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Has Man a Future? de Bertrand Russell
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Has Man a Future? (1961 original; edició 2001)

de Bertrand Russell (Autor)

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1441142,979 (3.83)No n'hi ha cap
"Man has been on this planet for one million years, and in that time has come a long way. He could achieve great things in the next million. What are his prospects if he can manage to survive the danger of universal destruction?" "After posing this question, Bertrand Russell examines this danger in its most urgent form: the development of nuclear weapons and the hypocrisy of official attitudes to them. He refutes the theory that the scientists have been indifferent to the problems - the willing tools of their governments." "As a solution to our dilemma, Russell not only sets out a reasoned scheme of world government, but goes on to show what first steps can in practice be taken now towards such a solution." "He closes with a moving affirmation of the human values that make survival worth while and force us to attempt to establish a stable world." "Long unavailable, the re-issue of this vital little book will be welcomed by all those concerned for the peace of the world and the removal of the nuclear threat."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (més)
Membre:Miss_hel
Títol:Has Man a Future?
Autors:Bertrand Russell (Autor)
Informació:Spokesman Pr (2001), 154 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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Has Man a Future? de Bertrand Russell (1961)

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When this book was written in 1961, the threat of nuclear war between the USA and USSR seemed imminent. Having been politically active for most of his life, the great philosopher and intellectual Bertrand Russell wrote it to call the world's attention to the looming danger, and to suggest political solutions to remove what he saw as a threat to our species' existence.

In his words: I am writing at a dark moment (July 1961), and it is impossible to know whether the human race will last long enough for what I write to be published, or if published, to be read. But as yet hope is possible, and while hope is possible, despair is a coward's part. The most important question before the world is this: is it possible to achieve anything that anyone desires by means of war? Kennedy and Khrushchev say yes..." "Pride arrogance, fear of loss of face, and ideological intolerance have obscured their power of judgement. Their own blindness is obscured by a similar blindness on the part of powerful pressure groups and by their own propaganda and that of their colleagues and subordinates."

Lest the dire tone of this pronouncement seem melodramatic, one must bear in mind that it dates to a time when political and military leaders of the US and USSR had seriously contemplated the use of nuclear weapons against their opponents. There was talk on both sides of the advantages of a preemptive nuclear strike; calculations were being made of whether a nuclear war would leave more of one nation's citizens alive than the other's; air raid drills were being held monthly in the US public schools; use of nuclear weapons had been contemplated against North Korea and China; and serious debate was given on whether human extinction was preferable to living under one's opponent's rule. The immediate threat was posed by the expansion of Soviet power into eastern Germany and eastern Europe, and the threatened Soviet takeover of West Berlin, both in violation of international agreements at the end of World War II. That threat occurred in the context of the extension of US power and influence in the aftermath of World War II, the USSR's fears of encirclement, and the spread of communism into Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Russell's warnings now seem prescient, since only four months later -- during the Cuban Missile Crisis -- the world came the closest it has ever been to nuclear conflagration.

In this book, Russell sought to educate his readers and influence them to action. He described in untechnical language how both the "atom bomb" and the hydrogen bomb work, and the short - term and long term consequences of thermonuclear war. He outlined political activity of scientists who were working to alert the world to the dangers faced, previous disarmament proposals and their fate, the test- ban proposals, and the fight to keep nuclear weapons out of Britain. Russell also advanced proposals on how to resolve the immediate conflict in Europe (such as, that Germany and eastern Europe be disarmed and made neutral). For the larger threat posed by existence of nuclear weapons, Russell proposed that both the US and USSR disarm and turn nuclear weapons over to a central authority, a World Government that would use nuclear weapons to prevent any single nation from developing a nuclear capability. As for raw materials and energy sources (common sources of international conflict) they should not belong to any country, but be placed under this same International Authority, which would in turn grant them to nations "in accord with the principles of justice and aptitude for their use."

What are we to make of these proposals half a century later? At best, we can characterize them as a well - meaning attempt to bring rationality to bear on an imminent threat, a vision of how to solve problems borne of human nature and excess nationalism. But we can also see (as did readers at the time) that the proposals were astonishingly naive and simplistic, and that they failed to recognize the causes, origins, and nature of the international conflicts in question (Russell attributed them to a sort of blood lust on the part of the stronger nations, as if political and economic sources of conflict did not exist). Russell also offered no plan for how the world could begin to institute a World Government of the kind he envisioned. (For example, consider the implications of making the oil supplies that reside in particular countries common property, to be apportioned according to need -- that is, forceably taken away from countries in the Middle East, and given to the richest nations of the world). One must be amazed that Russell trusted that the USSR would willingly disarm despite prohibiting inspections for verification, and that the USSR would relinquish control over the "buffer states" in the eastern Europe and Germany.

An additional issue is that Russell's advice to the world lacked legitimacy and moral authority in light of the checkered history and radically changing nature of his own political proposals. Immediately following World War II, Russell proposed that the US maintain nuclear hegemony over the entire world by force, backed by nuclear weapons (since the dangers of having two nuclear powers were too great). In the 1950s, he proposed nuclear attack by the US against the Soviet Union, even if that meant destruction of all of Europe (!). Russell made no mention of such proposals in this book, other than to note that he had changed his views as circumstances had changed. And by October of 1961, his views had changed once again: he considered the US had no grounds for complaint when the USSR placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, and therefore should acquiesce in the proliferation of such weaponry. As we now know, individual military commanders in Cuba were to have control over use of the missiles, and Castro strongly advocated their deployment against the US as a means of resolving the crisis.

I greatly admire Bertrand Russell and my own development was greatly influenced by him. However, I am compelled to consider this little book as being of historical and biographical interest only. There is nothing more dated than the political issues of some previous decade, and retrospective vision is bound to reveal weaknesses in yesterday's idealism. Russell was not wrong in recognizing the grave nature of the world's crises, nor was he wrong in trying to bring rational discussion to questions dominated by ideologues and rabid nationalists. However, had his political proposals been adopted, the results would have been catastrophic. Perhaps it's just as well that idealistic philosophers are not implementing political and military strategy outside of their areas of expertise. As we now know, the immediate crises of the early 1960s were resolved partly because (US President) John Kennedy and (Soviet Premier) Nikita Khrushchev recognized the same extreme threat that Russell did, and because they acted against the advice of their own military leaders to find a way to resolve the crises. With different leaders in power, and with even the smallest miscalculation on one side or the other, history could easily have gone another direction -- and we would not be here to write about it.

Now, 50 years after publication of this book, the world continues to live, uneasily, with nuclear weapons. Bertrand Russell's fears of nuclear proliferation continue, although due partly to international agreements (the Non-Proliferation Treaty), only 9 nations currently have such weapons. On the other hand, the most recent projections indicate that even a limited, local nuclear exchange (e.g., between India and Pakistan) would have devasting effects on the world's climate, leading to starvation of ~ 1 billion people. Further, we face the nightmarish probabilities of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of sub-national political and religious zealots under influence of the sorts of ideologies that Russell spent his life fighting. The question asked in the title of Bertrand Russell's book can only be answered one day at a time, and in the long term, the prospects of answering in the affirmative seem dim. ( )
5 vota danielx | Feb 5, 2011 |
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"Man has been on this planet for one million years, and in that time has come a long way. He could achieve great things in the next million. What are his prospects if he can manage to survive the danger of universal destruction?" "After posing this question, Bertrand Russell examines this danger in its most urgent form: the development of nuclear weapons and the hypocrisy of official attitudes to them. He refutes the theory that the scientists have been indifferent to the problems - the willing tools of their governments." "As a solution to our dilemma, Russell not only sets out a reasoned scheme of world government, but goes on to show what first steps can in practice be taken now towards such a solution." "He closes with a moving affirmation of the human values that make survival worth while and force us to attempt to establish a stable world." "Long unavailable, the re-issue of this vital little book will be welcomed by all those concerned for the peace of the world and the removal of the nuclear threat."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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