Thoughts

This website is an ever expanding archive of Nicolas’s personal notes, thoughts, and writings, gathered over several years from his travels, intellectual work, and conversations with others. These quotes are raw — unfiltered and unedited. They are also continuously changing and evolving, two recurring themes in his outlook on life.  They serve as a starting point for the reader to contemplate, ask their own questions and contribute to a larger discussion. The site has been designed so that the quotes can be highlighted, copied and shared with ease.  We hope to create avenues in the future for the reader to engage more directly and add contributions of their own to form of a growing web of collective ideas for the future.

At a time when life is moving at an unsustainable pace, these quotes are a call to slow down, think deep and think long.


Thoughts

Thoughts

This website is an ever expanding archive of Nicolas’s personal notes, thoughts and writings gathered over several years from his travels, intellectual work and conversations with others.

These quotes are raw - unfiltered and unedited. They are also continuously changing and evolving, two recurring themes in his outlook on life. They serve as a starting point for the reader to contemplate, ask their own questions and contribute to a larger discussion. The site has been designed so that the quotes can be highlighted, copied and shared with ease.  We hope to create avenues in the future for the reader to engage more directly and add contributions of their own to form of a growing web of collective ideas for the future.

At a time when life is moving at an unsustainable pace, these quotes are a call to slow down, think deep and think long.

Author

Nicolas Berggruen is co-founder of the Berggruen Institute, an organization dedicated to working with thinkers across cultures and disciplines to address some of the biggest political and cultural questions in our rapidly changing world. Through the Berggruen Institute, he is the publisher of Noema, formerly the WorldPost, a digital and print publication dedicated to exploring global issues.

It was as young a teenager growing up in Paris that Nicolas became interested in politics and philosophy. He was drawn to the works of the French existentialist philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre in particular, as well as great political leaders. The complexities and potential of governance as a determinant factor in shaping lives fascinated him, he even went as far as to write his own constitution for an utopian country at the age of 15.

Referring to this time in his life Berggruen has said, “I was curious about things beyond my years. There was no television, no phones, no distractions…Ideas were all I had. In my case, it was a blessing. It gave me the interest of speculating.”

This inquisitive nature however often got him into trouble - he was expelled from boarding school for sedition. Of this time, Nicolas recalls “I was challenging the teachers with intellectual stuff. I would argue with them. It was a mess.” This experience, however, taught him that if he wanted to enter the world of ideas and truly explore beyond rhetoric, then he must first engage with the real world. This led him to a long detour in business, allowing him to travel the world and experience cultures + people. It would be several decades later that Nicolas would finally return to his first passion. This time, he found his inspiration not from the French existentialist’s of the 20th century but from farther and more ancient places; Confucious, Lao Tzu and the Buddha. Notably, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha helped shape a new outlook on life, one that married his Western roots with the wisdom of the East. He came to understand that life is change and a succession of chapters, and that living is its experiences.

He spent time with philosophy and political science teachers learning Eastern and Western traditions. He became a meticulous note taker -  documenting his thoughts and conversations as he read, travelled and searched for his way to meaningfully contribute to a rapidly changing world. After decades of living in New York, he settled in LA where he co-founded the Berggruen Institute. The Institute’s work focuses on democratic reforms, rethinking capitalism, geopolitics in a multipolar world and the future of the human in the face of transformative technologies. Today, the Institute has two centers - in Los Angeles, CA and Beijing, China - to fulfil its purpose as a hub for East-West research and cross-cultural dialogue.

In 2012, Nicolas and Institute co-founder Nathan Gardels published Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East. The book’s central argument is that populism and short-term thinking have hindered the progress of Western democracies, while many authoritarian Eastern nations, China in particular, would benefit from strengthening their meritocratic systems with the popular legitimacy that is typical of Western governments. In 2019, they published Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism, expanding on their alternate framework for governance with three novel ideas: participation without populism, universal basic capital and positive nationalism.

Author

The Author

Nicolas Berggruen is co-founder of the Berggruen Institute, an organization dedicated to working with thinkers across cultures and disciplines to address some of the biggest political and cultural questions in our rapidly changing world. Through the Berggruen Institute, he is the publisher of Noema, formerly the WorldPost, a digital and print publication dedicated to exploring global issues.


It was as young a teenager growing up in Paris that Nicolas became interested in politics and philosophy. He was drawn to the works of the French existentialist philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre in particular, as well as great political leaders. The complexities and potential of governance as a determinant factor in shaping lives fascinated him, he even went as far as to write his own constitution for an utopian country at the age of 15.

Referring to this time in his life Berggruen has said, “I was curious about things beyond my years. There was no television, no phones, no distractions…Ideas were all I had. In my case, it was a blessing. It gave me the interest of speculating.”

This inquisitive nature however often got him into trouble - he was expelled from boarding school for sedition. Of this time, Nicolas recalls “I was challenging the teachers with intellectual stuff. I would argue with them. It was a mess.” This experience, however, taught him that if he wanted to enter the world of ideas and truly explore beyond rhetoric, then he must first engage with the real world. This led him to a long detour in business, allowing him to travel the world and experience cultures + people. It would be several decades later that Nicolas would finally return to his first passion. This time, he found his inspiration not from the French existentialist’s of the 20th century but from farther and more ancient places; Confucious, Lao Tzu and the Buddha. Notably, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha helped shape a new outlook on life, one that married his Western roots with the wisdom of the East. He came to understand that life is change and a succession of chapters, and that living is its experiences.


He spent time with philosophy and political science teachers learning Eastern and Western traditions. He became a meticulous note taker -  documenting his thoughts and conversations as he read, travelled and searched for his way to meaningfully contribute to a rapidly changing world. After decades of living in New York, he settled in LA where he co-founded the Berggruen Institute. The Institute’s work focuses on democratic reforms, rethinking capitalism, geopolitics in a multipolar world and the future of the human in the face of transformative technologies. Today, the Institute has two centers - in Los Angeles, CA and Beijing, China - to fulfil its purpose as a hub for East-West research and cross-cultural dialogue.

In 2012, Nicolas and Institute co-founder Nathan Gardels published Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East. The book’s central argument is that populism and short-term thinking have hindered the progress of Western democracies, while many authoritarian Eastern nations, China in particular, would benefit from strengthening their meritocratic systems with the popular legitimacy that is typical of Western governments. In 2019, they published Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism, expanding on their alternate framework for governance with three novel ideas: participation without populism, universal basic capital and positive nationalism.