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What I’ve been reading

April 10th, 2005

“The Strange Death of Liberal England” (George Dangerfield). A classic I’ve meant to read for years, but only just got to has a strikingly apposite quote in relation to the Tory party’s incitement to army mutiny in relation to any order to enforce Irish Home Rule on the Ulster Unionists. Dangerfield has this great line

The Tory philosophy, up to the beginning of the war, might be summed up in this way: Be Conservative about good things, and Radical about bad things. This philosophy, so far as can be seen, has only one flaw: it was always the Tories who decided what was good and what was bad.

So while donning the mantle of conservatism in defence of the House of Lords, the Tories were prepared to tear up the constitution to defeat Home Rule. The same line seems applicable to the Bush Administration today.

“In Defense of Globalization” (Jagdish Bhagwati) Bhagwati is a smart guy, but he hasn’t yet learned that, on the internets nothing is as it seems. On the lookout for a good anecdote about globalization he finds one that seems too good to be true

In fact, while the rich-country while the rich-country claim to be providing “countervailing power” against the far richer corporationsin their midst, it is ironic that some of the the truly small NGOs in the rich countries themselves have voiced their fears over “unequal” competition from the far bigger and richer NGOs. A hilarious example is provided by a report in mid-2001 of “calls today for multinational pro-anarchy pressure groups to be investigated for monopolistic practices after the NW3 branch of the Radical Left Movement for Socialist Revolution Socialist Revolution was disbanded due to lack of interest.” The report goes on to say that the group’s spokesperson, Nigel Wilkinson, “believes that global anarchy movements such as the ones responsible for the G7 riots in Seattle are to blame for forcing out smaller, independent operations like his…. These large American anti-capitalist movements have effectively taken over the militant scene in this country.” As if this were not amusing enough, the report goes on to say: …”Wilkinson has seen his group’s membership dwindle by almost 70 percent over the last two years, from a peak of three members to one himself

Turning to the reference we find the source is Urban Reflex currently running the headline

Audience Stunned As Pop Star Appears On Stage Fully Clothed

Bhagwati may have been taken in on this one, but in other respects his book is sharp and well-argued. Some more comments before too long, I hope.

As well as these, I very much enjoyed“Singularity Sky” (Charles Stross), and I’ve been alternatively entertained and appalled by the TV version of <“Tom Brown’s Schooldays (Oxford World’s Classics)” (Thomas Hughes, Andrew Sanders) Actually that combination also sums up my response to last nights Swans-Lions game.

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  1. Neil
    April 10th, 2005 at 15:06 | #1

    Um, so Tory philosophy is preserve what you judge to be good and change what you judge not to be good? Strange. I thought that was the view of (for instance) socialists, fascists, libertarians, greens, social democrats, liberals… It’s more or less contentless.

  2. April 10th, 2005 at 15:19 | #2

    It’s also strikingly apposite in relation to what happens to progressive parties that abandon all their long-held ideas. The British Liberals went from dominant party to oblivion in 3 elections. The word ‘ditcher’ was revived during the EU debates for MPs opposed to joining the EU.

  3. April 10th, 2005 at 15:58 | #3

    Dangerfeld’s book is a brilliant read. I bought a copy after I gave one to a friend for her birthday many years ago because of her interest in the sufragettes. I think recent scholarship has questioned many of his assumptions about “crisis” but the whole topic of the decline of liberalism and of the Liberal Party is a fascinating one.

  4. lise
    April 11th, 2005 at 08:08 | #4

    Bhagwati’s anecdote is absurd enough and the book is poorly written enough, that what is the point of reading through? I was decidely not impressed, though I agree with the argument.

  5. Katz
    April 12th, 2005 at 12:09 | #5

    Neil, Dangerfield’s use of the word “radical” in the quote provided by JQ has a narrower and more precise meaning than you have read into it.

    The context is the support by His Majesty’s Opposition of an military mutiny against the Constitutional Government of Great Britain.

    In other words, the Right in Great Britain, as Dangerfield so mordantly demonstrates, adhered to a set of constitutional principles — a shadow constitution — that existed above, beyond, and prior to the constitutional arrangements arising out of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

    In other words, the Tories reserved the right to overthrow constitutional authority whenever they believed this shadow constitution was threatened.

    As such, the Tories are true revolutionaries in the tradition of the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks.

    Tory leader Balfour’s treason during the Home Rule crisis was a genuine crisis of the rule of law and, as such, remains one of the great unmentionables in British history.

  6. April 12th, 2005 at 13:28 | #6

    Katz, it wasn’t treason. To think that requires you to suppose that things like “a Very British Coup” (a novel), or Shaw’s view of the Curragh Incident, or even Whitlam’s dismissal, were all in violation of something that had actually been accepted rather than – as you point out – merely taken on provisionally. The Currag Incident never even reached the stage of mutiny, come to that; it merely reached the point of resignations, which were lawful while involving the same problem of undermining the State’s assertion of a monopoly of force.

    You will probably be interested to compare the government’s actual General Strike tactics in 1926 with those that were expected and described in things like “News from Nowhere”. It’s just not fair when they won’t play by our rules! The thing is, they didn’t impose their own rules – they just took their ball and went home. The government forgot that when you need friends, you can’t order them around. This is the basis of consent which Tony Blair has been eroding for a while now.

  7. Katz
    April 12th, 2005 at 16:19 | #7

    PML, provisional or tactical acceptance of any regime may exculpate any attempt to overthrow that regime.

    I don’t have any trouble with that notion myself. All power–which is identical to authority–does come from the barrel of a gun.

    But such notions appear to sit very uncomfortably with the twentieth-century image of the British Tory Party.

    And yes, I was somewhat intemperate in accusing Balfour of Treason. I should have asserted that Balfour could legitimately have been accused of nothing more than incitement to treason.

  8. The roots of racism
    August 20th, 2005 at 10:34 | #8

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.”
    Favor.
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans’ attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals, so this nulified diversity of life claims on sub-continental Africa, zebras being a fine example.

    god is a computer
    And we’re all on auto-pilot.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management –
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (“On planets where they approved evil.”)

    Then we come to terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Survival of the favored.

    Journal: 10 composition books + 39 megs of text files

    Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
    1986 James Bond View to a Kill – 1989 San Fransisco Loma Prieta earthquake.

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