Anti-Vax Sentiments

Rivka Galchen

In the late​ 1840s, the Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis oversaw two free maternity clinics in Vienna. The clinics accepted patients on alternate days. At the first clinic the mortality rate was 10 per cent; at the second, it was 4 per cent. The clinic with the low mortality rate trained midwives. The clinic with the high mortality rate trained medical students. Fear of the medical...


In the Shallow End

Conor Gearty

RobertReed became president of the United Kingdom Supreme Court on 13 January 2020, succeeding Lady Hale. By the end of 2021, the Supreme Court had produced 111 judgments since his appointment, 53 in 2020 and 58 in 2021, with Lord Reed himself sitting in 56 of these cases. These decisions give us an opportunity to assess how his Supreme Court is performing in the current malign political...


Mesopotamian Ghostbusting

Moudhy Al-Rashid

At the back​ of the British Museum is a cavernous room lined with hundreds of cased wooden drawers supported by a central architrave. Each drawer contains tens of glass-topped boxes of various sizes with neat, typewritten labels. The boxes contain clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia, around 130,000 of them, inscribed in cuneiform, many broken and eroded. An agricultural boom at the end of...


What is technopopulism?

Wolfgang Streeck

Angela Merkel made the state seem like a service company, ready to fix people’s problems so that they could continue to live as they pleased. This helped to counter a perception of the world as fundamentally incoherent. No large plan, no holistic approach can be of help in such a world, only fast and flexible responses to dangers as they arise, carried out by an experienced leader with a strong capacity for improvisation. Can this be considered technopopulism? In a sense it can. For the new conservatism, crises arise from disorder, not from a wrong order, and their handling should be entrusted to technicians in command of special knowledge, whether scientific or magical, or both (they are hard to distinguish for the political consumer). Merkel never claimed to be an economist, or a lawyer, or an expert in foreign policy or military strategy. She did, however, have herself described by her communications team, and sometimes described herself, as privy to knowledge of a special kind: that of a scientist trained to solve problems by analysing them from the desired outcome backwards.


H.G. Wells’s​ Egotism

Stefan Collini

It​ can be hard, from this distance, to see what all the fuss was about. In his day (a day that, unfortunately for him, ended a decade or so before his death in 1946, a month short of his 80th birthday), H.G. Wells was one of the world’s leading literary and intellectual celebrities. Hailed as ‘a man of genius’ on the appearance of his breakthrough book, The Time Machine...

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Malcolm Bull’s Optimism

Terry Eagleton

Because the social world is constructed, Bull’s sceptical stance can be transformative. You can ‘make less’ of society, in the sense of questioning its apparently inexorable laws; and if enough people do this it can make a difference, in a way that questioning the existence of marmalade doesn’t. You need to loosen things up, weaken their force, inject more uncertainty into our knowledge, so as to bring the world into line with our experience of it as ambiguous and contingent.

At the V&A

Fabergé in London

Rosa Lyster

The eggs are shorthand for hysterical opulence, an easy target, so that even someone as patrician as Nabokov, from his deckchair on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, could dismiss them as grotesque. They are toys that children can’t play with, objects of pure whimsy that must be handled with utter seriousness, embarrassingly over-the-top trifles made for unembarrassable people.


What’s the hook?

Helen Thaventhiran

‘In daily life,​ we regularly rely on hinges, clamps, buttons, zippers, Velcro, laces, knots, stitches, tape, stickers and glue,’ Rita Felski writes. ‘What are their aesthetic equivalents?’ In Hooked, she examines the way we connect to novels, films, paintings and music, and argues that our enthusiasms should be an integral part of conversations about art. Only this...

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