When a public figure—tasked with the democratic, modern liberal job of holding government to account on behalf of the people—instead openly and publicly expresses the eugenic question of whom the government should let die for the sake of the economy, then it has become clear just how far the public sphere has shifted from being […]
Here we are, politicising a health crisis. And here we are repeating the obvious: a crisis, of any kind, is already a lens in which politics invariably appears, usually clarified, sometimes magnified, and always polarising. The global pandemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoV-2 (popularly Covid-19 or Coronavirus) is exactly such a lens.
In the 14th Century a man named Francesco Petrarca, surprised at the sophistication and subtlety of the classical works he was beginning to read, came to feel that he was living in a dark age. Petrarch could not have known that six centuries later a similar feeling would wash across the academic world; a feeling […]
Cruelty and vulgarity are being normalised as acceptable forms of entertainment. I accept that entertainment has by its very nature a dark side — which I will admit to enjoying up to a certain point. We have invented collocations and terms like ‘biting wit’ and ‘mordant perspicuity’ to cover this ancient tradition of enjoying a […]
Two thousand and nineteen. The end of a decade, and for me, much else. 2019 was the year I endured anastomotic dehiscence, a post-operative complication in which a re-sectioned part of the colon comes apart and the contents of the large intestine empty into the abdominal compartment. I survived the subsequent sepsis and peritonitis, both […]
Mark Twain probably never said this. It’s another case of the Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect, or if you prefer, the Mandela Effect, or still again, cultural mnemohistory (this is my preferred term). It’s strangely ‘meta’ then that the saying describes its own social genesis as a saying. Knowledge spreads, with many loud and knowledgeable people […]
The Need-Fire (alt. Force-Fire, meaning ‘forced fire’) tradition depended on a structure of exception. In a superstition widely chronicled across Old Europe it was popularly believed that the efficacy of the need-fire (to cure ills, to establish normality where sickness — of animals, relations, etc — had taken hold) depended on the extinguishment of all […]
Today no-one can in good conscience doubt that we are heading for a postcapitalist future. The question is what form this future will take. The old market-driven dream of competitive private individual entrepreneurialism is dead in the water, but the new tendency has not been towards socialisation but towards massive monopolistic rentism.
One of the critical skills a historian of art, or indeed historian of anything, acquires is the ability to think cumulatively. This means assessing media and sources for their quotidian ongoing drip-feed effect, which, from the amnesiac day-to-day perspective of a precariously-employed member of the public pre-occupied with performance and meeting targets, comes to appear […]