I have made many visits to mental health hospitals over the years, almost all of them in support of my mother who suffered for most of her adult life from severe mental illness. The experience of these institutions humbles the mind. It teaches us how each of us is a "preposterous hodgepodge, uniquely arranged" - in the words of the great Inga Clendinnen who knew the gulf between the experience of the well and the sick - "a more significant division in any society than class or gender or possibly even homelessness."
Bureaucracy is not meant to be Utopian. After all, is not bureaucracy the home of the conformist, the cynical realists, the domesticator of conflict, the administrator of dreams, the banality of evil? Karl Mannheim wrote in Ideology and Utopia: "The fundamental tendency of all bureaucratic thought is to turn all problems of politics into administration....... Continue Reading →
The story I told in this article still has resonance for me. It was a story about how, even in the apparently material conditions that defined work and industrial conflict, the meaning of events were inseparable from the striving for recognition and the webs of significance that we, culture-making beings, weave through the time of our lives.
In December 2017 a man in a black SUV drove his car into a group of pedestrians crossing the street outside Flinders Street station in central Melbourne. The incident had occurred less than a year since the Bourke St event, two city blocks away, leading to the deaths of six people, a traumatised city, a... Continue Reading →
"In truth, the problem of declining trust in political institutions, is better conceived as the collapse of authority of the new nomenklatura in liberal democracies. And that, I hypothesise, has its roots in the disintegration of the civic cultures that these elites attempt to govern." from The Burning Archive (22 April 2018) My apologies for quoting from my own... Continue Reading →
During the week I was discussing with a young colleague at work the preparation of a briefing. I gave them some guidance and some encouragement: the briefing did not need to be long, but the words ought to be carefully selected and focussed on what was most important. After all, I said, "Brevity is the... Continue Reading →
Today's cultures are both disintegrating and proliferating. Any writer has to hand the near infinite profusion of symbolic thought of every culture across history. They are there to be used with the simplicity of an internet search. But their readiness-to-hand does not make them vital traditions, but cut and paste decorations of the modern soul... Continue Reading →
In 2017 Francis Fukuyama published two podcasts providing a retrospective account of his essay, "The End of History" (1989) which was later published in more extended form as the book The End of History and The Last Man, in 1992, 25 years ago. I had bought Fukuyama's book, back in the early 1990s, when I... Continue Reading →
In reviewing my notes for the year - diligently if effortlessly recorded in Evernote - I came across my discovery of an essay from the late 1970s by Leszek Kolakowski, "How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist." I do not recall how I discovered this gem, as apposite to our times as Kolakowski's exile from Poland in... Continue Reading →
The year is drawing to a close, and while it is yet weeks from New Year, the office christmas party season is in full swing, and my mind is turning to an upcoming holiday. I am approaching the end of my current assignment and am going into my annual leave without knowing what I will... Continue Reading →
"I have never been able to find in any man’s book or any man’s talk anything … to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world." Joseph Conrad, 1922, in correspondence with Bertrand Russell. A new biography of Joseph Conrad has come out. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in... Continue Reading →
During the week I attended a lecture at my old university on the meaning of the Russian Revolution today, 100 years on from Red October. The lecturer, Mark Edele, gave an entertaining and insightful talk to perhaps 600 guests, some alumni, some students, some dignitaries associated with the large philanthropic donation that had enabled the... Continue Reading →