James Butler

James Butler is a contributing editor at the LRB and a co-founder of Novara Media.

Short Cuts: Limping to Success

James Butler, 26 May 2022

Earlyresults matter in politics. The news on the morning of 6 May seemed to confirm a familiar story. Labour had taken two totemic Tory councils, Wandsworth and Westminster, piling on metropolitan voters but failing to ignite the electorate outside the cities. Tory losses were bigger than expected, and by the end of the day looked very bad indeed: the cumulative loss was 485 seats; before...

From The Blog
25 March 2022

Max Webster’s production of Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse promised to examine a riven England and the alternating cast of cynics and inadequates who govern it. The interpretation is still apt, though the genuflections to colonialism and climate change seem like the perfunctory box-ticking of liberal orthodoxy. Other interpretations are now more pressing, and more awkward. This is a war play, the story of an overweening king set on reconquest, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Or is it? Isn’t it also the story of a master rhetorician, a reformed actor-king uniting a fractious nation?

Thou Old Serpent!

James Butler, 10 March 2022

MartheBrossier, a provincial demoniac, had caused a stir in Orléans and Cléry before being brought to Paris in 1599. Her sponsors, probably members of the zealous Capuchin order, timed her arrival for just before Easter, when Lenten devotions among the Catholic faithful were nearing their climax. Furious at Henri IV’s edict of toleration for his Protestant subjects, the...

Humanity has proved itself powerful enough to change the climate at a planetary level, to spark off chains of extinctions and permeate wildernesses with microplastics. But this was inadvertent, even if the destruction has been prolonged by its beneficiaries. Whether human beings have the collective capacity intentionally to reverse this planetary effect isn’t clear. The question of agency has a bearing on a number of other issues: whether technology can save us; whether a climate-adapted future looks like Western consumer capitalism with a transformed energy base and less waste, or whether such a transition will necessitate a break with the proliferation of luxury commodities and the underlying obsession with acceleration and expansion; even the precise alloy of determination, optimism and melancholia with which one approaches climate politics. Andreas Malm is less uncertain: ‘The grotesque concentration of resources for burning at the top of the human pyramid is a scourge for all living beings; an effective climate policy would be the total expropriation of the top 1 to 10 per cent.’

From The Blog
24 September 2021

Starmer should feel largely unthreatened from his left. The Corbynite rump in the Labour Party has broadly failed to regroup since 2019, spending much of the pandemic relitigating its defeat. Many left-wingers have disengaged from the party while retaining vestigial membership, giving their attention to less poisonous local issues, community support in the pandemic or climate activism. The left’s counter-festival of socialist ideas, The World Transformed, will be held again in Brighton alongside the sealed tomb of the party conference. Its wide-ranging programme suggests that sincerity, intellectual energy and ambition are still there on the left of the party. But the outcome of its scheduled debate, ‘Starmer Out?’, is academic: even as earnest members wrestle with how best to transform society in response to the climate crisis, the political capacity to realise those ideas ebbs.

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