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A Conflict of Visions
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About the Author

Thomas Sowell is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of dozens of books and the recipient of various awards, including the National Humanities Medal, Presented by the President of the United States in 2003.

Reviews

This latest work by Sowell examines two competing visions which shape our debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power. These visions are the ``constrained'' vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and selfish, and the ``unconstrained'' vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. The book builds a convincing case that ethical and policy disputes are ultimately based on the differences in these visions. It covers a wide variety of political, philosophical, and economic thought. Although occasionally abstract, this volume is an important contribution to our understanding of current social issues. Recommended for large public and all college and university libraries. Richard C. Schiming, Economics Dept., Mankato State Univ., Minn.

Sowell, an economist and author (The Economics and Politics of Race, etc.), presents a provocative analysis of the conflicting visions of human nature that have shaped the moral, legal and economic life of recent times. For the past 200 years, he writes, two visions ofor ``gut feelings'' abouthow the world works, have dominated: the constrained vision, which views man as unchanged, limited and dependent on evolved social processes (market economies, constitutional law, etc.); and the unconstrained vision, which argues for man's potential and perfectability, and the possibility of rational planning for social solutions. Examining the views of thinkers who reflect these constrained (Adam Smith) and unconstrained (William Godwin) visions, Sowell shows how these powerful and subjective visions give rise to carefully constructed social theories. His discussion of how these conflicting attitudes ultimately produce clashes over equality, social justice and other issues is instructive. (January 15)

"[A Conflict of Visions] is recommended herewith to anybody sufficiently interested in the American condition to try to get beneath the surface of partisanship, trendy issues and pop ideology to the philosophical foundations of the Republic."--Boston Globe
"[A] fine book ... Sowell's illuminating guide to the political conflicts of our age teaches the valuable lesson that political choices always involve costs."--Commentary
"A classic of a very special kind...Reading [it] is like looking up at the night sky and discovering a new constellation."--Christian Science Monitor
"A provocative analysis of the conflicting visions of human nature that have shaped the moral, legal and economic life of recent times."--Publishers Weekly
"An excellent condensation of two centuries of social thought."--Booklist
"Extraordinary on several counts...[Sowell] makes his case fairly, lucidly and persuasively."--The New York Times Book Review

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