Winch on conversation 

Last week I mostly sat at home, watched books by Donald Winch that I'd ordered online pop through the letterbox, and then started to read them. And today I've discovered that his 1995 Carlyle Lectures, ‘Secret Concatenations: Mandeville to Malthus’, are available on the web, thanks to the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History. So that’s my Sunday afternoon sorted out. This is from the opening discussion of the first lecture [pdf] as, following John Burrow, he presents a view of intellectual history as ‘eavesdropping on the conversations of the past’.
An attractive feature of conversations is that we can continue them at the point where our predecessors left them. The only restriction I would place on such freedom, speaking as an intellectual historian, is that the conversations should be between interlocutors who were genuinely aware of each other’s existence and arguments. This rules out those encounters in which the historian acts as ominiscient host at a kind of celestial cocktail party at which those invited only speak to one another through the intermediation of the host -- indeed, can only speak through the host because they had no common language in life. I shall appear to break this rule in one respect only, namely by posing some counter-factual questions of my cast in some crucial instances. In other words, having established that a genuine conversation was taking place, I shall sometimes seek to reconstruct what their responses might have been when more direct evidence is unavailable. Interesting conversations are usually free from the coercive dualisms that tend to be an occupational hazard of much intellectual history devoted to political thinking. Whigs and Tories have long since been replaced by debating teams bearing more sophisticated labels such as contractarians and anti-contractarians, liberals versus classical republicans, civic humanists versus natural jurisprudentialists, and so on -- to mention only those dualisms that are current among students of the period and authors I shall be considering. Narratives that purport to be dealing with past social scientific conversations often attempt to enforce another powerful dichotomy -- between positive and normative propositions, between statements of fact and statements of value or rights. As already hinted, one of the negative conclusions I would like to emerge from these lectures is that none of my cast was foolish enough to allow their conversations to be constricted by these dualisms. That is something we have done to them in retrospect and for our own purposes, taxonomic or ideological.
Filed under: academics, c18, c19, oxford on Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 by chrisbrooke | 1 Comment

Marx contra Parsons (Protestant, not Talcott) 

This week I've been reading a bit of Malthus (hence the earlier post about ostriches), and some of the nineteenth-century replies to Malthus, and this footnote from Capital is quite something. It's long, so I've stuck it over the fold.

If the reader reminds me of Malthus, whose “Essay on Population” appeared in 1798, I remind him that this work in its first form is nothing more than a schoolboyish, superficial plagiary of De Poe, Sir James Steuart, Townsend, Franklin, Wallace, &c., and does not contain a single sentence thought out by himself. The great sensation this pamphlet caused, was due solely to party interest. The French Revolution had found passionate defenders in the United Kingdom; the “principle of population,” slowly worked out in the eighteenth century, and then, in the midst of a great social crisis, proclaimed with drums and trumpets as the infallible antidote to the teachings of Condorcet, &c., was greeted with jubilance by the English oligarchy as the great destroyer of all hankerings after human development. Malthus, hugely astonished at his success, gave himself to stuffing into his book materials superficially compiled, and adding to it new matter, not discovered but annexed by him. Note further: Although Malthus was a parson of the English State Church, he had taken the monastic vow of celibacy — one of the conditions of holding a Fellowship in Protestant Cambridge University: “Socios collegiorum maritos esse non permittimus, sed statim postquam quis uxorem duxerit socius collegii desinat esse.” (“Reports of Cambridge University Commission,” p. 172.) This circumstance favourably distinguishes Malthus from the other Protestant parsons, who have shuffled off the command enjoining celibacy of the priesthood and have taken, “Be fruitful and multiply,” as their special Biblical mission in such a degree that they generally contribute to the increase of population to a really unbecoming extent, whilst they preach at the same time to the labourers the “principle of population.” It is characteristic that the economic fall of man, the Adam’s apple, the urgent appetite, “the checks which tend to blunt the shafts of Cupid,” as Parson Townsend waggishly puts it, that this delicate question was and is monopolised by the Reverends of Protestant Theology, or rather of the Protestant Church. With the exception of the Venetian monk, Ortes, an original and clever writer, most of the population theory teachers are Protestant parsons. For instance, Bruckner, “Théorie du Système animal,” Leyde, 1767, in which the whole subject of the modern population theory is exhausted, and to which the passing quarrel between Quesnay and his pupil, the elder Mirabeau, furnished ideas on the same topic; then Parson Wallace, Parson Townsend, Parson Malthus and his pupil, the arch-Parson Thomas Chalmers, to say nothing of lesser reverend scribblers in this line. Originally, Political Economy was studied by philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, Hume; by businessmen and statesmen, like Thomas More, Temple, Sully, De Witt, North, Law, Vanderlint, Cantillon, Franklin; and especially, and with the greatest success, by medical men like Petty, Barbon, Mandeville, Quesnay. Even in the middle of the eighteenth century, the Rev. Mr. Tucker, a notable economist of his time, excused himself for meddling with the things of Mammon. Later on, and in truth with this very “Principle of population,” struck the hour of the Protestant parsons. Petty, who regarded the population as the basis of wealth, and was, like Adam Smith, an outspoken foe to parsons, says, as if he had a presentiment of their bungling interference, “that Religion best flourishes when the Priests are most mortified, as was before said of the Law, which best flourisheth when lawyers have least to do.” He advises the Protestant priests, therefore, if they, once for all, will not follow the Apostle Paul and “mortify” themselves by celibacy, “not to breed more Churchmen than the Benefices, as they now stand shared out, will receive, that is to say, if there be places for about twelve thousand in England and Wales, it will not be safe to breed up 24,000 ministers, for then the twelve thousand which are unprovided for, will seek ways how to get themselves a livelihood, which they cannot do more easily than by persuading the people that the twelve thousand incumbents do poison or starve their souls, and misguide them in their way to Heaven.” (Petty: “A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions,” London, 1667, p. 57.) Adam Smith’s position with the Protestant priesthood of his time is shown by the following. In “A Letter to A. Smith, L.L.D. On the Life, Death, and Philosophy of his Friend, David Hume. By one of the People called Christians,” 4th Edition, Oxford, 1784, Dr. Horne, Bishop of Norwich, reproves Adam Smith, because in a published letter to Mr. Strahan, he “embalmed his friend David” (sc. Hume); because he told the world how “Hume amused himself on his deathbed with Lucian and Whist,” and because he even had the impudence to write of Hume: “I have always considered him, both in his life-time and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as, perhaps, the nature of human frailty will permit.” The bishop cries out, in a passion: “Is it right in you, Sir, to hold up to our view as ‘perfectly wise and virtuous,’ the character and conduct of one, who seems to have been possessed with an incurable antipathy to all that is called Religion; and who strained every nerve to explode, suppress and extirpate the spirit of it among men, that its very name, if he could effect it, might no more be had in remembrance?” (l. c., p. 8.) “But let not the lovers of truth be discouraged. Atheism cannot be of long continuance.” (P. 17.) Adam Smith, “had the atrocious wickedness to propagate atheism through the land (viz., by his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”). Upon the whole, Doctor, your meaning is good; but I think you will not succeed this time. You would persuade us, by the example of David Hume, Esq., that atheism is the only cordial for low spirits, and the proper antidote against the fear of death.... You may smile over Babylon in ruins and congratulate the hardened Pharaoh on his overthrow in the Red Sea.” (l. c., pp. 21, 22.) One orthodox individual, amongst Adam Smith’s college friends, writes after his death: “Smith’s well-placed affection for Hume ... hindered him from being a Christian.... When he met with honest men whom he liked ... he would believe almost anything they said. Had he been a friend of the worthy ingenious Horrox he would have believed that the moon some times disappeared in a clear sky without the interposition of a cloud.... He approached to republicanism in his political principles.” (“The Bee.” By James Anderson, 18 Vols., Vol. 3, pp. 166, 165, Edinburgh, 1791-93.) Parson Thomas Chalmers has his suspicions as to Adam Smith having invented the category of “unproductive labourers,” solely for the Protestant parsons, in spite of their blessed work in the vineyard of the Lord.

[Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, part vii, ch. 25, fn. 3]

Filed under: books, c19, leftwingery, religion on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

The Guns of August 

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. On 31 July 1914, as discussed yesterday, Jean Jaurès was assassinated in Paris by a French nationalist. Exactly one hundred years ago, the great powers of Europe were beginning their mobilisation for war. Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July, Russia and Germany declared war on each other on 1 August, Germany and France, ditto, on 3 August, and Britain entered the war the following day. dbImage Attention is rightly focused right now on the start of the war, but my post here concerns its end. The photograph, taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, is of my great-uncle Lt. Leonard Stopford Brooke's grave in Bad Bergzabern cemetery. He served in the RAF, and was reported missing on 25 September 1918, a few weeks before the Armistice in November. He was 23 when he died. I think he is one of only a very small number of British casualties from the war to be buried in German soil. Brooke's grave is the one on the left; next to him is 2nd Lt. Alexander Provan, from Glasgow, who was also in the RAF, and who was 19 when he was killed. Filed under: friends and family on Friday, August 1st, 2014 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

Dead Socialist Watch: Special Centenary Edition 

It's a long time since I kept the Dead Socialist Watch up to date. But today marks a special, and a sombre, anniversary, being the centenary of the murder of Jean Jaurès in Paris. Here's a piece in today's NY Times; here's a cracking 1913 photo from today's tehgraun; here's a link to some of his political writings, in English translation; Le Huffington Post (!) has some pics of the café where he was killed; and there's some bloggage (and more links) from Andrew Coates here. In other socialists-and-the-First-World-War-related news, this should link to a new article--forthcoming in The Historical Journal--by one of the oldest friends of this blog, Marc Mulholland, on the split in the Second International, and jolly good it is, too. Filed under: dsw, france on Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

Malthus on the Possibility that Men might become Ostriches 

A writer may tell me that he thinks man will ultimately become an ostrich. I cannot properly contradict him. But before he can expect to bring any reasonable person over to his opinion, he ought to shew, that the necks of mankind have been gradually elongating; that the lips have grown harder and more prominent; that the legs and feet are daily altering their shape; and that the hair is beginning to change into stubs of feathers. And till the probability of so wonderful a conversion can be shewn, it is surely lost time and lost eloquence to expatiate on the happiness of man in such a state; to describe his powers, both of running and flying; to paint him in a condition where all narrow luxuries would be contemned; where he would be employed only in collecting the necessaries of life; and where, consequently, each man's share of labour would be light, and his portion of leisure ample.

(T. R. "Bob" Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1st ed. [1798], pp. 11-12)

Filed under: animals, books, c18 on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today Filed under: friends and family, oxford on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by chrisbrooke | 2 Comments

Dinner for One—in Lego Filed under: lego on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

A Cat at Christmas 

IMG_0543 Filed under: tkb / tcb on Monday, December 23rd, 2013 by chrisbrooke | 3 Comments

“So-Called Refugees” 

The most celebrated article in the history of the Daily Mail is probably 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts', which appeared on 15 January 1934. But another that lives in the memory is 'So-Called Refugees: Disgraceful Scenes on the Cheshire', from 3 February 1900. It's best known for one quote--'they hid their gold and fawned and whined'--but people rarely get to read the whole thing. So I've liberated it from the archive, and here it is. DMHA-1900-0203-0003-F Filed under: newspapers, tories on Monday, December 16th, 2013 by chrisbrooke | 1 Comment

Crop Receipts 

Josephine has a new blog, and here she is writing about what it's like to be an overseas academic visiting the UK:
The suggested dossier includes: full bank statements for the last six months with explanations of any unusual deposits; a letter from their bank confirming the balance and the date the account was opened; documentation of the origin of any money paid into the account; payslips for the last six months; recent tax returns; and evidence of income from any property or land, including property deeds, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, land registration documents and crop receipts...
Filed under: academics, tories on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by chrisbrooke | No Comments

One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade 

Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) -- Marxism -- The war in Iraq -- The case the British government made for the war in Iraq -- Media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) -- Favourite novels -- University admissions -- Boycotts of Israelis -- Blog technology issues -- The paradox of democracy -- Paul “The Thinker” Richards -- Defamation law -- French headscarves laws -- International rugby partisanship -- New Zealand and whether it is a dull country -- Amnesty International -- Italian anti-war demonstrations -- Christopher Hitchens -- The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL -- My Normblog Profile -- The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles -- Where the Wild Things Are -- Bob Dylan -- Favourite films -- A Mighty Wind -- Nashville -- Joan Baez -- George W. Bush -- The Hutton Inquiry -- Lucio Colletti -- Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible -- The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- Mobile telephones -- Cricket -- The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” -- Rock stars -- Exam marking -- Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales -- The Butler report -- The Campo de' Fiori in Rome -- Shakespeare plays -- Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) -- American airport security checks -- Terrorist threats -- Socialist Register -- The 2004 US Presidential election -- Baseball -- Visiting Oxford -- Thomas Hobbes -- Roman libraries -- Classical composers (especially Schubert) -- Jokes about rational choice theorists -- The Tour de France -- Etienne Balibar -- Favourite actors -- The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) -- American street names -- Wendy Cope -- Footnotes in Capital -- Umpiring -- Passport applications -- Margaret Thatcher’s resignation -- Margaret Thatcher's poetry --  Jews for Justice for Palestinians -- Chavez and anti-Semitism -- Academic plagiarism -- David Aaronovitch as marathon runner -- x-RCP front organisations -- Robert Wokler -- Academic jobs -- Musicals -- Australia -- The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford -- Tony Judt -- Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” -- American practices of memorialization on campus -- Flooding in Oxford -- The Beatles -- Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture -- The New Left Review -- Loyalty oaths -- A Dance to the Music of Time -- Merton College, Oxford -- Visiting Manchester -- Critical opinions about America -- Puzzles involving marbles -- Traffic robots -- The Beach Boys -- Tony Blair’s relationship with God -- Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs -- Authorisations to use military force -- John Stuart Mill on international intervention -- The Eurovision Song Contest  -- Adam Smith -- Nick Cohen's views about torture -- Alfred Hitchcock films -- The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs -- The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge. Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, "Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?", and I never took him up on the suggestion. His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: "My own care from the NHS has been exemplary." Filed under: academics, americana, animals, baseball, blog silliness, books, british politics, cambridge, cricket, culture, cycling, dsw, films, friends and family, leftwingery, life in britain, media, middle east, music, newspapers, oxford, rugby, sport, television, tkb / tcb, war on terror, world of blogs on Friday, October 18th, 2013 by chrisbrooke | 4 Comments

“Parle-moi de ma mère!” 

So this term I'm teaching a somewhat unusual class this term called "Political Thought in the Age of Les Misérables", for which I was flipping through Edward Copping's 1858 guidebook, Aspects of Paris. It's not a great book, but I liked this bit, on pp. 184-7, where he addresses the issues that matter. 'There is another blemish in modern French drama', Copping writes, 'not so serious as those already alluded to, but claiming nevertheless a word of remark'. Almost every sentimental hero of the Paris stage, has a habit of talking in super-filial tones of his Mother. No matter how much misery he may have caused her; no matter how long he may have neglected her; no matter how undutifully he may have acted towards her; ma mère is for ever on his lips, accompanied by the blubberings of hysterical pathos. Though during four acts he may have abandoned her to wretchedness and sorrow: in the fifth, when it is too late to repair the ill he has done, he is sure to begin to whimper for her, like a schoolboy who has lost an apple. Far be it from me to cast any ridicule upon the holiest affection our hearts are capable of conceiving. The name of Mother is hallowed in the history of our nature. It should be uttered reverentially by every tongue. A man may acquit many debts as he passes through life, but he will never acquit that which he owes to the being who has given him birth. I do not quarrel therefore with French dramatists for imbuing their heroes with elevated sentiments of filial devotion. I quarrel with them for stripping those sentiments of all naturalness, of all simplicity, and arraying them in showy flaunting robes which hide the native beauty they possess. It is not a new idea that nature needs no adornment. We cannot "paint the lily or gild refined gold." In like manner we cannot make natural sentiments more beautiful than nature has made them. Yet this is what the French dramatists continually strive to accomplish. The love inspired in us by a mother, is with them a bedizened city dame rather than a simple and homely village maiden. It is an alabaster statue which the sculptor has left pure and white, but which clumsy hands have daubed with gaudy colouring. There is a tendency among French dramatic authors to exaggerate most passions, but none do they exaggerate more than this. Their stage hero talks of his mother in language which, when contrasted with his conduct towards her, becomes thoroughly ludicrous. He would lead you to believe that she has unlimited influence over him, but on the very first occasion when that influence ought to operate, it becomes without power. He forgets the tender being who has so much affection for him, and runs away after some wicked hussey who has no more heart than a millstone. When sentiments such as I am speaking of are presented to us, let us have those which stimulate to actions rather than to words. Let us see them cheering the waning days of old age; encouraging youth in the hour of trial; strengthening it in the hour of adversity. We shall be sure then that they are real and not imaginary; that they spring from a healthy heart instead of a diseased mind. I must confess, I have a profound contempt for these heroes of the French stage, who snivel like so many Job Trotters about sentiments they do not act up to, and talk of feelings as penetrating to the bone which it is pretty obvious are only skin deep. Paris audiences do not, however, share my views. With them these gentlemen are special favourites. If just before dying they do but allow ma mère to escape their lips, tears of condolence and sympathy are at once accorded to them, no matter what amount of rascality they may have previously committed. And here, I think, is the harm. Filed under: c19, culture, france on Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 by chrisbrooke | No Comments