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Ill Fares The Land: A Treatise On Our Present Discontents [Kindle Edition]

Professor Tony Judt
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay' - Oliver Goldsmith

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of shared purpose. But we have forgotten how to think about the life we live together: its goals and purposes. We are now not only post-ideological; we have become post-ethical. We have lost touch with the old questions that have defined politics since the Greeks: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society? A better world? The social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America - the guarantee of security, stability and fairness - is no longer assured; in fact, it's no longer part of collective conversation.

In this exceptional short book, Tony Judt reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment and masterfully crystallizes our great unease, showing how we might yet think ourselves out of it. If we are to replace fear with confidence then we need a different story to tell, about state and society alike: a story that carries moral and political conviction. Providing that story is the purpose of this book.

Product Description


Sinewy analysis and supple prose, as clear and refreshing as a mountain stream (Christopher Silvester Telegraph)

One of the most remarkable books on politics to have appeared for a very long time (John Gray Literary Review)

Elegant, courageous and deeply humane (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)

About the Author

At the time of his death, Tony Judt was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In 2009 Judt was awarded a Special Orwell Prize for Lifetime Achievement for his contribution to British Political writing. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005) was a runner up for the 2006 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1138 KB
  • Print Length: 244 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0718191412
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Y4WV2I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,388 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and thoughtful.... 8 Feb. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I started to read this book the riots in London, Birmingham and Manchester had just kicked off. They only lasted a few days but brought with them fear, anger and alienation to be followed speedily by blame and retribution and much confusion and soul searching. Something was clearly amiss.....

Tony Judt's book is a little gem. He challenges the legacy of Reagan and Thatcher and their ideas on free market capitalism. Material self-interest dominated for thirty years but has led to a more unequal and less happy society. The trickle down effect has simply not trickled down enough.

For such a complex subject this book is brief and concise in its statements and arguments. This is both a plus and a minus. It is not a difficult read (though I needed the dictionary for "fungible"!) but I sometimes wanted to delve further into his arguments and tease out some of his ideas.

His ideas are based on the social democratic model - and he is willing to challenge many of the current political ideas. He is particularly interesting on what should be run by the state and what can be safely left to private individual. "Why are we so sure that some planning, or progressive taxation, or the collective ownership of public goods, are intolerable restrictions on liberty; whereas closed-circuit television cameras, state bailouts for investment banks `too big to fail', tapped telephones and expensive foreign wars are acceptable burdens for a free people to bear?"

By the time I finished reading Ill Fares the Land the Occupy Movement had started in New York and quickly spread round the world. These activists do not have all the answers but in highlighting the differences between the 1% and the 99% they are asking plenty of challenging questions. Tony Judt would have approved.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Call to Arms for the State... 12 April 2012
Most of this book is a distillation of the broad critique of the post-banking crisis shared by most cultural critics. The crash horribly exposed a number of fictions discussed and dismissed in this book: that markets are always self-correcting; that making the rich richer helps the poor; that privatization produces efficient public services; that regulation is bad, but taxation is worse and so on. This we know for ourselves, through direct experience and some embarrassment about our silence as the banks took control of the world's economy knowing that if the risks they took didn't turn out there was always the taxpayer to bail them out. There is little original in this, though this is not to say it does not bear repeating regularly, or that Judt, even whilst dying, produced anything other that crystal clear prose in setting out the case.

For me, the more interesting diversions are the Marxist interpretation of the real impact of technology in deskilling the workforce and the call to arms of a generation (my own) who have been hitherto silent about the conduct of public life and politics, and have pursued more selfish interests as a means of fulfilment. For this much, Judt should be properly lauded, castigating as he does the know-nothing politicians of our time, content with the egoism of power, uninterested in their responsibility and bereft of capacity to respond to a changed world. Where I would diverge from his thinking is in suggesting the state is all we have. All states, especially the United States as the economic bully-boy of the West, ought now to be considered as failures, especially in the Keynesian terms that Judt likes to invoke. What will replace them is by no means yet clear, though it seems likely that if the powerful economic interests get their way, it won't be anything benign or offer much protection for ordinary people.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Tony Judt detects signs of failure within the Western political discussion. With a foot on either side of the Atlantic, he dissects the post-war political and social consensus with a particular focus on the last 30 years ending in the 2008 financial crash. His conclusions include the undirected extension of the state, the increasing tensions between the private and public sectors and the increasing lack of any real national conversation about politics as it becomes dominated and annexed by a professional political class, a partisan media and `experts' (predominantly `think tanks' and pressure groups).

It is easy to be put off by this book, particularly if you do not associate yourself with the `progressive left.' Mr Judt is careful to locate himself in that particular part of the particular spectrum and makes no apologies for writing his book from that perspective. In doing so, however, he claims for that group (`the liberal democrats' in American rather than British usage) a centre ground that is common to many from both wings of the political debate. He is equally scathing of the libertarian right as he is of the hard socialist left and positions his treatise firmly in the compromise space between the two. Associating this work then with a particular creed -with the objective of improving discourse on the left- both reduces his readership and influence for a message which should resonate with a far larger constituency.

There is some very adroit analysis here.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 4 months ago by irene reilly
5.0 out of 5 stars A frightening, shaming and hopeful look at our society.
A remarkable book that concisely records the decline in civilised standards of life in the UK and USA over the last 30 years. Read more
Published 5 months ago by theleveller
4.0 out of 5 stars Social Democracy is not dead....
This is an important book: thought provoking, considered and highly readable it will of interest to anyone with an interest in current social and political trends. Read more
Published 8 months ago by os
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise words
Beautifully written, sensitive warning of the essential heartlessness of the urge for wealth.
Published 9 months ago by Madmoose
5.0 out of 5 stars Accesable introduction to left of centre political thought against...
Simply written, concise examination of current economic and social events in the west. I originally borrowed this book from the library and then decided to buy it. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Nick Sisssons
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone on the Left.
Brilliant exposition on the 'locust years' of 1990-2010, the two decades 'lost' to neoliberalism and what the Left now needs to do to build a narrative for the future.
Published 15 months ago by I. Sharpe
5.0 out of 5 stars Latter day Orwell
The anger against injustice,unfairness and inequality burns through the prose at what the post-war European world has become. Read more
Published 22 months ago by technoguy
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully well written
This is the late Tony Judt at his best, commenting with wit and insight on the origins and possible future of the EU, written fifteen years ago, yet visionary. Read more
Published on 19 April 2013 by Karen Arrandale
5.0 out of 5 stars Big theme, small print
Judt provides a comprehensive but penetrating account of postwar Europe. There is, however, a health warning: the print in this paper back version is minute, making it very... Read more
Published on 11 Mar. 2013 by Mr. Ronald V. White
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable, necessary, read
This is short - a primer really, rather than some sort of grand tome - but it's a fantastic polemic (and I mean polemic in a good way). Read more
Published on 19 Nov. 2012 by Guy
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