Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy

Overview

"I have attempted to take the high ground," writes George F. Kennan in the foreword to this illuminating work, "trying to stick to the broader dimensions of things - the ones that would still be visible and significant in future decades." Against the background of a century of wars, revolution, and uneasy peace, Mr. Kennan advances his thoughts on a broad front: how the individual's quest for power can transform a government into a confusion of ambition, rivalry, and suspicion; how a nation's size can create barriers between the rulers and the
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Overview

"I have attempted to take the high ground," writes George F. Kennan in the foreword to this illuminating work, "trying to stick to the broader dimensions of things - the ones that would still be visible and significant in future decades." Against the background of a century of wars, revolution, and uneasy peace, Mr. Kennan advances his thoughts on a broad front: how the individual's quest for power can transform a government into a confusion of ambition, rivalry, and suspicion; how a nation's size can create barriers between the rulers and the ruled; why America must first set its own house in order before it can become a beacon to others. Deeply aware of the pressures under which public officials must act, Mr. Kennan sees a government in Washington that is forced to make decisions on issues of the moment, often without regard for long-term consequences. Neither the legislature, responsive to the interests of a narrow constituency, nor the executive branch, swamped by urgent problems at home and abroad, has the time or inclination to look far beyond the next election. Lost entirely is a vital element in any democracy: deliberation based upon study, review, and judgment. To address problems that defy quick political solutions, Mr. Kennan here boldly lays down a blueprint for a Council of State, a nonpolitical, permanent advisory board that would stand alongside yet apart from government policy makers, with the prestige to be heard "above the cacophony of political ambitions." Rich in historical example, this volume is a brilliant summing up of the experience and thought of the man the Atlantic described in a cover story entitled "The Last Wise Man" as: "diplomat, scholar, writer of rare literary gifts, one of most remarkable Americans of this century."

Winner of the National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes, diplomat and scholar Kennan now steps forth with a compelling, provocative testament for our times--a brilliant look at the problems facing America today. A New York Times bestseller in hardcover.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kennan airs controversial opinions in this book of personal and political reflections. Deeming the U.S. to be severely overpopulated, he dreams of a decentralized America broken into 12 constituent republics. He opposes ``forced desegregation'' of schools and urges U.S. leaders to adopt a modest foreign policy with a minimum of external involvement and large cutbacks in foreign aid. The goal, he stresses, should be to get our own house in order. ``We are a nation of bad social habits,'' he chides, citing the national addictions to television, the automobile and junk mail. To tap the wisdom of the citizenry, the eminent scholar-statesman author of 18 books; former ambassador to the Soviet Union calls for the creation of a Council of State, an advisory body to the federal government that would address public-policy issues. He also sets forth his thoughts on what he calls ``the demonic side of human nature,'' defined as our instinctive compulsion to sexual activity and the ego's endless search for reassurance. Jan.
Library Journal
The guiding intellect behind the postwar policy of containment and author of a dozen books, Kennan has figured prominently in foreign policy debates since World War II. In this tightly written and somber book, he reflects on the state of his country and what needs to be done. His thoughts are wide-ranging, covering American government, political ideology, and faith. In the second part of his book, Kennan addresses both domestic and foreign policy concerns. His most novel suggestion calls for the creation of a permanent advisory body, which he calls the Council of State, consisting of citizens with various talents who would serve as a sounding board for policy debates. This is not easy reading, but it is essential for those seeking to better understand the enigma that is is George Kennan. Recommended for academic collec tions.-- Ed Goedeken, Purdue Univ. Libs., West Lafayette, Ind.
Gilbert Taylor
Kennan has long resembled a stern Puritan preacher whose warnings--with the single exception of his role in inspiring the Cold War "containment" policy--have gone unheeded. The virtual diplacement of the written word by the screened image is one national "addiction" the author deplores; the automobile and advertising are others. Worst of all, in Kennan's view, because it foils "public authority" from ameliorating critical problems such as immigration, overpopulation, pollution, and bad schools is the encumbrance of government with rules and bureaucracy. That inhibits any common sense in administration and any feeling that government is close to the governed. He has two solutions, one whimsical divide the country into 12 semi-autonomous regions, and one intriguing create a Council of State that rides herd over president and congress. These ideas, so out of step with the egalitarian, impulsive features of the age, mark Kennan as an easy target for status quo defenders--easy, in part, because of Kennan's crystalline use of language. "Man, the cracked vessel" is the title of Kennan's first chapter, and it presages the admonitory text that, if it doesn't cap Kennan's eminent career, does illuminate his views over 65 years as diplomat and scholar. These are words that no one with a claim to wisdom wil ignore.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393034110
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword 11
Ch. 1 Man, the Cracked Vessel 17
Ch. 2 Faith 37
Ch. 3 On Government and Governments 53
Ch. 4 The Nation 74
Ch. 5 Ideology 96
Ch. 6 Egalitarianism and Diversity 116
Ch. 7 Dimensions 142
Ch. 8 The Addictions 157
Ch. 9 Foreign Policy, Nonmilitary 180
Ch. 10 Foreign Policy, Military 212
Ch. 11 What Is to Be Done? 232
Epilogue 251
Index 261
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