World Development

World Development today is a contested concept, and one that provokes debate across the board. Culture Wars is bringing together reviews of books and the arts, to engage with everything from globalisation to slum cities, from consumerism to international aid.

Questions dealt with throughout these reviews include: following massive economic growth from China and India, are we seeing a new distribution of power on the world stage? How should we respond to the perceived costs of development such as global warming and the erosion of communities? And what are the best models for growth?

Thursday 27 May 2010

‘Necessary compromise’

The New Old World, by Perry Anderson (Verso, 2009)

Anderson’s account of the EU is at its strongest when he shows how it excludes the possibility of any of kind of politics at all. He remarks that though the EU appears in many respects to function as a forum for managing the relations between independent sovereign states, even here we are witnessing something different from traditional diplomacy.

Long, hot summers

Nagging Doubt, Finsborough Theatre, London

In 1981 Klaff was younger and leaner and apartheid still reigned. A state of emergency had been imposed after the Soweto uprising of 1976 and the anti-apartheid movement was at its height in Britain and elsewhere. Today the ANC rules and the roles have been somewhat reversed. Afrikaners live in fear for their lives.

Friday 23 April 2010

Keynes, the straw man and this irrational, crazy world

The Economic Crisis and the State of Economics, Eds. Robert Skidelsky and Christian Westerlind Wigstrom. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

If you have any doubt about the irrelevance of the EMH in the real world then just look at how the world’s leaders responded to the financial crisis. Governments everywhere stepped in with massive subsidies to keep the financial system afloat. Would leaders who were supposedly ideologically wedded to the principles of the free market have acted in such a concerted way to bail out the markets?

Thursday 1 April 2010

Nikolai’s broken cry

The White Guard, National Theatre (Lyttleton), London

The real and true menace is not Communism, nor the new government, but the Future, and it the Future which has its thundering cannons pointed firmly against the sentimental bourgeoisie.

Thursday 18 March 2010

The old one-two punch of history

First as Tragedy, Then As Farce, by Slavoj Žižek (2009)

The sheer vitality of Žižek’s thought usually serves to ensure that his work is an enjoyable read. In First as Tragedy, Then As Farce this effect is amplified by the urgency of his topic and the passion with which he approaches it. It’s perhaps inevitable though that this urgency does not translate easily into prescriptive politics and this is the one aspect of the book’s thesis which disappoints.

Don’t blame it on the Boomers

The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers took their children's future - and why they should give it back, by David Willetts (Atlantic Books)

Can Willetts afford himself the luxury of reticence? This book is not just about a supposed inter-generational conflict. It’s really about the state of the nation. This topic should not invite despair, but nor should it simply breed good - but insubstantial – intentions.

Thursday 11 March 2010

To and of humanity

The Education of a British-Protected Child, by Chinua Achebe (Allen Lane)

A 1988 essay entitled ‘The University and the Leadership Factor in Nigerian Politics’ perhaps surprisingly offers a message directly applicable to the current moment in British politics. ‘Leadership is a sacred trust, like the priesthood in civilised, humane religions’, Achebe writes. His writings should be on a list of required reading for all those thinking of taking up office; perhaps then we might end up with a political class ready to treat the electorate with the respect it is due.

Muslim Cinema: an introduction

With 101 must-see Muslim-themed films

An introduction to Muslim Cinema allows Muslims to take a critical reflection about their own beliefs and culture, as well as providing a window for those who are of other faiths to see who Muslims are. Where does one start?

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.

Monday 15 February 2010

We need mirrors?

Star City – The Future Under Communism, Nottingham Contemporary

It would appear that pathos and disappointment define a strong contemporary current, with fewer options projecting and inspiring us forwards. It seems that that the scope of our future orientation is constrained. We’re not just nervous about setting ambitious goals. The attempt to do so is understood as seen as arrogant. Such audaciousness will see us repeating past mistakes

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.

Friday 4 December 2009

Romantic capitalism

What explains the enduring appeal of Ayn Rand?

Contrary to Rand’s image of heroic capitalists as beacons of integrity and thrusting enterprise, the capitalist class has shown itself in recent years to be every bit as snivelling and mendacious as the worst of the collectivist villains in Rand’s fiction. Who’s been raking in all that bailout money, after all?

Friday 20 November 2009

Asian food for thought

On the remarkable malleability of the human palate

I wondered: is it really true that the Chinese will eat any part of just about anything that moves? How did they turn out this way? How can two neighbouring Asian countries have such divergent approaches to what they consider food?

Friday 6 November 2009

The glutinous mud of the city

Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites, 1952-62 Courtauld Gallery, London

The construction of the Shell Building on the South Bank of the Thames, near Waterloo, caught Auerbach’s imagination. ‘Shell Building Site from the Thames’ (1959) shows a cable being lowered by a crane into the deep excavation that was carried out for this building. As the cable drops against a background of bright, light clay it’s difficult to stave off an attack of vertigo.

Made and betrayed

The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence, by Martin Meredith (Free Press)

Meredith blasts away the stereotypes with cold fact and blunt candour in this magisterial yet concise history in order to demonstrate how what followed in the years after independence was in many ways disastrous for most of Africa’s nascent states.

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