The last section of de Botton’s book deals with institutions and has a few simple but effective graphs comparing the scale of annual spending eg (a) of the Catholic Church with that of Proctor and Gambles; and (b) of Pringle crisps in UK with that for all books and poetry published in that country! These graphs really make the point very powerfully about the impossibility of individual writers making any impact on national affairs. The text then offers the following sentence -
The challenge we face is how to ally the very many good ideas which currently slumber in the recesses of intellectual life with organisational tools (many religious in nature) which stand the best chance of giving these ideas due impact in the world (p299)
De Botton’s book is one of those rare ones which emerge from my reading with a mass of underlining, pencilled strokes, ticks and just a few question marks. It helped remind me of various issues which have cropped up from time to time in the blogs over the past few years but to which I have not devoted enough consideration, such as -
- How we can reinvent the ethic of social responsibility
- The need to honour those individuals who embody the “good life”
- How the discontent if not rage so many people have about the commercial, political and financial elites can be translated into effective social action.
- The importance (but marginalisation) of cross-boundary (inter-disciplinary) work and writing
- the neglect (and importance of) literature and history in giving insights to contemporary issues