The Opening of the Western Mind
Swedish former ambassador Erik Cornell weaves in his unique experience of world politics to trace the shared advances and setbacks in the struggle for freedom of thought across history, with its focus on the evolution of Western civilisation.
by Erik Cornell
What connected the ideologies of the mighty empires and autocracies of Antiquity? Is there a common aim that leads to the new empires and democracies of today?
From nomadic societies to neoliberals, tribal rivalries to nuclear confrontation, neoplatonism to Marxist-Leninism, Erik Cornell traces the shared advances and setbacks in the struggle for freedom of thought across history, with its focus on the evolution of Western civilisation.
Politics and culture, religion and ideology, conquerer an conquered, pluralism and autocracy, our history shows us every step of the way that rulers and governments who respect freedom of thought in the long run are more successful than autocrats and dictators. And yet, given that the Western experience of freedom is defined by Western history, spreading freedom still has its hurdles.
As a Swedish former ambassador, Erik Cornell weaves in a unique experience of world politics, including his time at the first Western embassy in North Korea and encounter with the spiritual world of the Alevis/Bektashis in Turkey. He also shines a Nordic perspective on the contrasting evolutions of democracy in Western and Eastern Europe and how this has shaped the worldview of the West.
ERIK CORNELL was commissioned into the Royal Svea Lifeguards of Sweden in 1953 before entering the University of Stockholm, from which he gained a BA in History and a Masters in Political Science. He joined the Swedish Royal Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1958 and served in Bonn, Geneva, Warsaw, Addis Ababa, and as Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. He was appointed Chargé d’Affaires in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1975 thus opening the first and only Western embassy in the country. In 1977 he became Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission in Geneva, Ambassador to West Africa in 1983, and Ambassador to Turkey in 1990. After retiring he served as Chargé d’Affaires in Sarajevo in 1996. Works include Turkey in the Twenty-first Century (2001), North Korea under Communism, Report of an Envoy to Paradise (2002 & 2005), Revolutionärernas förräderi (The Treason of the Revolutionaries: Africa after the Cold War, 2004), and From the Laws of Rulers to the Rule of Law: Inquiries into the Crossbreeds of Civilisations (2012).
The cover image is ‘The Hand of God’ (1949-1953), an iconic Swedish sculpture by Carl Milles.
• 368pp • £12.99 • PBK • ISBN 9781908755322 • Published by Bennett & Bloom, February 1, 2020