peteg's blog

How I Ended This Summer

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I've had this one on the list for ages (since 2010). Two blokes stuck in a meteorology station on an island in Chukotka, Russia (opposite Alaska). The younger one starts acting up for no good reason. I wonder if they really do have radioisotope thermoelectric generators still lying around out there. Initially quite slow, and then the plot gets a bit too horror/survival to care about. In two sittings. Some of the cinematography is gorgeous.

Stephen Holden.

Four Lions

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Second time around while waiting for the storms to arrive (supposed to be here by 2pm-ish; eventually showed at 6pm-ish). Still transgressive and very funny at times.

David Runciman: Politics: Ideas in Profile.

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Kindle. A brief introduction to political philosophy. The first section is on violence and Hobbes's insight that any politics is superior to an every-man-for-himself "state of nature". This sets the explanatory bar quite low, so we get some Machiavelli, and Max Weber's definition of the state as "that entity which successfully claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence." The second section wants to separate out political knowledge from the technical, and technocracies are bad, ok. The final section slides into philosophical ethics though it wants to talk about justice. Runciman observes that democracies don't fight each other but are extremely brutal in warfare. Fukuyama is rehabilitated. Amartya Sen and Rawls are name checked.

As with How Democracy Ends, but more so, Runciman is quite sloppy: he often cutely phrases a series of overly strong assertions that are not causally or necessarily connected before weaseling out of drawing their (implausible, ridiculous) strong conclusion. These presentational failures detract from the fine points he makes. It strikes me that Rousseau's notion of the social contract was a way to progress past Hobbesian inertia, but Runciman does not go there.

An excerpt at the Guardian is probably most of it.