011

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