Latest Issue

Book review: Affirming: Letters 1975-1997 by Isaiah Berlin

By JP O'Malley  

berlin jacket booksAffirming: Letters 1975-1997 by Isaiah Berlin (Chatto & Windus, £40)

In a letter to Arthur Schlesinger in July 1978, Isaiah Berlin described himself as a “voyeur of history.” The definition seems particularly apt given Berlin’s position as a kind of godfather to 20th-century sceptical liberalism.

Berlin had many interesting ideas to his name. His best, though, was a rejection of the idea of “positive freedom,” which requires state intervention of a kind many liberals would oppose. This and a host of other topics are written about with scrupulous attention to detail…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect