The Shape of the New

  • by Scott L. Montgomery, Daniel Chirot
  • Narrated by Stephen McLaughlin
  • 20 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This panoramic book tells the story of how revolutionary ideas from the Enlightenment about freedom, equality, evolution, and democracy have reverberated through modern history and shaped the world as we know it today.
A testament to the enduring power of ideas, The Shape of the New offers unforgettable portraits of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx - heirs of the Enlightenment who embodied its highest ideals about progress - and shows how their thoughts, over time and in the hands of their followers and opponents, transformed the very nature of our beliefs, institutions, economies, and politics. Yet these ideas also hold contradictions. They have been used in the service of brutal systems such as slavery and colonialism, been appropriated and twisted by monsters like Stalin and Hitler, and provoked reactions against the Enlightenment's legacy by Islamic Salafists and the Christian Religious Right.
The Shape of the New argues that it is impossible to understand the ideological and political conflicts of our own time without familiarizing ourselves with the history and internal tensions of these world-changing ideas. With passion and conviction, it exhorts us to recognize the central importance of these ideas as historical forces and pillars of the Western humanistic tradition. It makes the case that to read the works of the great thinkers is to gain invaluable insights into the ideas that have shaped how we think and what we believe.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good book, fine reader,but..

They insisted on reading all the numerous citations. Not sure the value, it could have been done on a supplement. It was extremely distracting Book is nevertheless worth a listen.
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- Charles Mintz


“The Shape of the New” is about the power of ideas. Scott L. Montgomery (a geologist and professor) and Daniel Chirot (a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences) write about three ideas rarely argued in polite conversation; e.g. economics, politics, and religion.

Among others, Montgomery and Chirot profile the ideas of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Jerry Falwell, and Sayyid Qutb. Each represents ideas that are part of modern world socioeconomic and religious thought. Smith’s, Marx’s, and Darwin’s ideas largely standalone, while Hamilton, Jefferson, Falwell and Qutb rest on the shoulders of others.

As Victor Hugo notes, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” Montgomery and Chirot have written an informative and interesting history of “..Big Ideas and How They Made the Modern World”. In the end, “The Shape of the New” is a tribute to a liberal education. One may be a genius, but without a liberal education genius is often so narrowly focused , it leads to societal destruction.

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Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-25-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios