– Currently, I am mostly reading The Strange Death of Tory England by Geoffrey Wheatcroft… it’s not a new book but it is an important one, not least because as the downturn hits the popular vote is swinging everywhere in the western world (although, significantly, not the US) firmly to the right…
– I’m also dipping into Fareed Zakaria’s excellent The Post-American World (which is lightly written and made for a read in one go, if you can ever find the time, space and quiet to read anything that quickly in a small house full of children and dogs)… Favourite quotation so far is from Yu Yongding, former advisor to China’s central bank:
“The US financial system was regarded as a model, and we tried our best to copy whatever we could. Suddenly we find our teacher is not that excellent, so the next time when we are designing our financial system we will use our own mind more”.
– I’ll also be looking (next year) at The Great Stagnation, by Tyler Cowen. This highly influential book has a number sharp aphoristic observations on the longer term decline of the US and argues that its been coasting since about 1974 having already taken all the easy pickings. Quotation via Martin Wolf:
“…the American economy has enjoyed … low-hanging fruit since at least the 17th century, whether it be free land, … immigrant labor, or powerful new technologies. Yet during the last 40 years, that low-hanging fruit started disappearing, and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognise that we are at a technological plateau and the trees are more bare than we would like to think. That’s it. That is what has gone wrong.”
– Nearer to home, I have a copy of Abandoning historical conflict with a host of quality academic writers who exam the quality of change within the most polarised communities where most of the ex combatants live to this day. They find a degree of mirroring going propelled by a ‘construction of difference’. As if to underline the parallels with other conflict zones, they offer this quote from a paper by Tzfadia and Yiftachel (PDF):
“To enhance its power, each community mobilises its members through the construction of difference, as a convenient platform for reinforcing ethic and racial solidairty. This does not take place in isolation but by groups in constant relation (often contestation) with other groups and interest. Competition for spatial, cultural and political resources includes control over territory, relation to place, and the right to cultural expression.”
– If you want something lighter for the post Christmas lull, Barry Flynn’s Soldiers of Folly is hard to go past for a brilliant retelling of the IRA border campaign of 1956 to 1962… Barry combines the brilliance of the storyteller with close attention to history at time when such skills are in too short supply. It’s a fascinating story that apart from anything else demonstrates the degree to which north and south have departed from one another whilst our chief protagonists were involved in other things.