-Oscar Davis, Indigenous Fellow, Assistant Professor in Philosophy and History, Bond University, Australia. How do we live good, fulfilling lives? Aristotle first took on this question in his Nicomachean Ethics – arguably the first time anyone in Western intellectual history had focused on the subject as a standalone question. He formulated a teleological response to the question of how we ought to live. Aristotle proposed, in other words, an answer grounded in an investigation of our purpose or ends (telos) as a species. Our purpose, he argued, can be uncovered through a study of our essence – the fundamental features of what it means to be human. Ends and essences “Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly every action and rational choice, is thought to aim at some good;” Aristotle states, “and so the good has been aptly described as that at which everything aims.” To understand what is good, and therefore what one must do to achieve the good, we must first understand what kinds of things we are. This will allow us to determine what a good or a bad function actually is. For Aristotle, this is a generally applicable truth. Take a knife, for example. We must first understand what a knife is in order to determine what would constitute its proper function. The essence of a knife is that it cuts; that is its purpose. We can thus make the claim that a blunt knife is a bad knife – if it does not cut well, it is failing in an important sense to properly fulfil its function. This is how essence relates to function, and how fulfilling that function entails a kind of goodness for the thing in question. Of course, determining the function of a knife or a hammer is much easier than determining the function […]
-Chuck Thompson How did rescue dogs become status symbols? Why are luxury brands losing their cachet? What’s made F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous observations obsolete? The answers are part of a new revolution that’s radically reorganising the way we view ourselves and others. Status was once easy to identify—fast cars, fancy shoes, sprawling estates, elite brands. But in place of Louboutins and Lamborghinis, the relevance of the rich, famous, and gauche is waning and a riveting revolution is underfoot. Chuck Thompson sets out to determine what “status” means today and learns that what was once considered the low life has become the high life. In The Status Revolution, Thompson tours the new world of status from a small community in British Columbia where an indigenous artist uses wood carving to restore communal status; to a Washington, DC, meeting of the “Patriotic Millionaires,” a club of high-earners who are begging the government to tax them; to a luxury auto factory in the south of Italy where making beautiful cars is as much about bringing dignity to a low-earning region than it is about flash and indulgence; to a London lab where the neural secrets of status are being unlocked. Full of revelations and with his signature wit and irreverence, Thompson explains why everything we know about status is changing, upends centuries of conventional wisdom, and shows how the new status revolution reflects our place in contemporary society.
by Paddy Manning A book about power, apprenticeship, and succession in the first family of media. And yes, another Murdoch book. An heir apparent to the first global media dynasty, Lachlan Murdoch has been waiting to run his father Rupert’s empire all his life. In this riveting first biography of a little-understood but hugely influential figure, acclaimed journalist Paddy Manning asks: can the dutiful son hang onto the empire, or will the third generation of Murdoch moguls prove the last? Despite a life in the spotlight, Lachlan’s personality, politics, and business acumen remain enigmatic. Is he the ultra-conservative ideologue media reports maintain, or a free-thinking libertarian, as some friends suggest? After emerging victorious from the Murdoch family’s turbulent succession wars, Lachlan is stepping up at a time of unprecedented instability. What can we expect from his time at the helm, and does he have what it takes to chart a future for this century-old company? This is a book about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the global media world, and about America in the age of Trump and Murdoch. It is a book about power, apprenticeship, and succession.
The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet Generations of people have been taught that population growth makes resources scarcer. In 2021, for example, one widely publicised report argued, “The world’s rapidly growing population is consuming the planet’s natural resources at an alarming rate.… The world currently needs 1.6 Earths to satisfy the demand for natural resources … [a figure that] could rise to 2 planets by 2030.” But is that true? After analysing the prices of hundreds of commodities, goods, and services spanning two centuries, Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley found that resources became more abundant as the population grew. That was especially true when they looked at “time prices,” which represent the length of time that people must work to buy something. The authors also found that resource abundance increased faster than the population―a relationship that they call “superabundance.” They conclude that, on average, every additional human being creates more value than he or she consumes.
Vijay MishraEmeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Murdoch University. The Chautauqua Institution, southwest of Buffalo in New York State, is known for its summer lectures – and as a place where people come seeking peace and serenity. Salman Rushdie, the great writer and influential public intellectual, had spoken at the centre before. On Friday August 12, he was invited to speak on a subject very close to his heart: the plight of writers in Ukraine and the ethical responsibility of liberal nation-states towards them. Rushdie has been an outspoken defender of writers’ freedom of expression throughout his career. In the audience of around 2,500 at Chautauqua was Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey, who jumped on stage and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and the abdomen. The fatwa and the spectre of death It was more than 30 years ago – February 14, 1989 (Valentine’s Day) – when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 88, the then spiritual ruler of Iran, condemned Rushdie to death via a fatwa, a legal ruling under Sharia Law. His crime was blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses, on a number of levels. The most serious was the suggestion that Muhammad didn’t solely edit the message of Angel Gibreel (Gabriel) – that Satan himself had a hand in occasionally distorting that message. These, of course, are presented as hallucinatory recollections by the novel’s seemingly deranged character, Gibreel Farishta. But because of a common belief in the shared identity of author and narrator, the author is deemed to be responsible for a character’s words and actions. And so the author stood condemned. Blasphemy against Muhammad is an unpardonable crime in Islam: a kind of divine sanctity surrounds the Prophet of Islam. The latter is captured in the well-known Farsi saying, Ba khuda diwana basho; ba muhammad […]
There are, it seems to me, two kinds of people in the world: those who have woken in despair a great many times since 2016 and those who think the UK is on the right track. There are those, even now, even after letting the bodies pile up, even after the parties and the public money given to donors, even after the pornography in the Commons and the Electoral Commission being deprived of its independent status and – you know – all the rest of it, who would still vote for the Conservatives tomorrow. I can’t imagine for one second that reading Simon Kuper’s book, Chums (How a tiny caste of Oxford Tories took over the UK), would change any of their minds. This book, Kuper tells us, “is not an attempt to relitigate the Brexit referendum” nor is it “a twee Oxford tale of witticisms exchanged by long-dead dons”; rather it is “an attempt to write a group portrait of a set of Tory Brexiteers” because “it won”: “It ended up making Brexit and remodelling the UK. To understand power in today’s Britain requires travelling back in time to the streets of Oxford, somewhere between 1983 and 1993.” Kuper, you’ll come to understand, was at Oxford at more or less the same time as Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Cameron, Dominic Cummings (and their cheerleaders Toby Young, Nick Robinson etc). While there is a little of Kuper here (his own fleeting experience of Oxford shimmers like a heat haze around the story he is telling), what we are doing is following a small group of men as they transfer all of the advantage of Eton to Oxford, walking around like they own the place, doing what they please because no one has ever told them otherwise and getting away with it, time and […]
When Covid-19 forced the brakes on the global economy, millions of people decided to step off the treadmill to refuel their aspirations. As many as 40-75% of the workforce is reported to be considering quitting their current job. This movement has precipitated a talent crisis, fuelling debate on whether this is the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle. While each analysis is insightful, we are looking at something completely different; we are at the tipping point of the Great Relearning Revolution. The workforce is eager to learn While attrition numbers have been widely reported, the number of people choosing to learn has not. Enrollment on popular MOOC (massive open online course) platforms has skyrocketed. At Coursera, it was 640% higher from mid-March to mid-April 2020 than during the same period in 2019, growing from 1.6 to 10.3 million. At Udemy, enrolment was up over 400% between February and March 2020. The e-learning market, growing at a compound annual rate of 20%, is on course to reach a trillion dollars by 2027. Among the courses in high demand are data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. For those struggling to find talent in these areas, that’s promising news. This hunger to relearn within the workforce also reflected some interesting dimensions in other recent surveys. A Gallup-Amazon study revealed that 48% of workers in the US are willing to switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities and 65% of them believe employer-provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job. A MetLife survey highlighted an even more interesting insight: two in three (63%) women who left the workforce during the pandemic said they are ready to return – and eight in 10 of those are considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We seem to be witnessing a redefining of literacy, akin to Alvin Toffler’s prophecy, […]
Jill Lepore Ms. Lepore’s lively, surprising and occasionally salacious history is far more than the story of a comic strip. The author, a professor of history at Harvard, places Wonder Woman squarely in the story of women’s rights in America—a cycle of rights won, lost and endlessly fought for again. Like many illuminating histories, this one shows how issues we debate today were under contention just as vigorously decades ago, including birth control, sex education, the ways in which women can combine work and family, and the effects of ‘violent entertainment’ on children. ‘The tragedy of feminism in the twentieth century is the way its history seemed to be forever disappearing,’ Ms. Lepore writes. Her superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century. Lepore’s brilliance lies in knowing what to do with the material she has. In her hands, the Wonder Woman story unpacks not only a new cultural history of feminism, but a theory of history as well. Lepore specialises in excavating old flashpoints—forgotten or badly misremembered collisions between politics and cultural debates in America’s past. She lays out for our modern sensibility how some event or social problem was fought over by interest groups, reformers, opportunists, and “thought leaders” of the day. The result can look both familiar and disturbing, like our era’s arguments flipped in a funhouse mirror….Besides archives and comics Lepore relies on journalism, notebooks, letters, and traces of memoir left by the principals, as well as interviews with surviving colleagues, children, and extended family. Her discipline is worthy of a first-class detective….Lepore convinces us that we should know more about early feminists whose work Wonder Woman drew on and carried forward….A key spotter of connections, Lepore retrieves a remarkably recognisable feminist through-line, showing us 1920s […]
Andrea CarboniPostdoctoral research fellow, University of Sussex Clionadh RaleighProfessor of Political Geography, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex In 2021, coups d’état ousted four heads of state in sub-Saharan Africa. Army interventions in Chad, Mali, Guinea and Sudan halted a years-long decline in military takeovers. Some heralded this as the comeback of the army in African politics. Elsewhere in Africa, elected leaders in Tunisia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, among others, were accused of pivoting to authoritarian rule. Common authoritarian measures include suspending parliamentary assemblies, confining opposition leaders, extending term limits and violently repressing opposition and dissent. Here lies an apparent paradox: despite decades in which democratic institutions have become prevalent across the continent, African states continue to be vulnerable to military takeovers and autocratic forms of power. Multiple interpretations aim to explain this seeming contradiction. A popular explanation suggests that the world, and especially Africa, is entering a new phase of ‘democratic backsliding’. This follows a decades-long era during which several leaders were ousted by popular movements. Nowhere was this more evident than in North Africa. Here, the democratic aspirations of the 2011 Arab Spring were overshadowed by a return to authoritarianism and conflict. Yet, in many of Africa’s competitive autocracies, the removal of leaders is not associated with revolutionary change. In fact, there is a remarkable stability of senior elites and institutional practices across regimes. This seems to point to their resilience in the face of a supposed trajectory towards democracy. The literature on political survival provides a more compelling narrative to explain political change in competitive autocracies. A leader’s survival is conditioned on the support of senior elites. Leaders can typically spread power among their ‘rival allies’ to keep it and co-opt enough of those elites in exchange for political support. These actors can in turn leverage their collective power to secure greater influence and rewards from […]
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