• 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

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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‘The First Cry of a Newborn World’: The Trinity Test at 75

‘The First Cry of a Newborn World’: The Trinity Test at 75

The footage is black and white, and silent, but it still has the power to shock: the sudden violent flash of light, so bright that for a second or two the horizon is invisible; the massive pyrocumulus cloud rising up over the arid valley; the way the night sky seems to quiver and throb as the light from the explosion fades.

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The network versus the hierarchy

The network versus the hierarchy

‘IT IS EASIER to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.’ So wrote the critical theorist Frederic Jameson in New Left Review in 2003, attributing the sentiment to an unnamed ‘someone’ whom posterity, with nothing else to go on, has decided to call Frederic Jameson.

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How democracies perish

How democracies perish

When Bob Hawke died in 2019, shortly before the May election, many commentators sprinkled their obituaries with reflections on how contemporary politicians fell short of the Silver Bodgie’s example. While Hawke, it was said, had managed to combine charisma with a genuine vision, the modern pollie was the helpless plaything of the pollsters and the image-makers, bereft of courage and vision alike.

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Two books in the ‘Grail Tradition’

Two books in the ‘Grail Tradition’

For well over a quarter of a century now the Holy Grail of centre-left politics has been to square the imperatives of enterprise and entrepreneurship with a greater degree of social cohesion, fairness and equality.

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Collapsology

Collapsology

In his most recent novel,The Second Sleep, Robert Harris imagines a future England in which life is lived according to the rhythms and mores of the pre-modern era. Technology is primitive, Christianity taken literally, and, notwithstanding a parrot or two (an effect, perhaps, of global warming), the landscape indistinguishable from that of medieval England.

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Two books on memory

Two books on memory

If this year’s federal election proved one thing, other than the fact that polling firms are hilariously overpaid, it’s that social media is now an invaluable resource for journalists seeking a juicy story or political operatives looking to embarrass their opponents.

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On Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future

On Paul Mason’s Clear Bright Future

In his 2015 book, Postcapitalism, Paul Mason described the way in which information technologies are undermining market forces. Since information can be reproduced for close to ‘zero marginal cost’ its tendency is to collapse traditional price mechanisms and thus the ability of businesses to turn a profit without ‘rent seeking’ (i.e. through creating artificial scarcity).

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Eagleton on Humour

Eagleton on Humour

Not long ago a new category appeared, temporarily, on the Netflix homepage, called something like ‘Politically Incorrect Comedy’. Whether this was meant as a warning or a promise, or a bit of both, is hard to say; but there’s no doubt it spoke to something in the culture: a self-consciousness in debates around women and minorities, related to the political moment.

Read more ›