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An Example of the Good Life

Steven Shapin: Michael Polanyi, 15 December 2011

Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science 
by Mary Jo Nye.
Chicago, 405 pp., £29, October 2011, 978 0 226 61063 4
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... Michael Polanyi lives on in the footnotes. If you want to invoke the idea of ‘tacit knowledge’, Polanyi is your reference of choice. You’ll probably cite his major book Personal Knowledge (1958), maybe the earlier Science, Faith and Society (1946), maybe the later The Tacit Dimension (1966). ‘We know more than we can tell’ was Polanyi’s dictum ...

London Lefties

Paul Foot, 17 September 1987

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it 
by Ken Livingstone.
Collins, 367 pp., £12, August 1987, 0 00 217770 6
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A Taste of Power: The Politics of Local Economics 
edited by Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright.
Verso, 441 pp., £22.95, July 1987, 0 86091 174 8
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... transport frontbenchers in the Commons, up-and-coming young hopefuls called Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, welcomed the transfer, and specifically stated that this would enable the Council, if it felt like it, to hold transport fares down with a subsidy from the rates. Labour won back the GLC in 1973, but lost it to the Tories in 1977, when the new ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... elected mayor equivalent to the leader of a council. Those arguing for an executive mayor included Michael Heseltine (the hammer of the GLC), the Evening Standard and Simon Jenkins, a long-standing critic of London council bungling. Opposition to the idea was led by Labour’s Environment spokesman, the former Camden councillor Frank Dobson – an irony not ...

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 ...

The Meaninglessness of Meaning

Michael Wood, 9 October 1986

The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Cape, 368 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 224 02302 0
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Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith.
Cape, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02267 9
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The Fashion System 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard.
Cape, 303 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 224 02984 3
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The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 14746 2
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The Rustle of Language 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 373 pp., £27.50, May 1986, 0 631 14864 7
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A Barthes Reader 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Cape, 495 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 224 02946 0
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Barthes: Selected Writings 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Fontana, 495 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636645 7
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Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate 
by Philip Thody.
University of Chicago Press, 203 pp., £6.75, February 1984, 0 226 79513 6
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Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After 
by Annette Lavers.
Methuen, 300 pp., £16.95, September 1982, 0 416 72380 2
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Barthes 
by Jonathan Culler.
Fontana, 128 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 635974 4
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... A diary, Roland Barthes suggested, provokes in its writer not the tragic question, ‘Who am I?’ but the comic question: ‘Am I?’ This elegant and amused remark goes some way towards explaining why Barthes, who reflected much on his life and published a book called Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, should not have kept a diary ...

A Little Pickle for the Husband

Michael Mason, 1 April 1999

Beeton's Book of Household Management 
by Isabella Beeton.
Southover, 1112 pp., £29.95, November 1998, 9781870962155
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... women in the family. The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine drew attention to this silent levy on the energies of ‘dependent’ female relatives. To the extent that their contribution was supervisory and clerical, the magazine claimed, they could be found doing chores in some of the country’s wealthiest families. Even in households cushioned by ...

Protests with Parasols

Michael Wood: Proust, Dreyfus, Israel, 20 December 2012

Proust among the Nations: From Dreyfus to the Middle East 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Chicago, 239 pp., £22.50, February 2012, 978 0 226 72578 9
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... Profonde Albertine’, the narrator writes close to the end of Proust’s novel. By ‘deep’ – profonde – he means ‘unreachable’. She was mostly that when she was alive, and has assumed this quality as a permanent attribute now that she is dead. But he can still be tortured by his memories of all he didn’t know, for a while at least: ‘For, after death, Time leaves the body, and the memories … are effaced from her who no longer exists and soon will be from him whom at present they still torture ...

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’, Michael Maren ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... circuit – at Stockholm in 1960, where he had been introduced by the Cambridge Medieval historian Michael Postan, another Eastern European and the man who discovered Marc Bloch for English-speaking historians – ended in open conflict on the congress floor when the West Germans, led by Vittinghoff with Joseph Vogt in the background, made a ruthless attempt ...
The New Select Committees: A Study of the 1979 Reforms 
edited by Gavin Drewry.
Oxford, 410 pp., £25, September 1985, 9780198227854
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Commons Select Committees: Catalysts for Progress? 
edited by Dermot Englefield.
Longman, 288 pp., £15, May 1984, 0 582 90260 6
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British Government and the Constitution: Text, Cases and Materials 
by Colin Turpin.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 297 78651 2
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Parliament in the 1980s 
edited by Philip Norton.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £19.50, July 1985, 0 631 14056 5
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... John Stevas did a disservice by exaggerating their likely role. This enabled traditionalists like Michael Foot and Enoch Powell to warn that expanding the role of the committees might distract attention from the proper Parliamentary forum, the floor of the House. On their view, this would damage the position of individual members and of Parliament ...

Eat it

Terry Eagleton: Marcel Mauss, 8 June 2006

Marcel Mauss: A Biography 
by Marcel Fournier, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Princeton, 442 pp., £22.95, January 2006, 0 691 11777 2
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... The subject thus had a discreditable aura from the outset. There is something distasteful to the Michael Oakeshotts and Norman Tebbits of this world in claiming that one’s own culture can be as dispassionately dissected as someone else’s. It is also bad news for the champions of colonialism that other people’s cultures appear to be in just as good a ...

Techno-Sublime

Brian Rotman: Fractals, 7 November 2013

The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick 
by Benoit Mandelbrot.
Pantheon, 324 pp., £22.50, October 2012, 978 0 307 37735 7
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... prices, clouds, coastlines, word frequency and clusters of galaxies. In a touching afterword, Michael Frame, a Yale professor who collaborated with him, mourns the hole left by his absence; he ends with an aperçu from Mandelbrot’s last major talk, just before his death: ‘Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules … repeated without end.’ A ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... the outside – as it were by that tribunal of the distant gods whom Nietzsche praises. Deborah Levy describes a scene very similar to Cusk’s in her acute essay, Things I Don’t Want to Know, but her sense of belonging is different: I found myself thinking about some of the women, the mothers who had waited with me in the school playground while we ...

Taking the Blame

Jean McNicol: Jennie Lee, 7 May 1998

Jennie Lee: A Life 
by Patricia Hollis.
Oxford, 459 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 19 821580 0
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... same side as their leader. Rather than acting as a vehicle for Bevan’s views, Tribune, edited by Michael Foot, described itself as leading the campaign against the H-bomb. Lee believed that the Bevanites’ desertion was responsible for the cancer that killed Bevan in 1960: ‘until their attacks began, he never had so much as a stomach ache,’ she wrote ...

Holocaust History

Geoff Eley, 3 March 1983

... published in English as Anatomy of the SS State, and Uwe Adam’s Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich. Michael Marrus’s and Robert Paxton’s study of Vichy France now fills one important gap, while Randolph Braham’s new two-volume work on The Holocaust in Hungary, massively detailed, covering every aspect of the subject, and based on a lifetime of ...

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