Ian Pirie’s website.


A collection of notes on philosophy and politics,

written from a socialist, environmentalist and antimilitarist perspective.


Oliver Sacks said, a few months before his death: ‘The most we can do is to write – intelligently, critically, evocatively – about what it is like living in the world at this time.’

(Quoted in ‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me’ by Bill Hayes. See The Observer, The New Review 26.03.17)


If only I could write half as well as Bill Hayes or Oliver Sacks!!


I believe that we need to create another - and better – world,

one characterised by equality, sympathy, and non-violence.


But we can only begin to do this if we use our imagination

– to feel with others who are suffering under the present system,

and to think how things could be other than how they are now.


I also very much like Castoriadis’s description of where we are at present – see below at links.


On this homepage there are: (i) index of notes on this site, (ii) links with other websites.


Note: I no longer include comments on current issues etc, as I now post these on Facebook   Facebook  and Twitter (@PirieIan)




(i) Indexes of Notes:


(a) Summary of contents by category


These notes are based on lecturing done over nearly 40 years (1966 – 2005) at UEL, as well as more recent teaching (since 2008) for the WEA.

But it is hoped they will interest anyone wanting to find out more about the world around them.                                                                                                                                                             


The notes fall into the following categories:


            (1) What is meant by ‘imagining other’...                                                                 documents, with links, listed below at: #why?


            (2) Teaching notes for courses offered by the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association):

                        (a) Political Philosophy...                                                                               documents, with links, listed below at: #political philosophy.

                        - Part 1 (from the classical Greeks to the French revolution),

                        - Part 2 (from the 1789 French Revolution to the present)


(b) How Enlightened was the (18th Century European) Enlightenment?

                                                                                                                                                documents, with links, listed below at: #enlightenment.

            (c) Social Movements in the 20th century – ‘People Power’                        documents, with links, listed below at: #power.


(d) NEW: ‘Protecting the Planet’ - the Natural Environment:                                links to documents:

                                    Week 1: the problem of environmental damage                                      Week 1 notes

                                    Week 2: case studies: the coal, oil industries etc                                     Week 2 notes

                                    Week 3: global warming/climate change                                                Week 3 notes

                                    Week 4: impact of global warming; other issues                                     Week 4 notes

                                    Week 5: different strategies for dealing with environmental damage        Week 5 notes

                                    Weeks 6 & 7: possible solutions                                                           Weeks 6 & 7

                                    Week 8: the environment movement (i)                                                  Week 8

                                    Week 9: the environment movement (ii)                                                 Week 9


(3) Teaching notes on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ – dating from my teaching from the mid ‘70s to 2002 at University of East London (UEL).

                                                                                                                                    documents, with links, listed below at: #csr.


NB: these notes include important files that go beyond CSR: inequality part 1 and updates on inequality (e.g. this file has some notes on current economics)


            (4) Libertarian Socialism – especially the ideas of Cornelius Castoriadis...

                                                                                                                                                documents, with links, listed below at: #libertarian socialism.


(5) Autobiographical and personal...                                                                         documents, with links, listed below at: #personal.




(b) List of documents:


 (1) What is meant by ‘Imagining Other’?

I believe that we need to create another - and better – world, one characterised by equality, sympathy, and non-violence.

But we can only begin to do this if we use our imagination – to think how things could be other than how they are now.


            Part 1: What is Imagining Other?

            Part 2: New Ways of Seeing.

            Alternatives. (Includes links to other notes - ‘building the new society in the shell of the old...’)

            Notes on William Blake



(2) Teaching Notes for WEA Courses

(a) Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy Contents Page (has topics numbered, and in alphabetical order).


Political Philosophy Part 1:  


                             Introduction to Part I   Summary for Introduction

                        Plato                                                                Extracts from The Republic                   }

                        Aristotle                                                           Extracts from Aristotle's Politics            } Summary for Plato and Aristotle

                        Augustine and Aquinas                                      Extracts - St Augustine: City of God                  Summary for Augustine and Aquinas

                        Thomas More, Humanism, Utopias                   Extracts - Thomas More                       }

                        Luther Calvin and the Reformation                    Extracts - Luther and Calvin                  } Summary for Luther, Calvin, Thomas More

                        Machiavelli                                                       Extracts - Machiavelli                                       Summary for Machiavelli

                        Hobbes                                                            Extracts - Hobbes                                }

                        John Locke                                                      Extracts - Locke                                   } Summary for Hobbes and Locke 

                        Rousseau                                                          Extracts - Rousseau                                          Summary for Rousseau

                        Edmund Burke, Tom Paine, and the French Revolution                                                              Summary for Burke and Paine


Political Philosophy Part 2 (the ‘isms of politics):


                        Introduction to Part 2                Summary of Thinkers for Part 2

                        Liberalism: Adam Smith            Liberalism: John Rawls            Liberalism today (NEW!!)


                        Socialism before and besides Marx

                        Marx: an overview                    Marx extracts   Marx: the evolution of his thought          Marxism: Religion, Modernity

                        Socialism Since Marx - 1 revisionism/social democracy                          

                        Anarchism - Peter Kropotkin and Mutual Aid

                        Conservatism: Introduction, Burke, Hegel                      Oakeshott and Nozick  Thatcherism                  Hayek, liberal conservatism, new right economics


                        Feminism (Introduction)            Simone de Beauvoir      Feminism (Extracts and Quotes)            Feminism and Inequality               Feminism Today

                        Environmentalism (notes for political philosophy)                       Notes on Climate Change, 'Sceptics' etc. [NEW!]

                                    See also: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Environment

                                       and: Social Movements: the Environmental and Green Movements




            How Enlightened was the Enlightenment? (WEA Course: Leigh-on-Sea, January 2011, Rayleigh October 2011, Loughton October 2012)


                        Week 1: Introduction

                        Week 2: Introduction continued: Enlightenment values

                        Week 3: Science         

                        Week 4 Economic Underpinnings (war, trade, agricultural and industrial revolutions)

                        Week 5: Religion

                        Week 6: Human Nature in Adam Smith, Rousseau and Kant

                            Extra notes on Adam Smith

                            Extra notes on Rousseau

                                    Extra notes on Kant

                                    Extracts from Adam Smith

                        Week 7: The Arts (extended to first part of week 8 also)

                                    Poems and quotations 

                        Week 8: Political Ideas (part (i) - Kant, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau)                      

                        Week 9: Political Ideas (ii) - The American and French Revolutions, Burke and Paine 

                        Week 10: Problematics: slavery, race, women                   


            (b) Power and Protest – Social Movements in the Twentieth Century:

            (some chapters are not yet written up)


            Social Movements: Introduction and Contents

            Social Movements: Theory

            Social Movements in the 20th Century


            Chapter 1: The Labour Movement: (‘People Power’ WEA Course weeks 1 & 2)

            Section 1: history up to 1926

            Section 2: twentieth century

            Section 3: Issues


            Chapter 2: The Russian Revolution:

            Russian Revolution


            Chapter 4: The Peace Movement. (‘People Power’ WEA Course weeks 3 & 4)

                        Section 1: the anti-war movement

                        Section 2: the anti-nuclear movement                

                        Section 3: Nonviolence

            Section 4: Peace and War Today          Section 6: updates

                        Conclusion and References on Peace and War (Section 5)


                        Chapter 6: (‘People Power’ WEA Course Weeks 6 & 7):

                        The Women's Movement

            - see also: Feminism (political philosophy) and Feminism: Simone de Beauvoir

                        Chapter 7: Youth, Students and the Counter Culture (‘People Power’ WEA Course Week 5)

                        - see also the two book reviews below, under (4) libertarian socialism etc (*)


                        Chapter 8: (‘People Power’ WEA Course Weeks 8 & 9):

                        The Environmental (Green) Movement (Protecting the Planet/Natural Environment Part 2) (**)

                        Notes on climate change, sceptics’ etc: Climate change  [NEW! – including Updates on climate change] (Protecting the Planet/Natural Environment Part 4) (**)

                        For updates on other environmental issues (not climate change) go to csr6 (Protecting the Planet/Natural Environment Part 1 (**)

                        environmental issues in Australia (new)

                        How an Australian environmentalist survived a crocodile attack and changed her view on humans and nature:

                        Val Plumwood and the crocodile (new).


                        (**) See also Environmentalism for political philosophy course  (Protecting the Planet/Natural Environment Part 3)


                        Chapter 10: Social Movements Today.


(3) Teaching Notes on Corporate Social Responsibility in Context:

- notes based on courses which I taught at UEL from the mid 1970s.


It is quite astounding to see how much emphasis is now (21st century) placed on corporate social responsibility in the world of business – it is no longer just a subject taught at a few progressive institutions such as UEL (in the 1970s UEL was progressive – now I am not so sure!) but it is a matter of lively debate involving many managers and practitioners.


The reader is entitled to be cynical about all this enthusiasm for ‘corporate social responsibility’ on the part of business – as am I, to some extent: real change will only come about when the public is no longer prepared to put up with the self-centredness of business. However, cynicism alone is destructive and reactionary – progress needs both a willingness to act (on whatever front seems to bring results), and surely also a qualified optimism?


                   CSR in Context: Contents Page

                   Chapter 1: Definitions etc              

                   Chapter 2: History (early) 

                   Chapter 3: History (recent)       

                   Chapter 4: The workers

                   Chapter 5: The Consumer     

                   Chapter 6: The Natural Environment

                   Chapter 7: The "Third World"                  

                   Chapter 8: Inequality                      Updates on Inequality [New! – recent events (credit crunch, debt crisis, recession and especially the Occupy

                                                                                    demonstrators) have brought into the public domain the issue that has been central for socialists for some 200 years at                                                                              least: inequality of income, wealth and power.]

                    Chapter 9: Summary of 'Remedies' and Conclusion.

                    Updates for CSR

                    Essay: The Social Politics of Business Ethics

                    Books etc on Corporate Social Responsibility


(4) Articles on libertarian socialism, Cornelius Castoriadis and related topics (see also #links):


            NEW: Comments on Paul Mason and 'postcapitalism'.


                        Recommencing Revolution                

                        Teaching Castoriadis at UEL (‘Capitalism, Bureaucracy, Democracy’)

                        (*) Review of: When Poetry Ruled the Streets (on May '68 in France)

                        Reprint of the Solidarity Account of the May Days, France 1968          

            (*) Review of: The Resources of Critique, by A. Callinicos. 


(5) Autobiographical and personal:


            Biographical background to the author of these pages

                        UEL Course Outlines - summary of courses taught by the author at the University of East London (UEL), 1966 – 2005.

                        Poetry I Like (NEW!) - some of my favourite poems.

                        'Reflecting on Nature' - programme notes for a song recital. (NEW!)





(ii) Links to other useful or interesting websites:


                   (1) Castoriadis:


                   There is now a good wikipedia entry on Castoriadis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Castoriadis.


                        This includes the following description of how Castoriadis saw the world at present:


‘I think that we are at a crossing in the roads of history, history in the grand sense. One road already appears clearly laid out, at least in its general orientation. That's the road of the loss of meaning, of the repetition of empty forms, of conformism, apathy, irresponsibility, and cynicism at the same time as it is that of the tightening grip of the capitalist imaginary of unlimited expansion of "rational mastery," pseudorational pseudomastery, of an unlimited expansion of consumption for the sake of consumption, that is to say, for nothing, and of a techno-science that has become autonomized along its path and that is evidently involved in the domination of this capitalist imaginary. The other road should be opened: it is not at all laid out. It can be opened only through a social and political awakening, a resurgence of the project of individual and collective autonomy, that is to say, of the will to freedom. This would require an awakening of the imagination and of the creative imaginary.’


                        (2) Tony Holden:


                   I exchange ideas and thoughts with someone (Tony Holden) who is on a similar wavelength to me – though his perspective is Christian (while I am an



                        Tony’s website contains interesting book reviews and thoughts: http://www.tonyholden.org/Home.php

                        Tony says: “We are now into our fourth year with the website [began December 2010]. Much has changed. In terms of communication we are now

                        also using Facebook and emails. In terms of our lives much is good but health-wise we both creak in different ways. As for our values and our visions

                        for humans: they burn bright – we hope we can contribute to the common good as we work for non-violence, peace and justice. [Ian’s emphasis].

                         The website includes: books, art, original poems, comment by both of us especially on urban society, living with difference and church and society

                        issues, plus personal news.”


                        (3) I follow these blogs that continue to press for a revolutionary socialist view of the world that is critical of ‘communism’ as well as of capitalism:

                             ‘Scriptonite Daily’ at http://www.scriptonitedaily.com and

                                    ‘Shiraz Socialist’ at http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com


                        (4) Other links can be found in the relevant sections of the notes.



Comments on these pages are welcome to ian_michael_pirie@btinternet.com