Sunday, November 23, 2014

Against the Current

Robert Skidelsky

Are markets moral? What does the East expect from the West? Has globalization killed the idea of equality? Has the concept of “humanitarian intervention” been discredited? Is authoritarian capitalism a viable development option?

Few thinkers embody globalization as thoroughly as Robert Skidelsky. Born in China, a Russian speaker who teaches in Moscow, a working member of the British House of Lords, and a historian who has produced defining work on subjects ranging from fascism to education to economic and social philosophy, Lord Skidelsky's biography and intellectual breadth make him perfectly suited to comment on the diverse problems of our age.

The author of a magisterial three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes and a fellow of the British Academy in both history and economics, Lord Skidelsky has, throughout his career, defied facile ideological categorization. Originally a member of Britain’s Labour Party, he became one of the founders of the short-lived Social Democratic Party. He moved on to become a Conservative Party spokesman for Treasury affairs in the House of Lords – only to be forced out because of his opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999. He has since remained a proudly independent “cross-bencher.”

Lord Skidelsky carries on the tradition of Against the Current established by Ralf Dahrendorf: tackling the deeper questions that underlie public issues of the moment.

Why, after more than a half-century of peace and prosperity, are so many Western citizens profoundly unhappy? Why is there hardship – not just lack of money, but anomie and alienation – in the midst of plenty? Are democracy and liberalism on a collision course?

Like Lord Dahrendorf, Lord Skidelsky's extraordinary combination of British pragmatism and Continental intellectual audacity makes abstract ideas comprehensible, and enables newspaper readers to gain a firm purchase on the world that we are creating for ourselves.

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