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Tag: alain de botton

POP CULTURE: Better Celebrities

POP CULTURE: Better Celebrities

Serious people are used to thinking badly of celebrity culture. They hate how everyone wants to read about where the latest big name has been on holiday, or who they’re dating. They say it’s silly and a sad reflection of modern civilization. Such stern attitudes may sound sensible and noble, but they are in truth deeply irresponsible. The impulse to admire and have heroes is an important part of human nature. Ignoring it or condemning it won’t kill it off;…

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HISTORY: CONSUMERISM

HISTORY: CONSUMERISM

For most of history, the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s inhabitants have owned, more or less, nothing. The clothes they stood up in, some bowls, a pot and a pan, perhaps a broom and, if things were going really well, a few farming implements. Nations and peoples remained consistently poor. Global GDP did not grow at all from year to year: the world was an aggregate as hard up in 1800 as it had been at the beginning of time….

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SOCIOLOGY – Alexis De Tocqueville

SOCIOLOGY – Alexis De Tocqueville

Democracy was achieved by such a long arduous and heroic struggle that it can feel embarrassing even shameful to be pretty Disappointed by it Perhaps the best guy to such feelings and to Modern democracy in general is a 19th century French aristocrat [Alexis] De [Tocqueville] Photo Tocqueville Democracy was a highly exotic and new political option he’d been born in 1805 when Napoleon was the populist dictator of half of Europe But he prescient lee believed that democracy was…

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Are we too Materialistic?

Are we too Materialistic?

it doesn’t seem to make sense to suggest that there might be such a thing as good materialism. After all isn’t materialism just plain bad always? It can seem as if we’re faced with a stark choice. Either you can be materialistic and that means obsessed with money and possessions shallow and selfish, or you can reject materialism be good and focus on more important matters of the Spirit. But in truth most of us are in our hearts stuck…

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Meritocracy

Meritocracy

Politicians from all walks of life nowadays agree on one thing: we need to build more meritocratic societies. That is, societies where everyone, no matter what their background is, has the chance to succeed on their own merits. This is a beautiful idea responsible for some great things like free education for all, positive discrimination, and a real effort to end nepotism in business and government. We’ve largely done away with the old world of feudalism where lords couldn’t manage…

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PHILOSOPHY – Soren Kierkegaard

PHILOSOPHY – Soren Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard was a brilliant, gloomy, anxiety-ridden, often hilarious Danish 19th century philosopher. The author of 22 books, of which 3 continue to make his name. He was born in an immensely wealthy family in Copenhagen in 1813, the youngest of 7 children. Death was around him constantly from a young age, and was to obsess him throughout his career. It is, in a sense, his only theme. Not only was he extremely physically frail, by the time he was…

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How to Enrich a Country: Free Trade or Protectionism?

How to Enrich a Country: Free Trade or Protectionism?

One of the most pressing choices facing modern economies is whether to adopt a policy of free trade or of protectionism, that is, whether to encourage foreign goods into the country with minimum tariffs and allow industries to relocate abroad; or whether to make it hard for foreign firms to sell their goods internally and discourage domestic producers tempted by cheaper wages in other lands. It feels like a very modern dilemma, but the debates between proponents of free trade…

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How the Modern World Makes Us Mentally Ill

How the Modern World Makes Us Mentally Ill

The modern world is wonderful in many ways (dentistry is good, cars are reliable, we can so easily keep in touch from Mexico with our grandmother in Scotland) – but it’s also powerfully and tragically geared to causing a high background level of anxiety and widespread low-level depression. There are six particular features of modernity that have this psychologically disturbing effect. Each one has a potential cure, which we will only collectively put into action when we know more about…

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SOCIOLOGY – Émile Durkheim

SOCIOLOGY – Émile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim is the philosopher who can best help us to understand why capitalism makes us richer and yet frequently more miserable. He was born in 1858 in the little french town of Épinale near the German border. Before he was forty, Durkheim was appointed to a powerful and prestigious position: as a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. Durkheim lived through the immense, rapid transformation of France. From a largely traditional agricultural society… …to an urban industrial economy. He…

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