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Who am I prepared to kill?

William Davies: The Politics of Like and Dislike, 30 July 2020

... In​ the late 1920s, the political philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt, subsequently to join the Nazi Party, developed a theory of democracy that aimed to improve on the liberal version. In place of elections, representatives and parliaments, all talk and gutless indecision, Schmitt appealed to the one kind of expression that people can make for themselves: acclamation ...

New-Found Tribes

William Davies: In Brexitland, 4 February 2021

Brexitland: Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics 
by Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £15.99, October 2020, 978 1 108 46190 0
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... There​ are two types of people: professional social scientists and amateur social scientists. To put that another way, a central problem of social science is that, unlike natural science, your objects of study have their own account of who they are and what they’re doing. The professional demographer may classify someone according to a set of categories widely recognised among experts, but unrecognisable or even offensive to the person being classified ...

Against Responsibility

William Davies, 8 November 2018

Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism 
by Melinda Cooper.
Zone, 447 pp., £24, March 2017, 978 1 935408 84 0
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... The phrase​ ‘hard-working families’, a staple of New Labour and Conservative rhetoric for about twenty years, fell by the wayside with the political upheavals of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 and the resignation of David Cameron the following summer. (Theresa May initially hoped to refocus on ‘JAMs’ – Just About Managing families – but lost all ideological confidence along with her parliamentary majority in June last year ...

The Big Mystique

William Davies: Central Banks and Banking, 2 February 2017

The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath 
by Ben Bernanke.
Norton, 624 pp., £27.99, October 2015, 978 0 393 24721 3
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The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy 
by Mervyn King.
Little Brown, 448 pp., £25, March 2017, 978 0 349 14067 4
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... Early​ in 2014, the Bank of England put out a quarterly bulletin entitled ‘Money Creation in the Modern Economy’ which put to bed one of the most persistent – and false – claims in the history of economics. According to orthodox economists as far back as Adam Smith, money originates in the need to exchange one good for another. I have produced more bread than I need, you have produced more clothing than you need, and we need some simple instrument by means of which to swap one for the other ...

How bad can it get?

LRB Contributors, 15 August 2019

... Neal Ascherson, Mary Beard, Jonathan Coe, Tom Crewe, William Davies, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Lorna Finlayson, Daniel Finn, Katrina Forrester, Jeremy Harding, Daisy Hildyard, Colin Kidd, James Meek, Ferdinand Mount, Jan-Werner Müller, Jonathan Parry, David RuncimanNeal Ascherson‘On​ 17 June poor France fell ...

Don’t join a union, pop a pill

Katrina Forrester: ‘The Happiness Industry’, 22 October 2015

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Wellbeing 
by William Davies.
Verso, 314 pp., £16.99, May 2015, 978 1 78168 845 8
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... that emotional life is not the stuff of politics, economics or science – is not shared by what William Davies calls the ‘happiness industry’, that constellation of psychologists and economists seeking to maximise happiness; neuroscientists developing increasingly sophisticated tools for measuring it; doctors and psychiatrists prescribing drugs to ...

Can the poor think?

Malcolm Bull: ‘Nervous States’, 4 July 2019

Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World 
by William Davies.
Cape, 272 pp., £16.99, September 2018, 978 1 78733 010 8
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... libertarian paternalism of the Cameron and Obama governments gave us Brexit and Trump instead. As William Davies observes in Nervous States, ‘democracies are being transformed by the power of feeling,’ and ‘nostalgia, resentment, anger and fear’ appear to be taking over the world. There has been endless speculation about the reasons for ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Colourisation, 22 March 2018

... Lincoln, and who on the same night made a savage attempt on the life of his secretary of state, William H. Seward. The shoppers were asked when they thought it had been taken. Powell is leaning against the pocked metal of his cell onboard the USS Saugus, where he was being held, his manacles just in sight; he is moodily handsome, in a round-necked ...

At the Carlton Club

Andrew O’Hagan: Maggie, Denis and Mandy, 2 January 2020

... the man off for a gin and tonic. That was his style. I liked teasing him about being the model for William Boot in Scoop, and he admitted, when I pushed him, that he may indeed have taken a few too many suitcases to Addis Ababa in 1936. ‘Evelyn overdid it,’ he said. ‘Overdoing it was rather his thing.’We sat upstairs under a huge portrait of ...

What is progress?

William Doyle, 6 March 1986

What is history? 
by E.H. Carr, edited by R.W. Davies.
Macmillan, 154 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 38956 5
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... of the original, and the collaborator on two of the volumes of the History of Soviet Russia, R.W. Davies, has examined these and offered, in a 28-page introduction, notes towards a second edition. But would a second edition have introduced any substantial differences? On the evidence presented here one feels bound to doubt it. It is significant that the ...

That Corrupting Country

Thomas Keymer: Orientalist Jones, 9 May 2013

Orientalist Jones: Sir William Jones, Poet, Lawyer and Linguist, 1746-94 
by Michael Franklin.
Oxford, 396 pp., £35, September 2011, 978 0 19 953200 1
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... Sir William Jones, the Enlightenment polymath who established the shared origins of Indo-European languages and cultures, certainly didn’t lack a capacity for big vision. But he was also keen on details, with no time for broad-brush talk about the seven ages of man. He was 47 – still in Jaques’s fifth age (‘And then the justice … with eyes severe’) – when he died in 1794, in the fancy Calcutta suburb of Garden Reach ...

Little More than an Extension of France

Hugo Young: The British Isles, 6 January 2000

The Isles: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Macmillan, 1222 pp., £30, November 1999, 9780333763704
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... mountains, and on the Green Isle to the west – the other exclusively Germanic. Thus, Norman Davies writes, ‘the conditions had been created where England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales could begin the initial and most tentative phase of their crystallisation.’ The Isles’ deep history, therefore, was Celtic and, before that, genetically ...

Accidents

Paul Foot, 4 August 1988

Britain’s Nuclear Nightmare 
by James Cutler and Rob Edwards.
Sphere, 200 pp., £3.99, April 1988, 0 7221 2759 6
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... or an accident or a coincidence. But what if something rather like that happens again? What if William McRae, a radical Glasgow solicitor, and a prominent objector to the dumping of nuclear waste in the Galloway hills, is found shot dead in his car with the revolver some twenty yards away in a stream? Are we to assume, as the authorities in Scotland ...

Hobohemianism

Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... According to W.H. Davies, tramps often buried surplus items of clothing or footwear by the side of the road, knowing they could retrieve them should they pass the same way again. In his second volume of autobiography, Later Days, published in 1925, Davies lists a few of his deposits: a shirt on the banks of the Mississippi, a pair of boots in the Allegheny mountains, a coat under rocks on Long Island Sound ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... Speranza is another foreign novel that may remind us of British genre-parody – especially William Golding’s Rites of Passage, that witty, near-sadistic parody of traditional seafaring yarns. Like Golding’s novel, Speranza begins with the journal of a healthy, self-satisfied, idealistic young gentleman enjoying an adventurous voyage and uttering ...

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