Society is ill and needs more than capitalism or socialism to create fairness and happiness. Tony Judt challenges current ideas on society and government.
Tony Judt is currently Professor and Director of the Remarque Institute at New York University. He is a highly honoured author and editor of thirteen books and a renowned thinker with an international reputation.
Ill Fares the Land is A Treatise on Our Present Discontents in which Tony Judt argues that the questions and associated lessons that long used to define politics are being forgotten. As a result there is growth of inequality in the UK and USA and he raises the questions of whether is desirable, prudent or even supportable.
A reader with leanings to the political right may initially be put off by the apparent socialist arguments at the start of the book. However such readers should bear with Judt as the left and right wing attitudes and failures are addressed in equal measure. Although Ill Fares the Land is not party political it does address the nature of society and fairness that have engaged political thinking since the philosophers of classical Greece.
Ill Fares the Land argues that the basic questions still apply and are no longer being asked. Instead society, government and politics are locked into a fixed and partisan way of thinking. Judt challenges the reader to go back to the basic questions and test how society and its undoubted needs could be better served.
In Ill Fares the Land Tony Judt shows how all political and economic models are failing people and society. He challenges the reader to think afresh about the nature of society and what it means as a whole and to the individual.
In just six chapters with an introduction and conclusion Professor Judt makes a strong case for rethinking the nature of society and its governance. The Introduction takes the form of “Guide for the Perplexed” and is followed by the six chapters:The Way We Live Now
The conclusion pulls it all together and asks “What is Dead in Social Democracy” and the book as a whole raises more questions than it answers. Ill Fares the Land is not a prescriptive book but a description of where democracy has got to and how it is failing to satisfy the needs of society and individuals. More work needs to be done by the reader and others to answer the hugely important questions posed.
If it were not for the typography Ill Fares the Land would be a slim volume. Whilst not a difficult read the ideas are complex and important so bear careful consideration. For students of political and moral philosophy this is one of several recent books on the subject that question current thinking particularly on equality, fairness, justice and an individual dissatisfaction or the sense that something is missing . It may be signs of change in the wind.
The title Ill Fares the Land is from the Oliver Goldmsith’s 1770 poem The Deserted Village. There are many quotations from political philosophers, economic thinkers with literary allusions throughout.
Ill Fares the Land, A Treatise on Our Present Discontents (2010, ISBN: 978-1-846-14359-5) is published in hardback by Allen Lane, a Penguin imprint, at £20.
First appeared on Suite101