Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tony Judt

Tony Judt died today after a horrific 2 year decline from Gehrig's disease.  Judt's last book, Ill Fares the Land, was mentioned here earlier this year as one of several indications that perhaps the excellent notion that the "state can play a significant role in its citizens’ lives without imperiling their liberties" might not be dead after all.  Since then I've had a chance to read most of Ill Fares the Land, a rousing tribute to the noble ideals of social democracies. To a Norwegian social democrat the ideas in Ill Fares the Land are not radical, but they are unconventional fare - and carry extra weight - coming from a historian and professor who spent most of his life teaching in the U.S. The book made me want to go and join a march some place, which is unusual. It was based on a lecture he gave at NYU a year ago, which was also his last public appearance.  Here are his parting words...([he is quoting a passage from Orwell's Homage to Catalonia] There was much in it [the Spanish revolution in 1937] that I didn’t understand , in some ways I did not even like it. I was not sure that it could work. I was not sure that it did work, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for. That I believe is true. Whatever we can retrieve of the 20th century memory of social democracy. And I leave you with that thought. Thank you.)

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