chapter  11
20 Pages

Liberalism, Nihilism and Modernity in the Political Thought of John Gray

WithNoël O’Sullivan

John Gray has the distinction of polarizing critical opinion more profoundly than any other contemporary political theorist. One of his recent books (Straw Dogs, 2002a), for example, was hailed by Will Self (in The Independent) as ‘a remarkable new work of philosophy’ – nothing less, indeed, than ‘the full monty, with isms falling right, left and centre’ (Self 2002); while a tabloid newspaper announced that it would ‘probably prove one of the most important [books] this century’ (Corrigan 2002). At the opposite extreme are critics like Simon Blackburn, who caustically dismissed Straw Dogs as the ‘embittered renunciation of a life spent prescribing political nostrums’ (Blackburn 2002: 35-36), and Francis Fukuyama, who has recently described Gray as ‘in essence a cultural relativist who has lost his bearings’.1