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Stewart mentions how the Conservative Philosophy Group, involving Cambridge academics such as Roger Scruton, John Casey, Maurice Cowling and Edward Norman, helped to build a bridge between High Tories and classical liberal economists. But there is no discussion about why the conservatives as a whole failed even to try to change the intellectual as well as the economic culture of Britain, or indeed, if they saw any need for a hearts-and-minds campaign on this front.
Cobb’s concept of ‘couplism’ is less comical than it sounds. Indeed, his coinage is politically serious. However, while I laughed with the author at the rest of this enjoyable book, I was ultimately unconvinced about being single in his sense.
The printed book, therefore, begins to be coded not as something uniform or production line but as almost artisanal – like spelt bread from a local baker as opposed to Hovis sliced white. And because of this it is changing from the often unconsidered vehicle for a text to an artefact in and of itself – something reflected not merely in the content of the book but in its physical form.
Manion, for all his radical pretensions, is more orthodox than he imagines. His belief that public services should be redefined so that they ‘support and promote a safe, decent, healthy, responsible society’ is already in the mainstream of public service reform. The problems that he raises - both cultural and fiscal - are no less real and pressing for that, however, and he is to be commended for taking them seriously.
Even with the facts in hand, it is a fantasy to expect that those who reject universalism - or who advocate its violent and oppressive forms - will be converted without the conscious efforts of human beings to persuade them. From the Ruins of Empire, beyond all the great names, famous battles and obscure sects that adorn its pages, can perhaps be read as a defence of the importance of argument and debate, or, at the very least, critical engagement.
Margot Callas was six years older than Simon and 37 years younger than Graves. Surprise, surprise: Simon came down with a severe case of the hots, in its starry-eyed, mooncalf mode. Margo was strikingly lovely, and, in contrast with some of the other women elevated to a plinth in the Graves goddess gallery, intelligent and classy.
In considering Westbourne Grove, he writes of its ‘empty launderettes, iffy supermarkets, sparsely furnished letting agencies, unreconstructed Indian restaurants, beer halls, booths offering rock-bottom price international phone calls, money exchanges, cheap carpet shops and heavily defended mini cab offices.’ With a complete lack of socio-babble we’re straight back into the Notting Hill of Colin Maclnnes’s early yoof novel Absolute Beginners, or the film Performance, as if the superficial sleekness of Cameronian gentrification had never existed.
It is Part Three, ‘A Better Society’, that really fails to live up to its promise. The opening chapter of this section, ‘Dysfunctional societies’, starts off reasonably enough, drawing attention to other possible explanations of the causes of the social problems discussed and showing how the evidence continues to point in the direction of income inequality as the major cause. After that, the authors descend into a highly dubious discussion of human nature and environmental thought that lets the book down.
Gerges contends Obama’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been a ‘striking policy failure’, which will be remembered as Obama’s ‘missed opportunity’. Indeed, in the end, he could not even curtail the hawkish Netanyahu’s desire for settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It was a conflict fought on racial and class lines. ‘Stay On The Job Until Every Murdering Jap is Wiped Out!’ ran one US Army Poster, while the old adage ‘A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at either end’ was re-worked by the American financier Jay Gould: ‘I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half’.
Haidt wants his readers to understand - in the sense of comprehend (rather than empathise with) - moral, social and political views that differ from theirs. But this aspiration has a wider application than the field of American politics, and stating it is the main value of the book. There can be no effective debate without comprehending an opponent’s point of view.
Where the call for ‘science’ in policymaking is legitimate – in deciding between different policy options within an already established political framework – it is technocratic and mundane; elsewhere it rapidly becomes either eccentric or authoritarian, closing down the scope for political action.
The invocation of divine status leads Bloom to claim that Shakespeare’s intellect is greater than that any other writer, including ‘the principal philosophers, the religious sages, and the psychologists from Montaigne through Nietzsche to Freud’ (p.2). I offer the suggestion that Bloom may be over-stating his case here. Worse, in the process of assigning Shakespeare divinity, Bloom decouples him from his rightful place in the history of literature and art.
After the invasion, once it was shown there were only weapons of prosaic destruction ‘the administration decided it was best to assume they had never been there’. The compound where the conventional weapons were stored, in Yusifiyah, near Baghdad, was by-passed by the Americans, and then comprehensively looted by insurgents. One source in the book estimates that of the violence following the invasion, 90 per cent was facilitated by this looting.
23 writers tell us why public libraries matter. They do so against a background of library cuts (and dumbed-down education - more of this later). And they not only make out a good case for libraries but also for reading itself — a wise move, given the dislike expressed in some quarters about ‘privileging’ the book over other sources of information.