chapter  10
22 Pages

Gray’s Blues: Pessimism as a Political Project

WithGlen Newey

Amid the many turns in John Gray’s political thought, two core beliefs persist. First, and perhaps most significantly, Gray doubts that politics can implement ideals of the human good. This anti-perfectionism is particularly clear in his hostility to central planning, and to liberal and non-liberal projects of political design. This hostility also underlies his rejection of ideals of human progress and their attendant historical teleologies, particularly where progress is wrought by political means (Gray 2002b: 47-48; Gray 2000: 23; Gray 2002a: 120-121; Gray 1996: 153-158; Gray 1993a: 138). Then, second, Gray is unrelentingly sceptical throughout his work about the ‘Enlightenment project’1 of justifying action (including moral or political action) by universal norms whose authority derives from human reason (Gray 1995a: 149; Gray 1998b: 17).2