Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Statesman July 28th

This New Statesman (July 28th) has a 'Money Rules' cover with an important article by Danny Dorling on 'How cash overturned the class system' (also available from the Fabian Society), arguing that class isn't about background or occpuation, but money and provides a diagram with the Very Poor taking up 10%, Poor 15%, Normal 50%, Wealthy 20% and 5% in varying categories of increasingly Exclusive Wealth. It's a challenge to the Marxist insistence on two classes, even with the addition of an intermediary 'New Middle Class' added in some sophiticated versions.

Martin Bright writes about Paul Ginsborg's new short book on Democracy: Crisis and Renewal, talking about a crisis in democracy marked by declining turnouts and featuring an imaginary discussion between Marx and John Stuart Mill on their differing ideas for democracy. A long time ago (before he became such an important historian of modern Italy) Ginsborg used to be an International Socialist and I remember an excellent pamphlet on The Politics of Lenin from the early 1970s. That Bright describes the book as 'delightfully bonkers' just adds to my anticipation.`

Andrew Stephen provides a demolition of SATs in an article about the failings of ETS in the US.

And at the back of the magazine Ryan Gilbey doesn't quite convince that Gordon Brown is just like Batman in The Dark Knight. And finally a review of Chris Harman's People's History of the World, recently republished by Verso. Reviews of Harman generally just come from inside the SWP and are generally pretty positive, so a certain cynicism sets in early now. He gets ignored elsewhere - a snobbish mistake I think. Sadly this review is by a member of the SWP, most famous for his deservedly successful (but hubristic) Lenin's Tomb web-site. Can't the world produce a good critical review of a good, interesting and useful book not bound by the webs of political loyalty and agreement. There was a review of the first edition of this People's History by Nigel Harris (can't remember the source) which was just too negative, too bitter. But on the upside Richard Seymour does indicate some interesting and useful criticisms ('quibbles' he says) and certainly did me a favour by mentioning the work of Jeffrey Verhey on the myth of mass support for the First World War, so I wouldn't go along with the red-baiting provided by Oliver Kamm. The New Statesman web-site discussion takes up some of these points, with some usual suspects contributing, but the focus quickly shits to rehearsing the arguments about the evils of Nick Cohen (Seymour has got an excellent article demolishing the 'Decent Left' including Cohen here, meanwhile the Kamm disucssion gets sidetracked onto Howard Zinn and 9/11 Conspiracy theorizing). Well I still look forward to Richard Seymour's apparently delayed book on the Liberal Defence of Murder, also published by Verso.

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