On reading Colin Burrow on William Empson. Philosophical Apprentice presents some thoughts.

Colin Burrow’s essay on Empson’s ‘Some Versions of the Pastoral’ and ‘The Structures of Complex Words’ was unexpected in its lack of reverence for Empson. Having read Michael Wood’s ‘On Empson’ as my introduction to this writer: this led me to read ‘7 Types of Ambiguity’ ,and to my surprise I found it to be enjoyable reading. These two books led me to C.C. Norris’s ‘William Empson and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism’.

The title of Burrow’s essay is The Terrifying Vrooom , a surprising metaphor steeped in the mechanistic , but revelatory none the less. I had highlighted, in my print copy, some of the more telling, not to speak of revelatory, portions of Burrow’s essay:

Those flashes of strategic vagueness are vital elements in Empson’s style. They encourage his readers to believe that literary texts can take them beyond the limits of their own perceptions, and that, although generating lists of variant senses is one aspect of reading, jumping across a void is what it’s really all about. Empson described his own practice when he said Pope’s Essay in Criticism implied ‘that all a critic can do is to suggest a hierarchy with inadequate language; that to do it so well with such very inadequate language is to offer a kind of diagram of how it must always be done’. This can certainly generate frustrations, since he was quite capable of creating an interminable taxonomy of interpretative possibilities and then throwing it up in the air as inadequate in a way that would drive a philosopher nuts. He could even do that with entire books. The Structure of Complex Words (1951) concludes with the sentence: ‘All I should claim for this chapter is that it gives a sort of final canter round the field’ – as though he is no more than a stable lad giving the horses a spin. But he was among other things a master of the critical blur. As he put it in an essay on Paradise Lost, ‘it is a delicate piece of brushwork such as seems blurred until you step back.’

Double plots, in which one group of people were thematically connected with another in a subplot, were also ‘pastoral’, because a plot that’s echoed in a subplot implicitly suggests that different social groups replicate or parody aspects of one another. The concern in metaphysical poetry with relationships between the ‘one and the many’ was ‘pastoral’ too, according to Empson, since here a single instance could stand for a range of examples and so bring the complexity of the whole into the single simple thing.

Plurality was the key concept in his critical thinking, and it was a kind of plurality that allowed for a range of different voices and attitudes to exist within a single society, a single text, a single mind, or a single word. ‘Once you break into the godlike unity of the appreciator you find a microcosm of which the theatre is the macrocosm,’ he wrote. ‘The mind is complex and ill-connected like an audience, and it is surprising in the one case as the other that a sort of unity can be produced by a play.’

That is, in Some Versions of Pastoral Empson managed to develop the linguistic concerns of Seven Types of Ambiguity into a social vision, in which a single text could register the shifting and multiple attitudes not just of one mind but of an entire age.
Empson’s own mind was complex and ill-connected, and contained many different voices: the poet, the patrician mathematician, the joker, the shocker, the drinker, the social critic, as well as the seraph of vagueness. At one point in his essay on Donne he offers a kind of parody mathematical definition of how Donne treats a single person or thing as an embodiment of a wider whole: ‘This member of the class is the whole class, or its defining property: this man has a magical importance to all men.’ He goes on to relate this use of the representative figure to his own concept of pastoral: ‘If you choose an important member the result is heroic; if you choose an unimportant one it is pastoral.’ That’s the Empson of Some Versions of Pastoral in a nutshell. You have the terrifying vrooom as his foot goes to the floor and your mind can’t quite keep up with where it’s being pulled, and then, perhaps, a slight sense that some kind of magic (or is it trickery?) has happened. And it probably has: the master of ambiguity uses ‘class’ here in a mathematical sense (of a particular category of entities) but with overtones of the social sense (of distinct social groups).


On the vexing question of Derrida for Empson :

British literary critics who wore the label ‘Empsonian’ with pride tended to follow their master in disliking the overtly theoretical forms that criticism took in the later 1970s and 1980s. In the lectures I went to in Cambridge in the 1980s by Ricks and some of his most brilliant pupils, Empsonising (maybe another one for the OED) was the establishment alternative to what we were taught to think of as the French disease of structuralism. Empson himself was no fan of Derrida, whom he referred to as ‘Nerrida’ in a letter. The principled reason for his hostility to structuralism and post-structuralism was his conviction that the meaning of words is both social and personal: words mean what they mean because this person is using this word in this way to or about this other person, and because this word has this particular history which may or may not complicate how this particular person uses it. That root interest in how people speak to people prejudiced Empson against any depersonalised account of language as a system. It also led to such work as Using Biography (1984), which starts from the sensible belief that people write in the way they do because of the experiences they have had, before travelling from there far into the realms of biographical fantasy.

After reading ‘The Young Derrida and French Philosophy, 1945–1968’ and the essays of Richard Rorty, like this Stanford essay titled ‘Richard Rorty: An appreciation of Jacques Derrida’, and his other essay on Derrida: there seems to me a very real propinquity, between Empson’s project, and Derrida’s, no matter the distance between these writers, and their utterly different world views and literary/philosophical traditions.

Philosophical Apprentice

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Pedro Castillo in the pages of The Financial Times. Political Observer comments.

Headline: Marxist congressman named as Peru’s prime minister

Sub-headline: Pedro Castillo alienates moderate allies by picking hardliner Guido Bellido

The reader need only look at who the Financial Times reporter quotes :

“Bellido is a disastrous appointment,” said Rodolfo Rojas, director of Sequoia, a political risk consultancy in Lima.

“In 24 hours, Castillo’s political capital has gone up in smoke. “You simply can’t touch the Shining Path nerve in Peru. It was a bloody terrorist sect and its actions are deeply embedded in the psychology of Peruvians,” he added.

Or how the financial sector and other ‘respectable’ economic actors have reacted:

Peru’s stock exchange and sol currency have plummeted since Castillo’s victory and analysts expect them to fall further on Friday because of increased political instability. Wealthy Peruvians have already shifted billions of dollars out of the country.

Pedro Francke, a former World Bank economist tipped to be Castillo’s finance minister, was not included in the cabinet and the position was left unfilled. Francke was spotted late on Thursday night walking away alone from the theatre where Castillo swore in his ministers. It was unclear whether he declined a role in government or failed to secure the job.

“The risks to Peru’s economic recovery are high as brinkmanship with congress will be extreme,” predicted Nicolás Saldías, Latin America analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, saying there was “a significant risk of capital flight leading to a currency depreciation in the coming days and weeks”.

Peru is the world’s second-biggest producer of copper, home to mines owned by foreign companies including Anglo American, Glencore, Southern Copper Corporation and MMG. On Thursday, Anglo American’s chief executive Mark Cutifani played down the threat of higher taxes and royalties under the new government, saying his dealings with Castillo and the new administration had been “pretty positive”.


That copper is a valuable even strategic metal – how long before America, and its indigenous allies in Peru begin the project of subverting this government, with the help of ‘Paula Muñoz, a political scientist at the University of the Pacific in Lima‘. and Former interior minister Carlos Basombrio? ‘Many observers’ an anonymous collective of the concerned! Enter: Vladimir Cerrón, the shadowy leader of the Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party that propelled him to power. To heighten the Political Melodrama.

And this prediction

“He will struggle to pass legislation . . . meaning the proposals that markets most worry about are unlikely to become reality,” Oxford Economics predicted.

This whole report is formulaic, under the guise of reportage. It evoked in this reader a kind of  déjà vu. But the reader needs to note, that Evo Morales has welcomed Pedro Castillo, as part of the the rise of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas! Subcomandante Marcos, and Chiapas, Mexico was just a beginning, of the rise of The Indigenous as a political force. A subject unaddressed by Gideon Long’s reportage, but a fulfillment of the legacy of Simón Bolívar!

Political Observer

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In The Financial Times: ‘Can capitalism be made into a force to serve the greater good and solve society’s most urgent systemic problems?’ Almost Marx comments.

Headline: Capitalists can play a vital part in saving US democracy

Sub-headline: Asset owners such as pension funds and university endowments must speak out against voter suppression

The reader can hardly be surprised by The Financial Times publishing Katherine Venice moralizing polemic. Nor that Ms. Venice is the founder of The Ethical Capitalism Group. Or had the assistance of ‘James Leitner of Falcon Management and Paul Rissman, co-founder of Rights CoLab.’ A Capitalist and a ‘Human Rights activist’ who is just another Think Tank ‘co-founder’:

Rights CoLab advances human rights by fostering collaboration among experts across the fields of civil society, technology, business, and finance. Together we build new ways of organizing civic engagement and leveraging markets to improve the impact, resilience, and sustainability of human rights initiatives.


Perhaps I’m being cynical? The Capitalism Ms. Venice describes is limited to ‘ pension funds and university endowments‘? Or is she offering two examples of less fraught forms of profit making?

Here is what this trio of Capitalist Reformers offer in the first three paragraphs of their essay framed by a question:

Can capitalism be made into a force to serve the greater good and solve society’s most urgent systemic problems? As former institutional investors, we believe it is time for capitalists, especially asset owners such as pension funds, university endowments, foundations and sovereign wealth funds, to stand up for democracy.

There are clear indicators that declining democratic rights are correlated with poorer investment returns, lower growth and economic instability. This issue should be front and centre for investors. Capitalism without democracy is oligarchy, with winners and losers determined by autocrats.

Asset owners and their investment managers can learn not only from 20th-century history, but from the warnings of academics that US democracy is in peril. Such capitalists should be better informed than the general public about investment risks, and given their responsibility for allocating capital, they must not ignore the dangers to their investments and the economy as a whole posed by the decline of American democracy.


Who does The Trio offer as one of the central thinkers, that must be paid attention, but notorious Anti-Russian hysteric, not forgetting his role in the Ukrainian Coup of 2014, nor his status as New Cold Warrior, Timothy Snyder.

As Snyder explained in a recent interview: “The thing about these transitions is that you have to start acting right away.” By the time autocracy appears clearly, he added, “it’s already all over and you’re already in trouble; you have to start acting right away, even though you’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen”.

Snyder argued that now is our last chance to stop “system meltdown” in the 2024 presidential election, and warned of the urgency in convincing corporations to stop funding racially-targeted voter suppression through their support of political parties.

Next to enter stage right ‘Holocaust survivor Batsheva Dagan’ :

… last year asked at a memorial at Auschwitz: “Where was the world, who could see everything and yet did nothing?” A similar question will be asked by stakeholders and the public of the university endowments, foundations and pension funds that are some of the nation’s largest, most influential asset owners, if they do nothing to address the erosion of US democratic rights.

The Trio then offers this :

But corporations will not stop funding the legislators who are behind the voter suppression measures unless Wall Street investment managers ask them to, and investment managers will not take action unless asset owners ask them to. Politicians will not be able to save our democracy alone: asset holders can and must do their part.

To return to Dagan’s question, why do people fail to act? Part of the answer is that addressing the decline of democracy forces us to go beyond our normal patterns of activity at work and in our leisure hours. For a long time, we enjoyed the luxury of taking our freedoms for granted. But this must change. Those who spoke out in the past took far greater risks than asset holders must take now.

The Trio then offers this:

If we do not save our democracy, it will be much harder to solve other existential problems, such as climate change and economic inequality. In response to a US Supreme Court ruling that upheld discriminatory voting laws in Arizona, Stanley commented that it was “hard to see how even the semblance of democracy will survive”. And in that case all ESG will be off the table.

Its ‘as if’ The Trio has missed the fact that the Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, begat the Voting Law Crisis, with the evisceration of the ‘preclearance mandate’ in the Voting Rights Act!

Undaunted The Trio offers another Capitalist Actor, who enters stage right:

In his book Citizens DisUnited, pioneering shareholder activist Robert Monks wrote that “our foundational democratic system [is] being wilfully shredded by far more than a handful of leading American corporations”. Of “the Great and Good of investing — there are not and cannot be any innocents . . . [To] have known vast harm was being done and to have had the power, standing and resources to intervene, and yet to have failed to act. That is a shame not easily overcome . . . The time is right; the need, great. This is the moment to decide.”

As the clear evidence of the self-serving mendacity of Capital, the reader need only look to the Financial Crisis of 2008, as the predictor of how ‘Capital’ will comport itself, regarding the set of imperatives that The Trio offers!

Almost Marx

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In reply to WhatAreTheCivilianApplications

It’s about a newspaper pundit, a would be Technocrat, wringing his hands over Afghanistan, as if the British and the Soviets abandoning their Colonial Projects were not the starkest kind of objects lessons? Not to speak of Reagan’s presenting the Mujahedeen as resembling ‘The Founding Fathers’!

But, sir, your pièce de résistance: ‘ Thick argument. “If you feel so strongly hospitals should exist, you become a hospital porter” e.g. argument by specious analogy. The strategy used by Antonin Scalia in such cases as Shelby County v. Holder. See page 734, here:






My reply to Paul A. Myers

Mr. Myers thank you for your revelatory lessons, that history teaches to those willing to listen! But note that Nicholas Gilani finds your historical precise so inconvenient , the last sentence of his final comment, to your reply is unmistakable: 

‘The proper strategy is to create two zones of control for the two major ethnic groups, the Persian speaking Tajiks and the Shiite Hazara on the one hand; and the Sunni Pathans, on the other. This needs to be underwritten by Iran and Pakistan, respectively. This arrangement would then in turn be back-stopped by Russia, China and the US along with India.’

Is there ever a shortage of Arm-Chair Generals, like Mr. Gilani , or Mr. Rachman in a slightly etiolated version of such?  Mr. Gilani offers what resembles the position of a  Neo-Con Imperialist: ‘two zones of control for the two major ethnic groups,’ . In sum. the Afghans are to remain under the tutelage of others who know best? 





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Thatcherite @RColvile exhumes Ronald Reagan to attack ‘the British civil service’, and other political bad actors. Political Observer offers some selected quotations, and her comments.

Mr. Colvile opens his polemic with this paragraph. Yet note the last sentence’s attempt at Oxbridger ‘humor’ of a kind?

It’s often said that the British civil service is incapable of acting at speed. That is horrendously unfair. When their summer holidays are on the line, its staff can act very quickly indeed. The last week of the parliamentary term before the summer recess is traditionally time for Whitehall to shovel out all the things it’s been sitting on, so that everyone can bunk off till September. But the past few days have taken that to the extreme. We’ve had big announcements, reports and/or speeches on green trade, innovation, regulation, prisons and justice, consumer protection, digital competition and NHS pay. We’ve had the new plan on the Northern Ireland protocol. We were going to have the social care plan, too, until Sajid Javid got the ’rona.


I offer a collection of revelatory, if selective quotation:

That tendency will be strengthened by a philosophy that runs through so much of what this government does: what is best described as a vaunting faith in the power of the state to remedy the ills of both society and the economy.

The new industrial interventionism, too, is informed by a conviction that government can successfully perform microsurgery on the economy. The state’s job is not just to set tax rates but also to identify favoured sectors; to use grants and tax breaks to nudge firms in a judicious direction.

In other words, the default assumption is that civil servants are better placed to rule on the economy’s day-to-day needs — and indeed individual companies’ needs — than the people who actually do the work.

It was Ronald Reagan who said that the most terrifying words in the English language were: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”. But one of the more striking aspects of the great transmogrification of conservatism in recent years is that this strain of healthy scepticism appears on the verge of extinction — replaced by a conviction that the government that governs best, governs most.

This reader had encountered anti-government politicking long before Mr. Colvile’s birth. From Mrs. Thatcher herself ,and the utterly vacuous Capitalist Magpie Reagan, in all his political incarnations: from the Free Speech Movement in 1964, to the ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillac’s’ of ’76 and ’80. Reagan’s well worn political cliché , tag line, was ‘Government is the Problem’.

Note that another American, Walter Lippmann, was not just an advocate for Technocrats, like Mr. Colvile, and his Think Tank cohort, but an outspoken advocate of the ‘Expert’ as a check against ‘too much democracy’. This book provides further insights into Walter Lippmann’s connection to Neo-Liberalism, along with Lippmann, both Friedrich Hayek Ludwig von Mises were in attendance.

The Walter Lippmann Colloquium: The Birth of Neo-Liberalism


Political Observer

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The Macron Melodrama in two keys: academic Sudhir Hazareesingh & The Financial Times’ hireling Victor Mallet ‘report’? Committed Observer comments.

What to think of writes, reporters, academics who fail to point out that Macron, was not the ‘clear winner’ but a ‘marginal winner’ in 2017. With an abstention and spoiled ballots rate in the mid 30’s percentile range. Sudhir Hazareesingh fails to mention that vexing fact to his readers. This is the TLS, under the leadership of hardened reactionaries.

Title : Une part de nous Sub-title Emmanuel Macron’s admiration for Napoleon

Sub-title Emmanuel Macron’s admiration for Napoleon

By Sudhir Hazareesingh

 Bonapartism, in short, remains profoundly embedded in modern French political culture, and its long shadow both explains why a technocrat like Macron was able to capture the presidency in 2017, against all apparent odds, and how in turn the French system has reinforced the president’s centralizing and authoritarian instincts.

Note that Hazareesingh’s essay ends on the note of ‘jinx’:

When Macron was elected, he vowed to tackle the underlying causes of the Rassemblement National’s political successes: the polarized rhetoric corroding the national conversation, the blight of France’s small towns and rural communities, and the issues surrounding the integration of France’s ethnic minorities (racism, chronic dilapidation of the banlieues, educational underachievement and social discrimination). He has made little headway on any of these fronts. But the president’s greatest failure is an intellectual one. In the name of republican “equality”, the French still refuse to allow their statisticians officially to gather ethnic data, an aberration which has doubly unfortunate consequences: the real successes of French integration cannot be properly quantified, and the debate continues to be poisoned by demagogues. And despite Macron’s grand pledge in his speech at the Institut, echoing Napoleon, to accept and deal with everything about France’s history – “Nous assumons tout” – the public conversation about the French imperial past remains stilted. A recent study by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de l’Esclavage, the leading association campaigning for a more open discussion of France’s colonial past, has found major shortcomings in the national school curricula, notably around the ending of slavery, which continues to privilege the role of enlightened European abolitionists while ignoring the decisive acts of resistance by local men and women in French colonies. The Haitian revolution is an especially important gap here, as it also brings up the moral debts incurred by France. Haiti’s post- independence leaders were forced to compensate French slave-owners for their losses in the nineteenth century; this harsh debt crippled their economy and was only fully paid off in the mid- twentieth century. The economist Thomas Piketty estimates that the sum of 30 billion euros would be an appropriate settlement by France. Like all his predecessors, Macron has refused to engage in meaningful discussions about slavery reparations. Dismissing uncomfortable truths from the past can be unwise, especially in France, and as he prepares to face his destiny the President might reflect on this intriguing fact: all the French leaders who chose publicly to commemorate Napoleon, from Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon in the nineteenth century to Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou more recently, came to a sticky end. The next victim of this historical jinx may prove to be Emmanuel Macron.

Given the above caveats , Sudhir Hazareesingh’s essay is informative about the current political situation in France, although it lacks rhetorical bite! Note, the fact that Macron and his Neo-Liberal Revolution is stalled, and that the “gilets jaunes” are still active in French politics, although unreported in the hostile Neo-Liberal and Conservative press! Twitter is the place to see and read about the teetering Macronism.

The Financial Times enters with the full Macron Melodrama, with this pretentiously titled essay by Victor Mallet: under the heading of ‘Life and Arts’, this is Politics! The title ‘The Meaning of Macron’ places this apologetic, pretending to be something else, outside politics?

Headline: The meaning of Macron

Sub-headline: The French president is accused of being out-of-touch — but so too were many of his predecessors. Can he once again steer through the centre and win a second term?


Here are three of the later paragraphs in the Mallet essay that expresses a kind of political nostalgia that this ‘reporter’ uses to give a certain historical resonance, perspective, to both Macron and usable French political history:

Macron was only four years old when I arrived in France in 1982 to work as a trainee reporter at Reuters, and in the decades that followed before he won the Elysée Palace, other presidents of left and right fought their own battles over terrorism, the economy and educational reform. I have lost count of the number of marches and mass protests I have witnessed on the streets of Paris, often punctuated by the burning of cars by demonstrators and baton charges of volleys of tear gas from the notoriously aggressive riot police.

At least since Charles de Gaulle with his famous hauteur, France has expected its presidents to incarnate a certain majesty, and those who do not, such as François Hollande — he vowed he would be a “normal” president — tend to fall out of favour.

Perhaps it is because I was a junior reporter at the time, and a British one at that, but I found François Mitterrand in the 1980s to be especially distant and pompously presidential: this was a man who relished the finer things in French life, including eating the (now endangered) tiny songbirds called ortolan buntings with his head hidden under a napkin to capture the delicate flavours and aromas. 

The presence of photos and three graphs – the technos that read this newspaper, and its editors, swoon over the use of data captured in telling graphic form. See The Rhetoric of Economics by Deirdre N. McClosky ,Second Edition: Chapter 3 ‘Figures of Economic Speech’ for the use of graphic representation as an integral part of economic rhetoric.

Mr. Mallet then addresses the pressing question of Macron’s insufferable arrogance, of the énarque, although not quite enunciated in such bald terms.

So is Macron peculiarly hateful? He has certainly failed to convince the French that he understands them. Among his supposed offences: he insensitively told a gardener who complained about a lack of work that he could find him a job in a restaurant just by crossing the road; he declared that while some of the poor were doing the right thing to overcome their problems, others were just “messing around”; and he poured scorn on greens and conspiracy theorists for wanting to delay the rollout of 5G for telecoms, likening them to “Amish” who wanted to “go back to using oil lamps”. 

Small wonder, perhaps, that an eccentric 28-year-old royalist felt the need to slap Macron in the face during a walkabout in a town in the south of France in June, or that Brigitte Granville, a village mayor in Burgundy and author of What Ails France?, said the official photograph of the Olympian president in her office “with his fixed and icy gaze gives me cold sweats every time I set eyes on it”. 

For brevity’s sake I will move to the end of Mr. Mallet’s not very convincing Macron apologetic, even if it is offered under the rubric of ‘The Meaning of Macron’!

After Trump, Brexit and Angela Merkel’s forthcoming retirement in Germany, that points to an intriguing conclusion for France and the west: Macron, who vowed to destroy the old politics (his 2016 book was called simply Revolution), has a chance to make history as the candidate of democratic continuity.

Macronism — that elusive middle way to modernise and liberalise France without compromising its economic sovereignty or the protective role of the state — is not dead. But it is in abeyance, blocked first by the shock of the gilets jaunes uprising and then by the need for 18 months of crisis management during the continuing pandemic. Both events triggered rare moments of downheartedness in Macron himself, but he soon bounced back. The question now is whether he will have the political skill — and the luck — to do it again and win a second term. 

Of the two explicators of the Macron and Macronism, at the very least, Mr. Mallet comes closest to presenting the Neo-Liberalism of Macron.

Macronism — that elusive middle way to modernise and liberalise France without compromising its economic sovereignty or the protective role of the state — is not dead.

A set of descriptors resembling an approximation of his political reason to be! The utter absence, in the Corporate and Neo-Liberal Press, of anything resembling frankness on Macron’s toxic Neo-Liberalism: in the watershed of the Economic Collapse of 2008, that can only appear as an expression of mendacity.

While my comment is not meant to be in anyway a definitive commentary, on either Hazareesingh’s nor Mallet’s essays, but to demonstrate that in the Corporate and Neo-Liberal Press, a frank discussion about Macrons utterly failed ‘Jupertarian Politics’ , that is Neo-Liberalism in an ersatz Napoleonic finery, is impossible. The reader will need to look to alternative sources of ‘news and commentary’ not controlled by corporations and their employees and academic hirelings!

Committed Observer

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janan.ganesh@ft.com on ‘To curse social media’ and it’s political context. Political Observer comments.

The reach of Mr. Ganesh’s latest essay, from ‘Social Media’ , ‘The Contract With America’, Frank Capra, to the fate of ‘mature democracies’, might cause the reader to wonder how he will construct this rhetorical being?

Mr. Ganesh’s cynicism about ‘Social Media’ is shop-worn, but self-congratulatory. Never a surprise to the regular readers of his political interventions.

Mr. Ganesh’s historical reach is an expression of his ignorance of American History. His search might have begun with the Post-War attacks by the Republican on The New Deal as a ‘Generation of Treason’, with attacks against Social Security, The Tennessee Valley Authority*.

In 1994, the right swept Congress with new cadres who were shrill in both anti-government creed and partisan style. Mark Zuckerberg was 10 years old. When Sarah Palin played the proto-Trump on a presidential ticket in 2008, Twitter was still budding. What the scholar Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” of politics was nearing escape velocity before social media gave it, at most, a last kick.


While 1994 and the un-named Contract With America might have a certain historical attraction: the whole political career of Ronald Reagan, that began in California, was the occasion for him to use his tag line ‘Government is the Problem’. That defined the whole of his toxic political career. His attacks on the Berkley Rebels of 1964’s ‘Free Speech Movement’ led by Mario Savio, was the beginning of his career. Except for his role as GE’s spokes person. Obama called him a transformational president.

On Frank Capra, Mr. Ganesh missed Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success By Joseph McBride of 1993, that exposed Capra as a self-creation, in sum a liar: the perfect Hollywood creation.

On the pressing question of the fate of ‘mature democracies’ Mr. Ganesh links to a Financial Times news story by Victor Mallet and David Keohane,  in Paris November 13, 2019

Headline: Year of ‘gilets jaunes’ leaves angry mark on France

Sub-headline: The marches may have dwindled but Macron was forced to give ground


In 2021 The Rebellion Against The Elites, the active resistance to the Neo-Liberalization of France, continues unabated, even though this newspaper doesn’t report the story. Twitter is the social media platform, to view that continuing expression of resistance. The reader need only consider, that the Jupertarian Politics of énarque Macron, have been discarded as excess baggage, mere pose, as a return to greatness of France, that lost its ability to ensorcell the voters.

On the question of Macron, and his admiration for Napoleon see :

Une part de nous

Emmanuel Macron’s admiration for Napoleon

By Sudhir Hazareesingh

*Elia Kazan made a film, ‘Wild River‘ in 1960 about the TVA: how telling, that Mr. Ganesh, as a cinéaste, should have missed this Kazan film and the biographical expose of Capra.

Political Observer

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Excerpts from the Diary of a Neo-Con Observer: Bret Stephens’ political romance with Eric Adams, in The New York Times.

Like his enthusiasm for Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Stephens has found a new politician, that appeals to alleviating his fears of a Leftward tilt to politics, in America and the World. But note that its all very clubby in its opening paragraphs:

Eric Adams arrives for lunch alone, no entourage or media handler. He shows me his new earring — “the first thing,” he says, that Joe Biden “asked to see” when the two met recently to discuss gun violence. He orders a tomato salad with oil on the side, the abstemious diet of the all-but-crowned king of New York.

For some progressives, the prospect of Adams as mayor (he still has to defeat Republican opponent Curtis Sliwa in November) is a nightmare. He’s been a thorn in the side of every institution he’s ever been part of.

He’s a former cop who crusaded against police brutality, a leading Democrat who was once a registered Republican, a machine politician who casts himself as a foe of city bureaucracy, a self-described progressive who’s friendly to charter schools and real estate developers and, most recently, a champion of law-and-order who refutes the idea that a Black leader must also be on the left.

Mr. Adams regales Brett with his new earring, and Brett, in print, obliging swoons with

For the rest of big-city America, not to mention the Democratic Party that usually runs it, he’s a godsend.

Mr. Stephens then begins his column in earnest, after the preliminaries: the worship of his new hero.

That’s because Democrats are again becoming the party of urban misrule, just as they were in the 1970s. In Portland and Seattle, progressive mayors have ceded the public square to anarchists and rioters. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, to homeless encampments and addicts. In Chicago and Baltimore, to street gangs and gun violence.

And, in New York, the city that in the 1990s and 2000s led the way in the historic and nationwide reductions in crime, 981 people were shot this year as of Sunday. That includes two women and a 4-year-old girl hit by stray bullets in May in Times Square, in broad daylight.

“This stuff can unravel so quickly,” Adams says, referring to social order. His mission is not to let New York go the way of Portland or San Francisco.

But here is something that Mr. Stephens has missed? Perhaps Mr. Stephens was dazzled by the Adams personae?

Headline: NYPD won’t release Adams’ disciplinary records

The NYPD has refused to release disciplinary records for Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams — despite a state law meant to lift the veil of secrecy around such documents.

Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, was an NYPD cop for 22 years, retiring as a captain in 2006. The future mayoral candidate was one of the department’s most vocal internal critics and founded a reform group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. He has spoken publicly about being the target of four Internal Affairs Bureau investigations.

The NYPD has not released any documents related to Adams’ time as an officer, though, denying requests by POLITICO under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

The state Legislature last year voted to make police disciplinary records public, repealing a law known as 50-a that kept them confidential. Law enforcement unions sued to stop the release, specifically objecting to publication of unsubstantiated allegations. They lost in court in February, and the publication of some records began.

But the NYPD is taking the position that it does not have to release records related to any investigation that does not result in a subsequent hearing or disciplinary action, or complaints that are not substantiated.

“To the extent that any ‘disciplinary records’ could be identified, access to those records is denied because disclosure of the records would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” Sergeant Jordan S. Mazur wrote in a letter denying POLITICO’s appeal under the FOIL law.

They also say that because Adams is retired, even substantiated cases would not be released.

“Furthermore, the disclosure of any complaints that were classified as other than unsubstantiated would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy based on the individual’s status as a retired member of service,” Mazur wrote.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, by contrast, released a trove of records for the police veteran-turned-politician, showing he was never the subject of a civilian complaint. Adams was named as a witness in five complaints from 2002 to 2004, when he was a police lieutenant.

Adams was brought up on disciplinary charges and penalized 15 vacation days around the time he retired from the force in 2006 for giving an unauthorized TV interview where he criticized the NYPD’s response to a terror threat, according to his public statements and news coverage at the time.

By then, he had a long track record of speaking out against the department, and he said the charges were an attempt to smear him on his way out the door.

He was also probed twice over an NYPD rule barring associating with felons — once for acting as an escort to Mike Tyson after the boxer’s rape conviction. The other case involved a man with gun convictions whom Adams says he gave a ride to the subway after a rally.

Another probe targeted Adams and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, stemming from complaints by Black officers that they were harassed when they refused to criticize their unit. Adams’ group unsuccessfully sued the department alleging they were illegally wiretapped.

Adams says he did not face discipline in the latter three investigations.

The mayoral nominee declined to take a position on whether his disciplinary files should be released.

“The decision is the police department’s,” said his spokesperson Evan Thies. “There was, however, no reason for these politically motivated investigations decades ago, nor did they find any wrongdoing whatsoever.”

The CCRB has taken a different approach since the repeal of 50-a, releasing both substantiated and unsubstantiated complaints.

In the five complaint reports civilians filed against other officers, Adams was listed as a witness. None of those complaints were substantiated.

In one, a man alleged that he suffered cracked teeth, scraped knees and bleeding from the wrist during a run-in with police officers in Brooklyn. His complaints of excessive force and being denied medical treatment were either deemed unfounded, meaning the officer did not commit the alleged act, or exonerated, meaning the officer’s actions were legal.

Police officers were exonerated in another complaint in which a man said he was stopped and questioned in front of his home while entering his gate, and officers banged his face against the gate, scraping it and knocking him unconscious.

In a 2004 incident, a man complained that a police officer kicked him in the leg while arresting him for not having insurance on his car. The complainant subsequently would not cooperate with investigators, according to CCRB. Another complaint over a dispute around cab fare was also closed because of an uncooperative complainant.

A final complaint in which Adams was listed in a witness came in 2004, when a woman said several police officers entered her apartment during her daughter’s birthday party and arrested five people. Complaints including physical force, use of a nightstick as a club and use of pepper spray and a taser were either unfounded, exonerated, or unsubstantiated, meaning investigators did not have enough evidence to determine whether misconduct took place.

John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, said keeping the NYPD’s records confidential doesn’t square with lawmakers’ intent when they repealed the secrecy law amid police reform protests last year.

“The entire point is to release disciplinary records,” he said. “The courts have already ruled on this and the Legislature has clearly spoken to it.”

The state Committee on Open Government has taken the position that law enforcement agencies may, but do not have to, withhold unfounded complaints if they deem them an invasion of privacy. But they say an officer’s retirement status should have no bearing on the release of records.

The NYPD also said that it could not find some of Adams’ records.

“‘Disciplinary records’ from the time in which Mr. Adams was employed by this agency are not maintained electronically, nor are they compiled in one case folder specific to that individual,” Mazur wrote. “A diligent search was conducted for responsive records; however, many of those records could not be located.”


The reader just might find the NYPD’s response, of their inability to find Mr. Adams’ disciplinary records, suspicious?

The reader should note that there is no comments section open for Mr. Stephens’ column!

Neo-Con Observer

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gideon.rachman@ft.com shifts from the standard hysterical tropes about China? Political Observer comments

The Rachman’s strategy, here, is to shift from the standard hysterical tropes about China, to jejune speculation and conjecture as in:

Does China want to be a superpower?

Mr. Rachman invites the reduction to anthropomorphism, that renders ‘China’ into a being with a free will, the power to think and act, as that single being. To engage in kind to Mr. Rachman’s rhetoric.

To think as Xi Jinping and his fellows, might think seems to be the pressing question? Not what Rush Doshi, Gideon Rachman, Rudyard Kipling, Evan Medeiros, or any of the actors that Mr. Rachman presents, as the definers of what a Super Power must be, might be. Mr. Rachman tells the reader just that:

Becoming a superpower is a complicated business. It poses a series of connected questions about capabilities, intentions and will.

The history of China, in the preceding centuries, ought to offer vivid object lessons, to an expert like Mr. Rachman! if he weren’t so anxious to, like his fellow experts mentioned above, to parade that commodity to his readership?

Superpower status is a source of national pride and brings significant economic and political benefits. But it also involves costs, risks and burdens.  

Yet Xi Jinping and his fellows will go their own way. The Western colonial experience of the Chinese, in all its iterations gets no mention, in Mr. Rachman’s essay. Too inconvenient an impediment to Western Expertise about China: not a consideration that Mr. Rachman might even entertain, nor the technocrats he refers to in his essay. Read this as the arrogance of the Western World View, although, at times, Mr. Rachman appears to be in the vicinity of an approach, or to something akin to it? This may be magical thinking on my part?

If China is unwilling or unable to achieve a global military presence that rivals that of the US, it may have to find a new way of being a superpower — or give up on the ambition.


The reader need only look to the recent essay by Niall Ferguson in the TLS of July 2, 2021, not for a ‘review’ of books about China, but a Neo-Con’s view of more Western Chinese Technocrat’s speculations, prognostications: Lippman’s misplaced faith in experts realized!

Headline: Most threatening when weak?

Sub-headline: The risks China poses to global security

Political Observer

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janan.ganesh@ft.com exhumation of Straussian Allen Bloom, as intellectual bauble, to his Political Metaphysics . Philosophical Apprentice comments.

This jejune observation by Mr. Ganesh: opens his latest essay:

Nowhere in Europe are universities as central to national life as in the US. Time-hogging is part of it: four rather than largely three year degrees, two as opposed to one for graduates. Then there is the enmeshment with professional sport. The campus is a portal to the big leagues in a way unknown to European football, where careers are made at a younger age. Throw in the vast cost, and it is natural that Americans stamp their alma mater on car rears and hoodies.

This is succeeded by rhetorical exhumation of the notorious Straussian Allen Bloom, as a some how player in Ganesh’s pop sociology, for want of a better descriptor.

It is also natural that they would curse academia’s politicisation. When Allan Bloom wrote about the left’s capture of education in The Closing of the American Mind, his thesis was novel. Thirty-four years on, even liberal faculty, hounded by students for whom liberalism is not enough, ask if he went far enough. The first stirrings of a fightback are in the air. It is hard to know whether to cheer it on or fear the perverse consequences.

Since ‘Closing’ was on my bookshelf, a $4.50 remainder copy, I read first Saul Bellow’s introduction, that was more about him: his narcissism not so toxic as Norman Mailer’s metaphysically framed pugilism, but ‘Closing’ gets lost within Bellow’s self-regarding chatter.

This followed by Bloom’s preface that begins:

This essay- a meditation on the state of our souls, particularly those of the young, and their education-written from the perspective of a teacher. A thought, was George F. Will’s 1988 book ‘Sate Craft as Soul Craft’ inspired by Bloom’s polemic?

Mr. Bloom begins Part One. Students, with these sub-headings:

The Clean Slate




  • Self-Centeredness
  • Equality
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Separateness
  • Divorce
  • Love
  • Eros

The implication of these topics, implies an intimate knowledge of the inner lives of students, and of their day to day conduct. Was he a confident to his ‘students’, or just an outside observer, of public conduct and classroom demeanor ? I find it hard to believe, from observing Bloom’s television personae, that any student would find him in any way sympatico!

Here is a PDF of Mr. Bloom’s polemic, for the reader who might like to explore Straussian Mendacity, in situ!

Click to access 14434540-The-Closing-of-the-American-Mind.pdf

Regrettably I can’t find a PDF of ‘Essays on The Closing of The American Mind’ edited by Robert L. Stone. A valuable resource, for the reader to explore what Mr. Bloom’s Straussianism was, and the evolution of Bloom’s cultural politicking.

Richard Rorty’s ‘Straussianism, Democracy, And Allen Bloom I: That Old Time Philosophy’ reflects on the destructive Straussian agenda of ‘Intellectuals’ vs ‘Philosophers’ .

David Rieff’s ‘The Colonel and the Professor’ compares the public careers of Bloom and Iran-Contra co-conspirator Oliver North.

Betty Friedan of ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and ‘Second Wave’ on Bloom’s Anti-Feminism titled ‘Fatal Abstraction’ .

Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Undemoctatic Vistas’, from November 5, 1987 issue of The New York Review Of Books

Allan Bloom, like Musonius, has written a book that defends the central role of philosophy in higher education, and defends it as essential for the health of human souls and human society. Like Musonius again, he initially presents the philosophical activity he praises as a search, through active critical argument, for the best human life; he praises as the founder of his ideal university Socrates, the paradigm of tireless rational searching to whom Stoics also appeal. But in Bloom’s book the Socratic conception is in conflict with another very different idea of philosophy: the idea of a study that is open only to a chosen few specially suited by nature (and to some extent also by wealth and social position) for its pursuit; the idea of a philosophy that is concerned more with revealing fixed eternal truths than with active critical argument; of a philosophy that not only does not aim at justice and practical wisdom, individual and/or communal, but actually despises the search for social justice and beckons chosen souls away from social pursuits to a contemplative theoretical life.

To understand these contradictions, and their relation to Bloom’s practical proposals for a reform of the university curriculum, we must begin with his diagnosis of contemporary American culture, for whose diseases philosophy is supposed to provide the cure. As Bloom sees it, the central problem in higher education today, and in American society more generally, is widespread relativism. Both teachers and students have been taught that all conceptions of the good human life are equally valid, and that it is not possible to find an objective view-point from which to make rational criticisms of any tradition or any study, however apparently trivial or even base. The most any such criticism can be, according to this prevalent view, as Bloom reports it, is an expression of unenlightened prejudice.

Undemocratic Vistas

Bloom’s ascension is about , in part, the Reagan Free Market sloganeering of ‘government is the problem’ : the Straussians came along for the ride, like the followers of Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan her most fervid acolyte. The Straussian nihilism in answer to a Liberalism, and the remnants of The New Deal, that had lost its political luster, in the glare of ‘Morning In America’. And its Neo-Confederate/Originalism as the new dispensation, proclaimed by Reagan as ‘I believe in States Rights’. The Victory of Reagan was the triumph of the ‘Outliers’ : the Neo-Liberal Trinity of Mises/Hayek/Friedman, and its enthusiasts, The Neo-Confederate/Originalists, greedy Capitalists and the redoubtable jingo Jeane Kirkpatrick.

After the exhumation of Bloom, Mr. Ganesh continues his essay: a reimaging of the conflictual melodrama between the New Democrats and Republican, in all the attempts of both parties to establish political primacy. That Ganesh names ‘a strange kind of equilibrium’: the very definition of the political, as practiced?

America has arrived at a strange kind of equilibrium. The left enjoys an entrenched supremacy in culture that spans universities, publishing, Hollywood, corporate PR and, deplatformed Republicans would say, social media. There is no print equivalent of Britain’s tabloids to offset the hegemony. Whether or not the left ever planned this march through the institutions, the resulting monoculture has discontents beyond the registered Republicans who turn to Fox News. The huge podcast audience of Joe Rogan, who traffics in something closer to libertarianism, is proof of that.

A mere 528 words later, the reader arrives here:

In a sense, America benefits from a separation of powers that is deeper than the one codified by its founders. It is that between politics and culture; between formal and informal clout. One side has advantages in politics “proper”. The other gets to set the atmosphere in which it takes place. That this is an ill-gotten kind of peace does not mean there are better ones available.


The lesson, that Mr. Ganesh’s essay teaches the reader, is that no matter the rhetorical garnish, even of an antique Straussian, Political Metaphysics simply replicates itself.

Philosophical Apprentice

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