First published in 1948, Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks is an important Marxist work that says we must understand societies both in terms of their economic relationships and their cultural beliefs. Gramsci wanted to explore why Russia had undergone a socialist revolution in 1917 while other European countries had not. So he developed the concept of hegemony, which is the idea that those who hold power in a society can maintain and use that power because of their own grip on cultural values and economic relationships.
A self-educated man, Eric Hoffer was most likely born in 1898. He wrote in his spare time after doing shifts on the San Francisco docks, where he continued to work, even after becoming a successful author. Hoffer began writing The True Believer in the 1940s, as Nazism and fascism spread across Europe. Most analysts who were trying to work out how these movements became so powerful focused on their leaders and the ideas they trumpeted.
"Hoffer not analyzed"
US psychologist Abraham Maslow's 1943 essay "A Theory of Human Motivation" established his idea of humanistic psychology as a "third force" in the field. He outlined a new approach to understanding the mind, saying humans are motivated by their need to satisfy a series of hierarchical needs, starting with the most essential first. He thought it important for the advancement of psychology to identify, group, and rank them in terms of priority.
When Charles P. Kindleberger's Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises was first published in 1978, the world was entering a new period of global economic turbulence. Established economists based their analyses on the assumption that investors act rationally, and these economists often communicated their ideas with dry, technical language. Kindleberger rebelled against convention. Using a more literary and descriptive style, he came up with a new view.
"very repetitive, little content"
In his 1996 book The Clash Of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, American political scientist Samuel Huntington sets out his vision of the post-Cold War world. While the era from 1945 to 1989 was shaped by ideological conflict (communism vs. capitalism), Huntington predicts a future of cultural conflict.
Published in 1961, the year of Frantz Fanon's death, The Wretched of the Earth is both a powerful analysis of the psychological effects of colonization and a rallying cry for violent uprising and independence. The book rejects colonial assumptions that the people of colonized countries need to be guided by their European colonizers because they are somehow less evolved or civilized. Fanon argues that violence is justified to purge colonialism not just from the countries themselves, but from the very souls of their inhabitants.
"Take THAT Amazon's Suggestion Engine!"
When American sociologist C. Wright Mills's The Sociological Imagination was first published in 1959, it provoked much hostile reaction. This was understandable: the book was a hard-hitting attack on how sociology was practiced - and on a number of leading sociologists. Mills was a fierce critic of both modern capitalism and Soviet-style authoritarianism, and argued that the sociology profession failed to look at how people's problems are connected to the structures of the society in which they live.
In her 1958 work, political theorist Hannah Arendt asks two fundamental questions: "Under what conditions do politics emerge?" and "Under what conditions can politics be eliminated?" In searching for answers she turns some long-established thinking on its head. Ancient political philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle believed that a life spent thinking was more important than an active life of labor, work, and action. But Arendt argues that political action is every bit as important as political thinking.
Sigmund Freud was born in 1856, in Vienna, Austria, and died in London in 1939, but his reputation as "the father of psychoanalysis" lives on. The theories he introduced in his masterwork, The Interpretation of Dreams, revolutionized the treatment of mental illness in the late 19th century. Based on his success in using new techniques he had developed with his patients, and on conclusions he drew from analyzing his own dreams, Freud said that dreams offered a window into the workings of the unconscious mind.
Michel Foucault had already written extensively about medicine, madness, and prisons. But in the latter days of his career, he turned to the subject of sexuality, planning six volumes on the subject. He completed three before dying of an AIDS-related illness in 1984. Foucault's History of Sexuality Vol. 1 is a study of the evolution of cultural ideas about sex in the West since the end of the 17th century. Volume two looked at attitudes toward sex in ancient Greece; volume three investigated sex in ancient Rome.
In his 1983 book Nations and Nationalism, British-Czech intellectual Ernest Gellner put forward a theory of nationalism, explaining that the concept of nation is not in fact an ancient notion, as we might first imagine. Rather, it is a modern idea born out of the seismic social and cultural shifts that industrialization brought to the Western world.
First published in 1973, Albert Bandura's Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis is a groundbreaking work that helped lay the foundations of the discipline of social psychology. Much of what we now know about the influences of the early childhood environment on delinquency and anti-social behavior can be traced back to Bandura's work. In the book, he uses the subject of aggression to demonstrate and explore the usefulness of what is called social learning theory.
How do those in power exercise that power over a state's citizens? French thinker Michel Foucault's 1975 work Discipline and Punish looks to answer this question by investigating the prison system. Foucault does not believe that the modern-day system developed out of reformers' humanitarian concerns. He argues that prison both created and then became part of a bigger system of surveillance that extends throughout society.
Since it was first published in 1973, A Random Walk Down Wall Street has been a highly influential best seller. Burton G. Malkiel demolishes the idea that investment "experts" can predict stock price changes and thereby "beat the market." With all available information that could affect the value of a company's shares known almost instantly to all investors, Malkiel says, shares quickly find the price that reflects that information. This is known as the efficient market hypothesis.
On the Genealogy of Morality was written in 1887 when Friedrich Nietzsche was at the height of his powers as a philosopher and master of German prose writing. Here, he criticizes the idea that there is just one conception of moral goodness, dissecting the contemporary practice of morality and looking at it from a historical viewpoint. Rather than following a metaphysical or religious approach, Nietzsche adopts a naturalistic framework, which is grounded in history and natural science, to understand our concepts of good and evil in the Christianized Western world.
In Philosophical Investigations, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein presents a radical approach to problems in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. In fact, he sets out a radically new conception of philosophy itself. Published in 1953, two years after Wittgenstein's death, many still consider it one of the finest works of 20th century philosophy.
More than two centuries after its initial publication in 1781, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason remains perhaps the most influential text in modern philosophy. Kant himself claimed his work as a revolutionary document and insisted that it changed the discipline of philosophy as thoroughly as Copernicus had changed astronomy 300 years earlier, when he said the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way round.
American lawyer-turned-sociologist David Riesman published his first book, The Lonely Crowd, in 1950. Aimed at academics, it nonetheless gained a large popular audience. In it, Riesman explores the links between social character - the ways in which members of a society are similar to one another - and social structures. Riesman's work popularized sociology, helping to establish it as an academic discipline, and today it provides a fascinating window into the 1950s American psyche.
This is a book for anyone who wants to understand exactly what we mean by ethics and morality today. One of the most vital and controversial works in the 20th-century world of moral philosophy, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue examines how we think about, talk about, and act out our moral views in the modern world. Finding that the ways in which we engage in our moral reasoning have no common standard of judgment, MacIntyre's 1981 book challenges many contemporary theories of morals.
Western thinking about the Middle and Far East has been distorted by stereotype and inaccuracy. This argument lies at the center of Palestinian-American literary theorist Edward Said's groundbreaking book, Orientalism. Originally published in 1978, it cemented Said's reputation as the father of postcolonial studies.