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Edward Luttwak, 19 November 1992

The Culture of Contentment 
by J.K. Galbraith.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 195 pp., £14.95, April 1992, 1 85619 147 8
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... profundity. In more sustained fashion, Galbraith also demolishes what I would call the ‘Adam Smith syndrome’. The symptoms of this especially Anglo-Saxon malady are: 1. the belief that all non-ceremonial state action is at least wasteful and often counterproductive, except to provide for the national defence on a most lavish scale; 2. the fervent ...

Jim and Pedro

Geoffrey Best, 17 April 1980

The Ethics of War 
by Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill.
Duckworth, 332 pp., £18, October 1979, 0 7156 1354 5
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... and political naivety. These chapters lead to their closing theme, ‘Judgment’, which includes lively tussles with the so-called political realists and with that ‘scepticism about moral judgment ... which arises from popular and philosophical ideas of relativism and subjectivism’. Endlessly open to counter-argument, their purpose is not to prescribe ...

Lifting the Shadow

V.G. Kiernan, 15 April 1982

Death and the Enlightenment: Changing Attitudes to Death among Christians and Unbelievers in l8th-Century France 
by John McManners.
Oxford, 619 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 19 826440 2
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Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death 
edited by Joachim Waley.
Europa, 252 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 905118 67 7
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... in. Though an ecclesiastical historian and an Anglican canon, its author treats his anything but lively subject in a lively fashion that helps to dispel its glooms. ‘The stolid battalions of the theologians and the irresponsible cavalry of hell-fire preachers and menacing apologists who skirmished on their flanks’, and ...

Ludic Cube

Angela Carter, 1 June 1989

Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words 
by Milorad Pavic, translated by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric.
Hamish Hamilton, 338 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 241 12658 4
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... and matching many different taste sensations. In other words, it is not like a novel by Penelope Lively. It will not set you up; nor will it tell you how to live. That is not what it is for. The mother-type of these feast-like compilations is The Arabian Nights Entertainment – note the word ‘entertainment’. That shambolic anthology of literary ...


Gabriele Annan, 24 May 1990

A Young Girl’s Diary 
edited by Daniel Gunn and Patrick Guyomard.
189 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 04 440273 2
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... undemanding, though very important just the same for reasons of prestige. Grete comes across as a lively, intelligent, loyal, delightful child. Even her snobbery, her passionately-held beliefs about what constitutes ‘common’ behaviour, and her priggishness, are endearing. What upset a lot of contemporary readers of the Diary is that she thinks such a lot ...
Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man 
by Ann Wroe.
Cape, 381 pp., £17.99, March 1999, 0 224 05942 4
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... why I found the result unpersuasive. Now here’s a biography of Pontius Pilate, a long, sometimes lively and sometimes learned piece of work, that is equally unconvincing. Pilate was of course a historical figure, represented not only in the gospels but in the writings of a contemporary, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus, and, more ...
The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 311 pp., £30, October 1989, 0 521 37456 1
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Solomonic Judgments: Studies in the Limitations of Rationality 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £25, October 1989, 9780521374576
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Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 184 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 521 37455 3
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... to be a free-rider and thus together destroy a public good which we each hoped to get for free. As Adam Ferguson remarked long ago, ‘history is the result of human action, not of human design.’ This theme has lately inspired a vast enthusiasm for applying the economists’ theory of Rational Choice to social life at large. Define a ‘rational agent’ as ...


Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers, 8 August 2013

edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... they occur and to say why they matter. There is a moving case of translation loss in the book Adam Thirlwell has edited, Multiples, but it involves history as much as literature, and the book is also full of gains, and even fuller of instances where we can’t draw up a balance sheet of any kind, and are driven to quite different modes of comparison. The ...

The money’s still out there

Neal Ascherson: The Scottish Empire, 6 October 2011

To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora, 1750-2010 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 397 pp., £25, August 2011, 978 0 7139 9744 6
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The Inner Life of Empires: An 18th-Century History 
by Emma Rothschild.
Princeton, 483 pp., £24.95, June 2011, 978 0 691 14895 3
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... All cultivated connections with financial and political power, and shared those connections in lively letters which circulated round the family and round much of the known world. It was the accidental discovery of one cache of those letters that set Rothschild off down the track to this book. George Romney’s portrait of George Johnstone’s ...

For a Few Dollars More

Frank Kermode, 18 September 1997

Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money 
by James Buchan.
Picador, 320 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 330 35527 9
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... you choose, to have it. Money may be Frozen Desire, but when it thaws out Desire may emerge less lively than one had hoped. James Buchan would agree that it isn’t much use talking to economists about these money mysteries, for they will all tell you different things, with little in common except their unintelligibility. He himself clearly does know a lot ...

Men’s Work

Adam Kuper: Lévi-Strauss, 24 June 2004

Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Formative Years 
by Christopher Johnson.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £40, February 2003, 0 521 01667 3
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... in Paris. The structural analysis of myth remains a powerfully seductive methodology, and in the lively community of Brazilian anthropology Lévi-Strauss is revered as an interpreter of traditional ways of thought. Yet it now appears that he made too much of the uniqueness of remote tropical societies, and misrepresented them as cultural dodos which could ...

Self-Made Aristocrats

Adam Phillips: The Wittgensteins and Their Money, 4 December 2008

The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War 
by Alexander Waugh.
Bloomsbury, 366 pp., £20, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9185 6
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... was accumulated as much by the successful outcomes to the risks he took as by his hard work and lively intuition’ – was a man who could resist his ‘inherited background’; and who retired in 1898 at the age of 51 ‘stupendously rich’. (‘It would be idle to speculate on how much money he was worth.’) This, as Wittgenstein described it in On ...

What’s fair about that?

Adam Swift: Social Mobilities, 23 January 2020

Social Mobility and Its Enemies 
by Lee Elliot Major and Stephen Machin.
Pelican, 272 pp., £8.99, September 2018, 978 0 241 31702 0
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Social Mobility and Education in Britain 
by Erzsébet Bukodi and John Goldthorpe.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £19.99, December 2018, 978 1 108 46821 3
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The Class Ceiling: Why It Pays to Be Privileged 
by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison.
Policy, 224 pp., £9.99, January, 978 1 4473 3610 5
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... many make it from the bottom to the top quartile. Debate between these two camps has always been lively, as have disputes, among advocates of class analysis, about how best to construct a class scheme.These disputes took on a new significance in 2005 when a report on income mobility, co-authored by Machin, made the news. Not only was the UK alongside the US ...

States’ Rights

C.H. Sisson, 15 April 1982

Philosophy and Ideology in Hume’s Political Thought 
by David Miller.
Oxford, 218 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 19 824658 7
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... Hume’s practical stance in politics did not differ in essentials from that of Burke or Adam Smith, although the situations and preoccupations of each of the three made for slightly different emphases. A significant point is that Hume died in 1776, and so before the enlightened talk of the Encyclopédistes had turned to blood. The less noticeable ...

No Escape

Bruce Robbins: Culture, 1 November 2001

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress 
edited by Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison.
Basic Books, 384 pp., £12.99, April 2001, 0 465 03176 5
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by Francis Mulhern.
Routledge, 198 pp., £8.99, March 2000, 0 415 10230 8
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Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 299 pp., £12.50, November 2000, 0 674 00417 5
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... patterns. This makeover should come as no surprise. Referring to his native South Africa, Adam Kuper reminds us that ‘protecting’ cultural identities was also an official strategy under apartheid. Today, with brawny arrogance again forcing its way in among the vulnerable minorities sheltering under culture’s umbrella, the example is harder to ...

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