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Is This The End Of Britishness? Pick of the day

My apologies if you feel I’m overdoing the Scottish stuff, but the independence vote is spurring much outstanding writing. In this magnificent essay Ian Jack admires the ability of the Scots, and especially the separatists, to take pride and find hope in their Scottishness; and he regrets that any strong notion of Britishness, by contrast, is absent from the debate — as it has been absent from British life, by and large, since the 1960s (5,360 words)

A Bridge Too Far

Another fine discussion of Rick Perlstein’s book Invisible Bridge, coupling the fall of Richard Nixon with the rise of Ronald Reagan. “Most historians view the Nixon-Reagan transition as a break in the ideological continuum. Perlstein, by contrast, sees the move from Nixon to Reagan as continuity: Both men tried to reverse what the 1960s were doing to the country. But where Nixon failed in his rearguard action, Reagan succeeded” (2,580 words)

The Great Anthropologists: Margaret Mead

Engaging short account of Mead’s life and work. “Mead’s conclusion was that culture determined personality far more than people had previously expected. It was not sex that made women curl their hair or ‘race’ that made some nations attack their neighbours. Rather, it was social expectations and norms developed slowly for centuries, which laid the groundwork for each individual’s psychological makeup” (2,480 words)

Survival Of The Sexiest

Sceptical account of the rise of evolutionary psychology, as dumbed-down Darwinism for a consumer age in which desire is king. Survival of the fittest becomes “survival of the sexiest”. As described here, the discipline is barely 30 years old, and consists largely of finding behavioural differences between men and women, particularly in matters of courtship and sex, and turning the results into newspaper articles (4,220 words)

Church Of U2

Fascinating. U2 are the world’s top Christian rock act. Religion inspires their music. They just don’t say so openly. “While secular listeners tend to think of U2’s religiosity as preachy window dressing, religious listeners see faith as central to the band’s identity. To some people, Bono’s lyrics are treacly platitudes, verging on nonsense; to others, they’re thoughtful, searching, and profound meditations on faith” (1,980 words)

Fall Of The House Of Boggs

Greed, power and money: an instructive tale. Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs was desperate for business after the 2008 crash. It joined a class-action lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador financed by a hedge fund as a for-profit investment. The plaintiffs were awarded $18bn in Ecuador; but a US court found their lawyer guilty of rigging the evidence and pressuring local judges; Patton Boggs was ruined (2,480 words)

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