Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today, NYU historian Tony Judt maintains in Ill Fares the Land (Penguin Press, March 2010).
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today, New York University historian Tony Judt maintains in Ill Fares the Land (Penguin Press, March 2010). In his latest book, Judt, director of NYU’s Remarque Institute, not only reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment, but also crystallizes what we’ve all been feeling into a way to think our way into, and thus out of, our great collective unease about the current state of things.
The work is largely drawn from Judt’s 2009 Remarque Lecture, “What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy,” delivered in October 2009 at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The address may be viewed here:
As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America—the guarantee of security, stability, and fairness—is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it’s no longer part of the common discourse. Judt offers the language we need to address our common needs, rejecting the nihilistic individualism of the far right and the debunked socialism of the past. To find a way forward, we must look to our recent past and to social democracy in action: to valuing fairness over mere efficiency.
Distinctly absent from our national dialogue, social democrats believe that the state can play an enhanced role in our lives without threatening our liberties. Instead of placing blind faith in the market—as we have for the past three decades—social democrats entrust fellow citizens and the state they share.
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Judt is the author or editor of 14 books, including Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. His book Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 has been translated into 19 languages and was awarded the European Book Prize. Judt is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and many other journals in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. In 2009 he was awarded The Orwell Prize for Lifetime Achievement. After teaching in Cambridge, Oxford and UC Berkeley, he moved to NYU, where he has served as chair of the History Department, dean for humanities, University Professor, and director of the Remarque Institute.