Category: Literature

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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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 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 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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