SOCIOLOGY – Theodor Adorno

Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was born in Frankfurt in 1903 into a wealthy and cultured family. His father, a wine merchant, was of Jewish origin but had converted to Protestantism at university. Until his twenties, Adorno planned for a career as a composer, but eventually focused on philosophy. In 1934, he Continue Reading

PHILOSOPHY – Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre made thinking and philosophy glamorous. He was born in Paris in 1905. His father, a navy captain, died when he was a baby – and he grew up extremely close to his mother until she remarried, much to his regret, when he was twelve. Sartre spent most of Continue Reading

The Dawn of Capitalism

Generous, thoughtful, sensitive people are often drawn to the view that we shouldn’t expect economies to grow. After all, the earth and its resources are limited. So why keep asking for GDP to expand? It’s understandable if this opinion is widespread, but perhaps a good future depends not on minimizing Continue Reading

Why Religious Beliefs Aren’t Just Silly

From a distance, it can all seem very silly. These people have gone to Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in the hope that the Virgin Mary might cure them of cancer and heart disease. These people have gone to Medjugorje in Bosnia Herzegovina to pray they might get Continue Reading

Countries for winners; countries for losers

We all, naturally, want to be winners. And so, consequently, a great many countries are designed to reward winners. These are the countries that pay a good deal of attention to optimising the conditions of life available to people who win. In such lands, if one is a winner and Continue Reading

PHILOSOPHY – Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault was a French 20th century philosopher and historian who spent his career forensically criticizing the power of the modern bourgeois capitalist state, including its police, law courts, prisons, doctors and psychiatrists. His goal was to work out nothing less than how power worked and then to change it Continue Reading

PHILOSOPHY – Hegel

Georg Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770. Intellectually he was adventurous, but in externals, respectable, conventional, and proud of it. He ascended the academic tree and reached the top most branch, head of the University of Berlin, when he was sixty years old; he died the following year. Continue Reading

Why Socrates Hated Democracy

We are used to thinking very highly of democracy – and by extension, of Ancient Athens, the civilisation that gave rise to it. The Parthenon has become almost a byword for democratic values, which is why so many leaders of democracies like to be photographed there. It’s therefore very striking Continue Reading

LITERATURE – George Orwell

George Orwell was an English intellectual who died in 1950 and used literature for the only reason it ultimately really exists – to try to change the world for the better. He was, in the deeper sense, a political writer, someone who wanted art to help us grow kinder, fairer, Continue Reading

Why Some Countries Are Poor and Others Rich