what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Alternatives....how the media could actually help the development of the good society

I’m encouraged by two new discussion initiatives just announced by The Guardian – the first promises to 
….. investigate real-world examples of people doing things differently. We’ll meet councillors who are extending local government far beyond collecting the bins; housing activists turning themselves into property developers; and energy bosses who actually ask customers how their companies should be run. Much of the reporting will be from Britain, but we’ll also look at other parts of Europe (including Germany) and further afield.Stack them all together and the grand lie of Thatcherism is exposed. There are alternatives. We can do things differently.

The opening piece skewers what passes for political and economic debate in Britain – 
With Britain already having suffered one lost decade, a murmuring catastrophism has set in among our intellectuals. Mainstream-left politics remains stuck between two cliches. Either: well, we used to do things differently (cue sepia-tinted nostalgia for the establishment of the NHS and huge public borrowing). Or: the Germans do it, and it’s done them no harm (along with wistfulness for a proper industrial policy)

The New series is, sadly, not very easy to find but can be accessed here. I've tried unsuccessfully to  register for updates so each time have to try to remember the title (The Alternatives) and search for it - a pity since this article on social investments is a great example of the sort of information the mainstream media doesn't gives us and which many of us thirst after.....
The second initiative broadens the focus to Europe as a whole, with Natalie Nougayrède promising
……it would build bridges and engage more closely with readers throughout Europe and those in the wider world who want to keep in touch with European concerns. We know people across Europe are eager to share insights about a region whose destiny is currently being redefined. We want to offer them the space and opportunity to do that.

The first of the series can be read here.
The Guardian has tried at such a venture at least once before – with the support of Le Monde and Der Spiegel as I remember but it seems to have gone down like a lead balloon. Language seems to trap at least the anglo-saxons very much in our own intellectual concerns and bubbles. I had the idea recently of trying to plug into the French and German blogging community to try to find some people there who might be willing to share with us some of the books and debates which have excited their attention in recent years - offering my own annotated list in exchange Our Future – an annotated bibliography.
But I simply can't navigate my way through the european blogosphere to the gems which must be there and asked for help. The one reply I received referenced the Social Europe website and the sadly dead Zygmund Baumont (who wasn't a blogger).

Perry Anderson is about the only character with the linguistic ability to supply us Brits with extensive analyses of post-war and contemporary debates in France, Germany and Italy. His stunning study The New Old World (2009) can be read in its entirety here (all 560 pages) and is easily the best read on what it is to be European – about a third being a survey of the literature on the “European Project”; another third being insightful and acerbic analyses of the political and intellectual currents of the “Core” European countries (with the noticeable and dismissive exclusion of the UK); and the final section (“The Eastern Question”) devoted largely to Turkey.

Of course we have excellent studies of individual European nations – particularly France, Italy and Spain. ” How the French Think – an affectionate portrait of an intellectual people” is just the latest in a line which includes Theodor Zeldin and Rod Kedward. 

And writers such as Peter Watson, Simon Winder and Neil Mc Gregor have ensured that even books about Germany have been making the lists of best-sellers  
I’m not sure, however, if I would go so far as US intellectual Mark Lilla who wrote recently -Ever since Madame de Staël wrote “De l’Allemagne” during Napoleon’s reign to celebrate the Germans as sensitive romantics allergic to tyranny (unlike the French), and Heinrich Heine responded with his own “De l’Allemagne” portraying them as brutal pagans capable of anything, Europeans have been trying to unlock the cultural codes of their neighbours—and, in so doing, unlock their own.
Lilla seems to be the only US writer interested in exploring strands of European thinking and gave a very helpful picture recently of some developments on the centre-right of French social thought – particularly amongst the younger bourgeois catholics who tend to read Le Point magazine - which I’ve just discovered has the astonishing circulation figure of 400,000. This is some six times the British equivalent – proof if it was ever needed of the greater intellectuality of the French….

It would be interesting to know what books (if any) British visitors to European countries (whether for business or pleasure) use for their preparation – apart from the obvious travel books.
A few years ago I prepared this source book - German Musings – which would be of interest to anyone visiting that country…..

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