Isaiah Berlin

The Journey of a Jewish Liberal

By Arie M. Dubnov
(Palgrave Macmillan, Hardcover, 9780230110700, 330pp.)

Publication Date: March 27, 2012

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This study offers a fresh reappraisal of the philosopher, political thinker, and historian of ideas Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) from childhood to the height of his intellectual career. It provides the first historically contextualized study of Berlin's formative years and identifies different stages in his intellectual development, allowing a reappraisal of his theory of liberalism. Applying a 'double perspective' that examines Berlin both as an East European Jewish émigré as well as a British Liberal intellectual, author Arie Dubnov stresses the very ambivalent relation between Berlin's liberal philosophy and his pro-Zionist sentiments.

About the Author

Arie M. Dubnov is an acting assistant professor at Stanford University's Department of History. Dubnov holds a BA, an MA, and a PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is a past George L. Mosse Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His fields of expertise are modern Jewish and European intellectual history, with a subsidiary interest in nationalism studies. Dubnov has published essays in journals such as Nations & Nationalism, Modern Intellectual History, History of European Ideas, The Journal of Israeli History and is the editor of the collection [in Hebrew] Zionism – A View from the Outside (2010), seeking to put Zionist history in a larger comparative trajectory. At Stanford Dubnov teaches courses in European intellectual history alongside Jewish and Israeli history.

Praise For Isaiah Berlin

"An inspiring account of the relationship between the struggle to defend pragmatic liberalism and the dilemmas and conflicts of politics." - Kirkus

"Dubnov's linking of Berlin's intellectual positions to the development of his identity as a British liberal and a Russian Jew is illuminating, as well as original." - Jewish Review of Books

"Arie M. Dubnov's intellectual biography of Sir Isaiah Berlin (1907-1997) is remarkable in many ways. Dubnov's approach to this complex thinker is appropriately careful. This is not an easy book, because its subject is complex, but it is gracefully written and repays the serious reader's efforts generously." - Jewish Book Council

"Dubnov's book deserves to be read . . . Helps us to recall the extraordinary relevance of a great thinker of liberal pluralism." - Il Sole 24 Ore

"A masterful, beautifully crafted biographical study of one the last century's most crucial, yet puzzling, public intellectuals. Dubnov writes with admirable clarity, breadth, and subtlety, with all the skills of a first-rate intellectual historian." - Steven J. Zipperstein, Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History, Stanford University

"At a time when liberal Zionism seems increasingly oxymoronic, Arie Dubnov's trenchantly argued, scrupulously researched biography of Isaiah Berlin reminds us that it was once a viable option. Berlin's version, to be sure, was always beset with internal tensions—its Zionism firmly diasporic and liberalism motivated by fear rather than hope—but Dubnov shows that they were more often productive than disabling. Against Michael Ignatieff's authorized reconstruction of Berlin's life, which emphasized its Russian roots and worldly success, Dubnov gives us a more tortured intellectual wrestling with the dilemmas of modern Jewish identity, torn between cosmopolitan assimilation and communal solidarity." - Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley

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