Prime Movers: From Pericles to Gandhi
Simon and Schuster
Needless to say that each of us would have a list of what we would deem to be influential thinkers.
Ferdinant Mount zeros in on his top twelve political thinker and does it with an accuracy and clarity that makes it a joy to read: Pericles, Jesus, Rousseau, Smith, Burke, Jefferson, Bentham, Wollstonecraft, Mazzini, Marx, Gandhi and Iqbal are shed light on en detail and not merely praised but analysed with at times surgical precision that does not spare the objectionable parts – be it Karl Marx’ shortcomings when it comes to clearly articulating a theoretical construct that labourers could turn into reality and his racists views shared with Engels, Jefferson’ s inability to overcome slavery, Rousseau’s deficits regarding thinking through the consequences of his emissions and so forth.
Mount manages to question what has been blindly accepted to be gospel in the mainstream canon of knighted luminaries – be it in terms of lacking accuracy, not considering the implications of their preachings or the fact that only parts of their respective oeuvre were highlighted which led to them being elevated to a status the totality of their deeds would not warrant.
The specifically interesting parts pertain to thinkers who are held in high esteem for their boundary pushing ideas while merely having theoretical knowledge of the subjects of their treatises, e.g. celibates talking about free sexual relations or the abusive Gandhi harping on about love and being adamant about India having to return to village life despite having always been a big city dweller.
While some of Mount’s elaborations do not exactly present new revelations, I would recommend this tome to anyone looking for food of thought and ideas to challenge the status quo and established perceptions.
To err is human and Prime Movers is an example par excellence and a reminder in book form that the perceived spearheads and thought leaders of humanity are often equally as flawed as the common man, yet have shaped the world we live in.
An intriguing and illuminating efficiently written and inspiring read.