Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today.
In Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, one of our leading historians and thinkers, reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment. Judt masterfully crystallizes what we've all been feeling into a way to think our way into, and thus out of, our great collective dis-ease about the current state of things.
As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America - the guarantee of a basal level 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 not so distant past and to social democracy in action: to re-enshrining 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 to our detriment for the past thirty years-social democrats entrust their fellow citizens and the state itself.
Ill Fares the Land challenges us to confront our societal ills and to shoulder responsibility for the world we live in. For hope remains. In reintroducing alternatives to the status quo, Judt reinvigorates our political conversation, providing the tools necessary to imagine a new form of governance, a new way of life.
Until a year ago, Tony Judt was a prolific historian of twentieth-century Europe and a frequent critic of American foreign policy. Then he was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's disease"). As his mobility has dwindled, his thoughts have turned from scholarship and polemic to memoir and prophecy. A series of exquisite autobiographical essays have appeared in the New York Review of Books, revisiting his boyhood and adolescence in post-World War II England. Ill Fares the Land is a political valediction, a distillation of his career-long engagement with the vicissitudes of twentieth-century history and ideology.