Ideas: Brilliant Thinkers Speak Their Minds

Ideas: Brilliant Thinkers Speak Their Minds

by Bernie Lucht

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For four decades, Ideas has presented more than 400,000 CBC Radio listeners in Canada and the United States with the most challenging contemporary thought of the day. Now, to mark the program’s 40th anniversary, executive producer Bernie Lucht has selected the most striking interviews and lectures for Ideas: Brilliant Thinker Speak Their Minds.


For four decades, Ideas has presented more than 400,000 CBC Radio listeners in Canada and the United States with the most challenging contemporary thought of the day. Now, to mark the program’s 40th anniversary, executive producer Bernie Lucht has selected the most striking interviews and lectures for Ideas: Brilliant Thinker Speak Their Minds. Featuring some the best thinkers from North America and around the world that have appeared on the program since its beginnings in 1965, Ideas: Brilliant Thinkers Speak Their Minds touches upon societal values, how we govern ourselves, and navigating in the international community. In this remarkable book, Bernie Lucht, winner of the John Drainie Award for broadcast journalism, introduces readers to the origins of the ground-breaking program and to “the best ideas you’ll hear tonight.” Since the beginning, geopolitics has been one of the significant concerns of the program, and issues such as democracy, dictatorships, the nature of the nation-state, the public good, ideology, religion, peace and violence keep returning to the fore. Although many of the topics have been around for decades, the questions remain startlingly topical today, even in a radically changed world. Exploring geopolitics writ large, Ideas features interviews, lectures and radio documentaries with such influential contemporary thinkers as Tariq Ali, Michael Bliss, Noam Chomsky, Ursula Franklin, Northrop Frye, Bernard Lewis, Margaret MacMillan, James Orbinski, and many, many others. While each thinker speaks from his or her specific experience in time, the themes and concerns resonate as much today as they did last week or forty years ago.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ideas has regularly taken the intellectual temperature of the world." — The Globe and Mail

"Food for many moons of thought." — Globe and Mail

"This book is an excellent introduction to current ideas, reflecting the breadth and depth of contemporary thought." — Winnipeg Free Press

"The ultimate brain-trust reader . . . a collection you'll return to whenever your brain needs a workout." — Monday Magazine

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From the Publisher
"The Ideas series has become essential to Canadian intellecutal life. And here in print are gathered some of the best of the best. This is a volume to read and to cherish." — David Frum

Meet the Author

Bernie Lucht has been the executive producer of Ideas since 1984. He is also the executive producer of Tapestry, the Sunday afternoon program of religious and spiritual exploration. Born and raised in Montreal, he earned a BA from Concordia University in 1966. That same year, he joined the CBC as a producer for Radio-Canada International, and in 1969 went on to produce Cross-Country Checkup. That same year, Lucht left for West Africa to work as a CUSO volunteer teacher in rural Nigeria. He returned to Canada in 1971, starting work as a production assistant at Ideas, then rising to become the program's executive producer in 1984. Under his direction, Ideas has won many national and international awards.

Eugen Weber, a specialist in the history of France, is the author of a dozen books and the writer and narrator of a fifty-two-part PBS series, The Western Tradition. Until his retirement, he held the Chair of Modern European History at the University of California in Los Angeles.

In the late 1930s, George Woodcock (1912-1995) belonged to a radical group of writers in London, England, that included Aldous Huxley, Herbert Read, and George Orwell, and in their company, he became a poet, a pamphleteer, and a pacifist. Eventually, he became the most articulate spokesman for literary anarchism and a prolific writer of poetry, journalism, travel literature, and history. In 1949, he returned to Canada, where he had been born, and settled in Vancouver. There he wrote Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements and numerous books and articles about the role of the arts in a free society. One of Canada's most influential men of letters, he founded Canadian Literature in 1959 and edited it for nearly twenty years.

Paul Goodman, 1911-1972, described himself as an anarchist and a man of letters. He taught at universities and colleges including the University of Chicago, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College and the Experimental College of Black Mountain. A poet, novelist, and writer of non-fiction, he authored several books on education, city life, children's rights, politics, and the counterculture of the mid- and late-1960s, including People or Personnel, Compulsory Mis-Education, Communitas, and The Society I Live in Is Mine.

Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was one of Canada's most distinguished men of letters. His first book, Fearful Symmetry, published in 1947, transformed the study of the poet William Blake, and over the next forty years he transformed the study of literature itself. Among his most influential books are Anatomy of Criticism (1957), The Educated Imagination (1963), The Bush Garden (1971), and The Great Code (1982). Northrop Frye on Shakespeare (1986) won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. A professor at the University of Toronto, Frye gained an international reputation for his wide-reaching critical vision. He lectured at universities around the world and received many awards and honours, including thirty-six honorary degrees.

George Steiner was born in 1929 in Paris. After studying in France, the United States, and England, he became an editor at The Economist. He has taught at Princeton, Oxford, Harvard, the University of Geneva, and Cambridge University. Steiner has received honours and awards in the United States, France, Belgium, and England. Although he has written major works of fiction, translation, politics, and autobiography, he is best known in the field of comparative literature and literary criticism.

Ronald Wintrobe is professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario. His work is mostly about political and bureaucratic behaviour from an economic point of view, and he is the author of The Political Economy of Dictatorships.

John McKnight has questioned the definition of welfare. He believes that, beyond a certain intensity, the professionalization of care, counsel, and consolation turns citizens into clients, and paid services degrade and often destroy abilities which already exist within the community. He has worked with communities and neighbourhoods throughout Canada and the United States, as well as directing the program in community studies at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago.

University of Toronto professor Michael Bliss is one of Canada's best-known historians and the author of Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Mulroney.

William Kristol is an American neoconservative, political analyst, and commentator.

Bob Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario, is a Liberal member of parliament for Toronto Centre.

Abraham Rotstein is a professor of economics at the University of Toronto and co-founder of the Committee for an Independent Canada.

John Crispo was a Canadian economist, author, and educator.

Charles Taylor is a Canadian philosopher in the areas of politics, social sciences, and the history of philosophy.

Bernie Farber is the chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress and a social activist.

Bob Davis is a teacher in Scarborough, Ontario.

Dr. James Orbinski is former president of the international aid organization Médecins Sans Frontiéres / Doctors Without Borders. He has been involved with MSF since 1990 and was a founding member of the Canadian section. He has worked in the midst of civil war, massacres, and genocide, in Somalia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Zaire.

General Roméo Dallaire was the Canadian in charge of the United Nations peacekeeping mission during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, ostensibly charged with ensuring that Rwanda didn't become the living hell it did. Underequipped, besieged by conflicting demands, ignored by the UN Security Council, General Dallaire and his soldiers watched as the violence escalated to a murderous frenzy. Even years after the massacre, he demonstrated the human toll exacted on those forced by bureaucracy and poor equipment to simply watch as thousands were butchered daily, an experience he and his personal staff officer, Major Brent Beardsley, wrote about in Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.

Gerald Caplan is a Canadian academic, public policy analyst, commentator, and political activist.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and On Revolution, among other writings dealing with questions of revolution and resistance.

Poet Robert Lowell (1917-1977) was a conscientious objector in World War II and took part in protests against the Vietnam War.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has written extensively on the responsibility of intellectuals.

Conor Cruise O'Brien is, among other things, a historian of the Irish Revolution, the author of a biography of Parnell, a former UN official in the Congo, and Albert Schweitzer Professor at New York University.

Dr. Helen Caldicott is an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons and the arms race. She's a paediatrician, co-founder and president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, founder of WAND -- Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, and founding president of the Nuclear Policy Research Center. Dr. Caldicott is the author of Nuclear Madness and Missile Envy and she was featured in the Academy Award-winning film, If You Love This Planet.

Tariq Ali was a leading light of the New Left in the 1960s. His eloquent denunciations of American imperialism in southeast Asia were to be found in the pages of The New Left Review, which he helped to found. Since then, he has had an ever-changing career as an activist, essayist, filmmaker, editor, historian, and novelist.

Ursula Franklin is Professor Emerita of Physics at the University of Toronto and a lifelong activist for peace.

Robert Fulford is one of Canada's most experienced and best-known journalists.

Janice Stein, with more than thirty years of scholarship in international affairs, is Harrowston Chair of Conflict Management and the founding director of the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, and an advisor to governments around the world.

Richard Holbrooke is a career diplomat. Under the Clinton administration, he was US ambassador to Germany and assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian Affairs. Most notably, he was the chief negotiator for the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, and he was the US special envoy to Kosovo before the NATO bombings. Ambassador Holbrooke spoke at the Nexus Institute, Amsterdam, Holland, exactly a month after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Professor Bernard Lewis, one of the most sought-after and controversial experts on the Middle East, began his academic career as a student of the University of London. In 1949, he was appointed to the newly created Chair of the History of the Near and Middle East at the University of London. In 1974, he was appointed Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and became emeritus on his retirement in 1986. Among his works are his important 2002 study What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response and in 2003, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror.

Tony Judt is a professor of history, Director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Margaret MacMillan is Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto and author of the bestseller Paris 1919

George Monbiot is author of The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for the New World Order and a regular columnist for The Guardian newspaper.

Raised in Winnipeg, educated at the finest schools and possessed of a mind that is acute, quick, thoughtful, and deep, Dr. Sylvia Ostry has been a senior public servant, an international advisor, an acclaimed scholar, and a prolific writer. She has participated in some of the most important economic gatherings of our time and deserves no small amount of the credit for their achievements. She teaches and writes, researches and advises Canadian and international organizations about where the world is headed and how that could or should change.

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