All of our efforts to be more productive backfire – and only make us feel even busier and more stressed. [SLGuardian]
100 years ago the battle of Verdun came to an end. On December 18/19, 1916, the German assault on Verdun is completely defeated after 300 days of some of the most horrendous fighting in World War I. French forces triumphantly led by commanders soon to become notorious (Nivelle and Pétain) regained all the land that the enemy had taken. 11,000 demoralized German soldiers surrendered. "France had won her most brilliant victory since the Marne." (Horne) [more inside]
Speculating Futures looks at past speculative narratives, like those of Ursula K. Le Guin, and past attempts at creating technological utopia, like Chile's Cybersyn. [more inside]
After every terror attack the call rings out for the Muslim world to become modern. Whenever jihadi groups carry out an atrocity, or – as is happening a lot these days, western foreign policy failures lead to large areas of the world coming under the sway of oafs who claim to be acting for God – the call goes up for a Muslim Enlightenment. The imputation of Védrine, the French schoolteachers, and thousands of other commentators is that various internal deficiencies have excluded Islam from this indispensable cultural and intellectual event, without which no culture can be considered modern. Such views cut across political borders; they would find sympathy at the BBC as well as in the editorial offices of the Sun. Islam needs to get with the programme. [more inside]
Mothers in law have long been a focal point of Indian society. With the modernization of Indian culture, their roles are changing for better and for worse.
"The famous photographs of Lincoln assassination co-conspirator Lewis Powell show modern self-consciousness being born before an indifferent lens."
Generation Gap: "The parents of China’s post-1980 generation [the bā líng hòu (八零後)] (themselves born between 1950 and 1965) grew up in a rural, Maoist world utterly different from that of their children. In their adolescence, there was one phone per village, the universities were closed and jobs were assigned from above. If you imagine the disorientation and confusion of many parents in the West when it comes to the internet and its role in their children’s lives, and then add to that dating, university life and career choices, you come close to the generational dilemma. Parents who spent their own early twenties labouring on remote farms have to deal with children who measure their world in malls, iPhones and casual dates." [more inside]
New Republic article on James Flynn's new book Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century "IN THE MID-’80s, the political philosopher James Flynn noticed a remarkable but puzzling trend: for the past century, average IQ scores in every industrialized nation have been steadily rising. And not just a little: nearly three points every decade. Every several years, IQ tests test have to be “re-normed” so that the average remains 100. This means that a person who scored 100 a century ago would score 70 today; a person who tested as average a century ago would today be declared mentally retarded." [more inside]
A bridge builder, a student of how societies hold together; an advocate of dialogue. Standing against polarized and simplistic styles of thought. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is Canada's best known and most widely read contemporary thinker. In books like Sources of the Self and A Secular Age, he has attempted to define the unique character of the modern age. He maps the fault-lines in our modern identity, and points to both the pitfalls and the promise of our condition. Learn about his life, history, upbringing, and... ideas. Now available, CBC IDEAS in five one-hour parts: the malaise of modernity (this special program has the same title as the 1991 Massey Lecture of the same name, but is not the same [MP3's, get them now, they will go away, and then you can only stream them]). One, Two, Three, Four, Five. [more inside]
The Rehabilitation of Ernest Gellner - It is easy to imagine why Ernest Gellner would be one of the universally known figures in Anglophone intellectual life. A polymath whose work ranged across anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology, his mind wrestled with an encyclopedia's worth of nagging questions about nationalism, modernity, civil society, imperialism, Islam, psychoanalysis, ethics and epistemology ... All of this, to repeat, should explain Gellner's monumental prominence – except for the fact that he has no such prominence. (via mr) [more inside]
The Perfume of Garbage: an archaeology of the world trade centers (pdf). What do the the godfather of garbology, a leading post-modern archaeological theorist (blog), and a "space archaeologist"(cf. space junk) think about the WTC? Obviously as a ruin and as an archaeological site - but much more. An intriguing analysis placing the WTC ruins into archaeological context, and, most particularly, responding to the Smithsonian's exhibition of artifacts from the events of September 11, 2001. Also, a commentary (pdf) responding to garbage, space and the WTC. And yes, garbology goes well beyond Mick Jagger ephemera.
The Abduction of Modernity. "Western thinkers, many of whom cannot speak or read any non-Western language, are held back in their analysis of modern civilization by the assumption that modernity is an exclusive characteristic of the West. At a time when the sole superpower is resurrecting the practice of imposing national will by military might, Henry C K Liu examines this assumption in a series of articles." Part 1: The race toward barbarism, Part 2: That old time religion, Part 3: Rule of law vs Confucianism, Part 4: Taoism and modernity, Part 5: The Enlightenment and modernity, Part 6a: Imperialism as modernity, Part 6b: Imperialism and fragmentation, Part 6c: Imperialism resisted.
(NYT) It is not just the poverty, the illiteracy and the absence of any commonly accepted social contract that define our sense of wretchedness; it is, rather, the increasing awareness among us that we have failed as a civil society by not confronting the historical, social and political demons within us. . .