WHAT IS EDUCATION FOR?

This essay was the main part of my Observer column this week. (The column included also a shorter piece on barring racists from Britain.) It was published in the Observer, 18 March 2018, under the headline ‘Let’s not give up on the idea that a good education is a search for truth‘. Sam Gyimah is very taken by Moneysupermarket.com. Seven years ago, the newly elected Tory MP for East Surrey wrote an article for Conservative Home, bemoaning the fact that there […]

PLUCKED FROM THE WEB #30

The latest (somewhat random) collection of recent essays and stories from around the web that have caught my eye and are worth plucking out to be re-read. . This poisonous cult of personality Pankaj Mishra, NYR Daily, 1 December 2017 Donald Trump’s election last year exposed an insidious politics of celebrity, one in which a redemptive personality is projected high above the slow toil of political parties and movements. As his latest tweets about Muslims confirm, this post-political figure seeks, […]

POPULISM AND IMMIGRATION

This is a transcript of a talk given to the European School of Politics in Istanbul, 30 September 2017. It pulls together many of the themes of which I have written in recent years. The obvious point of departure for a talk on populism and immigration is last week’s German elections. The election took place under the shadow of the European Union’s migration crisis and the debate about Angela Merkel’s refugee policies. Merkel was retuned to power for a fourth […]

ON MARK LILLA’S CRITIQUE OF IDENTITY POLITICS

This essay was published in the Observer on 17 September 2017, under the headline ‘In a society too short of common goals, identity politics are an imperfect answer’. Last November, Columbia University historian Mark Lilla published a comment piece in the New York Times, entitled The End of Identity Liberalism. Numbed by Trump’s election victory, Lilla placed the blame largely at the door of ‘identity politics’, which, he argued, had atomised American politics, undermined civic culture and destroyed the Democrats’ […]

PLUCKED FROM THE WEB #25

The latest (somewhat random) collection of recent essays and stories from around the web that have caught my eye and are worth plucking out to be re-read. A tragedy of manners Angela Nagle, The Baffler, September 2017 Comments on the bad manners of Donald Trump have come from a wide array of sources, all along the political spectrum. British Burkean conservative Peter Hitchens called him ‘an oaf and a yahoo who has gravely damaged the standards of public life.’ The […]

GILROY AND REED ON RACE, CLASS & CULTURE

I have written much recently on questions of race and culture, as reflected through issues ranging from adoption to cultural appropriation to patriotism to diversity to identity. The common theme has been the way that those who call themselves ‘progressive’ or ‘anti-racist’ often draw upon ideas that are deeply regressive and rooted in racial ways of thinking; and that the consequences of identity politics and of concepts such as cultural appropriation is to bring about not social justice but the empowerment […]

THE CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM

Harlem was not always synonymous with African Americans. In the late-nineteenth century, it was home to a predominantly Jewish community – in his book When Harlem Was Jewish, historian Jeffrey Gurock estimates that almost 200,000 Jews lived there on the eve of the First World War. By 1930 that had fallen to just 5000. ‘Harlem’s era as a landmark on the Jewish map of New York was over’, Gurock observes. The reasons for the transformation were many and complex – […]

DECOLONIZING OUR MINDS?

This essay was published in the Observer, 19 February 2017. ‘They Kant be serious!’, spluttered the Daily Mail headline in its most McEnroish tone. ‘PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from university syllabus’. ‘Great thinkers too male and pale, students declare’, declared the Times. The Daily Telegraph, too, was outraged: ‘They are said to be the founding fathers of Western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that […]

A YEAR OF PANDAEMONIUM

Happy New Year! 2015 was a great year for Pandaemonium. It received more than 500,000 visitors – the first time it’s broken the half-million mark. But it was such a frantic, hectic, non-stop year that many of the new projects that I had hoped to launch, including ebooks and podcasts, have still to get off the ground. Hopefully, that will happen sometime this year. In 2015 I joined Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows supporters to help fund the work […]

WISH I KNEW HOW IT WOULD FEEL TO BE FREE

The story of the struggle for black rights in America is intimately linked to the story of popular music. And from Ferguson to Charleston, every recent conflict, confrontation and tragedy has brought to mind a particular song. So, here is a collection of 12 songs that have acted as the soundtrack to the black struggle in America over the past century. It is largely chronological and reflects the shifts both in the struggle and in the music (as well as […]

TO IMAGINE, TO HOPE, TO TRANSCEND, TO TRANSFORM

I gave a talk at the launch at London’s Institut Français of Libraries without Borders, the charity inspired by Patrick Weil that aims to increase global access to books and libraries. Also speaking were Ian McEwan, Lisa Appignanesi, Barbara Band and Patrick Weil himself. Here is a transcript of my talk. Let me begin with a story not of a library or a book but of a grand piano. The one grand piano in Gaza, that was discovered still intact […]

A YEAR OF PANDAEMONIUM

It has been a frantic, hectic, non-stop year, and that’s been reflected in Pandaemonium. My thanks to everyone who has read, commented and supported this blog. Here are some of the highlights of a year of Pandaemonium in 2014. And best wishes to all for 2015.   The Quest for a Moral Compass My book, The Quest for a Moral Compass, was published in May, and the reviews have largely been favourable; I was particularly taken by those from Jonathan […]

DEBATING IMMIGRATION, ETHICS AND OPEN DOORS

The politics/philosophy blog Crooked Timber, is organising an online symposium on political philosopher Joseph Carens’ book, The Ethics of Immigration. I published my contribution last week. These are links to the other contributions so far. Carens himself will respond in time, and all contributions will be published as an e-book. . Chris Bertram Some worries about Carens’s democratic consensus One difficulty I have in thinking about how to discuss the work in a symposium such as this is in finding […]

PEOPLES AND VALUES

I recently gave an interview to Maryam Namazie of Fitnah, a movement for women’s liberation ‘demanding freedom, equality, and secularism’. The interview, published in Fitnah‘s online magazine, is about immigration, Islam and racism. It was conducted after the row broke out over segregated Islamist public meetings at British universities but before the controversy over Maajid Nawaz and the Jesus and Mo cartoons. Maryam Namazie: Restrictions demanded by Islamists are viewed as the demand of Muslims and immigrants who are seen to […]

AN OPEN DOOR TO DISASTER?

As I am away this week, there are no new posts, but I am delving into the archives for material not previously published on Pandaemonium. Back in 2004 I made a programme for BBC Radio 4’s Analysis strand on the immigration debate, contrasting the arguments of open door, closed door and managed migration advocates. Among those taking part were David Coleman, Professor of Demography, University of Oxford; Geoff Dench, of the Institute of Community Studies; Nigel Harris, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London; Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation; Sarah […]