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on 22 February 2011
This is an outstanding book from an outstanding historian with a conscience. Judt puts his finger on all the factors that make for a civil society that cohere's while noting that we seem to have unlearned these. It makes Cameron's 'Big Society' look what it is - a total sham.
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on 22 September 2010
Well written, accessible and a great contribution to the developing critique of society and the western world and its values in 2010.
The left needs invigorating and this book is a helpful contribution to the debate about whether state intervention is desirable and what forms should state intervention take? It questions some of the supposedly unanswerable tenets of the "market".
This book asks the reader to look at our values and question what does "efficient" in economic terms really mean. Afterall was it really "efficient " to destroy mining communities in the eighties- has this ever been truly "costed" and arent we all still paying for this in a number of ways?
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on 10 January 2011
One reviewer calls this book "a well-intentioned compilation of the obvious". I think the beauty of the book is that it lifts the shroud which clouds our vision of our times and exposes "the obvious" for us all to see, in a light-touch and extremely readable essay. And whilst I agree that he's a bit short on solutions, who (other than Sarah Palin and that ilk)isn't short on solutions? At least Judt illustrates the situation in which we find ourselves, and offers a clear, uncluttered analysis of that situation within the context of Western societies over the last 100 years. Read it, and devise your own solution.
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on 21 May 2012
Tony Judt identifies the main discontents of our modern life and connects them with our leaders' belief
that neolibersim and individualism provide a framework for constant progress.
Also, he points out that we have been quite apolitical and this does not help on solving our current issues.

He argues that only when younger generations start imposing political questions,
we will find solutions and he suggests us to rethink the Social Democracy.
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on 7 September 2011
I haven't finshed the book yet but massively enjoying it. One reviewer noted "What is most striking about what Judt says is not so much the substance but the form: he speaks of being angry at our political quiescence; he writes of the need to dissent from our economically way of thinking, the urgency of a return to an ethically informed public conversation. No one talks like that any more". But it is more than that; the 'substance' of what he says is built up into a formidable and weighty argument; the content itself is winning. Judt is right: we need more justice running through our system and his is the argument and thought, his type of intellectual vigor which can be a principal catalyst. Brave politicians would also be needed!?
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on 18 August 2011
What a brillant book about politics, the meaning and conditions of democracy and simply, what means now to have "left wing"opinions ! Tony Judt has found simple words to translate my vision of what should be a state in a world almost invaded with neo-liberal concepts. Yes, an efficient state is still possible, there are basic solutions. No, privatization is not an efficient solution to pay the depts, and yes, we can rethink the state to be more fair, bring more equality amongst us and sense and security through a "social democracy" system. Judt also reminds us that past experiences matter and that we can keep some great ideas from the 20th century history and remember also the wrong paths.

The content of this essay is not a revolutionary one. Judt just helps us to remember what matters in a state.
I like very much his last quotation from Leo Tolstoi : "There are no conditions of life in which a man cannot get accustomed, especially if he sees them accepted by everyone around him".
If Neo-liberalism continues on its way in the future, it is really urgent to remind the young generation that there are other solutions and political philosophies for a democracy and that "Social democracy" is still a very valid system.

I'm just sad not to have been able to meet this great man before he died (in 2010).
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on 19 November 2012
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).

Judt deals with the problem the Left faces in the modern World. Capitalism seems to have won and taken over the World. Most of us can't easily think of alternatives to unbridled capitalism, and those who do propose a different approach are treated as cranks by Politicians and the Media. As he identifies early on, a lot of us are unhappy, but we can't really see a way forward.

However, Judt devastatingly undermines the argument that we're all better off this way. Ranging from the effects of globalisation on workers in poorer countries to the inefficiency of privatisation of the rail network in the UK, he repeatedly demonstrates how it's the financial and government elites who benefit from unregulated Capitalism and the cult of 'small government'. He's engaged enough with economics to back up the examples with solid theory, and the end result is fantastically convincing.

As another reviewer has already said, though, the people who really need to read this (I could name a lot of supposedly liberal politicians here) probably won't. It's a terrible shame.
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on 13 February 2012
While reading this book, I could not keep from muttering "this is it , this is it" Judt managed to put in simple words such important things. I cant but feel proud of having shared this world with Tony Judt. What a loss for us all ...
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on 28 May 2011
Erudite, well thought critical review of democracy as practiced in a countries that pride themselves that their particular variety of democracy is exportable, even fit for forceful implantation ..

It keeps me thinking. :)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2014
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.

The basic argument goes as follows, the belief that the market or market based solutions are the only way to run an economy or promote social welfare is a mistake with huge implications for government and citizens. While the market is able to produce any number of private goods (cars, perfumes, swimming pools) it is not the beast designed to create goods of a more public nature such as healthcare, railways and affordable energy. Self-interest and the profit motive have their place in society but they are not the only interests that create what we might call society.

Society, civic association or whatever else we might want to call the common interests of individuals that live under a particular government or within particular borders requires more than simple self-interest to prosper. It requires some sort of awareness that there is some degree of common interest, co-dependency and shared concern and endeavour that brings people together and makes them better off for doing so. This is the argument for social democracy that we simply do not hear anymore. Faith in government, in the validity of caring for the less fortunate and providing encouragement to enable citizens to develop their own capabilities are tenets of political discourse that rarely receive much airing.

Judt suggests that the narrow focus on short term profit and efficiency has led to privatisations that led to the fleecing of the tax payer and disadvantage of the consumer. Here he argues that whilst British Rail whilst no paragon of customer service or far sighted investment (due to chronic under funding) at least tried to provide low cost and national service provision as opposed to the heavily subsidised, cherry-picking, rent -seeking activities prevalent todays franchised arrangements. In other words the state may not be the perfect answer to societies ill's in every way, but in terms of certain types of provision of goods that will be poorly or other not provided, it remains the best solution. Therefore we should be promote and be proud of social activities that include and enable rather than simply those that focus on waste, consumption and exclusion.

Judt suggests that the passing of responsibility to markets by politicians on the Left and Right has eroded political and civic life, so that low voter turn- out in elections is now a common occurrence in Western nations. The idea that we can make a better civic society for all citizens through political action and the individual animus of `doing our duty' needs to be reinvigorated.

My only two problems with this book are these- firstly what should a left of centre party be saying to a cynical electorate about the role of the state and that of markets? Secondly, that Margaret Thatcher came in on a ticket of radical reform because voters, rightly or wrongly that Britain was becoming a failed state that was falling further and further behind its continental neighbours over a wide range of indicators. So, if the role of markets has become all too pervasive, but are the big ideas (apart from hiding behind single issue ideas such as environmentalism) and the sort of language that might be used to inspire voter interest? He could also have made more of the idea that markets ( firms) depend on the state for business (construction/defense) and occasionally as in the banks to be underwritten when things go drastically wrong. So if market participants want this sort of largesse they should expect that the State as representative of the taxpayer (that means all citizens) should extract funds and cooperation from markets in order to be able to provide exist in the first place.

`Ill Fares the Land' is an interesting, inspiring and very worthwhile read. Recommended.
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