We Dream Of Utopia

Review of The Book of Legendary Lands, by Umberto Eco, an “enchanting” book about places celebrated in myths or created in fictions, from El Dorado to Uqbar. “Eco’s theme is the slippage from fiction to illusion in the human mind”. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 19C fantasy novel The Coming Race told of super-humans descended from survivors of Atlantis; by the mid-20C some Nazis believed this as fact (1,800 words)

The Notebooks Of Leopardi

Review of the first full English translation of Zibaldone, a journal kept by 19C Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. “With its publication, Leopardi will be ranked among the supreme interrogators of the modern condition. The notebook has something in common with Pascal’s Pensées and Kierkegaard’s diaries but the voice – refined, detached and betraying a reticent intellectual passion – is Leopardi’s alone” (1,800 words)

Review: ‘Edmund Burke’, By Jesse Norman

Nominally a review of Norman’s biography of Burke, but largely given over to a stinging critique of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatism. “By insisting that economic progress must come before anything else, she turned social institutions into more or less efficient means of achieving whatever is presently desired. Institutions ceased to be places in which people could find meaning and became mere tools” (1,948 words)

The Real Karl Marx

Review of Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A 19th Century Life, which seeks to judge Marx as a 19C thinker, rather than by his 20C influence. “The positions Marx adopted were rarely dictated by any preexisting theoretical commitments regarding capitalism or communism. More often, they reflected his attitudes toward the ruling European powers and their conflicts, and the intrigues and rivalries in which he was involved as a political activist” (3,603 words)

Review: The Locust And The Bee

Capitalism is good economic model. It is not a social model. “Ethics and politics are made up of conflicts rather than soluble problems and no increase in smartness will deliver us from difficult choices. In order to make these choices, we need ideas about the good life that go beyond anything that can be expressed in the language of economics” (1,889 words)

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