Weekend reading

Readers in Australia may have an extra day of leisure this weekend, so it’s a good opportunity to catch up on your reading. Here are some interesting things I’ve come across on the internet over the last three weeks.


First and most topically, David Pennay and Frank Bongiorno in the Conversation analyse some recent research on public attitudes to Australia Day. It suggests that controversy abut the date is unlikely to end any time soon, although they may underestimate the extent to which those attitudes are shaped by partisan politics.

Paul Mason in the New Statesman has another thoughtful piece on the whole Brexit mess. He starts from a very different philosophical place to mine, but ends up with some very sensible conclusions about how Labour should proceed.

And also on Brexit (you can never have too much Brexit commentary), a long read from Ivan Rogers reviewing how the negotiations got to this point, eviscerating the hard Brexiters but taking swipes at most other participants as well.

Still on Europe, Julian Göpffarth at Open Democracy has a very interesting story on the trend towards nationalism and nativism among the continent’s far-left parties, and suggests that rather than opening up new avenues of support for them it may simply normalise the positions held by the far right.

Dalibor Rohac in the American Interest performs a similar service for the right, arguing against undue reverence for the nation-state and urging conservatives to accept the realities of globalisation.

Hélène Richard in Le Monde Diplomatique marks the centenary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder with a review of how the Bolsheviks ignored her warnings and embraced dictatorship. I’m not convinced that Lenin was as reluctant as she thinks, but it’s a good read.

Warren Breckman in the New Republic reviews a new book about liberalism: the overall message is deeply muddled, but there are many nuggets of interesting information, and perhaps the ideological confusion is just intrinsic to what liberalism means in the US.

Also, David Bell in the New York Review of Books has a long essay drawing on the same book and two others to construct a more nuanced account of the history of liberalism and human rights.

Hannes Grassegger at Buzzfeed relates the appalling story of how two right-wing political consultants created the campaign to demonise George Soros, with all of its antisemitic overtones – even though they were both Jewish.

And in other depressing news, Katie Herzog at the Stranger has more on the awful censorship legislation in the US that threatens the lives and livelihoods of sex workers around the world.

So to end on a lighter note, my friend Stephen Luntz at IFL Science introduces you to the science of facial recognition among sheep, which is surprisingly good – that’s sheep recognising human faces, not other sheep, which may well be even better.


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