what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020

“Rebel Ideas” – at last recognition of the importance of divergent thinking

For some time I’ve been playing around with an interesting proposition – that those who straddle different “worlds” – be it of nation, class, profession, academic discipline – are not only more original in the ideas they produce BUT are also able to communicate these ideas more clearly to the general public than specialists stuck in more “homogeneous” worlds….

And it’s interesting that we often hang the label of “outsider” on such people

A post earlier this year indeed explored this issue in a rather daring way - by simply listing the names which came into my head as exemplars of clear, accessible writing and then – AND ONLY THEN – trying to identify anything to suggest their “outsider” status (whether in country, discipline, ethnicity or even gender). The result was quite stunning – with such “outsider” status being immediately identified for no fewer than 17 of the 18 names

Only a week earlier a post entitled In Praise of the Outsider had looked at a few academic economists who chose to break out of their narrow worlds and give us superbly-written analyses of modern capitalism.

That indeed was the moment when I decided to change the name of the blog to that of “Peripheral Vision” – basically to honour those who break out of the “tunnel vision” of their homogenising worlds and offer us fresh ways of seeing the world

This notion of the potential benefits of conflicting pressures I had first expressed in a diagram I scribbled some 40 years ago when I was exploring with students the different and indeed conflicting roles open to politicians (depending on whose voice they listened to) – to which I gave such names as  “populist”; “ideologue”, “statesman” and  “maverick” - and found myself suggesting that the most satisfying role was in fact the apparently impossible one of trying to identify the common element which came from the diversity of voices.  

I have this past week been reading the first book I have come across which recognises the importance for organisations to encourage such conflicting perspectives - it is Rebel Ideas – the power of diverse thinking; Matthew Syed (2019) which starts with the failure of the CIA to pick up the warning signals of the 9/11 attack and attributes this to its all-white homogeneous culture. It then looks at a variety of disasters (including an Everest mountaineering tragedy and an aircraft failure) in which participants failed to speak up at crucial points simply because of their junior status in the command structure

The book goes on to argue that  

Our social networks are full of people with similar experiences, views and beliefs. Birds of a feather flock together. We tend to bask in the warm glow of nicely agreeing, mirroring, parroting, corroborating, confirming, reflecting together. Entrenching in each other’s blind spots. That is where fads, stock-market bubbles and other bandwagon effects come from.

You need diversity. Diversity not only based on demographics but on cognitive diversity. The need for differences in perspective, insights, experiences and thinking styles.

 

More important now

Cognitive diversity was not so important a few hundred years ago, because the problems we faced tended to be linear, or simple, or separable, or all three. The critical point is that solutions to complex problems typically rely on multiple layers of insight and therefore require multiple points of view. The more diverse the perspectives, the more extensive the range of potentially viable solutions a collection of problem solvers can find. We need to address cognitive diversity before tackling our toughest challenges. It is only then that team deliberation can lead not to mirroring, but to enlightenment.

 

Here are some numbers to support diversity:

- A study by Professor Chad Sparber, an American economist, found that an increase in racial diversity of one standard deviation increased productivity by more than 25 per cent in legal services, health services and finance.

- Germany and the United Kingdom found that return on equity was 66 per cent higher for firms with executive teams in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity than for those in the bottom quartile. For the United States, the return on equity was 100 per cent higher.

- A diverse group of six forecasters, while individually less impressive, would be 15 per cent more accurate.

- A study by the Rotterdam School of Management analysed more than three hundred real-world projects dating back to 1972 and found that projects led by junior managers were more likely to succeed than those with a senior person in charge.

- 43% of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded or co-founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, rising to 57% in the top thirty-five companies.

- Those who studied abroad had ideas that were rated 17 per cent higher than those who had not.

Many companies hire all these great college kids with all sorts of backgrounds; all kinds of ideas brimming in their heads — only to watch them gradually remoulded to ‘fit’ the culture of the organisation. At most meetings, communication is dysfunctional. Many people are silent. Status rigs the discourse. People don’t say what they think but what they think the leader wants to hear. And they fail to share crucial information because they don’t realise what other people lack 

Groups typically need a leader, otherwise there is a risk of conflict and indecision. And yet the leader will make wise choices only if they gain access to the diverse views of the group. How, then, can an organisation have hierarchy and information sharing, decisiveness and diversity? This is the question that has dominated management books for decades, and the approach has typically been to position hierarchy and diversity in an inherent conflict.

Dominant leaders are, by definition, punitive. This is how they win and sustain power. They are also less empathetic. They don’t feel that they need other people, so don’t tend to take their perspectives or read their emotions.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Ango-american liberalism runs out of puff

A September post was devoted to a book called Fantasy Land - how America lost its Mind (2017) which was a highly readable intellectual history of that country – emphasising its Puritanical beginnings and the role this has played in American exceptionalism.

A few weeks ago, the author, Kurt Andersen, published a sequel to the 2017 book - “Evil Geniuses - the unmaking of America, a recent history” (2020) - which explains how conservative forces, horrified by what the 1960s had released, got their act together to forge an agenda and bankroll a reaction which brought us neoliberalism.

I’ve seen this story told many times - of how the Mont Pelerin Society spawned a multiplicity of neoliberal ThinkTanks but this is the first time I’ve seen such a clear explanation of the connection with the polarisation of American society…..

And it’s a nuanced story too – giving due recognition to the (generally ignored) anti-government streak I so well remember in the 1960s and early 1970s – which attracted even a “young leftist” like me to writers such as Saul Alinsky and Ivan Illich. 

More to the point it was the sentiment that drove the US Young Democrats of the late 1970s and 1980s (like Clinton and Hart) to break with the “oldies” who had been carrying the torch for the New Deal and to side with the new economic right….  

It was, after all, a Democratic House which gave Reagan the licence to drive forward deregulation. The full story of the implications of the Democrats’ disowning of the leftist/populist tradition is told in Goliath – the hundred year old war between monopoly and democracy; Matt Stoller (2019) 

There were two things I particularly appreciated about Andersen's book

- First the element of mea culpa. Andersen is writing the book as an economic liberal who has been slow to understand how a non-stop process of marginal and largely unnoticed adjustments has amounted over 4-5 decades to a dramatic socio-economic shift. At several points in the narrative, he pauses to make a very useful summary of these changes.

 - his skill in summarising key books to give us a superb intellectual history 

I had promised this would be the follow-up to my last post about the direction the United States has taken in the last fifty years – but a short article by Pankaj Mishra has persuaded me to widen the thrust of the post beyond America’s shores to the bastions of liberalism everywhere.

Strongly critical, as always, of Western ethnocentricity, Mishra starts in typical vein 

The late Tony Judt, born in 1948, once spoke of the “pretty crappy” generation he belonged to, which

 

“grew up in the 1960s in Western Europe or in America, in a world of no hard choices, neither economic nor political.”

 

In Judt’s view, too many of his intellectual peers moved from radical postures into the “all-consuming business of material accumulation and personal security” in the 1970s and 1980s as the postwar consensus in favor of the welfare state gave way to neoliberalism; they were especially quick to internalize the popular belief when the Berlin Wall fell that liberal democracy and capitalism had “won.”

A similar worldview prevails among a still younger generation than Judt’s. Its members, beneficiaries of an even more complacent era, the end of the cold war, are entrenched in senior positions in the periodicals, television channels, think tanks, and university departments of Anglo-America. Growing up during the triumphalist 1990s, they assumed that American-style democracy and capitalism had proven their superiority;

 

……A newspaper columnist from India, China, Ghana, or Egypt is unlikely to be recognized as an authority on global affairs unless she can demonstrate some basic knowledge of Euro-American political and intellectual traditions. But most Western scholars, let alone newspaper reporters, do not have even a passing acquaintance with (the richness of) Indian, Chinese, African, and Arab history and thought.

I don’t pretend to know (or care) much about political philosophy but I am aware that, in 1971, the American liberal analytical philosopher John Rawls published “A Theory of Justice” in which he laid out the apparatus of justice theory that became the dominant conceptual framework for subsequent theorizing about politics among philosophers and many political theorists in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere. 

The impact of Rawls’s theory on the landscape and language of political philosophy was immense. Only a decade after the publication of “A Theory of Justice”, one bibliography listed 2,512 books and articles engaging with Rawls’s thought. For his followers, Rawls became a patron saint, the visionary behind an egalitarian dream of distributive justice. Among his critics, he was known as a neo- Kantian individualist who adapted the toolkit of rational choice and decision theory and viewed individuals as at once self- interested economic agents and autonomous moral persons.

They saw him as providing a philosophical rationalization of a liberal welfare state or, worse, a defence of the conservative status quo that implicitly framed America as a land of liberty and civic freedom.

 

In his wake, political philosophy was remade. Philosophical liberalism became synonymous with Rawls, and political philosophy synonymous with a kind of liberalism born of postwar America. Even many who opposed it were shaped by it. By the late twentieth century, Anglophone political theorists operated in the shadow of justice theory

I’m quoting from a new book “In the Shadow of Justice – postwar liberalism and the remaking of political philosophy” which looks an important and highly accessible critique for these times when anglo-americans at least are questioning the future of the liberal part of our tradition. The LSE review blog which I value gave it a useful review - 

Using the core liberal question – whether a society can be justified to all its members in light of inequalities – as a point of departure, she traces the emergence of two liberal principles: firstly, the principle of civil liberties and personal rights; and secondly, the principle of equality. The key assumption underpinning the latter principle is that economic inequalities should be tolerated if they improve the situations of the least advantaged in a society.

The particular focus of the book is on the revival of political thought brought about by Rawls’s justice theory following a period of economic depression and World War II that had left philosophers unable to think about justice.

The bulk of the book is made up of critical commentaries on political events and intellectual debates that shaped political liberalism in the US and Britain in the post-war era.

 

There are several powerful arguments animating the eight chapters of Forrester’s book.

In Chapter Four the author grapples with some of the attempts to reconstruct and rethink Rawls’s framework, before turning to the problem of the future (6) and the New Right and New Left (7), Forrester brings into the conversation concepts of markets, choice and responsibility. In Chapter Eight, she conclusively shifts attention to the limitations of political philosophy and makes a strong point for questioning the currency of liberal thought to understand the times in which we live.

Forrester illuminates how Rawls’s justice theory survived the radical protests and the rise of the New Left of the 1960s, the hollowing out of the welfare state in the 1970s and the New Right’s assumptions about the nature of politics, institutions, personhood and the individual in the 1980s.

Notably, what appears as a conflict at first glance – the idea of distributive justice pitted against neoliberal pledges for privatisation, financialisation and institutional interdependence – is revealed by Forrester to have become a story of profound philosophical success. As many political theorists deployed ideas surrounding markets, choice and responsibility within a Rawlsian framework, liberal egalitarianism subsequently became the dominant mode of theorising by the 1980s.

Engaging with a number of influential critics, such as Bernard Williams, Judith Shklar, Michael Sandel and Charles Taylor, Forrester shows how liberal thought increasingly came to be detached from concrete political experiences

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Moronic Inferno?

The world’s eyes have been fixed, these last few weeks, on the United States – and many of us have struggled to try to make sense of a country with such extremes of both good and evil, wealth and povertyIn the 1960s I found America an inspiration – whether its social scientists such as JK Galbraith, A Etzioni, M Rein and D Schoen or its political activists such as JF Kennedy, , Marin Luther King and Saul Alinsky. By the 1970s its ugly side started to show itself in the Vietnam War and Nixon - and, like many others, I duly turned against it. In recent years, indeed, we have started to ask the same question we used to ask about Germany – how can a country be both so exemplary and so awful? This is the first in a series of posts about that question…..

Of all the tens of thousands books written about the United States, one of the most gloriously impressionistic must be Martin Amis’ The Moronic Inferno – and other visits to America (1986) – a series of essays mainly about literary figures beginning with an assessment of Saul Bellow’s venture into 1980s Bucharest – “The Dean’s December”. Amis had been asked a couple of times about writing a book about America to which his response had been 

America is more like a world than a country: you could as well write a book about people, or about life.

 At the end of the book Amis explains that 

“I got the phrase 'the moronic inferno', and much else, from Saul Bellow, who informed me that he got it from Wyndham Lewis.

Needless to say, the moronic inferno is not a peculiarly American condition. It is global and perhaps eternal. It is also, of course, primarily a metaphor, a metaphor for human infamy: mass, gross, ever-distracting human infamy”.

 

“One of the many things I do not understand about Americans is this: what is it like to be a citizen of a superpower, to maintain democratically the means of planetary extinction? I wonder how this contributes to the dreamlife of America, a dreamlife that is so deep and troubled. As I was collating “The Moronic Inferno” (in August 1985, during the Hiroshima remembrances), I was struck by a disquieting thought. Perhaps the title phrase is more resonant, and more prescient, than I imagined. It exactly describes a possible future, one in which the moronic inferno will cease to be a metaphor and will become a reality: the only reality”. 

And, when, in 1987, I eventually made the first of what were to be several trips to the US it was “The Moronic Inferno” which accompanied me  

I’m currently well into a quite fascinating intellectual history of the America of the past half century Evil Geniuses; The Unmaking of America: A Recent History - which actually makes a pretty good job of explaining the country - and about which I will write more fully later…For the moment I want merely to place on record what one Brit made of the country some 33 years ago…

Thanks to the German Marshall Foundation I was on a 6 week fellowship to understand the implications of the deindustrialization which we were experiencing in the central belt of Scotland – in which America, as usual, was ahead of us…..Specifically I wanted to explore how local communities (eg in the Pittsburgh area) were dealing with the effects of the closure of their steel mills. I was lucky enough to be “embedded” in the various municipal organisations with interests in community enterprise (including a brief period in the Chicago mayor’s office at the height of one of their schools’ crises) and soon found myself amazed by the role of charitable Foundations in this sort of work. 

I could feel the energy in the air.... I came highly sceptical about the US system but left slightly chastened - identifying no fewer than nine features of their local development process as ones from which we could learn – 

- bringing together younger potential local leaders from different sectors (corporate, trade union, religious, academic, charity, activist) in Community Leadership programmes  

- scanning for strategic work : the active, participative role played by the private sector in the process of setting the regional agenda in places like Chicago was impressive

- more pluralistic sources of Local Funding for community development work (the scale of corporate and tax-free grants to Foundations)

- coaching : the way community economic development skills were encouraged

- marketing : of voluntary organisations

- affirming : affirmative action in Chicago Council was handled very systematically in areas such as hiring and sub-contracting

- negotiating : the flexibility of the planning system allowed local councils to strike deals with developers to the direct advantage of poorer areas.

- persevering : the realism about timescale of change

- parcelling into manageable units of action: the British mentality seemed to prefer administrative neatness to permit a "coordinated" approach. American "messiness" seemed to produce more dynamism.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Snippets

1. Public Relations (and marketing) is such a central part of our lives that it is difficult to imagine that it had a beginning and that Edward Bernays – nephew of the famous Sigmund Freud - is the man who can reasonably claim to have invented it. Until I came across the work of documentarist Adam Curtis I hadn’t heard of Bernays - and it was only at the weekend that I got the chance to start reading the first book he ever wrote about his work – the 1923 “Crystallising Public Opinion” which has an excellent introduction written by someone who spent several hours chatting to him shortly before he died in 1995. Here’s what Bernays had to say in his second book - 

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible govern-ment - which is the true ruling power of our country”.

Eduard Bernays “Propoganda” (1928) 

For more on this important topic see the footnote below.......

2. I am currently half-way through an important book about contemporary Germany – written by someone whose German father had to leave Bratislava rather quickly in 1933 and settled in Britain. The son became a foreign correspondent in both East and West Germany in the 1980s and 1990s and criss-crossed the country more recently to ensure his account was an up-to-date one. The result is the highly readable Why the Germans do it Better – notes from a grown-up Country; John Kaempfner (2020) which is nicely summarized here 

The truth of this book’s title statement is shown in what Kampfner has to say about industrial relations and how Germans have outperformed comparable countries in economic prowess. Read the fifth chapter, ‘The Wonder’, and you can stop wondering about the secret of Germany’s success. The pivotal role of the Mittelstand (small- to medium-sized firms), the thoroughness of apprentice training, the philosophy of long-termism, Mitbestimmung (representation of the workforce on company boards): most of this is simply unthinkable to a true-blue British capitalist.

When Theresa May, after the election of 2017, briefly flirted with some kind of German-like worker participation in company decisions, the idea was branded as unadulterated socialism and ditched as soon as it had reared its German head.

 

As an explanation of how Germany functions in 2020, Kampfner’s book is a triumph of insight and lucidity. But it also, inadvertently, exposes the limits of cross-fertilisation between countries and the deeply anchored differences of mentalities and historical preconditions. Could Westminster ever abjure its adversarial theatrics and convert to the idea of a grand coalition – the sharing of governing responsibility between the two main parties - which has latterly become the backbone of Germany’s uneasy yet stable political culture?

How about a written constitution, the love and pride of Germany since 1949?

Or a proportional electoral system, treating all votes cast as a true mirror of the volonté générale?

Those who want to know more about Germany might want to look at my E-book "resource" German Musings which contains one of the best annotated bibliogaphies on the country which I should now update

3. Plucked from the Web is one journalist’s excellent weekly collection of links – real quality stuff... 

 4. Social Enterprise and cooperatives are the types of enterprise system I most favour and it was useful to get an update on their progress from a Social Europe article which pointed me in turn to links to the most recent comparative status report from the EC. The site also gives the various country reports – including the UK  

 5. Although I am currently subscribed to a French and German daily newspaper – Liberation and FAZ - I have to confess I don’t spend long with them and all too often activate the google translate. Those who speak English as their first language are, of course, to be found in several countries throughout the world – including the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – each of which has a very distinctive culture. Who on earth, these days, could hope – as I discussed a few weeks ago - to understand present day USA?

But we do need to make more effort to see the world from the point of view of other countries – which are all too easily scapegoated (in the new sense that Walter Lippmann gave the word in 1921 and on which Eduard Bernays built in his “Crystallising Public Opinion”).

The Reading the China Dream website continues to do a great job on that front - with the translation of this long article about globalization and the pandemic which seems to be a pretty balanced assessment of the situation from the point of view of a Chinese intellectual

Footnote; This is an excerpt from the excellent intro to Bernay’s “Crystallising Public Opinion” 

As the United States entered “The Great War” in 1917, Walter Lippmann played a pivotal role in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to deploy a vast propaganda bureau designed to deflect widespread skepticism and bring public opinion on board.

After the war, Lippmann held fast to the idea that the American people were incapable of self-rule. For democracy to work, the machinery of the public mind needed to be understood and managed by an educated elite. This idea was central to Lippmann’s pivotal book, “Public Opinion” (1922), whose influence is evident in the title, and throughout the pages, of Bernays’s “Crystallizing Public Opinion”, which appeared the following year.

Lippmann’s “Public Opinion” remains one of the most important books of the twentieth century. Its diagnosis of “the public mind,” along with its ideas about how leaders can manage it, remains the most articulate statement regarding the exercise of power in the United States on to the present, and underlined the critical importance of what Lippmann termed “the manufacture of consent.”

 

Two of Lippmann’s ideas were particularly significant as Bernays crafted the job of the “public relations counsel.” The first of these was Lippmann’s argument that people’s view of reality was guided by the “pictures in their heads.” Living within the cocoons of their personal lives, and with minimal direct access to the outer world, most people’s sense of reality was shaped by what he termed “pseudo-environments.” While this meant that ordinary citizens were not able to intelligently comprehend the real issues of their world, their reliance on pseudo-environments provided educated elites with a powerful tool for effective leadership.

“The new psychology … the study of dreams, fantasies and rationalizations, has thrown light on how the pseudo-environment is put together,” he wrote. If patterns of perception could be unearthed, if scientists could uncover the “habits” of people’s eyes, they might also learn to engineer “pseudo-environments” which could persuade people to see their “larger political environment … more successfully.”

Perception management, he contended, would defend democracy from the prospect of capricious authoritarianism. Though it is itself an irrational force, the power of public opinion might be placed at the disposal of those who stood for workable law as against brute assertion.

 

A second idea that stands conspicuously within Bernays’ thinking, was Lippmann’s introduction of the modern usage of the word “stereotype”. Prior to the twenties, stereotype was a term relating to the printing trades, but Lippmann redefined it, describing stereotypes as a “repertory of fixed  impressions” that “we carry around in our heads,” rigid mental templates that frame individual experience in an increasingly anonymous world.

 

For Lippmann, stereotypes did not emanate from the individual, but were an inexorable by-product of their surrounding culture, a perceptual reflex that imposed itself between people’s eyes and the world they believed they were seeing.

For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see. In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture. Unconsciously, but aggressively, people relied on them for a sense of where they belong in the world.

 

These preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, governs deeply the whole process of perception. They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasizing the

difference, so that slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange is sharply alien. As central components of people’s mental equipment, Lippmann described stereotypes as the “foundations” of their “universe.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Celebrating the Open Free Spirit

In the eleven years of blogging, I occasionally muse about the nature of blogging. When I’m in a (self-) critical mood I refer to it as an extreme form of self-advertisement; in more benign moods I talk about its role in clarifying confused thinking….

And, of course, I’ve noticed that most serious blogs specialise in a particular topic – be it novels; economic, political or legal commentary; the EU; social policy; Marxist economics; a particular academic discipline etc 

What I haven’t paid enough attention to is how few serious blogs there are – like this one - which challenge these boundaries and choose to tramp or trespass in what I have called “NO Man’s Land”. The other image I have used is that of the butterfly which gracefully alights for a few moments on a flower and then moves on. I should perhaps be more careful in my use of that image/metaphor since the butterfly’s life is a short one   

So in closing, for the moment, this series of “posts…so far this year”, I want to try to identify those few blogs which set their face against being enclosed by boundaries and range more freely.  

1. Let me start with someone who has sadly gone silent these past couple of years – a retired Liverpool academic, Gerry of How the Light Gets In whose material  makes for great reading - with celebrations of the history and landscapes of NE Engalnd – as well as cultural and literary events all covered in loving detail. Hopefully Gerry will find his voice again…

2. Then a blog from a Bulgarian woman long resident in the US – Maria Popova - whose Brain Pickings focus on the timeless and uplifting advice of creative writers such as Ursula le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell and Rebecca Solnit

3. Then there’s my current favourite blogger, Canadian Dave Pollard of How to Save the World whose blog exudes the integrity of someone searching for what is worthwhile in life and living  

4. Another blog which defies classification is RioWang – which is half travelogue (but of such way-out places as Iran and the Caucusus ) and half celebration of the remnants of old Jewish history in such places. This, for example, is the latest post which includes a classic Persian song

5. The Worthy House is a blog I hesitated to include – since its over-confident, ant-leftist tone sometimes offends me but the sheer range of its reviews warrant its inclusion. See for yourself with these reviews of the important book The Geography of Thought; Banfield’s The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (to which I often refer in the posts); and Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs of which he is none too fond.

But why can I find only a handful of blogs with such an open spirit?

Posts This Year – Part V – the last few weeks

Post Title

Inspired by

The basic message

 

Demons and Demos

A Polish right-wing philosopher challenges liberal democracy

Identity politics has indeed gone too far

How America Lost its Mind

A 3 year old article with that title

is puritanism and post-modernism really to blame?

The Dethroning of Reason

Remembering the debate in the 1970s about “muddling through”

Did post-modernism and behavioural economics really start the rot?

Positive Public Administration

A long-overdue Manifesto

We have become too cynical about institutions

Feelings

“Nervous States” book by William Davies

How did experts initially get their status – and then lose it so recently?

Head Hand Heart

David Goodhart’s latest book

The devaluing of manual and technical work and the overestimation of the university

Links I Liked

The accident of genius; how a 1977 report changed the UK

30 years after Thatcher’s resignation, we still don’t have the measure of her

Humankind

Rutger Bregman’s latest book is a model of clarity

His argument that humans are basically altruistic doesn’t quite convince – altho he adds the rider about “power corrupting”

How Myths take root and are difficult to shift

A reread of Bregman’s book

One of my famous tables - with 22 of Bregman’s exploded myths explained

Covid19, governments, Science and Lies

I get fed up hearing the UK PM talk about “following the science”

Governments can’t avoid choices and values. Experts have their limits

The Continuing Saga of Brexit

2 of my favourite blogs

The endgame

Whatever happened to peak oil?

Reading at last J Michael Greer’s “The Long Descent” (2008)

I realise how little I understand about energy issues

The 2020 posts …..so far

This is the time of the year when I start to think about the annual E-book of posts

It is an opportunity to reflect on the blog’s distinctiveness – and what it might be doing better

Perennials - II

 

I like to think that a post of several years ago can still be read with benefit

why straddling boundaries gives insights

Mapping the Common Ground

A book-length report from a fascinating new think-tank with teams in 4 countries

Gives a detailed insight into the UK of 2020 – using the work of psychologist Jonathan Haidt

Le Temps Perdu III

 

The third of the series

Why we should turn off the News

Between the Lines - IV

I’ve started – so I’ll finish

What I would like to be distinctive about the blog

The blog that keeps on giving

Dave Pollard’s blog which, like mine, is also one of the few generalist blogs

The importance in these times of good questions – and of not being put off by the lack of response