Battles in Print

Thursday 27 June 2013

A closer look at surrogacy

Is commercial surrogacy, or 'fertility tourism', necessarily exploitative?

What this all really comes down to is an inability to comprehend why surrogates behave in ways that contradict traditional ideas of motherhood and womanhood in general.

Thursday 4 March 2010

‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain…’

On late modern heroism

The virtues the Rocky films portray have a long moral history in Western culture and yet for most of us the narrative which portrays them is one we struggle to take seriously. But contemporary cynicism helps, in a sense, bring about the reality it purports to reflect.

Saturday 27 February 2010

The Mayor who sets his sights low

Why Londoners should challenge the low horizons of Boris Johnson, and champion the building of skyscrapers

Boris Johnson has used his powers to galvanise the anti-high-rise sentiment into an object of policy. So far, he has gotten away with this unchallenged. But it is incumbent on us, those who welcome the prospect of transforming London’s skyline into an exciting scene that represents the city’s dynamism, to publicly challenge this short-sighted and un-ambitious policy.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Transparency works both ways

How public scrutiny of power is becoming the power to scrutinise the public..

If the public is treated as if mere information is required before the correct view of its significance can be arrived at, then attempts to engage the public with big ideas or really change their attitudes will fail

Thursday 21 January 2010

You can’t buy freedom

A reflection on Benjamin Franklin's counterposition of freedom and security

Franklin employs a commercial metaphor: liberty as something to be traded for safety, or, by implication, any other desirable abstract noun. It captures well the naivety with which liberty is often discussed, the failure to understand what freedom really means.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Fractured narratives

Constructing identities in India's political vacuum

At the time of independence, the idea of diversity was about the right to free and open political, linguistic, cultural and religious expression. What stands in its place today is a politics of representation that has made diversity itself a political right rather than a cultural fact.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Questioning the carnivalesque

Is feudal ritual really a convincing model for contemporary revolution?

When the abandoned placards have been swept up and the first cars and pedestrians are released from the bottleneck to take back the formerly ‘liberated’ streets and town squares, the city seems to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the normal routine resumes unscathed. Serious change cannot be effected without action, but ‘aimless hyper-activism’—doing because ‘something must be done’—can actually channel energies away from any seriously progressive project aimed at large-scale social change.

Refocusing remembrance

The case for rethinking poppy day to acknowledge the reality of war

At one point during the traditional Festival of Remembrance, thousands of poppies flutter down from the roof of the Albert Hall. It is a moment of riveting theatricality as young men and women in their spick and span uniforms stand to attention and let the silent flowers settle on their shoulders and on their heads. Yet, we need to be reminded how the poppy came to be adopted as such a powerful symbol.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Why doesn’t listening to modern classical music matter any more?

A talk given at, 'A cultured ear: why does listening to music matter?', at the Battle of Ideas, London, Saturday 31 October 2009

Like every art form, music should continue to provoke and explore different ways of getting under our skin, but though I would hate to have a world without dissonance, I believe that rock music stole classical music’s thunder when it took over the role of providing society’s songs and dances, not least by absorbing the power of electricity to provide the level of energy that an increasingly sex and technology obsessed society needed.

Friday 28 November 2008

Waking up from the American Dream?

A Battles in Print essay

At present America is fighting various battles – some on the outside, some inside the country. For one, American militaries are operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Somalia, Georgia and Lebanon; further troops are stationed in Turkey, Kenya and South Korea. For the other, the United States quarrel with a presidential election, the credit crunch, gas prices, and decisions on abortion, gun laws and same-sex marriages.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

The problem with families

A Battles in Print essay

What is the state’s role in raising the next generation? Can parents be trusted to bring up children without interference from government?

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Lead on, Macduff: McLeadership and the real thing

A keynote essay from the Battle of Ideas 2008

Both the fetishisation of strong leadership and the reaction against it stem from a one-sided focus on leaders as personalities, and neglect of the other side of the relationship.

Whose culture is it anyway?

A keynote essay from the Battle of Ideas 2008

When it comes to thinking about culture and artworks, torn between a multiculturalist melange and celebration of cynicism, the problem seems not to be we don’t know who artworks or culture belong to, more that we want nothing to do with the whole lot of them.

Slam-Dunk the Funk - Defending Progress in the Age of Environmentalism

A keynote essay from the Battle of Ideas 2008

This essay defends the material basis of progress and the right of developing countries to undergo development, and finally argues that material development offers the only way to avoid the environmental disasters that we are constantly warned are just around the corner.

Capitalism, the financial crisis, and us

A keynote essay from the Battle of Ideas 2008

In order to develop a more incisive critique of contemporary society, it is necessary to consider not only the particular nuances of the financial economy, but also the broader historical context, and the relationship between capitalism and wider social and political forces.

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