A Conflict of Visions

A Conflict of Visions

Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

Book - 2007
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Thomas Sowell's classic analysis of the opposing visions behind today's ethical and ideological disputes
Controversies in politics arise from many sources, but the conflicts that endure for generations or centuries show a remarkably consistent pattern. This revised edition of a classic analyzes the centuries-long debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power. It distinguishes between those with the "constrained" vision, which sees human nature as enduring and self-centered, and the "unconstrained" vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. A Conflict of Visions offers a compelling case that these opposing visions are behind the ethical and ideological disputes of yesterday and today.
Publisher: New York, NY : Basic Books, c2007.
ISBN: 9780465002054
0465002056
Branch Call Number: 303.372 Sowell
Characteristics: xiv, 329 p. ;,21 cm.

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dhallfors
Mar 28, 2019

Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. As a retired academic, I think he is eminently qualified on the topic of this book: a comparison of world views of conservatives and progressives. I read the book in its entirety and came away with a much clearer understanding on how the two world-views differ. I found it an extremely enlightening and useful book. I

i
isaachar
May 25, 2018

It's difficult to fairly rate books by political pundits without seeming un-objective or politically biased. Sowell is a well known conservative writer who has written dozens of books on subjects ranging from history to race to economics. With the exception of books related to history, satires and writings on specific contemporary events, I normally don't bother with political books. You already know, going in, whether the subject matter is going to be offered in positive or negative light depending on who wrote it. But out of fairness, Sowell is a well respected and often cited African American author, so I thought I would give one of Sowell's works a try.

I can read the political opinions offered and either agree or ignore them easily. Again, I normally avoid political works that aren't comedic. I couldn't ignore the fact that Sowell tries, and fails, to come off as an academic. Specifically, an academic in subjects he has no background in. Mr. Sowell's education and career background is in economics. When he talks about paths to economic achievement and success for different economic and social demographics, he has weight behind this. He is, after all, an academic economist. When he starts delving in to criminal justice, history, critical race and gender theory, he starts to come off as a hack. Or at least a shill.

I hesitated writing this because, honestly, I couldn't finish the audio version of book. The first thing anyone reading (well, listening to) this book will notice is that it is definitely aimed at certain readers. Specifically, readers of one side of a political leaning. There's nothing wrong with that, there are a hundred other popular authors from all sides of the political spectrum. The problem is, Sowell makes non-economic arguments, usually leaning towards belaying what he believes are flawed or implicitly 'lesser' cultural traits of African Americans and Hispanics, while selling the concept of cultural superiority of people of European descent. Again, this is all political pulp writing, a hundred other authors do the same to sell books. But Sowell writes these arguments as if he is not stating his opinion, but offering facts as an academic. An academic who actually has no education in the field he is discussing. Imagine an attorney selling a series of books on best surgical practices. Or an accountant writing an academic piece on industrial mechanical engineering. Sure, you can do it, but its not an academic work. Its opinion.

Sowell falls into this anytime he is discussing anything outside of his actual area of expertise. Sure, his opinion on social justice, civil rights, poverty, legal theory, gender equality and welfare are interesting to read. But they aren't based in academic research or scholarship. To put it in one sentence, being political charged is fine, but selling your arguments as academic it comes off as cheap. Like the author is trying to sell opinion to sympathetic ears as if it's fact (or at least, scholarly sourced).

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