Thursday, September 15, 2011
TONY JUDT'S ILL FARES THE LAND
Finally finished this gift book given to me in the Spring for my birthday. It's a tough look at the present state of society and politics in the USA and England by the author of some pretty solid books about 20th-Century history, like Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945.
Judt's a deep thinker and does a pretty great job of articulating and summarizing the events and attitudes and choices that got us into many of our present dilemmas, and what he sees as the way of moving forward and solving some of our problems.
Here's a couple of chapter titles to give you an idea of what he's addressing (and the cultural references behind his titles): "The Way We Live Now" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Politics."
There were so many times in the book when I wanted to quote an excerpt, but realized in order for the quote to work I'd have to quote the line before it, and then the paragraph before that, and then the page and basically the whole chapter.
I also have to admit that there were a few times when I found it a little contradictory and even arbitrary. But over all, it's a stimulating read for those of us dismaying over the state of our country and our politics, as well as our world.
Here are a couple of very short excerpts that aren't the most profound things he writes in the book, but give an idea of how he writes and what he's addressing in ILL FARES THE LAND:
"If we don't respect public goods; if we permit or encourage the privatization of public space, resources and services; if we enthusiastically support the propensity of a younger generation to look exclusively to their own needs: then we should not be surprised to find a steady falling-away from civic engagement in public decision-making."
"...sustained economic expansion in itself guarantees neither equality nor prosperity; it is not even a reliable source of economic development."
The most interesting writing, of course, is to be found in how he backs these kinds of statements and observations up with solid historical scholarship, logic and reasoning, as well as profound insight. Like I said, a stimulating read.