what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Some Landmarks for the blog

Blog traffic has been increasing here – hitting 10,000 last month for the first time (a 3-fold increase since last year) and now totaling 200,000 for the entire period since 2010. 
Native English speakers account for only one third of that (almost 30% comes from the US alone) – with Russian and Ukraine readers coming in (in the past year) at a strong 15% share. 
It’s not idle speculation to feel that part of this latter interest may be a reflection of official Russian oversights of western blogs and accounts – although I don’t get any comments on posts from that source - perhaps because it’s not been my policy to comment on Russian politics and Putin’s intentions?
But why the strong interest from Ukrainian readers? After all, recent posts have, if anything been even more “reflective” than usual, trying to put recent events in a fifty-year timescale…..  And it's not easy for those used to cyrillic to cope with the roman alphabet....

Readers in France, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania account for some 20% of the traffic – the latter two for obvious reasons. I’ve blogged quite a bit on Germany (indeed put a little E-book up on the list at the top-right corner of the blog) and am pleased to find readers from that source.
I often moan about the insularity of the Brits and was therefore delighted recently to get this rare perspective from someone testifying to a German parliamentary committee. And, amongst the current coverage of British local and General elections, at least The Guardian was prepared to give some space to the debate about German values (or Leitkultur) which has broken out there (for more see this piece from Deutsche Welle).

Which leaves the two questions of what has happened to the British Labour Party – and the French Left? As it is news from Paris which will dominate the next news cycle, I should refer you all to my favourite French blog - French Politics – an American observer who recently put me on to another excellent blog on France. They will certainly give you insights I can’t. 
And Tom Gallagher has a good post here....

It’s a dreadful reflection on how British insularity has grown that the last English-language book which gave a really detailed insight into French society (in all its regional variety) was John Ardagh’s France in the New Century (1999). Theodor Zeldin’s History of French Passions and “The French” (published in the early 90s) gave an additional quasi-philosophical dimension. But these books first came out some 20 years ago.
Yes I know about cyclist Graham Robb’s “Discovery of France” (2007) – and, of course, some journalists and historians have produced great books eg journalist Jonathan Fenby’s France on the Brink (first edition 2000); La Vie en Bleu – France and the French since 1900 by academic Rod Kedward (2006); and the more recent How the French Think – an affectionate portrait of an intellectual people by Sudhir Hazareesingh (2015) - but only Ardagh and Zeldin tried to cover all the key aspects….

The French, of course, are the ideologues par excellence not least the French left – with Jean Jaures perhaps being its most inspirational figure. But I remember being trapped in a church in Lille when Francois Mitterand came visiting in the 1980s - and being decidedly unimpressed with the atmosphere of obsequity! Despite the decentralization policy of that period, the country has remained centralized – and its periphery ignored….until now..

The Brits are the pragmatic shopkeepers – and its left had, post-war, real moral strength from the likes of RH Tawney, Keir Hardie and Aneurin Bevan; the Cooperative and union movements; its various (liberal and New Left) intellectual dissenters. But they could never get their act together – and then the Bliar spin doctors took over and blew everything up….

Macron has “reengineered” French politics. Jeremy Corbyn has tried to take Labour back to the 1980s. 
I hate reengineering and everything it stands for (remember Skvorecky’s Engineer of Human Souls?) but it seems that a substantial bit of reengineering may now be needed for the UK left!!

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