Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Ill Fares The Land by Tony Judt
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today.
In Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, one of our leading historians and thinkers, reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment. Judt masterfully crystallizes what we've all been feeling into a way to think our way into, and thus out of, our great collective dis-ease about the current state of things.
As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America—the guarantee of a basal level of security, stability and fairness—is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it's no longer part of the common discourse. Judt offers the language we need to address our common needs, rejecting the nihilistic individualism of the far right and the debunked socialism of the past. To find a way forward, we must look to our not so distant past and to social democracy in action: to re-enshrining fairness over mere efficiency.
Distinctly absent from our national dialogue, social democrats believe that the state can play an enhanced role in our lives without threatening our liberties. Instead of placing blind faith in the market-as we have to our detriment for the past thirty years-social democrats entrust their fellow citizens and the state itself.
Ill Fares the Land challenges us to confront our societal ills and to shoulder responsibility for the world we live in. For hope remains. In reintroducing alternatives to the status quo, Judt reinvigorates our political conversation, providing the tools necessary to imagine a new form of governance, a new way of life.
This author, Tony Judt, expounds his personal theories in a treatise on what’s economically and politically wrong in America and Britain and how to right it in his book, Ill Fares the Land.
I did not find his subject matter to be particularly interesting in the way he presented it, although his theories are somewhat thought-provoking if one assumes that he is correct in his assertions. One difficulty I had with his book was the lack of credible argument to support his thesis. Another issue was the lack of reference citations at times when he stated facts and figures. I tried to research his qualifications for writing about this particular topic and found his background to be extensive in history, but it was not clear to me that he has delved to any degree in the area of economics and/or politics. He fails to include other important and relevant aspects of society in what he presents, and he borders on fear-mongering at times.
I also found myself distracted by minor details that were disruptive to reading and led me away from the original point he was trying to make. For example, this statement has a certain amount of ambiguity for me: “But if we think we know what is wrong, we must act upon the knowledge.” I believe anyone can understand his intended meaning with this statement, but any careful reader is likely to automatically discern a vast difference in “we think we know” and actual “knowledge.” Indeed, if we think we know what’s wrong, the first step would be to garner solid knowledge that would confirm and support our thinking. Then we would be in a position to act upon the knowledge. In any case, although I could accept some of his premises, Judt was not able to pique my interest keenly enough and state his case convincingly enough to win me over with his diatribe. I believe his overall treatise needed more substance, so I cannot recommend this book as a good read.
Length: 256 Pages
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