December 30, 2010

TONY JUDT, 1948-2010

Judt, Tony, The Memory Chalet (New York: The Penguin Press, 2010)."Moral seriousness in public life is like pornography: hard to define but you know it when you see it. It describes a coherence of intention and action, an ethic of political responsibility. All politics is the art of the possible. But art too has it ethics. . . ." Id. at 31. "The opposite of austerity is not prosperity but luxe et volupe. We have substituted endless commerce for public purpose, and expect no higher aspirations from our leaders. Sixty years after Churchill could offer only 'blood, toil, tears and sweat,' our very own war president--notwithstanding the hyperventilated moralism of his rhetoric-cold think of nothing more to ask of us in the wake of September 11, 2001, than to continue shopping. This impoverished view of community--the 'togetherness' of consumption00is all we deserve from those who govern us. If we want better rulers, we must learn to ask more from them and less for ourselves. A little austerity might be in order." Id. at 32. "The 'professionalization' of academic writing--and the self-conscious grasping of humanists for security of 'theory' and 'methodology' favors obscurantism. This has encouraged the rise of a counterfeit currency of glib 'popular' articulacy: in the discipline of history this is exemplified by the ascent of the 'television don,' whose appeal lies precisely in his claim to attract a mass audience in an age when fellow scholars have lost interest in communication. But whereas as an earlier generation of popular scholarship distilled authorial authority into plain text, today's 'accessible' writers protrude uncomfortably into the audience's consciousness. It is the performer, rather than the subject, to whom the audience's attention is drawn." Id. at 152.).