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Part meditation, part commonplace book, First and Last Things is an attempt by a writer of great distinction and strong convictions to take stock of his beliefs and values. Here, Richard Hoggart considers the big questions without shortchanging readers with easy answers. He examines problems (as he sees them) of faith; the mysterious origins of conscience; the importance of family and friends; the value of literature; the nature of memory; and the need, in old age, to find some value in existence. To these issues, and many others, the author brings a lifetime of rich experience and a mind well stocked with the best that has been written by those who have gone before. What emerges above all in this work is Richard Hoggart's love of, almost obsession with, quotations from great authors, especially, of course, Shakespeare. He muses on the business of capitalism and democracy, noting a reluctant conclusion that democracy is the least worst form of government, and that capitalism is its inevitable partner, but one which democratic societies should treat with "a very long spoon." He argues that market and consumer driven societies are inevitably led to relativism, head-counting, and populism. The result is a book that is introspective without being self-absorbed, that is thought-provoking but never preaching, that is, profound without being portentous. First and Last Things is a work that the young should read, if only to discover how much there is still to understand, and one that the old will treasure.

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