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John N. Gray (born 17 April 1948, in South Shieldsmarker, Tyne & Wear) is a British political philosopher and author, formerly School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economicsmarker.

Gray contributes regularly to The Guardian, New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement, and has written several influential books on political theory, including Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2003), an attack on humanism, a worldview which he sees as originating in religious ideologies. Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray writes that "humans ... cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them."

Academic career

Gray studied at Exeter College, Oxfordmarker, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and completed his B.A., M.Phil., and D.Phil.

He formerly held posts as lecturer in political theory at the University of Essexmarker, fellow and tutor in politics at Jesus College, Oxfordmarker, and lecturer and then professor of politics at the University of Oxfordmarker. He has served as a visiting professor at Harvard Universitymarker (1985-86), Stranahan Fellow at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University (1990-1994), and has also held visiting professorships at Tulane Universitymarker’s Murphy Institute (1991), and Yale Universitymarker (1994). He was Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Sciencemarker until his retirement from academic life in early 2008.

Academic work

An advocate for the New Right in the 1980s, and then of New Labour in the 1990s, Gray now sees the conventional (left-wing/right-wing) political spectrum of conservatism and social democracy as no longer viable.

Gray has perhaps become best known for his work, since the 1990s, on the uneasy relationship between the value-pluralism and liberalism of Isaiah Berlin, which has ignited considerable controversy, and for his strong criticism of neoliberalism and of the global free market. More recently, he has criticised some of the central currents in Western thinking, such as humanism, and has tended towards Green thought. He has drawn from the "Gaia theory" of James Lovelock, among others, but he is very pessimistic about human behaviour changing to prevent environmental decay, and he predicts that the 21st century will be full of wars as natural resources become increasingly scarce.



  • Mill on Liberty: A Defence (1983). ISBN 0710092709.
  • Conceptions of Liberty in Political Philosophy (ed. with Zbigniew Pelczynski) (1984)
  • Hayek on Liberty (1984)
  • Liberalism (1986). ISBN 0816615217.
  • Liberalisms: Essays in Political Philosophy (1989). ISBN 0415007445.
  • J.S. Mill, "On Liberty": In Focus (ed. with G.W. Smith) (1991). ISBN 0415010012.
  • Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment (1993). ISBN 0415092973.
  • Postliberalism: Studies in Political Thought (1993). ISBN 0415135532.
  • Enlightenment's Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age (1995). ISBN 0415163358.
  • Isaiah Berlin (1995). ISBN 069104824X.
  • Liberalism (2nd ed.) (1995). ISBN 0816628017.
  • After Social Democracy: Politics, Capitalism and the Common Life (1996)
  • Mill on Liberty: A Defence (2nd ed.) (1996)
  • Endgames: Questions in Late Modern Political Thought (1997). ISBN 0745618820.
  • Hayek on Liberty (3rd ed.) (1998)
  • False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998). ISBN 1565845927.
  • Voltaire (1998). ISBN 0415923948.
  • Two Faces of Liberalism (2000). ISBN 1565845897.
  • Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2002). ISBN 1862075123.
  • Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern (2003). ISBN 1565848055.
  • Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions (2004). ISBN 1862077185.
  • Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007). ISBN 0713999152.
  • Gray's Anatomy: Selected Writings (2009). ISBN 978-0385667883

Books about Gray

  • Horton, John and Glen Newey, eds. The Political Theory of John Gray. London: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 041536647X.


  1. John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, (Granta Books 2002), p. 12. ISBN 1862075123

External links


The Guardian

The Independent

The Observer



Reviews of His Work

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