Tom Butler-Bowdon on 50 Politics Classics

Here is a portion of a recent email that I received from Tom Butler-Bowdon. He discusses his latest book, 50 Politics Classics: Freedom Equality Power: Mind-Changing, World-Changing Ideas from Fifty Landmark Books and related issues. To check out his website, please click here.

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Perhaps when you think of the 50 Classics series, you think of personal development or fulfillment of potential. This has indeed always been my focus, even when I have branched out into areas like philosophy (in 2013).

Now, with the new book 50 Politics Classics looking at the key writings and themes in political philosophy, political leadership, the global economy and international relations, you may think I’ve moved even further from self-development.

SmilesWell, yes and no. When writing the book, I began thinking of Samuel Smiles (left), who wrote the original self-help guide in 1859 [Self Help: With Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance]. Smiles was a journalist with a reforming zeal, and worked for many years to promote the rights of workers. But he came to the view that the real revolutions happened inside people’s heads, and he left journalism to write full-time on the great Victorian values of industry, thrift and perseverance – personal qualities which could be developed, and which could change one’s life for the better.

Smiles’ book had a huge impact because it coincided with a time of greater social mobility in Britain, then the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth. There was a great number of poverty-to-prominence stories Smiles could draw on to inspire his readers.

Yet personal success never happens in a vacuum. People succeed in a society, with all its rules, laws, institutions and customs, and 19th century political reforms including ending slavery, votes for women and the working class, and the creation of a meritocracy in the civil service, were all vital in giving people opportunity for freedom and advancement where before there was none.

By the way, the “revolution” picture on the front cover of the book is not a stock image but was taken during the demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti last year.

By definition, political revolutions are rare. Yet we have had rather a lot of them in the last 15 years. Revolutions are the outward expression of big changes in our minds and hearts, and the never-ending desire for more freedom, equality and power.

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To learn more about Tom and his work, please click here.

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