This year I start a new monthly series of quotes I like from my little humanist dictionary! January What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other? George Eliot, “Middlemarch” Progress is not an illusion; it happens but it is slow and invariably disappointing. George…
Thanks to all the good folk at Madrid, Here are some nice photos. My handout can be found at:Lectures in Madrid, November 2016
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)
The day Jo Cox was murdered, the Daily Mail ran a shrill front page story about migrants, stoking fear and hate in the referendum campaign. The story was plain wrong — but instead of remorsefully retracting it, the Mail just buried a tiny correction in the paper. Our democracy relies on media that tells the…
Sociology: The Basics 2nd edition will be published on May 31st This lively and compact introduction to sociology provides a stimulating and critical guide to the ideas and debates that shape the discipline. The reader is invited to develop a sociological imagination relevant for today’s troubled world. It introduces theory, methods and the history of…
A Poetic for Sociology
The Haunting Of Social Things
We live the social electric
The air we breathe is social.
The tiny things and the major things.
The social haunting of life in vast time and space.
The social is natural and the natural is social.
We do things together, drenched with people,
attuned to others: there is always the other.
And the haunting of social things.
We make social life stuffed full of the possible
yet we dwell in our habits, the patterns and structures,
the predictable positions we trap ourselves in.
The prisons that engulf us, a daily haunting.
Pounding patterns of structure and wobbly worlds of meaning.
We are prisoners, puppets, and people. Always fragile.
World making actions, and resistance, rebellion-
in worlds not of our making that haunt till we die.
Ubiquitous differences, divisions,dominations: the inhumanities of people.
A haunting ‘matrix of inequalities’: generations at war,
gendered classed races, sexy nations disabled.
And the troubled pathways of excluding and exploiting, dehumanizing and disempowering.
At the brink of a change- a world seething with gushing movements.
Pasts, presents and futures collide in the moment.
Where did it come from and where is it headed?
Cyber capitalisms in global ferment haunting the world.
Standing amazed at this chaos and complexity
of the humanly produced social world;
and its joys and its sufferings,
we celebrate it and we critique these hauntings.
Yet the dreadful dullness of professional knowledge.
Its earnest desire for respectability and order,
abstractions to kill you. Standards to die for.
A dark cloak thrown over the mind.
We need ‘the tricks of the trade’ : practical questions with practical answers.
Rich descriptions and explanations of dense social life.
An intimate familiarity through all the senses.
Explore and respect the empirical world. And look for it hauntings.
We dwell in social tensions, conflicts and contradiction.
Observing schisms, thinking paradox,
and struggling with opposing paths: living with the contradictions.
The hard trick of dealing with them in our lives.
The vast multiplicities of social life: Contested. Contingent. Creative.
And thriving. Progressing. Regressing. Sometimes surviving.
Incorrigibly plural. Intransigently vast.
The complex tales how we order our past.
And the blindness of human beings?
The taken for granted need not be taken for granted.
Doubting the familiar;
living with radical doubt.
Yet all we know is incomplete and open,
Necessarily provisional, partial, perspectival.
Reality is inexhaustible, too complex and dense to be fully comprehended
No finality. Or closure.
The dream of a better world haunts sociology.
Empowering lives and imagining utopias.
More justice in each generation?
A flourishing life for all?
A dialogue: being personal, being political?
Passionate knowledge? A garden to cultivate?
A quiet catharsis of comprehension? With the other?
Haunted by doubt, love and hope.
On Sondheim: An Opinionated Guide By Ethan Mordden Oxford University Press, New York; xiii, 186 (pp216) ISBN 978-0199394814 Published January 21st 2016 Stephen Sondheim has been the mover and shaker of the modern musical for the past half-century. Widely honoured and celebrated, his work flags how the musical has evolved and become celebrated as…
On Thursday February 11 2016, my dear friend, mentor and guru John Gagnon died at the age of 84. He had experienced problems with his leg and his eye, but the final period starting in October brought a terminal pancreatic cancer. He has been an inspiration and will be loved and missed by many.…