breaking news from the world of ideas

by Giles Fraser
10:27
Saturday, 21
September 2019
Giles Fraser

‘Community’ hits the mainstream with Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton

You know something has really hit the mainstream when Alain de Botton starts talking about it.

We’ve been focusing on the importance of community here at UnHerd since our very first days – it’s great to see the theme so prioritised in de Botton’s new book from the School of Life stable. “What we long for and are slowly dying without is: community,” he writes in The Book of Life:

For most of our time on this planet … we have lived in groups of 20-30 people who worked together, cooked communal meals, and lived and died around each other. It is only very late on in history that we have started living in condominiums, commuting to work in offices with people whose values we don’t share and eating for one in cities of ten million strangers.
- Alain de Botton
 ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
16:40
Friday, 20
September 2019
Freddie Sayers

Our favourite signs from the #ClimateStrike protest

Popped down to the Climate Strike protest in Westminster.

Some families having a nice day out in the sun, lots of sleeping children and babies with headphones on, and a whole cluster of different issues being thrown in along with climate change: anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, pro LGBT, pro marijuana…. Here were some of our favourite signs (the “positive parenting, nurturing activism” protester looked a wee bit scary, not sure I’d like to be positively parented by her…)

by Peter Franklin
13:55
Friday, 20
September 2019
Peter Franklin

Don’t miss today’s good news on climate

Today marks the start of the Global Climate Strike – a week-long series of protests against environmental destruction.

There’ll be lots of griping from the cynics: “it’s not a real strike”, “what do these kids know?”, “they should be at school” etc. But for all the rough edges, I’m glad there’s a climate protest movement big enough to be noticed. And why shouldn’t young people be front-and-centre? They’re the ones who’ll have to live with the long-term consequences of our polluting lifestyles.

That said, let’s not ignore the good news. Progress is being made towards a low carbon economy – not least in Britain. Indeed, this very day we got the results of something called the ‘Contracts for Difference Allocation Round 3’. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
08:04
Friday, 20
September 2019
Giles Fraser

New book puts John Rawls in the dock

A fascinating article in the Boston Review casts a critical eye over the legacy of philosopher John Rawls.

Such was the success of Rawls’ work, culminating in “A Theory of Justice” published in 1971, that even the criticisms of it came to be understood in terms defined by his famous idea of “justice as fairness”. In the libraries of Princeton and Oxford, Rawls’ version of liberalism came to be hegemonic, the philosophical basis for the ‘end of history” idea – that the big ideas had been sorted out and future debate was now only about the details. But those underlying presumptions are now being questioned again. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
15:53
Thursday, 19
September 2019
Freddie Sayers

Osborne sticks it to Dave, with love

George Osborne is so steeped in politics he just can’t help himself. His review of the memoir of “my friend David” in today’s Evening Standard sends a shiver down the spine – under cover of an apparently fawning review he gently sticks the knife in.

First of all he lists all of Dave’s projects that have died a death and now feel like a lifetime ago – “the long term economic plan; deficit control; coalition with the Lib Dems; the Big Society; education reform; Tory modernisation; vote blue to go green; hug a hoodie…” It’s half wistful, half cleverly designed to draw attention to the fact that while Cameron’s life has been on hold ever since, stuck in “a kind of purgatory” as George describes it sympathetically, Osborne has most definitely Moved On. ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
12:40
Thursday, 19
September 2019
Elizabeth Oldfield

A timely defence of “stubborn gladness”

Am I allowed to feel joyful? It’s an argument I often have with myself. And I recently found a book that has helped crystallise my inner debate. Christian Wiman, a lauded American poet, has collected his favourite poems on the subject but it is no “Little Book of Joy”, designed to cheer us up while defecating. On the contrary, in his opening essay he wrestles seriously with my question. Like him, saturated in the increasingly horrifying news cycle, I too often react to the idea of joy with affront:

Ruined migrants spilling over borders, rabid politicians frothing for power, terrorists detonating their own insides like terrible literal metaphors for an entire time gone wrong — ‘how with this rage shall beauty hold a plea’, as Shakespeare, staring down his own age’s accelerating grimace, wondered.
- Christian Wiman, JOY
 ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
07:00
Thursday, 19
September 2019
Paul Embery

You wouldn’t think it, but David Lammy was once a thoughtful MP

There was a time when David Lammy wasn’t the provocative rabble-rouser that he is today. Elected as the MP for Tottenham at a by-election in 2000, Lammy spent the first 16 years of his parliamentary career as a thoughtful, measured public servant – someone who was prepared to defy conventional wisdom and challenge orthodox liberal thinking.

David Lammy at a pro-EU rally on September 4th 2019

His stock rose particularly during the 2011 riots, which were sparked by the death of Mark Duggan in his own constituency. Lammy did not fall into the trap of excusing the mob violence. “Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you can’t know the moral difference between what is right and wrong,” he said at the time. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
14:52
Wednesday, 18
September 2019
Ed West

Tucker Carlson: America’s most important pundit

Here’s a rare “Question to which the Answer Is Yes” in a headline. In The New York Magazine Park MacDougald asks ‘Is Tucker Carlson the Most Important Pundit in America?’

It’s not just that the Fox host has the ear of the US President, but that he’s at the very centre of the conservative zeitgeist.

More than anything, he espouses the Middle American radicalism that John Judis, writing in 2016, identified as the ideological core of Trumpism. Middle American radicals (MARs) are neither fully liberal nor conservative but a blend of the two, mixing populist economics and a hostility to big business with intense nationalism, right-wing positions on race and immigration, and a desire for strong presidential leadership. Their animating idea is that the broad (and implicitly white) middle of American society — those Carlson referred to, in a podcast interview with Ben Shapiro, as people with “100 IQs making 80 grand a year” — is besieged on two sides, by a corrupt elite above it and a grasping underclass below. 
- Park MacDougald
 ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
12:05
Wednesday, 18
September 2019
Peter Franklin

Report: Anarchists vs centrists is the new Left vs Right

Today the Social Market Foundation launched a report that claims to reveal an unrecognised but “critical” dimension of politics:

…while there is a clear ‘Left-Right’ dimension to the structure of the ideologies in the data, there is also another critical dimension at play. This is apparent in two ideological clusters that are defined by low confidence in societal institutions such as parliaments, major companies and the press… Based on their low trust in institutions we label these types as ‘anarchists’.
- Mirko Draca
Credit: Social Market Foundation

They then explain that by “anarchist” they’re not referring to “a particular strand of radical, syndicalist politics” but to “the questioning of existing institutions that is characteristic of current populist politics.”

The authors are right to identify trust versus mistrust in the establishment as an important dividing line in our troubled politics. However, the labels used – “anarchist”, and the opposing “centrist” – is misleading. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
10:11
Wednesday, 18
September 2019
Freddie Sayers

Miranda Green’s tough love for the Lib Dems

A final word on the Liberal Democrats, from the FT’s Miranda Green. Formerly Paddy Ashdown’s press secretary, she had some tough words to share at a IPPR/UK in a Changing Europe fringe event packed with Lib Dem activists.

“What happened to the Liberal Democrats as the rational party? What of the Lib Dems as a gathering point? And the principle of compromise, where we learn to live together?”

“I am very worried about the Lib Dems ending up on one side of a polarised culture war, representing urban areas, the educated, the young, the prosperous etc.”

“This is a decision taken for election time. It’s not a decision taken in a calm, rational, what’s-best-for-the-country way.” ...  Continue reading

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