Best Alan Ryan books

On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2 Vol. Set)

Alan Ryan

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Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century.

Both a history and an examination of human thought and behavior spanning three thousand years, On Politics thrillingly traces the origins of political philosophy from the ancient Greeks to Machiavelli in Book I and from Hobbes to the present age in Book II. Whether examining Lord Acton’s dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” or explicating John Stuart Mill’s contention that it is “better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” Alan Ryan evokes the lives and minds of our greatest thinkers in a way that makes reading about them a transcendent experience. Whether writing about Plato or Augustine, de Toqueville or Thomas Jefferson, Ryan brings a wisdom to his text that illuminates John Dewey’s belief that the role of philosophy is less to see truth than to enhance experience. With this unparalleled tour de force, Ryan emerges in his own right as one of the most influential political philosophers of our time.

The Making of Modern Liberalism

Alan Ryan

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The Making of Modern Liberalism is a deep and wide-ranging exploration of the origins and nature of liberalism from the Enlightenment through its triumphs and setbacks in the twentieth century and beyond. The book is the fruit of the more than four decades during which Alan Ryan, one of the world's leading political thinkers, reflected on the past of the liberal tradition―and worried about its future.

This is essential reading for anyone interested in political theory or the history of liberalism.

John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism

Alan Ryan

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When John Dewey died in 1952, he was memorialized as America's most famous philosopher, revered by liberal educators and deplored by conservatives, but universally acknowledged as his country's intellectual voice. Many things conspired to give Dewey an extraordinary intellectual eminence: He was immensely long-lived and immensely prolific; he died in his ninety-third year, and his intellectual productivity hardly slackened until his eighties.
Professor Alan Ryan offers new insights into Dewey's many achievements, his character, and the era in which his scholarship had a remarkable impact. He investigates the question of what an American audience wanted from a public philosopher - from an intellectual figure whose credentials came from his academic standing as a philosopher, but whose audience was much wider than an academic one.
Ran argues that Dewey's "religious" outlook illuminates his politics much more vividly than it does the politics of religion as ordinarily conceived. He examines how Dewey fit into the American radical tradition, how he was and was not like his transatlantic contemporaries, why he could for so long practice a form of philosophical inquiry that became unfashionable in England after 1914 at the latest.

On Marx: Revolutionary and Utopian (Liveright Classics)

Alan Ryan

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A lucid introduction to the philosophical complexities and the practical limits of the political thought of Karl Marx.

When Karl Marx was buried at Highgate Cemetery in North London in 1883, his longtime friend and collaborator, Friedrich Engels, remarked that he was "above all a revolutionary." For Marx, the struggle to accurately describe or interpret the world in rational terms was not enough; the point of politics and philosophy was not to diagnose human society but to change it. According to Marx, history was defined by class conflict, with the state heretofore existing as a medium through which the ruling classes can exploit the labor of the productive classes. Only through revolution could true self-government be achieved with the ultimate goal of achieving a stateless, self-administering society free of coercive law, police, and military forces. Marx spent most of his adult life dedicated to uniting the radical working-class movements of Europe around this central idea.

In On Marx, Alan Ryan examines Marx's political and economic philosophy within the Victorian context of Marx's own life and times as well as glancing forward to the uses and abuses of his ideas by his many successors. Tracing Marx's influences from Hegel to Feuerbach, from French socialism to British political economy, and documenting his ideological battles with his contemporaries, Ryan provides a sterling explication and critique of Marx’s theories of alienation, surplus value, class struggle, and revolution. Situating Marx into the framework of everyday politics is never easy, but this one volume provides the clearest, most accessible introduction to Marx's theories in recent years.

On Marx: Revolutionary and Utopian features:

• a chronology of Karl Marx's life

• an introduction and text by Alan Ryan that provides crucial context and cogent analysis

• key excerpts from: "Notes on James Mill," The German Ideology, "Theses on Feuerbach," The Communist Manifesto, Capital, The Civil War in France, and Critique of the Gotha Program

Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education (Annual New York Review of Books and Hill and Wang Lecture Series, Ser. No 1)

Alan Ryan

Best price for this book: $ 15.99

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A Princeton University professor analyzes the battle over the curriculum and "political correctness" in higher education, arguing that colleges have been asked to restore democracy and rehumanize workers--tasks too large and ill-defined for their resources.

The Open Society and Its Enemies

Karl R. Popper

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One of the most important books of the twentieth century, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies is an uncompromising defense of liberal democracy and a powerful attack on the intellectual origins of totalitarianism. Popper was born in 1902 to a Viennese family of Jewish origin. He taught in Austria until 1937, when he emigrated to New Zealand in anticipation of the Nazi annexation of Austria the following year, and he settled in England in 1949. Before the annexation, Popper had written mainly about the philosophy of science, but from 1938 until the end of the Second World War he focused his energies on political philosophy, seeking to diagnose the intellectual origins of German and Soviet totalitarianism. The Open Society and Its Enemies was the result.


An immediate sensation when it was first published in two volumes in 1945, Popper's monumental achievement has attained legendary status on both the Left and Right and is credited with inspiring anticommunist dissidents during the Cold War. Arguing that the spirit of free, critical inquiry that governs scientific investigation should also apply to politics, Popper traces the roots of an opposite, authoritarian tendency to a tradition represented by Plato, Marx, and Hegel.


In a substantial new introduction written for this edition, acclaimed political philosopher Alan Ryan puts Popper's landmark work in biographical, intellectual, and historical context. Also included is a personal essay by eminent art historian E. H. Gombrich, in which he recounts the story of the book's eventual publication despite numerous rejections and wartime deprivations.

On Aristotle: Saving Politics from Philosophy (Liveright Classics)

Alan Ryan

Best price for this book: $ 7.48

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An essential, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the life and works of Aristotle.

In On Aristotle: Saving Politics from Philosophy, Alan Ryan examines Plato's most famous student and sharpest critic, whose writing has helped shape over two millennia of Western philosophy, science, and religion. The first thinker to posit that a society should be ruled by laws and not men, Aristotle was born in Stagira, Macedon, in 384 BCE. He would go on to join Plato's Academy and eventually become tutor to Alexander the Great. During his lifetime he would see the revival of Athens following its destruction in the Peloponnesian War, before the ultimate extinction of its radical form of democracy after the Macedonian conquest. Aristotle’s strongly empirical cast of mind was brought to bear on a stunning range of subjects, from rhetoric to physics, from the history of political institutions and mathematics to zoology and botany. The resulting system dominated European thought from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries.

In Nicomachean Ethics and Politics―both excerpted here―Aristotle attempted to delineate the ideal virtues of a both public and private life as well as critique the utopian antipolitics of his former teacher, Plato. For Aristotle, life in a polis was the natural state of man and provided the greatest opportunity for human beings to fulfill their potential. Unlike his scientific theories, which would eventually be displaced by Galileo, Newton, and Darwin, Aristotle’s meticulous thinking on the nature of human affairs, ethics, politics, citizenship, and virtue in a civil society remains as vital today as it was in his own time.

On Machiavelli: The Search for Glory (Liveright Classics)

Alan Ryan

Best price for this book: $ 4.7

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An essential, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the life and works of Machiavelli.

In On Machiavelli: The Search for Glory, Alan Ryan illuminates the political and philosophical complexities of the often-reviled godfather of realpolitik. Thought by some to be the founder of Italian nationalism, regarded by others to be a reviver of the Roman Republic as a model for the modern Western world, Machiavelli remains a contentious figure. Often outraging popular opinion with his insistence on the amoral nature of power, Machiavelli eschewed the world as it ought to be in favor of a forthright appraisal of the one that is. Perhaps more than any other thinker, Machiavelli has suffered from being taken out of context, and Ryan places him squarely within his own time and the politics of a Renaissance Italy riven by near-constant warfare among rival city-states and the papacy.

A well-educated son of Florence, Machiavelli was originally in charge of the Florentine Republic’s militia, but in 1512 the city fell to papal forces led by Cardinal Giovanni de Medici, who thus restored the Medici family to power. Machiavelli was accused of conspiracy, imprisoned, tortured, and eventually exiled from his beloved Florence, and it was during this period that he produced his most famous works. While attempting to ingratiate himself to the Medicis, the historically minded Machiavelli looked to the imperial ambitions and past glories of the Roman Republic as a contrast to the perceived failures of his contemporaries.

For Machiavelli, the hunger for power and glory was inextricable from human nature, and any serious attempt to rule must take this into account. In his revolutionary The Prince and Discourses―both excerpted here―Machiavelli created the first truly modern analysis of power.

Cast a Cold Eye

Alan Ryan

Best price for this book: $ 15

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Jack Quinlan, an American writer, travels to a small village in the remote western part of Ireland to research a book on the Irish Famine. The quiet, picturesque village seems just the place to spend a few months writing, but beneath its placid exterior lurk dark secrets. Why do the locals behave so strangely? What is Father Henning, the enigmatic parish priest, hiding? And what is the meaning of the strange ritual Jack observes in the cemetery? The search for answers will lead him to the terrifying discovery that the ghosts of the past linger on in the present, and they cry out for blood ... 

An atmospheric, haunting ghost story, Cast a Cold Eye (1984) is a slow burn horror novel that will keep readers in suspense until its chilling conclusion. 

"Alan Ryan is one of the brightest lights among the new generation of horror writers." - Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story

"The writing is beautiful, haunting, hypnotic ... The ghosts of Cast a Cold Eye have not left me." - William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist

"[Ryan] is in the front ranks of today's horror writers." - Karl Edward Wagner, in Twilight Zone

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories

Best price for this book: $ 10.5

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They're lurking under the cover of darkness … and between the covers of this book. Here, in all their horror and all their glory, are the great vampires of literature: male and female, invisible and metamorphic, doomed and daring.

Their skin deathly pale, their nails curved like claws, their fangs sharpened for the attack, they are gathered for the kill and for the chill, brought frighteningly to life by Bram Stoker, Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Charles L. Grant, Tanith Lee, and other masters of the macabre. Careful—they are all crafty enough to steal their way into your imagination and steal away your hopes for a restful sleep.