George Walford: Editorial Notes (45)

HEGEL was a humourist. Must have been, since Terrell Carver writes of his “post-humorously collected lectures”. The remark comes from Friedrich Engels, his, life and thought (MacMillan 1989 p. 71) and apart from one transposition of Hegel’s Christian names is the only misprint in the book.

ENGELS to Marx: “What the proletariat does we know not and indeed could hardly know.” That was said in 1845, just three years before they produced the Communist Manifesto. (Carver 1989 p. 184)

GENEROSITY: The Colour Supplement of the Sunday Times, (1 April), tells us: “For every death from heroin there are 40 from alcohol and 400 from nicotine.” It also presents a double-page advert for brandy, a double-page full-colour spread for one brand of cigarettes, a single-page one for another brand, and a double-page spread for pipe tobacco. The advertisers subsidise the dissemination of information that, acted on by the readers, would put them out of business.

MANCHESTER has for its motto Concilio est Labore, translated as “the Council is always Labour.”

GEORGE Hay remarks, of a book by Ayn Rand: “Rather like King Lear without the
jokes.”

ARCHBISHOP Runcie uses “self-interest and intolerance” to describe how the economic individualism and political collectivism of the eidostatic appear to the eidodynamics. (Sunday Times 25 March 90)

DECLINE in support for the C of E raises the question: What has happened to all those who used to support it? Nigel Andrew suggests that a lot of them have joined the National Trust. Anglicanism offers a great deal more than a set of Articles, and. Andrew draws attention to features it shares with the Trust, describing this as: “a kind of hugely successful secular church, complete with its own hierarchy, places of worship, rituals and ethics – the national church, if you like, of English heritage worship.” (Sunday Times 4 March 90).

SPECIALISATION: Guenther Schlee is probably the only person in the world capable of reading Rendille. There is no published grammar or dictionary, and of the Rendille people themselves the few able to read do so only in English and Swahili. (TLS 9 Mar 90)

DEFINITION: Poet, n. A person who cannot write prose. (Chaz Bufe, in Freedom).

PERESTROIKA is not linked with any detectable shift of political opinion among the Russian public, and those who can’t be bothered with politics constitute the largest single group, some 30-40 per cent of the population. (Boris Kagarlitsky, reported by Jeremy Treglown, TLS 2 Mar 90)

L. A. RICHARDS, collaborator with C. K. Ogden in The Meaning of Meaning and Basic English, proposed a television series, in twenty-two episodes, of Plato’s Republic. The moguls had other ideas. (TLS 9 March).

CHRISTOPHER Monckton proposes “to take the politics out of transport by privatising public transpsort as much as possible.” (Evening Standard 9 April).

THOSE who believe damage to the environment to be a recent development have got things back to front. Our society is the first to restrain such activity.

LEBANON lacks both a common social consciousness and the institutions which an urban society needs for stability. The reason is that it never went through the stage in which governmental authority is imposed. (Albert Hourani in TLS 2 Mar 90).

PASTORAL societies depend upon the domesticated horse and wheeled vehicles, a combination which quickly produces the chariot. (Rolle R. The World of the Scythians, reviewed in TLS 26 Jan 90). It is not just agricultural but food-producing societies that exhibit institutionalised domination.

CORRECTION: On p. 10 of IC44 “is born free” should read “was born free.” (Suggestions that IC should make “Corrections” a regular feature are not invited).

LIFE is better than death. Capitalism, in its pursuit of profit, kills more people than any former system of society. Therefore capitalism is worse than former systems.
Is it? Consider a parallel argument: Frequency of death is an indication of danger. More people die in bed than anywhere else. Therefore bed is the most dangerous place.
The fallacy, in each case, lies in the assumption that a raw statistic, without consideration of its context, provides a sufficient ground for valid conclusions. Most people die in bed because the dying take to their beds. Capitalism is able to kill more people because it supports vastly more than any previous system. If life against death be the standard then capitalism is the best system of society that has ever existed.

AFRICA has terrible problems; drought, war, disease, oppression, famine. In reading the accounts, however, one needs to bear in mind the selection which all newspapers impose. To adapt an old phrase, good news is not news. Since 1900, in spite of all the horrors, the population of the African continent has increased from 100 to 450 million and is expected to reach 1,000 million by 2010. (Figures from a study by the World Bank, reported in TLS 30 Mar).

PRIORITIES: In the ideological sequence domination with its principles comes before precision with its pursuit of accuracy. Getting things right in principle has priority over quantification. So much so, that even among serious thinkers, when everyday experience and the results given by measurement come into conflict, the measurement sometimes gets rejected. Look at this: “The 1980 census [USA] only managed to find 21,000 homeless people in the whole of the country. The 1990 census aims to do better.” (Jerry Eades in Anthropology Today, Vol 6 No. 2 April 90)
Why bother with a census at all, if its results are to be dismissed in this way? The question is unjustified; precise measurement does have value, provided that which is measured (in this case the existence of very large numbers of homeless people) be something already established in principle. In the days of guessing-sticks (otherwise known as slide-rules) and log-tables, a rough estimate had to be made first, to ensure that the figures given by the instrument, accurate to the umpteenth digit, had the decimal point in the right place.

RICHARD Pipes reports that the predominant school among French historians has overcome the Marxist bias and now emphasises the importance of cultural and political factors. (TLS 23 Mar)

ORLANDO Figes, writing on the Russian Revolution, quotes a contemporary description of the peasants’ attitude. As long as there is bread, they said, let us pray to God, leaving Reds and Whites to fight it out among themselves. [1] The only thing striking about the remark is the suggestion that such an attitude may be limited to a particular class at a particular place and time. “A plague on both your houses” awakes wider echoes than that. [1] Figes O. 1990, Peasant Russia, Civil War; the Volga countryside in revolution 1917-21 Oxford: Clarendon Press, quoted in TLS 23 Mar).

MOTORCARS, or at least automobiles, helped the progressive movement in America in the early twenties to fight the vested interests of the railways, both the long-distance ones and those that ran in the streets. [2] Mechanical inventions, like other things, change in value according to the circumstances, but that reference to vested interests does raise a point which tends to be overlooked in the current reformist demand for restriction of the car in favour of public transport. ([2] Ling Peter J. 1990. America and the Automobile. Manchester UP, quoted in TLS 23 Mar).

CONSOLIDATION of Russian peasant communes is ascribed by Geoffrey Hosking to an absence of adequate transport and communication, privation and extremes of climate and distance. [3] The importance of climate and distzince is rendered questionable by the presence of similar social units in, for example, Spain, and lack of transport and communication can be seen as effect rather than cause; people living in this way do not need these things. But one feature of the mir does seem to be universal among communities of the peasant stage or earlier: its dual function of protection for all members and restraint of any inclined towards independent thinking. ([3] Hosking G. 1990. The Awakening of the Soviet Union. Heinemann; reviewed in TLS 16 Mar).

FREEDOM: Speaking of the USSR James Sherr notes that the freedom which permits critics of the regime to speak also permits its agents to masquerade as critics. (TLS 16 Mar)

from Ideological Commentary 45, May 1990.