David Marr is the finest writer of essays in Australia today. He is a very good writer. He writes about subjects that matter and he does not pull any...moreDavid Marr is the finest writer of essays in Australia today. He is a very good writer. He writes about subjects that matter and he does not pull any punches while being reasonably fair. He is not a polemicist like Orwell often was but he does write knowingly and morally about politics. This books over all subject is political and social panics that Australia seems to be peculiarly prone to over the last 30 years. Highly recommended for those interested in Australian politics and good Australian political writing.(less)
Strangely for a book written by an academic of politics this book does not come to the conclusion one would think about George Orwell. To cut a long st...moreStrangely for a book written by an academic of politics this book does not come to the conclusion one would think about George Orwell. To cut a long story short Ingle comes to the conclusion that Orwell was a moralist. Everyone wants to pin Orwell down. Was he anarchist, was he a trot, was he renegade Tory? In a strange way because Ingle can't really pin him down he decides he was a moralist. A moralist in the sense of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, George Eliot or Dickens. True he is in good company but are there two more overtly books political books of the mid 20th Century than 'Animal Farm' or '1984'? I am not convinced he was simply a moralist. Nor am I convinced that his politics, while not always consistent and changeable is that hard to identify. Orwell was political. He fought in the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. He changed his position as he experienced and analyzed events. To his credit he was never a "God that failed" convert from Stalinism. These people usually did a complete 180 degree turn. Orwell was a man that stayed with the left even though he felt bitterly disappointed by them for most of his life. Truth be said he was persnickety with every shade of left wing politics. He saw through them all but he was part of them. He did not disown them. He was a man of the left.
He was anti-Stalinist but dreamed of an English revolution in the war years. He was a political libertarian but not a social one (some rather appalling attitudes to women and homosexuals). The Labour party was too far to the right and a bit too cosy with the British establishment for his liking. But he was a member of the I.L.P.. This is fairly significant as he was not a memberless member of the left. Joining a party, any party of the left, separates you from the poseurs and dilettantes- and moralists.
How did it feel to be involved in WW2? This book gives an insight into one mans war namely George Orwell. He of course is not an average or neutral ob...moreHow did it feel to be involved in WW2? This book gives an insight into one mans war namely George Orwell. He of course is not an average or neutral observer but to have have someones reactions recorded as they occurred is always more interesting than hindsight or hearsay. Orwell's essays are an absolute pleasure to read. He must be one of the best essayists in the English language. They (the essays) are an exposition of clarity and style which any writer of any kind should have as something to measure them self against. For a man of the left who, while despising Hitler AND Stalin, also was no apologist for the British Empire, Orwell was always picking a political path that while fastidious was also quite trenchant. At one point he characterizes pacifists as fascifists. The book gives many clues to the way his mind was working up to his masterpiece '1984'. (less)
There is something that is a bit too strident for me in Seumas Milne's voice. He is a denouncer but I fear not too much of a thinker. The book is like...moreThere is something that is a bit too strident for me in Seumas Milne's voice. He is a denouncer but I fear not too much of a thinker. The book is like a Trot poster but with 60,000 more words. He is completely correct in his denunciation of neoliberalism and its violence but I take that as a given. (less)
What do you say if you nearly agree with everything in a book? Tony Judt was a Social Democrat and probably one on the left. He flirted and indeed stu...moreWhat do you say if you nearly agree with everything in a book? Tony Judt was a Social Democrat and probably one on the left. He flirted and indeed studied the European strains of Marxism and ultimately found it wanting. This book is a sort of intellectual biography of Tony Judt. It is also a historical examination of the ideas that drove the 20th century. An excellent book but one perhaps that is not for young players. Always intelligent and insightful but also there is a superb explanation of many issues that one felt in ones waters about this very violent century.(less)
Maybe 3 and a half stars. If you want some sort of context to the awful politics in America at the moment this is not as bad place to start. Chris Hed...moreMaybe 3 and a half stars. If you want some sort of context to the awful politics in America at the moment this is not as bad place to start. Chris Hedges is morally outraged and he won't take it any more. It is a rant and a rant I mostly agree with but there is something lacking in the structure that makes this in the end a bit of a chore to get through. The Liberal class in America has failed and it has been cowardly and stupid and basically bought off. By Liberal I think Hedges means the intelligentsia. Liberal is a confusing term for Non Americans. Liberals were probably never part of the Left except in the very broadest sense of the term. Liberals did support working class and radical movements ...once. He is quite right about how the semipermanent war economy and the cold war mark 1 and 2 cowed the liberal class into submission. His rants are on all the same level but some of his targets are not that well thought through. Modern art for one. It is cold and can be elitist and alienating. Art does not have to be overtly political to be confronting and challenging. He comes very close to arguing for socialist realism. The Internet? Not such a well thought idea. It has good and bad points. It turns into an argument about royalties for authors. Writers will write as musicians still sing. Most artists I know do not do it for money. They do it because they simply have to. Authors will put a pen to paper because they have to tell others about their idea. (less)
Paul Keating is a romantic. He believes that politics is an art based about passion and intuition. This book, a collection of his speeches post PM, al...morePaul Keating is a romantic. He believes that politics is an art based about passion and intuition. This book, a collection of his speeches post PM, also shows his scathing side and his fierce intelligence. No wonder he is so feared and despised by the reactionaries in Australia because he calls them for what they are small minded parochial hicks. Keating likes the big picture, he goes for the guts of the problem or the solution and then figurers it out from there. (less)
This is one of THE books to read on Australian history. The problem is that it is mostly a myth making effort rather than history. The left creates my...moreThis is one of THE books to read on Australian history. The problem is that it is mostly a myth making effort rather than history. The left creates myths about itself and its place in Australian history. These are grand myths, the sort of myths that keep you going in a conservative country on a cold night. For all of this books faults such as its teleology and general whiggishness I still like it. It is a good story. It is however a story that is loosing its resonance in Australia. (less)
I am writing this review a week after the terrible massacre in Norway. I may as well reveal myself to be politically a left social democrat. I dislike...moreI am writing this review a week after the terrible massacre in Norway. I may as well reveal myself to be politically a left social democrat. I dislike political violence left or right. I think it ineffective except in very limited revolutionary situations. I do think that we can reform capitalism until it is a substantially different system. On many issues I therefore disagree with Zizek. He is a Leninist. I am not.
Coincedently I have done a lot of John Gray recently and I find a strange likeness about these two philosophers. I also suspect that Zizek has a grudging respect for Gray.
I like the rambling way, almost free association way that Zizek's mind works. It is however a little hard to keep up. He does write well (mostly) and provocatively. He can descend into some sort of Hegalian speak which only those familiar with philosophy at a tertiary level would understand.
Many times he nails it on the head like his observation about the way the collapse of the secular left in the Muslim world parralleled the rise of fundamentalism. He makes the point that this IS THEIR globalization.
I don't "get" his problems with multiculturism. He thinks it is understandable that the working class of Europe dislike the "other". I agree that a moral tut tutting of the liberal left is no help but the left, the left that is more than buttressing the system, has to be up front about the fact that the "other" is not going away. That the right/capitalism wants migrant labour and then demononises them should be explicitly explained.
These are quibbles though as you read this sort of thing to be challenged and to get glimmers of understanding about the modern worlds predicament.
Convoluted, rambling and often filled with insight. He is just as often pithy but occasionally his ideas sort of run out steam because he just pushes...moreConvoluted, rambling and often filled with insight. He is just as often pithy but occasionally his ideas sort of run out steam because he just pushes them too far. One his most original observations about the power of 9/11 is that IT LOOKED like a catastrophe movie. It's what we thought would happen and then it did in fact happen. Do not read this for a comfortable pat 'left' answer as he is as likely to stick to the left as to the right.(less)
If at any point you want to get to the why of the following topics:
Communism World War Two 20th Century History Russia/Soviet Union
you have to read this...moreIf at any point you want to get to the why of the following topics:
Communism World War Two 20th Century History Russia/Soviet Union
you have to read this book.
Stalin for good or for bad was a colossus of the 20th Century. Deutsher writes this essentially political biography, with what I think is the insight of a former believer but without the bitterness or rancour that is often the case. It is by far the best biography of Stalin.(less)
Still reading this book but I can safely say a few obvious things. Firstly it is well written. Pollan writes well. He is clear and concise. His prose r...moreStill reading this book but I can safely say a few obvious things. Firstly it is well written. Pollan writes well. He is clear and concise. His prose reads well even if the concepts are complex.
It is a conceit of the book but he gets into situations that are not comfortable like reading Singer while he eats a hunk of steak. He also kills chickens and dresses them and then throws the guts etc on a particularly putrid compost heap.
He speaks to an awful lot of cranks who just happen to be right like the Iowa corn farmer who goes broke no matter and INDEED because of the fact that he and other American farmers are so efficient. This farmer says that corn is part of the military industrial complex and he is not far off the money.
He lives with a family of 'beyond organics' grass farmers who are as cranky as they get but grow their food by looking after the soil first by grazing animals on it in a tight sequence.
The journalistic conceit works well because the conventional economics of agriculture are hard to argue against until one experiences the dismal consequences of the mountains of corn, cows in feed lots wallowing in their own shit and an obesity epidemic brought on by a deliberate cheap food policy started in the '70's.
It could just be a horror story but it is not. He does have feeling for his fellow Americans caught in this trap. He is impressed by happy animals. He loves food.
Good, clean and fair. That's the motto of this movement. This book is more about the politics of this movement than a philosophical treatise. The polit...moreGood, clean and fair. That's the motto of this movement. This book is more about the politics of this movement than a philosophical treatise. The politics are interesting as they come from the far left in Italian politics. Originally from the counter cultural left it has turned into a parrallel movement. It is not against globalisation but rather for a human centered, enviroment centered localised form. It views the breakdown between producers of food and consumers of food as a dualism that that punishes both. The farmer and the eater are co-producers they are part of the same process. Their interests are actually parrallel rahter than hostile or divergent.(less)