Ill Fares The Land picks up where The Spirit Level leaves off: asking why equality and social democracy have declined as drivers of political change.
Judt suffered from the rare Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Ill Fares the Land was dictated literally from his sick bed. It is not a robust peer reviewed academic treatise, but in places it is pure inspiration. Read it. Buy it.
He traces the crises of the early 20th century – two world wars and Great Depression. he charts the rise of post-war Keynesian economics and the politics of social democracy that were determined famine and war should not again stalk the earth.
He notes the rise of Hayek’s Austrian economics – and its Western political manifestations in Reagan and Thatcher’s administrations.
He notes the rise of the Third Way under Blair (and by another name under Clinton, and could we add locally Clark/Cullen?) as a triangulated response against the rise of right wing political hegemony.
He argues that with the end of those administrations the ideas of the Right once again hold sway. He asks what is worth saving of the social democratic project, and what is now to be done.
He concludes that nothing short of a strong and clear reclaiming of the values of equality, community and social democracy will equip the Left for the fight it must now win.
He notes that genuine politics must take place alongside those it seeks to serve, and I am sure that he is right about that.
Ill Fares the Land is far from a perfect work. (And for the trolls out there, I did not agree with every word). But it is a poignant lament for the decline of values most Kiwis treasure, and a challenge to us all to fight for a better future.
RIP Tony Judt.