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Tom Jaine, 7 July 1994

The Alchemy of Culture: Intoxicants in Society 
by Richard Rudgley.
British Museum, 160 pp., £14.95, October 1993, 0 7141 1736 6
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... One of the aims of anthropology,’ Richard Rudgley says, ‘is to understand the self by way of the other.’ Are we to take it that if the Koryaks of Siberia had a high old time on the fly-agaric – or on the recycled urine of a fly-agaric consumer – we too should stock up on magic mushrooms? Rudgley maintains that humans have ‘a universal need for liberation from the restrictions of mundane existence, satisfied by experiencing altered states of consciousness ...

How far shall I take this character?

Richard Poirier: The Corruption of Literary Biography, 2 November 2000

Bellow: A Biography 
by James Atlas.
Faber, 686 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 14356 3
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... to read it: as an admission at this early stage of ‘how little faith he had in his literary powers’. Far from doubting those powersBellow is concerned that if he should fully release them he might well lose even the relatively small audience he has so far managed to attract. His uncertainties have to do with ...

Desperate Responses

Richard Hyman, 5 April 1984

Industry, Unions and Government: Twenty-One Years of NEDC 
by Keith Middlemas.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, January 1984, 0 333 35121 5
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Strikes in Post-War Britain: A Study of Stoppages of Work Due to Industrial Disputes, 1946-73 
by J.W. Durcan, W.E.J. McCarthy and G.P. Redman.
Allen and Unwin, 448 pp., £20, November 1983, 0 04 331093 1
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Picketing: Industrial Disputes, Tactics and the Law 
by Peggy Kahn, Norman Lewis, Rowland Livock and Paul Wiles.
Routledge, 223 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 7100 9534 1
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... the French Commisariat du Plan attracted widespread admiration, though the NEDC was denied its powers. Thirdly, the initiative was designed to seduce the unions – with their traditional commitment to the notion of a planned economy – into collaborating with government priorities and, in particular, the incomes policy launched simultaneously under the ...

Being that can be understood is language

Richard Rorty: H.-G. Gadamer, 16 March 2000

... of thought is that although understanding is always of objects under a description, the causal powers of objects to hurt or help us are unaffected by the way they are described. We shall get sick and die, no matter how we describe disease and death. The Christian Scientists are, alas, wrong. The weak point of scientism is the inference from the fact that a ...

Nuts about the Occult

Richard J. Evans: ‘Hitler’s Monsters’, 2 August 2018

Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich 
by Eric Kurlander.
Yale, 422 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 300 23454 1
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... or ‘Aryan’ race (hence the term Ariosophy) from degeneracy and decay by channelling magical powers derived from the Norse gods. While taking these counter-currents to Enlightenment thought seriously enough to study them in detail, Goodrick-Clarke remained sceptical about their influence on Nazism. At best, he concluded, they had some currency in the ...

Divinely Ordained

Eric Foner: Lincoln, 23 October 2003

by Richard Carwardine.
Longman, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2003, 0 582 03279 2
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Lincoln's Constitution 
by Daniel Farber.
Chicago, 240 pp., £20.50, May 2003, 0 226 23793 1
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... responded to the crisis of the Civil War in the 1860s. Both Presidents assumed powers that went well beyond what the Constitution seems to allow. In both cases, thousands of people suspected of assisting the enemy were arrested and held without charge, and military tribunals were established to circumvent civilian courts. Both ...

Echoes from the Far Side

James Sheehan: The European Age, 19 October 2017

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 
by Richard J. Evans.
Penguin, 848 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 14 198114 7
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... when others are trying to prevent them from realising them’. The pursuit of power was not, as Richard Evans seems to suggest in his introduction, a distinctive feature of 19th-century Europe. What changes over time is not the fact that people seek power, but the means by which they do it, as well as the nature of the contest with those who resist them. In ...


Karl Miller: On Doubles, 2 May 1985

... the kind of novel that C.J. Koch – of the suitably German name – has delivered. The narrator, Richard Miller, is lame, loses his father in the Second World War, is literary, theatrical, passive, longing to be ‘at one remove’ from everyday life, from Tasmania, where he is looked after by his grandfather, this Karl, an architect and alderman of German ...

The Obdurate Knoll

Colin Kidd: The Obdurate Knoll, 1 December 2011

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan 
by Jeff Greenfield.
Putnam, 434 pp., £20.25, March 2011, 978 0 399 15706 6
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by Stephen King.
Hodder, 740 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 4447 2729 6
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... All this had been uncannily predicted on the eve of the assassination. The American historian Richard Hofstadter’s influential essay ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ was given as the Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford on 21 November 1963. Hofstadter’s subject was the irrational underside of American political culture, where ill-defined ...

Dress Rehearsals

Misha Glenny, 17 July 1997

Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nation hood in Greek Macedonia, 1870-1990 
by Anastasia Karakasidou.
Chicago, 264 pp., $38, June 1997, 0 226 42493 6
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... decisions made by the Berlin Congress represented a profound shift in the attitude of the Great Powers to the ailing Ottoman Empire. In the past when there was a crisis in the East, the Powers had collaborated to preserve the Empire and encourage internal reform. At Berlin, they concluded that it was beyond salvation (it ...

Public Enemy

R.W. Johnson, 26 November 1987

Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Richard Gid Powers.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £16.95, August 1987, 0 02 925060 9
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... security. He’s the only one you can put your complete trust in’: thus Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon, 1968. It is not often that a book casts fresh light on American history throughout this century, but this biography of Edgar Hoover does just that. Not only was Hoover, as head of the FBI, America’s leading policeman: he enjoyed an extraordinary ...

British Marxism

Richard Norman, 21 February 1980

Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence 
by G.A. Cohen.
Oxford, 369 pp., £10.50, December 1978, 0 19 827196 4
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Marxism After Marx: An Introduction 
by David McLellan.
Macmillan, 355 pp., £8.95, December 1980, 0 333 72208 6
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... as ‘technological determinism’, and complain that it presents machinery and allied subhuman powers as the agencies of history. On the technological view – so it is felt – the inhuman prevails against men. This assessment displays a failure to appreciate the extensive coincidence in fact and in Marx’s perception between the development of the ...

Shelley in Season

Richard Holmes, 16 October 1980

The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics 
by P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 312 pp., £16.50, June 1980, 0 19 812095 8
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Shelley and his World 
by Claire Tomalin.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 9780500130681
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... frees us from slavery,’ remarks Dr Dawson, ‘which is really despair of our own powers, by demonstrating that we are not eternally bound to what is actual, as Prometheus was bound to his cliff by the belief that Jupiter was omnipotent.’ Later, he somewhat dryly adds: ‘it is, of course, natural for an anarchist to insist that true order ...

Dearest Papa

Richard Altick, 1 September 1983

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin 
edited by George Allan Cate.
Stanford, 251 pp., $28.50, August 1982, 0 8047 1114 3
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Ruskin Today 
by Kenneth Clark.
Penguin, 363 pp., £2.95, October 1982, 0 14 006326 9
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John Ruskin: Letters from the Continent 1858 
edited by John Hayman.
Toronto, 207 pp., £19.50, December 1982, 0 8020 5583 4
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... in the country, were of little account to the genteel Ruskin compared with his intellectual powers and his dedication to their joint crusade to save England from herself. He had reason to be grateful to the older man for the help and encouragement he received at a crucial moment in his career, when the heterodox social and economic opinions he expressed ...

Raider of the Lost Ark

Richard Pankhurst: In Soho, 24 May 2001

The Pale Abyssinian: A Life of James Bruce, African Explorer and Adventurer 
by Miles Bredin.
Flamingo, 290 pp., £7.99, March 2001, 0 00 638740 3
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... a tent placed over it’. When faced with contradictions on the Travels, Bredin sometimes uses his powers of invention to overcome them. To cite one instance: Bruce, describing an outbreak of smallpox, reportedly in 1770, claimed that Welled Hawaryat, the son of Ras Michael Sehul, the powerful ruler of Tigray, was treated by a monk carrying a ‘large cross ...

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