Angus Kennedy: writer
Marquand reduces democracy to being a way of adjudicating between competing claims of individuals who just won’t get along, much like a marriage guidance counsellor - or a judge. It means ‘accepting difference, rejoicing in difference, and negotiating difference’. Marquand stresses the complexity of modern life and proposes democracy as a tool to manage competing identities and differences.
Not making decisions, not having a long-term strategy, ditching theory and rationality: all seem to be virtues for today’s economists. Economics post-crash seems like a codification of messy pragmatism: to be anti-theory now in principle. Leaving us, of course, with things just the way they are.
The implication of Ferraris is that the incessant focus on limits of all kinds today is about the idea of, the necessity for, limits per se rather than specific limits themselves. Any attempt to argue that such and such a particular limit – the ‘tyranny of oil’ – can be overcome – with biofuels - will be countered almost immediately with another limit – a claimed shortage of land.
It is striking and informative that there has been such concern over just how many scientists there are in Parliament. There has been precisely zero concern as to how many MPs have backgrounds in Fine Art or English or even, and perhaps more to the point, how many economists there are, let alone people who have much, if any, experience of the real world outside the Westminster Village full stop.
You do not have to believe that private schools are right and good to be opposed to calls for the state to ban them. That is, to dismantle private institutions and remove their freedom to choose which pupils to take. This is to attack fundamental freedoms (of association, or not to associate) which are based on the ability to discriminate: we will only take children who are Catholic or Muslim; or wealthy; or good at rugby; or, indeed, on their merit.
Adam Foulds’ new novel recounts the life, loves and madness of John Clare, poster-boy poet of romantic environmentalists and it-once-was Englanders. Can we bracket him so easily and read him as nothing more than a lament for a natural world destroyed in front of his eyes? Or does his life and poetry tell us something more important about civilisation than it does about nature?
‘A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference.’ Karl Marx, Capital, Vol I, Chapter 1.
The language of contemporary politics is packed full of jargon. It stands in for real political discourse and debate but is no substitute. In its place we need to rehabilitate rhetoric: language designed to convince others of the rightness of our propositions.
In June 2005, Lee Siegel writes, Juan Ponce de Leon, legendary discoverer of Florida, inventor of rum, popcorn and cigars, 540 year-old beneficiary of the Fountain of Youth, commissioned, to ghost-write his autobiography, Professor of Indian Religions at the University of Hawaii, Lee Siegel.
Just as the government’s Respect Agenda was only lip-service to being nice to each other and really about reporting each other’s bad behaviour to reward it with ASBOs, so he may talk big about treating each other as autonomous human beings, but really he is full of contempt for the wrong kind of people.
It is not that people are ignorant and lack discernment; nor are they beguiled by the power of the internet; rather there is an attraction, sometimes cynical, sometimes desperate, but an attraction nonetheless to dogmatic points of view at a time when the power of human reason and our ability to make history are both seen as discredited.