Good State, Bad State

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Joseph Stiglitz is a man of the Left, but he’s no crabby Corbyn. He’s a lovely fellow and a brilliant theorist of economics (Nobel Prize, 2001). Like his mentor Paul Samuelson (Nobel Prize, 1970), he was raised in Gary, Indiana. Imagine two Nobel Prize winners coming out of Scunthorpe. His project in this book is […]

We Need to Talk About Democracy

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This is a year of elections. Almost half of the world’s eight billion people will be eligible to cast a vote in 2024 to determine how and by whom they are governed. Any self-respecting reincarnated Athenian philosopher would be heartened by such progress. Giving power to the demos (a category now expanded to include all […]

Time to Pull the Plug?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If you have never come across the name Stafford Beer (I hadn’t), you should probably not be reading this book. Behind his enormous beard and impressive moustache, Beer was a consultant who developed what the author calls the science of management cybernetics and whose consultancy customers included the government of Salvador Allende, president of Chile […]

The New Masters of the Universe?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

What does Mariana Mazzucato, a fiery professor of economics with left-of-centre views, have in common with Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s maverick erstwhile adviser? Both believe that the consulting industry ‘infantilizes’ civil servants and wastes taxpayers’ money. Cummings tried two years ago to change that by setting up an in-house public sector consultancy, based in the […]

Power to the People

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Martin Wolf is probably the most respected commentator on the global economy in any mainstream newspaper in the English language, and his regular Financial Times columns are a must-read for anyone trying to get to grips with the complicated reality of markets and the politics and policies that shape them. A full-length book by Wolf […]

How to Spend It

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In Follow the Money, Paul Johnson sets out to provide an explanation of where the UK government’s revenues come from and what they are spent on. His aim is to ‘show how the choices governments make really do change the way we live and the sort of society we live in’. Readers interested in this […]

Greasy Palms

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the old telling, corruption blighted seedy postcolonial states and prevented them from moving up the development ladder. They scored badly in corruption metrics. Successful states, in contrast, performed impeccably in corruption rankings: they had strong institutions, functioning markets and clean politics. Over the last decade, this fraudulent if comforting narrative has had to be […]

From Westminster to Workington

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the last four years, two Conservative prime ministers have stood on the threshold of 10 Downing Street and set out a ‘one-nation’ vision for Britain. The first was Theresa May, who, in July 2016, declared that her government would help those struggling to make ends meet rather than ‘the privileged few’. The second was […]

Secrets of the Wheelie Suitcase

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Among the many remarkable aspects of the global coronavirus pandemic, few have been more interesting than the pressure to innovate. Faced with a surge in serious illness and a plunge in economic activity, all sorts of professions and companies are doing things that they have never done before. Academics are scrambling to develop an effective […]

A Magazine or a Cocktail Party?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Back in the good old days before the new puritanism, I was nursing a lunchtime pint and the political weeklies alone in Annie’s Bar in the Palace of Westminster when the Labour MP Eric Heffer burst in, as he did everywhere. ‘What are you reading?’ demanded the burly Bennite. ‘The Spectator,’ I replied. ‘I prefer it to the Staggers.’ A proud autodidact, Eric looked

Digital Dystopia?

Posted on by David Gelber

‘The future stalks us,’ begins Jamie Susskind’s rigorous and thoughtful book Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (Oxford University Press 514pp £20). The future, he argues, is coming – and fast. The reason the danger is so pressing is that, as Susskind correctly states, ‘while time passes linearly, many developments in […]

Boulevard to Brexit

Posted on by David Gelber

Andrew Adonis recently tweeted that he has started another book on Britain and Europe, having just published two – the first entitled Saving Britain and this one, a series of essays on postwar British prime ministers and Europe. He has fitted all that in while campaigning vigorously for a people’s vote on the UK’s final […]

Who Is America?

Posted on by David Gelber

The populist earthquake that began with the 2014 European elections and produced the twin shocks of Brexit and Trump has been followed by a tsunami of books purporting to diagnose the phenomenon. Two welcome and highly readable additions to this genre are Amy Chua’s Political Tribes and William Galston’s Anti-Pluralism. As members of the American […]

Age of Anxiety

Posted on by David Gelber

Both of these books are directed to the strange political times in which we live. The Monarchy of Fear, indeed, is subtitled ‘A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis’. They could hardly be more different, however. Martha Nussbaum’s book is highly personal in all sorts of ways: it begins with a substantial autobiographical preface in […]

Cheques & Imbalances

Posted on by David Gelber

Moneyland is everywhere and nowhere. It does not exist on a map, but if you’re rich enough it’s not difficult to find – and once you have been inducted into this evanescent, shape-shifting, offshore–onshore fiefdom, your wealth is extraordinarily well protected from those who might tax it or return it to its rightful owners. That […]

Editor with a Cause

Posted on by David Gelber

Alan Rusbridger has a claim to have been the most successful editor of The Guardian since C P Scott, who edited the paper from 1872 to 1929 and is still in a way its presiding spirit. During his editorship (1995–2015), Rusbridger steered the paper, often showing real courage, through a series of stormy stories and, […]

Goodbye to All That

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In November 1989, five Oxford students boarded a ferry from Dover to Zeebrugge. The Berlain Wall had been breached and they were heading east. Eighteen hours later, remembers the Financial Times columnist Edward Luce, they were ‘driving at high speed to Berlin’, suffused with idealism and excitement. Soon they were chipping at the wall alongside […]

Rebels with a Cause

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Many of the individuals who feature in Jamie Bartlett’s Radicals appear to be in search of a spiritual home. They are, broadly speaking, men and women who live in liberal democracies that have satisfied the basic conditions of life. Yet collectively they find themselves staring into the void that might once have been filled by […]

Road to Abbottabad

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I suspect that most of us who are old enough to do so remember where we were on 11 September 2001. I was sitting at my desk in London, wrestling with a book proposal, when a member of a military history email discussion list (do such things still exist?) mentioned that, from his office in New […]

The Eagle & the Dragon

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Here are two ambitious books by US journalists who cover China, and a lesser effort by Harvard academic Graham Allison that does not match its portentous billing, though it will receive plenty of coverage. John Pomfret has reported on China for decades for the Washington Post and spends part of the year with his wife, […]

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