“David Wootton’s extremely engaging account of the rise of power, pleasure, and profit as desires that can be pursued without limit, opens by announcing that it will follow in the footsteps of After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre’s seminal critique of ‘the Enlightenment project’, whilst at the same time aiming to build up a much more complex picture of what this project may actually entail. Given that this is a relatively short book (the main body of the text is just short of 250 pages), Wootton is remarkably successful in achieving this aim.” Anthony Morgan reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for The Philosopher.
“In the brilliant, penetrating and amazingly erudite study by David Wootton, readers are treated to an engaging tour of the ‘Enlightenment paradigm’ gaining in the process a more profound understanding of our modern political economy and ethical situation.” David Lorimer reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for Wall Street International Magazine.
“The Enlightenment may well be the end of an old story rather than the beginning of a new one. But be that as it may, David Wootton’s book is valuable as a wide-ranging, if not always tightly focused, investigation into the philosophical revolution that made the modern Western world.” Daniel McCarthy reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for The American Conservative (May/June 2019 edition).
“It is easy to agree with the author when he summarizes his book’s 386 pages and describes how the virtues have been pushed away for the pursuit of power, pleasure and wealth.” Carl Rudbeck reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for Axess Magazin (Sweden) or read an English translation here.
“Power, Pleasure, and Profit is an erudite book, full of learned asides and lengthy quotations” Biancamaria Fontana reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for the Times Literary Supplement (subscription required).
Deirdre McCloskey describes Power, Pleasure and Profit as an “astonishingly learned book“, but feels that “Wootton depends too much on introspection and philosophical analysis, too little on looking at people”. Read the full review in the May 2019 issue of Prospect Magazine.
Lincoln Allison (emeritus reader in politics at the University of Warwick) mulls the consequences of a cultural shift from traditional morality to reason in this Book of the Week review for Times Higher Education.
The Enlightenment spawned a series of assumptions about what human beings are, why they do what they do, and what the good life looks like. We’re still hostage to those assumptions, whether we know it or not, and Wootton’s book asks us to consider the consequences. I spoke with him recently about why he thinks the Enlightenment produced a civilization obsessed with consumption and self-gratification“.
“Wootton’s notion of modest, practical Aristoteilian-esque virtue in the face of limitless appetite is a compelling one, and he stakes his claims methodically and persuasively“. Nicholas Cannariato reviews Power, Pleasure, and Profit for online literary magazine, The Millions.