Perry Anderson

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Are there any appropriate dimensions to literary biography as a form? The stature of a writer, and length of life, might be expected to provide some co-ordinates. Yet even among modern masters there is little consistency.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:14 (two years ago) link

"Marriage extended rather than altered this, Powell acquiring many an in-law from an Anglo-Irish background to which he was allergic"

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:15 (two years ago) link

To endorse, largely, what has been said: it seems plain that PA likes AP partly because he can identify with the relevant milieu. It is frustrating, in a way, that someone as brilliant as PA lacks perspective on this.

Arrival at the age of 13 at Eton, a year after the Great War had come an end, brought him in Spurling’s view

the underlying stability and continuity that came from a sense he had never known before of belonging to a community that accepted him, the nearest thing to a place where he felt at home. The school became from now on a kind of virtual extended family whose members – however rebarbative, reluctant or remote – stood in all his life for the actual relatives he hadn’t got.

Fortunate in finding himself in a house ‘with a poor reputation and no standards to keep up’, presided over by an easy-going master, he flourished as a member of the school’s Arts Society, did well academically, and emerged more polished and confident socially.


the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:18 (two years ago) link

John Bayley (Letters, 10 January) wonders where I found a Russian tricolour of black, gold and white. The answer is: from the Imperial decree of 1858 which made it the correct flag of the Empire, in concord with the Romanov arms – and from the processions in Moscow today, in which rival banners express attachment to different aspects of the old order. There are those for whom it is more handsome a symbol of the past than the Batavian colours of which Bayley is fond.

Perry Anderson
Los Angeles

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:20 (two years ago) link

Mark S's favourite:

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:21 (two years ago) link

Like Proust he needs an editor

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:04 (two years ago) link

Seriously need to finish Lineages of the Absolutist State one of these days.
So long.
So dense.
Maybe tomorrow.

woof, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:17 (two years ago) link

I read the second half of PA's Powell epic today.

He spends most of the last pages describing AP as a very conservative or right-wing person. To what end? The only logical end really seems to be what has been a very standard PA manner for 30+ years: to play his own kind of Olympian contrarianism by writing with intimate sympathy about people on the political Right and showing no interest in criticizing their political views.

He also manages, in a predictable way, to insult people who are sceptical about Brexit. He doesn't live in the UK and doesn't face the various problems that Brexit has brought and will bring.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:17 (two years ago) link

(The one thing he has in common with Morrissey, I suppose. Irish blood, Californian heart.)

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:18 (two years ago) link

Unusually, PA picked up in a Guardian literary comment piece. The one striking thing here is that she quotes something he wrote 34 years ago - if that wasn't 'Modernity & Revolution' then I may not have read it:

the pinefox, Monday, 6 August 2018 13:46 (two years ago) link

two weeks pass...

This is the post where I ask for help in parsing one of Perry Anderson's sentences (or in this case fragment of a sentence):
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older than when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

(this is an example of one of proust's "lapses of control": who is older than what here?)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:08 (two years ago) link

Yes, I puzzled over that also. It didn't help that I haven't read Proust for nearly 15 years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:24 (two years ago) link

Odette - when Swann's wife - is a certain age

The narrator is now older than this

Now Odette visits Uncle Adolphe


is that what it is saying?

Again, much too far from Proust now to know - don't even remember an Uncle Adolphe.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:26 (two years ago) link

This could conceivably be a failure of prose or of copy-editing.

LRB editing has worsened in the last couple of years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:27 (two years ago) link

yours is one possibilty (though it's not made clear why this causes a problem)
viz "Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanshe was when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

another is this:
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanhe is when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"
(which is presumably impossible since the events come in the opposite order?)

i guess a reckless copy editor might have deleted some such phrase? (why? hardly to save space) -- it's a copy editor's failing in any case, since a good one (me or you) wd have flagged up and problem and insisted something be done about it. i agree abt the worsening in general

oddly enough an adolphe who's an uncle has already been mentioned: not a character in the book but proust's own maternal grandmother's uncle -- so i didn't blink at this till i went back just now confidently to inform you who the adolphe in the book was, and can't (the only extended proust i have read is the extracts in this essay)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:43 (two years ago) link

in mine the bolded he is the narrator not the uncle lol, basically a copy editor shd have thrown the whole fragment back at PA and insist he restructure it more clearly and quick now, obnubilate indeed

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:45 (two years ago) link

I used to marvel at the absence of basic errors (spelling, grammar) in the LRB - say, 10 to 15 years ago.

They have come in since then, sometimes say 2 or 3 per issue. I suspect also that there were errors way back, say 35 years ago, and the period I am talking about was a high plateau of quality in between.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:49 (two years ago) link

I think it's that the narrator is older than he (the narrator) is when Odette figures for him as Swann's wife. The narrator, as a child, visits his uncle Adolphe and meets a lady in pink at his house. This lady in pink turns out to be Odette, who lived as a courtesan before she married Swann. But by the basic timeline of the story, Swann and Odette should already be married well before the narrator has reached the age of this episode. So it's unclear whether: (a) the narrator has met Odette Swann, who is implausibly reverting to her relationship with Adolphe, or (b) he's met the unmarried Odette de Crecy, and Proust has confused his timeline.

jmm, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:50 (two years ago) link

aha, thank you jmm :)

i guess that is more obvious to someone readily familiar with the text -- so that it unravels itself via information not actually available on the lrb's page -- but even so it is not terrific writing

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:06 (two years ago) link

Which is not something I would often say about Perry Anderson

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:18 (two years ago) link

rereading this essay i'm enjoying it a *lot* but i do think that writing abt fiction rather than reactionary thinkers or "politics from 30,000 feet" sometimes brings out something a bit discordantly antic in PA's prose -- actually not far from the kind of stuff that made me grind my teeth when christopher hitchens was being a bit too clever in his sentence-making (with similar pretext: i.e. when writing abt fiction rather than politics): "making an English equivalent of the Latin ablative absolute one of the trademarks of his style, with sovereign indifference to schoolroom objections to the pendant participle"

that final phrase is somehow just too cute (esp.after the clumsily repeated "to" before it): give a good example perry and stop showing off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:27 (two years ago) link

or trying to show off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:28 (two years ago) link


the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:30 (two years ago) link

There are, iirc, several instances in Proust with timeline issues. I think he died before all seven vols were published but there were probably issues around any editors dealing w/Proust in the first place. Yeah, lol.

Powell is a reactionary thinker writing fiction - making the last section the strongest. Biggest laugh was Anderson sorta going along with Powell's hatred of Auden/British lefties just because Lyndon Johnson quoted the last line of September 1, 1939 in a speech.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:12 (two years ago) link

That was poor. That poem is one of the greatest modern poems in English that I can think of. PA, for all his brilliance, wouldn't have it in him to write something like it. He's unwise to mock it for the way it has been appropriated. He doesn't even bother to mention (though it's relevant) the best-known fact about the poem - that Auden kept changing the words because he was anxious and uncertain about the meaning.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:20 (two years ago) link

Is the second part of the Anderson essay still only available to subscribers?

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:22 (two years ago) link


I still don't really understand PA's attraction to reactionary thinkers, let alone the way that here he makes no criticism of Powell or doesn't seek to articulate a dialectical relation between ideas that PA supposedly disagrees with and fiction that he thinks perceptive.

I think it comes down to contrarianism, in line with Mark's observation about (C) Hitchens.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:24 (two years ago) link

admittedly i was reading it in bed late but i found part 2 quite hard going: at the start he is wrestling with the mysteries of differential popularity, which ends up being smug and dull -- popular culture is apparently wildly foreign territory to him and he's using adorno and debord as his baedecker, which lol (has he actually ever been to the cinema? he doesn't write as if he knows what films are actually like) (also is it true that there are no blockbusters than run on understatement?)

then he gets into the weeds of translateability (of idiom, of humour) -- which if course bears on global popularity -- but the survey is too sketchy to do the work he wants it to and too sketchy also for you to get into what interesting about it that isn't pretext-driven. d'you think he's actually read dream of the red chamber?

i didn't really follow the point he was making about bayley (who i anyway have zero interest in): that powell went over bayley's head? who cares?

the section on powell's knowledge of and interest in world lit -- as manifested in his essays and the quotations in the book -- is good, but a bit buried (i'd have liked more honestly, but i think perry is quite out of his wheelhouse here and couldn't risk more)

and then the actual real politics section: which becomes increasingly dispiriting, partly bcz powell's judgments are so cookiecutter tribal and his insights so meagre, and partly bcz it honestly isn't re-integrated back into any of the rest of the piece


contrarianism plus staunch anti-liberalism

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:58 (two years ago) link

Yes, re: anti-liberalism.

I think he quotes Powell saying Labour is part of liberalism?

I suspect that he has, indeed, read the massive Chinese novel. Am sure he wouldn't bluff that. It's all the kind of thing that Moretti would have told him was important.

I think I agree with you, Mark, re: the final section, the banality of AP's views, and how non-integrated it is!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (two years ago) link

That (from Mark S) is a pretty good critical summary of Part II.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (two years ago) link

d'you think this is a colossal extract from a longer soon-to-be-pubished book? the "reactionary thinkers" essays in the LRB ended up as a book

(tho they were more easily freestanding: i wonder if some of the sketchier sections will actually exist at some point at deeper length)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:21 (two years ago) link

This is a good and intriguing thought.

re earlier book, do you mean:


the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:22 (two years ago) link

I don't agree with Anderson at all btw (and from a google of it I saw that Auden was ambivalent about the ending, but it stuck so..), just noting the bizarre contortion at that moment.


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:23 (two years ago) link

I think I should get a load of the older PA books. I know some of the material but tons I have still not read. Like that book and also:

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:25 (two years ago) link

PA is pretty good on Global South lit so I reckon he's read Dream of Red Chamber. There is an essay of his in the LRB discussing historical fic that pulls in a wide range of novels (Cities of Salt, Buru Quartet)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:27 (two years ago) link

spectrum begins with a long chapter on reactionary thinkers -- hayek and oakeshott and etc -- which began life as essays in the LRB (i guess they wd have felt odd in the NLR)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:30 (two years ago) link

His essays on India (which unusually I am not sure I read!!) became a book.

And so did US FOREIGN POLICY AND ITS THINKERS after ALREADY occupying an ENTIRE issue of NEW LEFT REVIEW a few months previously.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:31 (two years ago) link

we shd post him a print-out of this thread so he can rewrite where necessary (e.g. concerning uncle adolphe and also omitting any discussion of john bayley's opinions on anything)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:43 (two years ago) link

I read all his essays on EU states (incl his essay on Cyprus!) back in the day, and I think that became a book too.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:49 (two years ago) link

Yes that became a big book.

I didn't read the Cyprus material because it was so vast and I couldn't find any personal interest in Cyprus. There are these rare cases where I can't get excited about PA's work.

The Germany essay in the book appeared in the NLR under the heading 'Land of Ideas?'.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:57 (two years ago) link

I'd second the recommendations for The New Old World (that big book w/ the EU essays and Cyprus) and Spectrum. I didn't have much personal interest in Cyprus before but found it a v gripping and fascinating read. Perhaps because I knew least about Cyprus and Turkey, those two chapters were the best parts of the book, though his essays on France and Italy are among his best (imo).

I interned at Verso five years ago and asked about what his next colossal one would be - I was told it was likely going to be a collection of the essays on Russia, Brazil, China and a longer theoretical intro/conclusion synthesizing views on the BRICs, although who knows, I could easily see him having switched gears and put out an 600 page book on the 20th century novel.

I haven't gotten to the second part of the essay yet (picked up the print copy of the LRB yesterday) so will withhold judgment on it as a whole for now. Had been a pretty big PA stan before (while not always agreeing with particular points) so am always pleased to find others (and to notice this thread!).

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 14:13 (two years ago) link

Federico, that is most interesting. Are you a long-time ILB poster? We have a FAP tomorrow.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:06 (two years ago) link

xp Anderson has written at length about those three countries in the LRB, IIRC

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (two years ago) link

"at length" sort of goes without saying with PAnderson of course

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (two years ago) link

i was disappointed by Spectrum, felt i was lacking background on some of the thinkers (esp on the right) that was assumed

flopson, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 20:37 (two years ago) link

Been on a long holiday, read through the last nine of A Dance to the Music of Time for the first time.
I liked it well enough, but Anderson seems to overestimate it/Powell massively in the two articles. Keeps taking midweight literary basics as some kind of mastery - allusion is catnip to him.
Still on holiday, but will try to get round to saying more about Powell and/or this chunk of Anderson when I get back.

woof, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:35 (two years ago) link

Hey pinefox, I'm a (fairly?) long-time lurker and (very) occasional poster. I'm trying to get in the habit of posting more regularly, though my schedule's been a bit crazy the last while. Unfortunately, I'm not in London, otherwise I'd happily join.

I read elsewhere (on another thread?) that the overestimation is part of PA's "bid" to elevate Powell to a more respectable, if not canonical, status, and using (abusing?) Proust in the process. It seems somewhat plausible, whether it's something he deliberately set out to do or not. Still haven't read pt 2 yet, but look forward to getting to it tmw or this weekend.

Federico Boswarlos, Thursday, 23 August 2018 02:12 (two years ago) link

That seems about right - the Tariq Ali article on Powell makes it clear that PA has been reading and rereading and laughing aloud at Dance for an age, so I suspect the article is the eruption of a forty year internal monologue where he’s arguing with himself that this is better than Proust. Writes it as a late-life treat.

(I think mark s suggests something like canonising AP for a bet in one of the other threads which I also like)

He’s an unpersuasive critic though imo.

woof, Thursday, 23 August 2018 07:23 (two years ago) link

I don't remember Ali on Powell - I don't like Ali but I like it when he drops in anecdotes about PA.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 09:07 (two years ago) link

calzino yr endorsement has made me curious

plax (ico), Monday, 19 October 2020 15:10 (three months ago) link

god knows what I was prattling on about upthread! but in short it made me think, specifically about the limitations of an opposition party in the UK, how the Labour party (even the vaunted Atlee led one) was never going to to take us to a better place than this current hellscape and how Corbynism was always completely doomed, even without December election bloodbath. And also Blairism and its adherents/apologists were a set of intellectual and moral midgets, hardly news but it's nice to hear things retold sometimes!

calzino, Monday, 19 October 2020 15:56 (three months ago) link

I'm still working my way through it. a massive read would be to go back through all the articles which he mentions or whose argument he summarizes in the piece.

here comes the hotstamper (jim in vancouver), Monday, 19 October 2020 16:54 (three months ago) link

in the mentions is a Rory Scothorne piece. I didn't realise he was a "somebody" who has wrote for the lrb, just thought he was a solid lefty-scottish twitter poster who talks a lot of sense about how fucked Scottish Labour are. PA tracks the path of the SNP going from an obscure bourgie centrist party with no ambition of independence to the where they are now.

calzino, Monday, 19 October 2020 19:35 (three months ago) link

I wish there was more scothorne in the lrb, seems to have a piece once or twice a year.

here comes the hotstamper (jim in vancouver), Monday, 19 October 2020 21:41 (three months ago) link

Remember when this thing was released?

xyzzzz__, Friday, 30 October 2020 15:01 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

i read this and there's not much to it. there's bits where its so obvious he was only vaguely paying attention

plax (ico), Friday, 13 November 2020 20:20 (two months ago) link

like: 'during the eu negs it became obvious the eu were punishing the uk to make an example' uh this is not obvious at all, it would seem quite the converse. a major part of his argument hinges on this diagnosis as well. there was something similar about scotland i forget.

plax (ico), Friday, 13 November 2020 20:24 (two months ago) link

just basic semi-paying attention stuff but secondary to 'my grand thesis'

plax (ico), Friday, 13 November 2020 20:25 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

never got round to the ukania one, but have just read the first of the three-parter on Europe, 'The European Coup.' And having approached it with a great deal of scepticism, I've come out the other end thinking it's a masterly display of intellect and structure.

The overall arc is a review of the work of a Dutch thinker and European political player Luuk van Middelaar. Anderson dubs van Middelaar, as, 'in Gramsci's vocabulary, the first organic intellectual of the EU.' Anderson pays tribute to the achievement of his work, though is sceptical about the uniformity of the plaudits, and by extension the lack of close examination. And of course Anderson is about to give him a thorough working over. In doing so he does a number of things simultaneously, and I think quite brilliantly, in an interwoven, discursive, but never off-topic essay. It's even a little difficult to separate these out.

One strand, reviews the key points of van Middelaar's major work The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union. In doing so Anderson via van Middelaar provides a useful, and helpfully quite simple framework for thinking about the EU, or rather the overall European project. However, some of this framework rests on a quite difficult set of intellectual jumps, which I'll come back to in a sec.

Another strand, via the rather innocuous statement 'Signal amid this enthusiasm has been a lack of curiosity about the author himself', is to build up a network of thinkers and thought going back to Machiavelli and interconnecting with each other, who provide a genealogy of the historical and intellectual context of the European project.

Of course with this is the other strand, which is the content and interrelation of those ideas.

And the other strand is the historical context for those ideas, particularly the Congress of Vienna/Restoration of Europe/Congress system, but also the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. This process of thought takes its cue from the view of van Middelaar's teacher, Ankersmit:

Good political thought, for Ankersmit, was never of the sort personified by Rawls: an abstract system of principles detached from concrete reality. It was always a response to urgent historical problems..

Or in another line contrasting the approach taken by these thinkers contra Rawls...'Ignored in a Rawlsian matrix concerned only with rights rather than interests...' In other words the process Anderson is describing, these core thinkers as they are understood in the retrospective context of the EU and its thinkers, is driven by contingency rather than idealism.

Lot of caveats there you'll note, and Anderson manages some of this complexity tonally, which is understandable, but on occasion can get a bit confusing, especially during the first third, where in order to review van Middelaar's ideas, he will ventriloquise them, sometimes to rather sharply sarcastic effect, and occasionally it's easy to forget he's ventriloquising.

Later in the essay, Anderson will drop the conventional mask of the reviewer somewhat, and use a later work of van Middelaar to take issue with some of the claims that van Middelaar makes for the successes of the EU over the last decade or so.

Anderson admires the earlier work as a realistic external assessment, with the later work being the view of an interested participant, or as Anderson has it: Alarums and Excursions belongs to a subclass of literature ... (which) might be called spin-doctorates of the equerry.

yes, they might well be, Perry, but only by *you* you hilarious word-guzzler.

The chief value he sees in the early work is that it lays bare, in the same way Machiavelli did, the operations and political machinations of the European project without any concern that it might be undemocratic or morally dubious - these after all are the demands that contingency places on politics, and anything is to be justified to further the European project as a thing above and beyond its constituent parts.

Anyway, i've rambled enough. What are the constituent parts:

  • where is the demos for the European Union (or are they representatives without a demos), and how can they be engaged?
  • what is the nature of European Union politics as van Middelaar and his intellectual heritage sees it. This produces that series of intellectual jumps which are quite hard to think through, or were for me anyway:
  • 1) Politics as aesthetic: it is not representative by *resembling* what is being represented, but a substitute for it, therefore it is a creative act and subject to aesthetics.
  • 2) Creating or engaging the demos is either, in three categories: German: aesthetics: an act of propaganda (flags and ode to joy); Roman: creating material benefits (eg unimpeded travel, free phone calls, and of course trade benefits), Greek: demos as participant and spectator in the democratic process (Anderson suggests that the EU and indeed van Middelaar are weak on this and weak on its solutions - in an interesting point right at the end of the essay, Anderson says the thinker to whom van Middelaar took most exception was Baudrillard).
  • 3) It being a branch of aesthetics it is subject to the sublime - that transformative mixture in Romantic philosophy of terror and beauty. This bit's pretty obscure though I felt i was on the right track when i said to myself 'well in these terms isn't the general financial crash 'sublime'' and indeed in the next paragraph the activities of the bourse were considered to participate in this conception of the sublime. The crucial aspect here is that it's suggested that the sublime is the route to getting people invested in the 'Greek' way - that is as spectators and participants. They have to be interested in how the EU will affect their lives, and basically that can mean... getting them frightened basically.
  • The 'three sphere' way of thinking about the dynamics: 1) The outer sphere, all countries that might be considered to come into the ambit of European Union politics, Europe as a continent, not just members, 2) the inner sphere: Commission, Court of Justice and EU Parliament and 3) an intermediate sphere, the operation of the member states, and at its apex the European Council.
  • The mechanic of the coup, as understood by 17thC thinker Naudé: a coup d'erat denoting not just the sudden overthrow of a regime, but any comparably unexpected action undertaken to found, preserve, alter or aggrandise a state, the processes of which take place in secret. There's a great quote from Naudé on the imperative of secrecy being a constituent element of his version of the coup d'etat:
in coups d'erat one sees the thunderbolt before one hears it growling in the clouds, it strikes before it flames forth, matins are said before the bells are rung, the execution precedes the sentence, everything is done à la judaique - he receives the stroke who thought to give it, dies who thought himself quite safe, suffers who never dreamed of pain; all is done at night, in obscurity, in fog and darkness

  • Anderson cites several examples of this version of the coup from van Middelaar's work, the two most significant: a 1963 ECJ ruling that national legislation had to complete with Community regulations under the rubric that it was in 'the spirit of the Treaty of Rome (even though nothing in the Treaty of Rome authorised this. The 1985 Act designed to add services to the common market, which was opposed by Britain, Denmark and Greece, who never got a chance to exercise their veto due to a piece of very dubious administrative sleight of hand by Craxi.

There is also some useful stuff on the recent history of Netherlands political alignments. Anyway, it's a rich and intellectually complex piece, which is coherent, but which repays pausing for thought at many points.

I'm certainly very dependent on trusting Anderson's bona fides, at least his scholarly probity, though I know generally what angle he has on the European Union. For example if you'd asked me who the major thinkers relating to the EU were I'd've said, idk? Habermaas? Streeck? Who don't make any appearance at all. The entire conception of the European project as being a way of keeping Europe unified through economic self-interest, while promoting progressively liberal policies for its community of citizens is entirely reframed here, completely reconfigured, which is what makes it so fascinating.

very interested to read the next two, which is *not* something you'd've heard me saying before i read this.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 29 December 2020 23:28 (three weeks ago) link

oh a couple of infelicities:

"the oubliette of his retrospect" ew no

and the final fucking line!

Van Rompuy has voiced the truths of Brussels more bluntly. In Greece, 'the performance of the troika may have taken place a little too much in the media spotlight': better in a blackout. What of the continent at large? "I believe the Union is over-democratised': in so many words.

Wait, what? 'In so many words'? Do you mean you've paraphrased Van Rompuy to say something quite revealing, but which he didn't say? Or is this your essay 'in so many words'? (Which would be a reasonable summary). Painful ambiguity to end on there.

It'd be good to see a review of this from someone who knows what they're talking about - Adam Tooze is a critical and engaged watcher of the EU for example. In fact, I'd like to revisit his thorough treatment of the troika, and EU statecraft in the aftermath of the GFC in Crashed, and replay it with Anderson's essay in mind to see what fits and what doesn't.

Every now and then you can feel Anderson straining van Middelaas to say more than he is actually saying in order to support Anderson's tacit argument of an undemocratic EU. Phrases like 'you can just feel his enthusiasm'. Ok ok, show don't tell, Perry.

Fizzles, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 00:42 (three weeks ago) link

Creating or engaging the demos is either, in three categories As a self-centric American, I can't get away from the first and third, would like more of the Roman, also a t-shirt w Naudé quote; thanks for the post.

dow, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 01:49 (three weeks ago) link

Wonder what Anderson would make of this kind of talk?

dow, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 04:08 (three weeks ago) link

Or this---room for the sublime?

dow, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 17:55 (three weeks ago) link

As far as I know, PA is pro-Brexit. (Maybe this article confirms it.)

I may possibly have remarked before that what rather grates about this is that, as far as I know, he does not live in the UK.

Like many people, I think Brexit is bad for those of us living here, and it's annoying to see it defended by someone who's unaffected by it. (You could even add Morrissey to this theme, though I don't think he would make it through a PA article.)

But my premises might be flawed; PA might actually spend much more time in the UK than I realise. And he would still argue, I'm sure, that he has the right to opinions on any foreign land, as he does on Italy, Russia, Turkey, etc.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 30 December 2020 18:03 (three weeks ago) link

the article isn’t about brexit (i think it mentions it once in what as you say is a v long article - as an example where van middelaar’s v whiggish support of european successes is perhaps misplaced). suspect an analysis of “the outer sphere” comes in this next instalment “An Ever Greater Union?”.

i don’t know whether anderson would be a brexit supporter as such, but he’s wary of the methodology of the european project and sees many of its layers as undemocratic, which is a charge of leavers i guess? i mean i suspect that anderson like many international thinkers eg Tooze thinks Brexit is, globally, and in the long term, of supreme unimportance, another milestone of blip on the UK’s confused and belligerent transition from an imperial power to a nation state. obviously we’ve been driven insane in the country by four years of relentless coverage of nothing happening apart from internal torments. it’s been very badly handled and is a bad idea, as many people will likely see a reduction in wealth (cultural, STEM and material) and global influence (if that matters), but in Anderson’s grand frameworks that probably doesn’t figure than as an example of something else rather than an important thing in itself.

this essay is more the history of ideas around it. i must admit i find it hard to say why the overall essay appealed to me so much. if you’d outlined it’s matter to me idve said god no life’s too short. but there’s something almost like gormenghast in the world building, the exposition of an intellectual framework and web, of people i’d never heard of and the interconnectedness of frames of thought, and i was genuinely impressed how perry managed it.

Fizzles, Thursday, 31 December 2020 09:43 (three weeks ago) link

I think PA is pro-Brexit - even if he doesn't say so here.

But I agree that for him this would be in a disdainful context of dismissal of the importance of deluded "Ukania" - a very tiresome meme that he was been trading in uncritically for 30-odd years.

the pinefox, Thursday, 31 December 2020 10:38 (three weeks ago) link

A feature of PA is that he hates centrists, liberals, Blairites, social democrats, etc, more than he does the political Right.

So one can be confident that in a PA analysis of Brexit there would be contempt for Remainiac types, Blair's interventions, perhaps CHUK, but not much for Farage, Gove, the PM.

I must admit that this feels suspect. If you're going to say one is bad (true), you need to say the other is at least equally bad.

the pinefox, Thursday, 31 December 2020 10:39 (three weeks ago) link

You don't need to address everything, at least when it's a given. I'm not convinced you're right about Perry's animosities but I'm with it anyway, the centrist and faux-left temporizers have done far more harm to the left than any amount of plain sight reactionaries

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 31 December 2020 11:06 (three weeks ago) link

If you never address a thing, it may not appear to be a given.

the pinefox, Thursday, 31 December 2020 12:09 (three weeks ago) link

A feature of PA is that he hates centrists, liberals, Blairites, social democrats, etc, more than he does the political Right.

That doesn't sounds right to me at all. I think PA deals more critically with some of the people in these groupings, who might at other times have been on the left.

Having read "The European Coup" I was kind of startled by his mention of Brexit, which is something he hasn't dealt with in much of the writing I've read by him (a lot of the LRB archive has a focus on mainland Europe, Brazil, India). It could be that he just can't be fucked anymore -- but also reckon that in any treatment would also uncover weaknesses in his writing. UKANIA in the NLR is a block for me, only a quarter of the way through.

Now, by the fact he did mention Brexit -- if only as another data point that shows the weaknesses of the EU -- as in why did its leaders not give Cameron more concessions, was an interesting point of sorts...and I quite like to see where he will go with it. But the thing is he hasn't explored this question, so I don't know whether he is a Lexiteer. But a straight political opinion isn't something you get from PA.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 31 December 2020 15:16 (three weeks ago) link

are all three parts out now and what is the combined wordlength?

mark s, Thursday, 14 January 2021 12:15 (one week ago) link

i will never calculate this for myself

mark s, Thursday, 14 January 2021 12:15 (one week ago) link

the total number of words is called a "Perrygrination"

Sven Vath's scary carpet (Neil S), Thursday, 14 January 2021 12:42 (one week ago) link


mark s, Thursday, 14 January 2021 12:43 (one week ago) link

I didn't mean to scold him or preach to the choir w my posts re brexit, just wondering how/if the concerns cited/points made might fit into his "world-building," which is the most appealing term used here re his possible appeal.

dow, Thursday, 14 January 2021 17:52 (one week ago) link

It's about 30k, expect nothing less

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 14 January 2021 19:09 (one week ago) link

strong dubdobdee blogpost energy

mark s, Thursday, 14 January 2021 19:52 (one week ago) link

I've read the 3rd part of this Euro piece in one sitting. Mostly on Brexit, and you could mostly read without the other parts.

Perry's spinning plates technique is kinda incredible, and his way with detail -- what he can prioritise, what he does not -- gives rise to rich moments.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 16 January 2021 15:50 (one week ago) link

I'd add that to reduce his position on the EU to "Lexit" isn't correct. Throughout he is sober about what the EU is, what UK democracy is, in all of its shortcomings.

Perry has some sharp words for Remain support coming out of universities but it's not a class warrior position, more of an observation of the EU's relationship to UK higher ed.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 16 January 2021 17:36 (one week ago) link

I read, at last, Part II of PA in Europe, without reading Part I, which I don't have to hand.

Mostly a critique of the EU's infamous democratic deficit. Factually informative, but not surprising in outlook.

the pinefox, Sunday, 17 January 2021 11:24 (one week ago) link

the meat of the essay is to show the context and geneaology of political philosophy that drives the character of its political model tho, right? the point of it being that he’s showing the intellectual mechanics that inform it. the use of that above the purely descriptive is to place it in the context of ideas which will be forming and formed by the future the world, no?

Fizzles, Sunday, 17 January 2021 12:08 (one week ago) link

Fizzles: unlike you, I haven't yet read Part One. What you say may be what Part One is about, but so far it's not what Part Two is about. It's about 'mechanics' as in institutional operations, but not really about ideas.

the pinefox, Sunday, 17 January 2021 12:17 (one week ago) link

i am postponing the 30,000 words of undiluted thrillpower until i have three clear days to go in hard

(adding that i suspect now more than ever that PA's 60s/70s project to detect and outline the ideology that actually underlay the UK's non-conformance to the standard evolution of polities -- the nairn-anderson thesis -- was, despite its probable good intentions at the outset, increasingly significantly distorts his reading of present-day UK politics. N&A were battling to refuse the "acquired an empire in a fit of absent-mindedness" argument of course, and refusing to embed british exceptionalism in a negative characteristic = the absence of and casual freedom from any one affirmed ideology) (i mean it;s is thesis and fair play he wants to stick with it BUT the seemingly trivial fact of the badness of the "ukania" gag continues to tell against the whole) (also nairn omits discussion of the sex pistols from "the enchanted glass", his book on the monarchy, and not for good reasons IMO)

(so i will be reading it with all this very much in mind) (when i have a fkn second) (five clear days)

mark s, Sunday, 17 January 2021 12:52 (one week ago) link

this post^^^ took me nearly three clear days and it's still full of typos

mark s, Sunday, 17 January 2021 12:55 (one week ago) link

Btw, no mention of "ukania" in the first and third parts of that piece. Anderson skillfully used the ongoing relationship of UK politics to EU politics in the latter to draw out a set of insights from either. Mostly insights into Europe, but I got a lot out of it from a UK perspective.

I doubt that PA is seeking to surprise anyone with his outlook. Does he ever? Is anyone going to be surprised about any of his views on Brazil or India or UK? If you want to reduce his stance on to a one-liner -- which he resists by the vast quantity of reading and links he can make from it -- it's one of the i.e. all of this fucking sucks variety, but it's the facts and links that he draws that open up avenues for others. And in this, PA is getting to a map of this bloc of centre-right-to-centre-left coalitions that are highly robust, one that can survive all types and manner of crisis (created by itself or otherwise) that would topple national governments, one that can shrug at a member state's entire withdrawal from it.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 17 January 2021 14:34 (one week ago) link

BUT the seemingly trivial fact of the badness of the "ukania" gag continues to tell against the whole

I love this.

the pinefox, Sunday, 17 January 2021 16:06 (one week ago) link

PA ends Part II saying that the EU's claims are almost all hollow but it has two benefits: free movement and a range of consumer goods. He recognises that those are popular - but then, in a way, dealing with them only in the last paragraph of a 10,000-word article suggests that he's slighting the practical benefits of the EU. As I have said before, I am unsure that he lives in the EU (or perhaps he does, half the year or something), which may be a reason he is cavalier about the everyday gains of being in it.

the pinefox, Sunday, 17 January 2021 16:08 (one week ago) link

I think that a reader not knowing much about the subject, reading Part II and taking it at face value, would say: the EU is pretty bad and it would be good for a country to leave it and restore its democratic independence.

This isn't a very new sensation or surprising outcome - I felt the same after reading Susan Watkins on the EU in the LRB c.7 years ago, and she was, in effect, one of PA's successors as editor of NLR.

the pinefox, Sunday, 17 January 2021 16:11 (one week ago) link

Reading Part III. A simple response consistently emerges: one that many of us have felt about many other things and fields.*

It's basically: "I believed you, indeed was profoundly impressed, when you were talking about those other places and things that weren't very familiar, but now you're talking about where I live and things I went through, and you keep saying things - even if only small things - that I know are wrong."

Not to say it's all wrong, or useless. But it's surprising how cavalier he is with factual narrative when talking about things that most of his readers will already know as well as he does.

[*A parallel: it's been said that everyone likes most things about Declan Kiberd's INVENTING IRELAND, except that Wildeans don't like the chapter on Wilde, Joyceans don't like the chapter on Joyce, Shavians don't like the chapter on Shaw ...]

the pinefox, Tuesday, 19 January 2021 23:39 (six days ago) link

im going to be using the expression ukania on ilx long after perry mason has shuffled off this mortal coil

Fenners' Pen (jim in vancouver), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 23:46 (six days ago) link

"Not to say it's all wrong, or useless. But it's surprising how cavalier he is with factual narrative when talking about things that most of his readers will already know as well as he does."

Is it not very surprising or just wrong? I've certainly not seen this command of the overall narrative from anybody on the mainstream press though I've read good reporting on aspects of it.

Part of the reason people have been as divided on Brexit -- and not just along Leave or Remain either, with both camps having its own cliques -- is that there is very little agreement on the nature of the EU and its benefits and who are the main beneficiaries?

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 20 January 2021 09:47 (five days ago) link

This was certainly part of the weakness of the Remain argument during the referendum and is a lot of the bathos of the angrier end of the FBPE crew

Un tranquillo posto di scampagna (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 20 January 2021 09:53 (five days ago) link

God knows when/if I'll get to read this PA piece but the subject of how the EU sells itself to its citizens would be worth a lot of analysis in itself

Un tranquillo posto di scampagna (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 20 January 2021 09:55 (five days ago) link

PA's argument is that it doesn't bother because it doesn't need to, and that the vitally important decisions made by (in partiuclar) the European Council and the ECJ are made in camera without the bother of tirseome politics or democracy.

Sven Vath's scary carpet (Neil S), Wednesday, 20 January 2021 09:58 (five days ago) link

I've read the first part and he essentially makes it sound like a confidence trick.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 20 January 2021 10:06 (five days ago) link

After the first part I'm mostly 'man, fuck a dutch tory'

ukania west (Bananaman Begins), Thursday, 21 January 2021 09:57 (four days ago) link

As Perry Anderson's greatest admirer on ILX (with the caveat that Mark S was into amphibologies before I was) -- I found Part III of this overall remarkably poor.

The first half is a standard account of UK political history since the 1960s which you could assemble from Wikipedia or even from most UK adults' general knowledge -- but, as I noted, strangely specked with errors, casually misleading and false claims, which go with the 'breezy journalism' genre. Still, he does add *some* new analysis to this story, though its accuracy too remains questionable.

Then he gets on to Mount, Oborne, Wheatcroft - which feels much too easily self-selecting, PA as so often just going back to the same people he's been reading for years (especially Mount). It's at least interesting to see how much Mount has changed his tunes. But PA says these are all less impressive than Noel Malcolm and Richard Tuck, Hobbes scholars. Hm ... So what do they have to say?

Mainly that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable - which is PA's general case, which could have been made in a page, not 30,000 words. But as for Tuck: first PA repeats a standard Lexit claim ('the EU wouldn't let you nationalise industry', etc) which is interesting but has never been empirically tested in a large member nation (a point PA totally omits), surely *because those nations are neoliberal in their national politics anyway* ... That's all OK up to a point, but PA also TWICE cites the fact that Tuck argues that *Brexit makes the break-up of the UK less likely*.

Well, this could be true; it could be too early to say; but it flies in the face of everything that any political analyst has said for the last 6 years, and PA does *nothing* to explain why they're wrong and Tuck's right about it. And yet Tuck is one of his great sages!

And finally we get a last couple of pages just repeating the general charges of undemocratic structure and personal corruption, and along the way saying that the EU is politically worse than the UK.

Some of this article is true, some of it is insightful, but the balance of new insight to retreads is unusually unfavourable here by PA's standards. It's even noticeable that his prose is less sparkling than usual.

Part II was informative but unexciting. Part I, which Fizzles greatly admired, I still haven't properly read. But overall the balance of value here seems to be towards a let-down.

the pinefox, Thursday, 21 January 2021 10:13 (four days ago) link

In part 1, there was a startlingly... tendentious (ie bad and wrong) paragraph about the founding of the United States.

ukania west (Bananaman Begins), Thursday, 21 January 2021 10:32 (four days ago) link

"But as for Tuck: first PA repeats a standard Lexit claim ('the EU wouldn't let you nationalise industry', etc) which is interesting but has never been empirically tested in a large member nation (a point PA totally omits)"

No large EU state is testing this claim precisely because it is against the rules they are bound to observe by being in the EU.

Good point on Tuck, it did seem one of two points -- the other on Momentum and languages -- that were obscure and needed more, though I think in the latter there was a larger point on Labour's infighting on the issue that would've detracted from the piece.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 January 2021 12:28 (four days ago) link

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