Tony Judt's Postwar Europe, with another side trip to Brazill
Here's a favorite bit from that third section, Judt summing up Margaret Thatcher and her successor:
"Riding on Thatcher's coat-tails, Tony Blair shared many of her prejudices, albeit in a less abrasive key. Like her, he intensely disliked the old political vocabulary. In his case this meant avoiding all talk of `class,' an antiquated social category displaces in New Labour's rhetorical boilerplate by `race' or `gender.' Like Mrs. Thatcher, Blair showed very little tolerance for decentralized decision-making or internal dissent. Like her, she preferred to surround himself with private-sector businessmen. And although New Labour remained vaguely committed to `society,' its Blairite leadership group was a viscerally suspicious of `the state' as the most doctrinaire of Thatcherites."His jabs at "rhetorical boilerplate" ought to give pause to anyone tempted to write Judt off as a leftist) (though I think even conservatives have been cowed into using gender as if it were anything other than a grammatical category). Elsewhere, Judt's respect for Thatcher's accomplishment shines through, whatever horror he may feel at its effect (A publisher's blurb sums up another of his books, Ill Fares the Land, this way: "As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America--the guarantee of security, stability, and fairness--is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it's no longer part of the common discourse.")
Judt wrote with a zest that lets his sympathies shine through, but without ever letting the historian in him degenerate into partisan polemics. But my favorite passage so far is his Gibbonlike footnote to the above observation about Blair's and Thatcher's shared propensity for surrounding themselves with business people:
"With perhaps this difference: whereas Margaret Thatcher believed in privatizaion as something akin to a moral good, Tony Blair just likes rich people."Who says history can't be fun? (Read all my Postwar posts at http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/search?q=judt)
"‘You see, they call them issues these days,’ said Bilko, as he fiddled with an unlit cigarette. ‘Not like issues of comics like The Beano or Shoot or Whizzer and Chips or Razzle, though. Naw, these are things like anger management issues, relationship issues, substance abuse issues. What that means is that these issues are stuff that’s wrong with you. Stuff that fucks you up. And fucked-up people are called people with issues. See?’"Finally, a thumbs-up to Brazill for knowing that that long chair on which you might relax in sunny weather is a chaise longue.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014