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Down Dalston Lane

Neal Ascherson, 27 June 1991

A Journey through Ruins: The Last Days of London 
by Patrick Wright.
Radius, 294 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 09 173190 9
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... reality and the disreputable nature of the contract between them’. Wright has been criticised by Michael Ignatieff for wanting to restore Herbert Morrison’s London of municipal socialism. This underestimates the subtlety of his plea for a restored sense of the public interest, and his understanding that there is no way back; to expose the dishonesty ...

The Lie that Empire Tells Itself

Eric Foner: America’s bad wars, 19 May 2005

The Dominion of War: Empire and conflict in North America 1500-2000 
by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
Atlantic, 520 pp., £19.99, July 2005, 1 903809 73 8
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... forthrightly defend American empire as an exercise of raw power, while traditional liberals like Michael Ignatieff promote it as a way of protecting human rights against tyrannical regimes. Perhaps the leading current populariser of the idea is Niall Ferguson. Only an American empire, he insists, can secure order in a dangerous, unruly world. He does ...

Boswell’s Bowels

Neal Ascherson, 20 December 1984

James Boswell: The Later Years 1769-1795 
by Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 609 pp., £20, November 1984, 0 434 08530 8
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... that identity – physical and spiritual – ended with death. In his book The Needs of Strangers, Michael Ignatieff turns to this episode and comments: ‘to the extent that most of us die now without religious consolation, we may fail to understand Boswell’s terror when he watched a man die in this new way. For terror it genuinely was, and not just a ...

Bush’s Useful Idiots

Tony Judt: Whatever happened to American liberalism?, 21 September 2006

... over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists – Seymour Hersh, Michael Massing and Mark Danner, writing in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. The collapse of liberal self-confidence in the contemporary US can be variously explained. In part it is a backwash from the lost illusions of the 1960s generation, a ...

The Best Barnet

Jeremy Harding, 20 February 1997

With Chatwin: Portrait of a Writer 
by Susannah Clapp.
Cape, 246 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 224 03258 5
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... vignettes like Chatwin’s, humorous and on occasion startling. The best of them are memorable. Michael Ignatieff watches Chatwin ‘like an old baboon’ under a mulberry tree in the south of France, having his hair combed by his wife. The ravenous Francis Wyndham and James Fox spoon up a pitifully notional soufflé made from wild strawberries which ...

‘We do deserts, we don’t do mountains’

Alex de Waal: The United Nations, 11 November 1999

Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping and the New World Order 
by Jocelyn Coulon.
Toronto, 231 pp., £26, October 1998, 0 8020 0899 2
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Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention 
edited by Jonathan Moore.
Rowman and Littlefield, 320 pp., £18.95, December 1998, 0 8476 9031 8
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New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in the Global Era 
by Mary Kaldor.
Polity, 200 pp., £13.99, December 1998, 0 7456 2067 1
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... national interests were at stake – after all, the President’s credibility was on the line. As Michael Ignatieff argues in Hard Choices, Washington was spurred to action over Bosnia, too, not by the ‘CNN factor’ itself but by the way this translated into a question of leadership: For three years, a small constituency pounded away at the shame of ...

War Therapy

Chase Madar: Victors’ Justice, 22 April 2010

Victors’ Justice: From Nuremberg to Baghdad 
by Danilo Zolo, translated by M.W. Weir.
Verso, 189 pp., £14.99, October 2009, 978 1 84467 317 9
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... to the invasion of Afghanistan. Some promoters of the liberal Kantian project – for example, Michael Ignatieff – have gone further, embracing the invasion of Iraq as a muscular extension of normative human rights, and in some cases dreaming of yet more humanitarian assaults on targets from Khartoum to Tehran. Victors’ Justice, a collection of ...

Plan Colombia

Malcolm Deas, 5 April 2001

... by drugs and guerrillas. Our moral or intellectual engagement with conflict abroad is also, as Michael Ignatieff puts it, ‘notoriously selective and partial’. Colombia does not appear to be strategic. Certainly, for most of its independent history it has not been so. One disdainful late 19th-century Foreign Office note on a despatch from Bogotá ...

Am I right to be angry?

Malcolm Bull: Superfluous Men, 2 August 2018

Age of Anger: A History of the Present 
by Pankaj Mishra.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198408 7
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... Niebuhr, calls the ‘bland fanatics’ of ‘the religion of universal progress’. But when Michael Ignatieff accuses Mishra of ascribing a ‘lofty worldview’ to terrorists (‘a gang of killers’), the comment seems wide of the mark. Mishra isn’t claiming that there was anything especially apt about the fact that Yousef, a Pakistani, bombed ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights, 21 June 2018

The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... untrammelled by international institutions. Trumpeting Bush’s pre-emptive assault on Iraq, Michael Ignatieff recommended in 2003 a new American empire whose ‘grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known’. The United States, Power asserted as Obama’s nominee for ...

The Departed Spirit

Tom Nairn, 30 October 1997

... of the Mall. The iron man of market law, big-stick sovereignty and sock-it-to-them Windsordom, Michael Portillo himself, wenton record at the Party Conference slobbering over a ghastly Blackpoolrock confection of new compassion and multiculturist schmalz. The nation is in the streets, and her suitors are lining up in earnest. The most urgent is of course ...

Why do white people like what I write?

Pankaj Mishra: Ta-Nehisi Coates, 22 February 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Hamish Hamilton, 367 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 32523 0
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... through the advantages of ‘torture-lite’ in a cover story. In the New York Times Magazine, Michael Ignatieff, biographer of Isaiah Berlin and professor of human rights, exhorted Americans to embrace their imperial destiny and offered his own suggestions for ‘permissible duress’. Even the New Yorker, fastidiously aloof from Beltway schemers ...

The Spoils of Humanitarianism

Karl Maier: Feeding off Famine, 19 February 1998

Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa 
by Alex de Waal.
James Currey/Indiana, 238 pp., £40, October 1997, 0 85255 811 2
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The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity 
by Michael Maren.
Free Press, 302 pp., $25, January 1997, 0 684 82800 6
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... by the consequences of such assistance. The North Korean scenario is familiar. Critics of what Michael Ignatieff has described as ‘a vast, unruly humanitarian bazaar,’ are quick to point out that money is one of North Korea’s main attractions for relief agencies. Famine is a ‘growth opportunity’, ...

Little Old Grandfather

Thomas Meaney: Djilas and Stalin, 19 May 2016

Conversations with Stalin 
by Milovan Djilas, translated by Michael Petrovich.
Penguin, 160 pp., £9.99, January 2014, 978 0 14 139309 4
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... by ‘nomenklatura’, a more systematic term developed by the Djilas admirer and Soviet dissident Michael Voslensky. In the United States in the 1960s, neoconservatives, most notably Daniel Patrick Moynihan, recycled the phrase ‘the New Class’ to refer to parasitic public sector bureaucrats who were making the US ‘a society of public affluence and ...

Casuistries of Peace and War

Perry Anderson: The assumptions the Bush Administration and its critics share, 6 March 2003

... doctrine of Just and Unjust Wars, as set out by a distinguished philosopher of the American Left, Michael Walzer, in a work glowingly evoked by the still more eminent liberal philosopher John Rawls, in his aptly entitled The Law of Peoples. Indeed in attacking Iraq, we will be doing no more than completing the vital preventive strike against the Osirak ...

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