George Grant (1918-88) has been acknowledged as Canada's leading political philosopher. He taught religion and philosophy at McMaster University and Dalhousie University. His books include Philosophy in the Mass Age, Lament for a Nation, English-Speaking Justice, Technology and Justice and Technology and Empire.
Dr. Robin Lathangue teaches at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
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A Masterpiece !June 4 2000
CHONG EU CHOONG
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Don't be fooled by the slimness of this volume. Within the space of less than a hundred pages, Grant dissected the Anglo-Saxon strain of "justice," which is based on liberalism. In this book, Grant begins by examining the intellectual roots of English-speaking justice, by looking at the ideas of Locke and Kant. After which, he looks into a contemporary version of it, by examining the works of Rawl's magnum opus (A Theory of Justice). After this brief but lucid discussion of the works above, Grant then show how the liberal conception of justice has fail in delivering its promises of a just society. The reason being technology. Grant, argues that technology has brought about a cybernetic society, i.e., a society which is guided by the calculation of means and ends which can erode the basic premise of liberalism, i.e., liberty of the individual. Thus, Grant argues that liberalism and technology makes strange bedfellows in modern society. On the one hand, we cherish the idea of the autonomy of the individual but on the other we want to reap the fruits of technology which is incompatible with freedom. Thus, we are locked in the horns of delimma between technology and liberty. Which would we choose? In conclusion, one cannot help but admire the penetrating analysis of Grant's essay on modern society and its discontents. But, at the same time, I wish he would give us an alternative to that of liberalism.