The ten most dangerous books of all time

This came up in conversation today... what are the ten most dangerous books ever written? In no particular order

1. Capital/Das Kapital - 'Uncle' Karl Marx
Capital is a dry text on economics and yet it, and the books that go along with it in the Marxian canon, have, one way and another, inspired a political philosophy that for a long time vied with capitalism for global reach, brought, at one time and another, a sizeable portion of the world's population under its sway and is still the touchstone for insurgencies from Asia to the Americas.

2. The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie
Very dangerous from Salman Rushdie's point of view. Useless piece of trivia: it was Rushdie who invented the advertising slogan 'naughty ...but nice'

3. The Wealth of Nations - Adam Smith
If Capital goes in for failing, Wealth of Nations must go in for winning. I must confess to not having read the Wealth of Nations, so my comments must be limited. We are living in, for good or for ill, a free market world and this is where it started.

4. Common Sense - Tom Paine
Inspired by the French Revolution, this pamphlet was instrumental in turning the desire for lighter taxes and greater autonomy from the English crown in the American Colonies into the movement for independence. The American Revolution and the modern USA that actually came to pass bear little resemblance to the universal republic that Paine wanted, but it provided the spark that led to some quite fantastic unintended consequences.

5. Jonny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo
If you read this blog, you will see that I am a great fan of this book. It is one of the best arguments for pacifism I have ever read and, rather than try to restate the argument, I will urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to find a copy and read it.

6. The Bible/The Qu'ran/The Torah/The Mahabharata/every other religious book
Just about every religion, if you read its core texts, basically comes down to eating or not eating certain things and being nice to each other. Just about every religious text has been, at one time or another, used to justify killing, expelling or generally being nasty to another group, often when a popular religion is being used to prop up a political authority.

7. Politics - Aristotle
Although it was important at its time, I include this not for its impact when written but its later impact on the Roman Catholic church. By way of Aquinas et al. it gave rise to the belief of (what is effectively) telos being spread throughout the world - that you have a given purpose in life and should bloody well stick to it.

8. A Theory of Justice - John Rawls
This book partially shows what could have become of Marx without shorter statements of position such as the Communist Manifesto: impenetrable and boring undergrads to tears. Nevertheless, this is the genesis, I would argue, to a lot of the Blairite/Third Way/New Europe thinking that carries considerable weight in Europe at the moment and, certainly in Britain, will do for some time to come.

9. & 10. I don't know, to be perfectly honest. Any ideas?



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