• Revenge of the Nerds

    Don’t be alarmed if you hear a tinkling noise in the San Francisco Bay Area these days. Chances are that it’s simply the sound of scales falling from the eyes of tech employees, as they come to realise that the companies they work for aren’t quite as upstanding as they claim to be …

    Revenge of the Nerds
  • Why Davos Man Loves Big History

    On the face of it, David Christian’s Origin Story doesn’t look like the kind of book that demands a political analysis. Subtitled A Big History of Everything, I imagine it will strike most readers as a weightier, less amusing, version of Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything – a book for the interested non-specialist, if not the shameless dilettante. […]

    Why Davos Man Loves Big History
  • Morally Naked

    The ancient Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’ received a strenuous workout in 2020. According to Google’s instruments, use of the phrase spiked sharply in March, just as confirmed global cases of COVID-19 were passing the 100,000 mark and the Coalition Government was putting together its first stimulus package. Invocations of the curse were especially popular within the […]

    Morally Naked
  • Peak Bullshit?

    Earlier this year, as the US journalist Michael Wolff was angrily defending his chart-busting exposé Fire and Fury against allegations that it was thinly sourced and inaccurate – allegations, it should be pointed out, that flowed principally from its apricot-coloured subject – a passage purporting to be an extract from the book was published and widely shared on Twitter. Originating […]

    Peak Bullshit?
  • Politics for Beautiful People

    There’s disagreement about who first described politics as “show business for ugly people”: some commentators attribute the zinger to Jay Leno, others to political consultant Paul Begala. But there is broad agreement that whoever it was identified a genuine phenomenon. Politics in the era of mass communication has indeed become more “mediated” – as focused on personalities as it is […]

    Politics for Beautiful People
  • Five Stars for Us! A Review of Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Post’

    I was just four months old when the Pentagon Papers were published in 1971, but I remember very distinctly the mixed emotions that ran through my mind when I first clapped eyes on that historic edition of the New York Times in my local library. For here was everything I loathed and loved in one incredible revelation! On the one […]

    Five Stars for Us! A Review of Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Post’
  • Stuck in the Middle with EU? Centrism in the UK and Beyond

    When the writer Paul Mason was booked to appear at the annual conference of Progress earlier this year, he was more or less assured a rough reception. Progress, after all, is a Blairite “ginger group” within the British Labour Party – formed in 1996, one year before their boy won power – and Mason the quasi-Marxist author of the excellent […]

    Stuck in the Middle with EU? Centrism in the UK and Beyond
  • True Colours: Identity, Class and Rightwing Populism

    Of all the flags seen at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month – the Gadsden, the Confederate, the National Socialist – none so caught the media’s attention as the one raised in its immediate aftermath. Responding to the far-right rally, and to the atrocity committed by one of the protestors, the Cheeto Jesus equivocated. There […]

    True Colours: Identity, Class and Rightwing Populism
  • Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid

    I’ll say one thing for the Cheeto Jesus: he’s done wonders for the journalistic trade in specious literary comparisons. In the year or so since Donald Trump became the GOP’s presidential nominee, I must have read hundreds of articles comparing his rise and behaviour in office to dystopias and alternative histories such as Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, Philip […]

    Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid
  • On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

    Roger Scruton and Terry Eagleton aren’t natural bedfellows. As a conservative philosopher in the Burkean mould, Scruton tends to regard the past as a country from which we have strayed too far, while the Marxist Eagleton looks forward to a world that has broken free from oppression and exploitation. But while certain fundamental differences emerge from a reading of these […]

    On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?
 

OTHER RECENT POSTS

Identity Crisis: Radical Gender Theory and the Left

Identity Crisis: Radical Gender Theory and the Left

In his latest series of documentaries Can’t Get You Out of My Head (reviewed by Guy Rundle in Arena Quarterly No. 6), sociologist and filmmaker Adam Curtis focuses on a number of individuals who sit at the uneasy intersection of modern individualism, an increasingly technologised vision of the human mind and human behaviour, and a liberatory politics denuded of grand historical narratives.

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Politically Challenged

Politically Challenged

The word ‘challenging’ in the title of Challenging Politics functions as both an adjective and a verb: an adjective in the sense that its author, Scott Ryan, thinks that politics should be challenging; and a verb in the sense that this conception of politics is currently being challenged.

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The Rome Zoo, by Pascal Janovjak

The Rome Zoo, by Pascal Janovjak

In his extraordinary novel The Rome Zoo, French author Pascal Janovjak uses the eponymous institution to observe one species in particular: not the imperious lions or the mischievous chimps or the pygmy hippopotami, all of which are there in the background, but the human beings that would remove those animals from their natural habitats and put them in cages.

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Review of Blood Lust, Trust and Blame

Review of Blood Lust, Trust and Blame

Though Monash University is named for a soldier, I’ve no doubt at all that this important offering from its In the National Interest series – Blood Lust, Trust and Blame, by Samantha Crompvoets – will be labelled by some as unpatriotic for raising a number of uncomfortable questions about the functioning of Australia’s military.

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On Tim Jackson’s Post Growth: Life after Capitalism

On Tim Jackson’s Post Growth: Life after Capitalism

With the Budget Bingo cards now mouldering in the trash, and the budget itself now mouldering in the memory, it’s worth reflecting that the ideological character of an era has less to do with the disagreements between political parties than with the assumptions they share …

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Go Slow and Break Things

Go Slow and Break Things

The short decade between the global debt crisis and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency was a time of great excitement on the Left. Like the devil in Baudelaire’s The Generous Gambler, capitalism’s power had been based on its ability to convince the world that it didn’t exist; but in the months and years after the financial meltdown, its tail and trotters were distinctly visible to anyone who cared to look.

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On Kate Holden’s The Winter Road

On Kate Holden’s The Winter Road

‘The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.’ So wrote the Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Discourse on Inequality (1754) …

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Review of On Life’s Lottery, by Glyn Davis

Review of On Life’s Lottery, by Glyn Davis

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison assures us, ‘if you have a go, you will get a go’. In other words, those who make an effort are guaranteed a shot at success. It follows that if you don’t make an effort, you only have yourself to blame when success remains stubbornly out of reach.  

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Review of Power and Consent, by Rachel Doyle

Review of Power and Consent, by Rachel Doyle

Rachel Doyle’s Power & Consent is about as well-timed as a book can be. Published as allegations of rape and a ‘culture of silence’ swirl around Canberra, it is a formidable salvo aimed at a field already strewn with casualties. Indeed, it is almost too well timed …

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Review of On Charlatans, by Chris Bowen

Review of On Charlatans, by Chris Bowen

Though Bowen begins On Charlatans by asking why social democratic parties command less support among the working class, he spends the great majority of the book outlining the ‘fake legitimacy’ the populist parties offer them – a combination of post-truth rhetoric, resentful white identity politics, hyper-partisanship and climate-change denialism.

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Biotech is about more than ownership. It’s about what human beings are.

Biotech is about more than ownership. It’s about what human beings are.

To legalise mitochondrial donation may indeed be the moral thing to do, but the broader trend of which it is part requires thoroughgoing analysis, not only by religious groups but also by a material Left whose best traditions have always placed science within a radical humanist frame, not the other way about.

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Review of The High Road (Quarterly Essay), by Laura Tingle

Review of The High Road (Quarterly Essay), by Laura Tingle

Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essays are about politics in the narrow sense. Unconcerned with Big Ideas – ideas of human flourishing, or of the status of the great political traditions – they take politics as ‘the art of the possible’ and judge its practitioners on their mastery of it. A key word in the essays is ‘pragmatism’, which entails working with the grain of events and placing ‘ideology’ to one side in the name of compromise and steady reform.

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Review of Just Money, by Royce Kurmelovs

Review of Just Money, by Royce Kurmelovs

To date, Royce Kurmelovs has written four books and written off at least two cars … Newcomers to his work will hope that the young author is a better writer than he is a driver. Those, like me, who are familiar with it will know they’re in for a treat.

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