Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 2017
Genre Essays
Origin UK
Publisher Yale
My Copy Library hardback
First Read February 20, 2021

True Stories

I'm a Spufford mega fan here. This is a collection of essays and short writings written about and around his major books. You know when you read a great book and wish there was like, a little bit more? Here are a handful of essays around each of his books. It's just a little bit more! Of everything.

Noted on February 20, 2021

Somehow we'd believed that achieving plenty would mean getting wants and needs disentangled. The whole idea of having enough depends on being able to tell the difference. Those in the past who took a utopian look forward to plenty tended to imagine, just like Keynes, that there was a common-sense contrast of feeling involved in the difference between wanting and needing; and so moving from one to the other, from the era of needing a bowl of soup to the era of wanting a Rolex, would be signalled by a change of mood, a kind of because relaxation of urgency, or, to put it at its most positive, by the birth of a new kind of human freedom. Marx, for instance, who was as besotted by the runaway productivity of industrial technology as any enthusiast for the New Economy during the Internet bubble, thought that, when the engines of plenty were running for everybody's benefit, we'd be free to start discovering what human beings were actually like, what our nature might be with the leg irons of need no longer hobbling us. No longer needing to scrabble for our daily bread, we'd gaze at the world of things with a playful, impartial curiosity; we'd gaze at other people and know for the first time with absolute clarity that they weren't things, since we didn't have to treat them as things any more to assure our own survival.

Quoted on June 24, 2021

The default form of our culture is a hedonistic individualism that takes the test of harm to others as the boundary for acceptable behaviour. Individual moral autonomy is taken as self-evidently right, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. (Increasingly, as the effective centre of gravity of British politics moves to the right, this is thought to entail a corollary: not hurting anyone else means you also have a moral obligation not to socialise the costs of your choices. Your drug habit, your housing needs, the welfare of the children in your serial families, are all your problem, not anyone else's.) To criticise the way people exercise their private choices (so long as they pay their bills) comes precious close in our estimation now to criticising their selfhood, their actual free possession of an integral life to call their own, and it aligns you suspiciously with the set of restrictions from which British society is conscious of having only just freed itself, thanks to the social liberalisations of the last four decades.

Quoted on June 24, 2021

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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