Category: History


Resultado de imagem para Newly built Volkswagen Beetles ready for shipping from Hamburg in 1972. Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Newly built Volkswagen Beetles ready for shipping from Hamburg in 1972. Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Unprecedented growth marked the era from 1948 to 1973. Economists might study it forever, but it can never be repeated. Why?

Newly built Volkswagen Beetles ready for shipping from Hamburg in 1972. Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Marc Levinson is an economist, historian and journalist whose work has appeared in The Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.com, among others. His latest book is An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Rise of the Ordinary Economy (2016). He lives in Washington, DC.

The second half of the 20th century divides neatly in two. The divide did not come with the rise of Ronald Reagan or the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is not discernible in a particular event, but rather in a shift in the world economy, and the change continues to shape politics and society in much of the world today.

The shift came at the end of 1973. The quarter-century before then, starting around 1948, saw the most remarkable period of economic growth in human history. In the Golden Age between the end of the Second World War and 1973, people in what was then known as the ‘industrialised world’ – Western Europe, North America, and Japan – saw their living standards improve year after year. They looked forward to even greater prosperity for their children. Culturally, the first half of the Golden Age was a time of conformity, dominated by hard work to recover from the disaster of the war. The second half of the age was culturally very different, marked by protest and artistic and political experimentation. Behind that fermentation lay the confidence of people raised in a white-hot economy: if their adventures turned out badly, they knew, they could still find a job.

The year 1973 changed everything. High unemployment and a deep recession made experimentation and protest much riskier, effectively putting an end to much of it. A far more conservative age came with the economic changes, shaped by fears of failing and concerns that one’s children might have it worse, not better. Across the industrialised world, politics moved to the Right – a turn that did not avert wage stagnation, the loss of social benefits such as employer-sponsored pensions and health insurance, and the secure, stable employment that had proved instrumental to the rise of a new middle class and which workers had come to take for granted. At the time, an oil crisis took the blame for what seemed to be a sharp but temporary downturn. Only gradually did it become clear that the underlying cause was not costly oil but rather lagging productivity growth – a problem that would defeat a wide variety of government policies put forth to correct it.

The great boom began in the aftermath of the Second World War. The peace treaties of 1945 did not bring prosperity; on the contrary, the post-war world was an economic basket case. Tens of millions of people had been killed, and in some countries a large proportion of productive capacity had been laid to waste. Across Europe and Asia, tens of millions of refugees wandered the roads. Many countries lacked the foreign currency to import food and fuel to keep people alive, much less to buy equipment and raw material for reconstruction. Railroads barely ran; farm tractors stood still for want of fuel. Everywhere, producing enough coal to provide heat through the winter was a challenge. As shoppers mobbed stores seeking basic foodstuffs, much less luxuries such as coffee and cotton underwear, prices soared. Inflation set off waves of strikes in the United States and Canada as workers demanded higher pay to keep up with rising prices. The world’s economic outlook seemed dim. It did not look like the beginning of a golden age.

As late as 1948, incomes per person in much of Europe and Asia were lower than they had been 10 or even 20 years earlier. But 1948 brought a change for the better. In January, the US military government in Japan announced it would seek to rebuild the economy rather than exacting reparations from a country on the verge of starvation. In April, the US Congress approved the economic aid programme that would be known as the Marshall Plan, providing Western Europe with desperately needed dollars to import machinery, transport equipment, fertiliser and food. In June, the three occupying powers – France, the United Kingdom and the US – rolled out the deutsche mark, a new currency for the western zones of Germany. A new central bank committed to keeping inflation low and the exchange rate steady would oversee the deutsche mark.

Postwar chaos gave way to stability, and the war-torn economies began to grow. In many countries, they grew so fast for so long that people began to speak of the ‘economic miracle’ (West Germany), the ‘era of high economic growth’ (Japan) and the 30 glorious years (France). In the English-speaking world, this extraordinary period became known as the Golden Age…

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https://aeon.co/essays/how-economic-boom-times-in-the-west-came-to-an-end

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image edited by Web Investigator
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Resultado de imagem para Intelligent assumptions? At the Oxford Union, 1950.

Intelligent assumptions? At the Oxford Union, 1950. From the Picture Post feature, Eternal Oxford. Photo by John Chillingworth/Getty

Intelligence has always been used as fig-leaf to justify domination and destruction. No wonder we fear super-smart robots

Stephen Cave is executive director and senior research fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. A philosopher by training, he has also served as a British diplomat, and written widely on philosophical and scientific subjects, including for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Guardian and others.

As I was growing up in England in the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of intelligence loomed large. It was aspired to, debated and – most important of all – measured. At the age of 11, tens of thousands of us all around the country were ushered into desk-lined halls to take an IQ test known as the 11-Plus. The results of those few short hours would determine who would go to grammar school, to be prepared for university and the professions; who was destined for technical school and thence skilled work; and who would head to secondary modern school, to be drilled in the basics then sent out to a life of low-status manual labour.

The idea that intelligence could be quantified, like blood pressure or shoe size, was barely a century old when I took the test that would decide my place in the world. But the notion that intelligence could determine one’s station in life was already much older. It runs like a red thread through Western thought, from the philosophy of Plato to the policies of UK prime minister Theresa May. To say that someone is or is not intelligent has never been merely a comment on their mental faculties. It is always also a judgment on what they are permitted to do. Intelligence, in other words, is political.

Sometimes, this sort of ranking is sensible: we want doctors, engineers and rulers who are not stupid. But it has a dark side. As well as determining what a person can do, their intelligence – or putative lack of it – has been used to decide what others can do to them. Throughout Western history, those deemed less intelligent have, as a consequence of that judgment, been colonised, enslaved, sterilised and murdered (and indeed eaten, if we include non-human animals in our reckoning).

It’s an old, indeed an ancient, story. But the problem has taken an interesting 21st-century twist with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In recent years, the progress being made in AI research has picked up significantly, and many experts believe that these breakthroughs will soon lead to more. Pundits are by turn terrified and excited, sprinkling their Twitter feeds with Terminator references. To understand why we care and what we fear, we must understand intelligence as a political concept – and, in particular, its long history as a rationale for domination.

The term ‘intelligence’ itself has never been popular with English-language philosophers. Nor does it have a direct translation into German or ancient Greek, two of the other great languages in the Western philosophical tradition. But that doesn’t mean philosophers weren’t interested in it. Indeed, they were obsessed with it, or more precisely a part of it: reason or rationality. The term ‘intelligence’ managed to eclipse its more old-fashioned relative in popular and political discourse only with the rise of the relatively new-fangled discipline of psychology, which claimed intelligence for itself. Although today many scholars advocate a much broader understanding of intelligence, reason remains a core part of it. So when I talk about the role that intelligence has played historically, I mean to include this forebear.

The story of intelligence begins with Plato. In all his writings, he ascribes a very high value to thinking, declaring (through the mouth of Socrates) that the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato emerged from a world steeped in myth and mysticism to claim something new: that the truth about reality could be established through reason, or what we might consider today to be the application of intelligence. This led him to conclude, in The Republic, that the ideal ruler is ‘the philosopher king’, as only a philosopher can work out the proper order of things. And so he launched the idea that the cleverest should rule over the rest – an intellectual meritocracy.

This idea was revolutionary at the time. Athens had already experimented with democracy, the rule of the people – but to count as one of those ‘people’ you just had to be a male citizen, not necessarily intelligent. Elsewhere, the governing classes were made up of inherited elites (aristocracy), or by those who believed they had received divine instruction (theocracy), or simply by the strongest (tyranny)…

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https://aeon.co/essays/on-the-dark-history-of-intelligence-as-domination

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Resultado de imagem para Aerial view of Masada showing the Roman ramp.

image edited by Web Investigator – Aerial view of Masada showing the Roman ramp.

Have archaeologists proven the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert or twisted science for political end?

by Eric H Cline is professor of classics and anthropology and director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University. He has more than 30 seasons of excavation experience. His forthcoming book is called Three Stones Make a Wall: The Story of Archaeology (2017). 

In 73 or 74 CE, 960 Jewish zealots – men, women and children – committed suicide on top of the mountain of Masada by the Dead Sea in Israel rather than be captured by the Romans. The story, told by the Roman historian Josephus, is one of the most famous from antiquity. But did it actually happen? Yigael Yadin, the late Israeli archaeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who excavated the site in the mid-1960s, said that it did. Moreover, he also said that the objects found during his dig proved it. His subsequently published book, Masada: Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots’ Last Stand (1966), was a bestseller.

It was no secret that Yadin’s excavations at sites in Israel, such as at Hazor in the 1950s and at Masada in the 1960s, were in part under­taken in the hope of reinforcing Jewish claims to the land by linking them to biblical stories and other famous events. Some have long charged Yadin with a political agenda detached from the truth – and cast a shadow over his interpretations of the finds at Masada and elsewhere in the Levant. In 1995 and 2002, Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a sociologist also at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published his own interpretation of the finds from Masada in two separate books – The Masada Myth and Sacrificing Truth. He con­cluded that Yadin had been incorrect in many of his interpretations, perhaps deliberately so, in the interest of creating a nationalist narrative to help the young state of Israel forge an identity for itself.

Subsequently, Amnon Ben-Tor, who is now the Yigael Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and who had excavated with Yadin at Masada, published a spirited defence of Yadin and his findings, titled Back to Masada (2009). In this book, Ben-Tor went through the archaeology again, dismissing each of Ben-Yehuda’s points and basically confirming Yadin’s point of view.

Yet the dispute goes on. The story of Masada is more than just a story of the archae­ological excavations. It is an example of how archaeologists use histori­cal information to supplement what they find during their excavations and to flesh out the bare details provided by the archaeological discov­eries. Yadin made particular use of the writings of Flavius Josephus – the Jewish general turned Roman historian who wrote two books about the Jews in the first century CE and who is the primary source for what might have taken place on top of Masada nearly 2,000 years ago. And Masada shows how the relationship between archaeology and the historical record cuts both ways; since we cannot be certain that Josephus’s discussions are 100 per cent accurate, we can use archaeology to corroborate – or to challenge – the ancient text.

Masada also serves as a cautionary tale about using (or misusing) archaeological evi­dence to support a nationalistic agenda, as some scholars have suggested Yadin did. The debate over Masada involves the trustworthiness of Josephus’s account; the credibility of Yadin, perhaps the most famous of all Israeli archaeolo­gists; and the influence of nationalism on the interpretation of archaeo­logical discoveries. Whom do we believe? How should we view this seemingly tragic, heart-wrenching ancient site and event? And can we ever tap evidence from thousands of years in the past to establish the origins, legal claims and birthright of peoples today?

Masada is a tall mountain with a flat plateau on top, longer than it is wide, rising high above the surrounding dry and arid desert. It has been a tourist attraction ever since Yadin’s excavations in the mid-1960s. Hun­dreds of tourists per day now roam around the ruins on top of the mountain – half a million visit every year. It is the second most popular tourist site in Israel, after Jerusalem, and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

It lies at the southern end of the Dead Sea, far to the south of Qum­ran and most of the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The top is accessible on foot only via a narrow winding track known as the Snake Path, which leads 400 metres (1,300 feet) up the front face of the massif and the Roman siege ramp still in place on the western side. It gets so hot here that rules have been put in place instructing tourists that they may begin the climb only if it is before 9:30 in the morning. After that, there’s too much chance of getting dehy­drated during the ascent. Those who begin climbing before dawn are rewarded by one of the most spectacular sunrises they will ever see, but most tourists opt to ride up in the cable cars that have been installed, gliding above the Snake Path and waving to those below…

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https://aeon.co/essays/decoding-the-ancient-tale-of-mass-suicide-in-the-judaean-desert

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Art by Alice and Martin Provensen from a vintage pop-up children’s book about Leonardo da Vinci

“In all of nature there is nothing so threatening to humanity as humanity itself.”

Perhaps the greatest hubris of historical hindsight is knowing that everything we call progress has been made by systematic trial and error, yet tending to dismiss — even scoff at — the errors as embarrassments to the process of progress rather than essential parts of it. Take, for instance, Joseph Weber, whose spectacle of failed experiments made him the most derided scientist of his time yet paved the way for the detection of gravitational waves — one of the most monumental discoveries in the whole of modern science, as full of potential for revolutionary knowledge as the invention of the telescope. We rarely know which missteps will become stepping stones in the advancement of knowledge, for the pursuit of truth requires a certain discipline of deferring judgment for periods longer than our appetite for instant answers allows.

That’s what the great physician, etymologist, poet, and essayist Lewis Thomas (November 25, 1913–December 3, 1993) explores throughout his timelessly rewarding 1983 essay collection Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony(public library).

Although Lewis was educated at Harvard and Princeton, served on the President’s Scientific Advisory Committee, and presided over the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, he wrote humbly and poetically from the self-described position of “a citizen and a sometime scientist.” In one of the essays, titled “Alchemy,” he starts someplace unlikely and leads us someplace monumental:

Alchemy began long ago as an expression of the deepest and oldest of human wishes: to discover that the world makes sense. The working assumption — the everything on earth must be made up from a single, primal sort of matter — led to centuries of hard work aimed at isolating the original stuff and rearranging it to the alchemists’ liking. If it could be found, nothing would lie beyond human grasp. The transmutation of base metals to gold was only a modest part of the prospect. If you knew about the fundamental substance, you could do much more than make simple money: you could boil up a cure-all for every disease affecting humankind, you could rid the world of evil, and, while doing this, you could make a universal solvent capable of dissolving anything you might want to dissolve.

With an eye to our haughty hunger for deriding yesteryear’s errors, Lewis reminds us that every error inches us closer to the truth, but not all errors are created equal — those undergirded by a great deal of scholarship and earnest scientific effort are more likely to yield byproducts that can eventually be transmuted into some proto-truth. Noting that the alchemists were serious professionals in their time, who honed their skills through “long periods of apprenticeship and a great deal of late-night study,” he writes:

We tend to look back at them from today’s pinnacle of science as figures of fun, eccentric solitary men wearing comical conical hats, engaged in meaningless explorations down one blind alley after another. It was not necessarily so: the work they were doing was hard and frustrating, but it was the start-up of experimental chemistry and physics… They never succeeded in making gold from base metals, nor did they find a universal elixir in their plant extracts; they certainly didn’t rid the world of evil. What they did accomplish, however, was no small thing: they got the work going… As time went on and the work progressed, error after error, new and accurate things began to turn up. Hard facts were learned about the behavior of metals and their alloys, the mathematics of thermodynamics were worked out, and, with just a few jumps through the centuries, the helical molecule of DNA was revealed in all its mystery.

[…]

[Now] alchemy exists only as a museum piece, an intellectual fossil, so antique that we no longer need be embarrassed by the memory, but the memory is there. Science began by fumbling. It works because the people involved in it work, and work together. They become excited and exasperated, they exchange their bits of information at a full shout, and, the most wonderful thing of all, they keep at one another…

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https://www.brainpickings.org/

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Alan Turing and Christopher Morcom. Art by Keith Hegley from The Who, the What, and the When, an illustrated celebration of the little-known inspirations behind geniuses.

“The body provides something for the spirit to look after and use.”

“The void horrifies: so we are all immortal,” Simone de Beauvoir scoffed at the religious escapism of immortality in explaining why she is an atheist, adding: “Faith allows an evasion of those difficulties which the atheist confronts honestly.” But there exists a certain orientation of spirit that is both unreligious and lucid in contemplating mortality. Einstein touched on it in his beautiful letter to the Queen of Belgium, in which he wrote: “There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond the hand of fate and of all human delusions.”And yet he conceded that such an orientation toward mortality is reserved for those “who have been privileged to accomplish in full measure their task in life.”

To make sense of the untimely loss of a young and unrealized life is a wholly different matter, one which haunted computing pioneer Alan Turing (June 23, 1912–June 7, 1954).

Turing’s decryption of Nazi communication code is estimated to have shortened WWII by two to four years, consequently saving anywhere between 14 and 21 million lives. But despite his wartime heroism, Turing was driven to suicide after being chemically castrated by the U.K. government for being homosexual. More than half a century after his disquieting death, Queen Elizabeth II issued royal pardon — a formal posthumous apology that somehow only amplifies the tragedy of Turing’s life and death.

Tragedy had been with Turing from a young age. At fifteen, while attending the Sherborne School, he fell deeply in love with a classmate named Christopher Morcom. For the awkward and ostracized young Alan, who was bullied so severely that a group of boys once trapped him under the floorboards of a dorm dayroom and kept him there until he nearly suffocated, Christopher was everything he was not — dashing, polished, well versed in both science and art, and aglow with winsome charisma. Alan’s love was profound and pure and unrequited in the dimensions he most longed for, but Christopher did take to him with great warmth and became his most beloved, in fact his only, friend. They spent long nights discussing science and philosophy, trading astronomical acumen, and speculating about the laws of physics.

When Christopher died of bovine tuberculosis in 1930 — a disease he had contracted from infected milk, for which there was no common vaccine until after WWII — Alan fell to pieces. He was able to collect himself only through work, by burrowing so deep into the underbelly of mathematics that he emerged almost on the other side, where science and metaphysics meet. Sorrow had taken him on a crusade to make sense of reality, of this senseless ruin, and he spared no modality of thought. Most of all, he wanted to understand how he could remain so attached to someone who no longer existed materially but who felt so overwhelmingly alive in his spirit.

All the while, young Turing remained in touch with Christopher’s mother, who had taken a sympathetic liking to her son’s awkward friend. After Christopher’s death, he visited the Morcoms at their country home, Clock House, and corresponded with Mrs. Morcom about the grief they shared, about the perplexity of how a nonentity — for Christopher had ceased to exist in physical terms — could color each of their worlds so completely.

That sorrowful puzzlement is what Turing explored in a series of letters to Christopher’s mother, originally included in his first serious biography and brought to new life in astrophysicist Janna Levin’s exquisite novel A Mad Man Dreams of Turing Machines (public library) — a masterwork of fiction that swirls philosophical poetics around the facts of Turing’s life…

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https://www.brainpickings.org/

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Illustration by Sibel Ergener

by Meg Favreau

And other historical treatments for nervous men

There are a few categories where women tend to get all of the attention. These include red carpet fashion, pregnancy and old-timey anxiety cures. Of course, that’s partially due to the salaciousness of the female nervousness of yore — any time bringing someone to orgasm is considered a medical prescription and not just a good Tuesday, people are going to pay attention. And it’s partially that anxiety and nervousness were traditionally considered female traits — the word “hysteria” is rooted in women’s very anatomy, after all.

It took doctors some time to even turn their eye to men’s anxiety. In 1877, The Medical News published a speech by a Dr. S. Weir Mitchell about men and anxiety. Dr. Mitchell noted that nervousness in general was underreported, and “if spoken of at all, it is as if it were entirely the sad prerogative of women.” Of course, he probably didn’t increase anxiety diagnoses from either gender by describing nervousness with lines like “the strong man becomes like the average woman.” Or by being perplexed by the 18-year-old man who “strangely” developed an anxiety disorder after “while at his father’s funeral, slipped on the wet ground and fell into the grave,” as if “slipping into a grave while dealing with the worst grief of your life” were a regular 1877 party game.

Most of Dr. Mitchell’s suggested anxiety cures seem relatively modern, including spending time outside and using cannabis (in small doses). His time period starts to show, however, when he also recommends treatment with opium and arsenic. Personally, I’ll take my anxiety over slow poisoning.

But curing men’s nervousness wasn’t just the domain of doctors. It was also the domain of companies trying to make a quick buck. And while many of the cures were marketed to women, companies soon realized something important: Dudes will totally spend money on nervousness cures, too. This included the many, many manufacturers of patent medicines, proprietary medications that claimed to cure almost everything. At best, patent medicines were just booze with a few herbs mixed in, and at worst, they were laced with opium or cocaine.

Many of these patent medicines claimed to help with nervousness, but some of them went a step further, publishing books and setting up as Herbalife-style pyramid schemes. One example is the Viavi Method. Viavi was largely aimed at women — in terms of both salespeople and customers. But of course, they didn’t want to cut out a possible customer base, so the Viavi Hygiene book includes “a special chapter addressed to men” because “Under the high stress of modern life, men have become victims of nervous depletion to an extent that few of them appear to realize.”

The solution? Using Viavi Liquid, Viavi Royal, Viavi Laxative and Viavi Cerate, the last of which “should be copiously rubbed over the body for thirty minutes, particularly over the abdomen, stomach and back, once a day, and in severe cases more frequently.” According to Paul Collins in Cabinet Magazine, a 1907 chemical analysis revealed that the Viavi capsules, at least, were just “golden seal extract and cocoa butter.” And no, neither of these substances is supposed to help with anxiety, other than maybe the calming feeling of rubbing cocoa butter onto your skin.

Not all quack cures for anxiety were swallowed or rubbed, however. Some, such as the O-P-C Suspensory, simply amounted to a delicate cupping of the balls.

From Business, The Magazine for Office, Store and Factory, 1907

OPC stands for “Old Point Comfort,” as you can see in this ad from an 1897 issue of American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, wherein the company recommends that drug stores put a bunch of cloth nutsack-holders in their window displays:

I do not know why this page is pink.

Suspensories do have legitimate uses, even today. Bauer & Black, the company that made OPC, still sells them (although they’re now part of 3M). But the primary reason for wearing one is for recovering after injury or surgery, not to deal with the regular weight of gravity on your sack.

So did the suspensories work for nervousness? Anecdotal evidence suggests they sold well; in an 1899 issue of American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, the News and Notes of the Traveling Salesman section notes that one A. Bateman “sold large quantities of Bauer & Black’s goods, especially the O.P.C. suspensory.”…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/nutsack-holders-to-cure-your-anxiety-95860ba0bee6#.fk65q6nez

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Map of Europe

With the serious economic and political crisis showing no signs of abating in Europe, both geographical and moral boundaries are being erased in the name of globalization, Sputnik Italy quoted participants of a round table discussion in Rome as saying.

© SPUTNIK/ ALEXEY VITVITSKY

Now that Europe is going through a severe economic and political crisis, its geographical and moral barriers are being erased for the sake of globalization, the participants of a round table discussion in Rome were quoted by Sputnik Italy as saying.

They claimed that Europe have already entered an era of uncertainty where cultural differences had blurred.

Italian journalist Marcello Veneziani, for his part, noted that the process of erasing all boundaries across Europe had come amid stark differences between the EU member states in terms of economic vitality and political sovereignty.

In this regard, Veneziani underscored the importance of boundaries being preserved.

“Without boundaries-related restrictions, any society can increase to immeasurable dimensions,” he said, calling for the creation of a governing class who would be able to not only win elections, but also to manage the affairs of state.

In an interview with Sputnik Italy, Italian economics expert Alberto Bagnai, in turn, focused on the economic crisis in Europe and how it had spelled disaster for Italy, which had earlier been hit by the 2008 economic meltdown.

Bagnai specifically critiqued the court of popular opinion, where anyone who would champion his or her country’s national interests, identity or ability to control its borders is denounced as a populist.

“This is happening because we live in a historical period when only multinational companies possess sovereignty. It’s clear that the media’s dismissive reaction to the idea that people can also possess sovereignty and identities is playing into someone’s hands,” he said.

Additionally, Bagnai commented on the fact that there are 90 NATO and US thermonuclear bombs on Italian soil, something that he said calls into question whether Italy is, in fact, a sovereign country.

“Italy possessing sovereignty is out of the question, and the problem is that it is time to understand that we should take advantage of the situation to negotiate the best terms for our country now, [and address] the relationship between the boss and his local representative, Germany,” he said.

Bagnai added that “Rome is very unlikely to become the capital of the Empire again in the coming years.”

“Given that we are a dependent country, we can either move towards a European Union which has, in fact, become the Fourth Reich which is opposed by the United States, or we can gain a little autonomy, negotiating with Russia and Washington,” he said.

“In this vein, mutual rapprochement is not necessarily a negative thing. It is much better than dropping atomic bombs on each other,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Freedom Party of Austria member and former presidential candidate Norbert Hofer told Sputnik late last month that the European Union needs to cut taxes and slash bureaucracy in order to overcome economic stagnation.

“The EU crisis is much deeper, as many EU members have huge debts and high unemployment rates; the economies of some EU countries are very weak. Therefore, we should focus on economics, strengthening the EU economy through reasonable tax cuts and reducing bureaucracy,” Hofer said.

https://sputniknews.com/europe/201702141050653385-europe-italy-economic-crisis-globalization/

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Resultado de imagem para Penelope Unraveling Her Work at Night (1886),

Penelope Unraveling Her Work at Night (1886), Dora Wheeler, on silk. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sylvia and Leonard Marx Gift 2002

Why would Odysseus dump a hot nymph? Or toyboys lust after his wife Penelope? Unveiling the erotic mysteries of the Odyssey

C D C Reeve is distinguished professor of philosophy at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has written and translated many book and edited many volumes, his latest being a translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (2016). He lives in Chapel Hill. 

The Trojan Wars ended in Troy’s defeat at the hands of the Greeks, many of whom returned to their homes. But the great Odysseus was not among them. He became marooned on the faraway island of Ogygia, enjoying – or tiring of – the favours of the beautiful nymph Calypso. Homer’s Odyssey, as we all know, is the story of Odysseus’ long journey away from Calypso and home to Ithaca, where his wife Penelope waits, courted in his absence by 117 princes young enough to be her sons.

There are two erotic mysteries at the heart of the Odyssey: the mystery of why Odysseus leaves Calypso, and the mystery of why the suitors are so hot for Penelope. These mysteries shall be deepened in a moment, but first I want to add two others that are equally perplexing, though not, perhaps, equally erotic. The first concerns the savage punishment – death – imposed on the suitors. What have they done to deserve it? In the poem, their behaviour is often likened to that of Aegisthus, who took Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra as his lover, and then murdered Agamemnon on his return from Troy. Yet, on the face of it, the suitors have done nothing nearly so bad. Then there is the mystery presented by the form of the Odyssey itself, with its odd mixture of realism (the suitors and Penelope) and magic (the unreality of the realms that Odysseus visits between the fall of Troy and his return home). The fantastic nature of these realms seems completely mismatched to the reality of what is taking place in Ithaca. In the end, these four diverse mysteries have the same solution.

Why, then, does Odysseus leave Calypso? Or, putting it the other way around, why doesn’t he stay? Maybe you think you know. But I believe the poem intends you to be puzzled. First off, Calypso is a nymph – she will always be a babe. Her breasts will never sag. Her bottom will always be firm. Her hair will be forever luxuriant and silky. She’ll always be fun in bed, and always, it seems, willing to go there. Moreover, she can make you immortal and give you eternal youth. No need for Rogaine, no need for Viagra, you’ll be young and vibrant and virile and hairy forever. Now why would you leave all that for a middle-aged woman and your own incipient old-age and death?

The question is a sharp one, surely, but it is sharpened further in the poem. For Menelaus, the leader of the Spartans, tells us – and it is supposed to be good news, at least for him – that, at the end of his life, he won’t have to go to be a shade in Hades. Instead, as a relative of Zeus, he will go off to the Elysian Fields. Sounds hunky-dory. The trouble is that the Elysian Fields are made to sound just like Calypso’s isle – indeed, they are also made to sound like the obviously threatening lands of the Lotus-eaters:

But about your destiny, Menelaus, dear to Zeus,
it’s not for you to die
and meet your fate in the stallion-land of Argos,
no, the deathless ones will sweep you off to the world’s end,
the Elysian Fields, where the gold-haired Rhadamanthys waits,
where life glides on in immortal ease for mortal man;
no snow, no winter onslaught, never a downpour there,
but night and day the Ocean River sends up breezes,
singing winds of the West refreshing all mankind.
All this because you are Helen’s husband now
the gods count you the son-in-law of Zeus.

If the Elysian Fields are so great, Odysseus should be ecstatic at having got there so soon. Instead, he spends all day weeping – though at night, to be sure, in the way that is normal for mortal men, he takes comfort in bed with Calypso. Sorrow and depression do not dampen the libido, evidently.

So that’s the first mystery. Odysseus is in Homeric paradise. Why, then, is he so miserable?

That mystery is a confounding one, but it is nothing compared with the second. Penelope is a middle-aged woman of around 40 – not old, certainly not in our terms, but not nubile either. Past childbearing, or soon to be past it, she is not a babe. Yet more than 100 princes (117 by my count), young enough to be her sons, have been paying court to her for three years, camped out in her palace, eating and drinking, while she and they grow older. Think about that, you 18- to 24-year-old men. Think about the mother of one of your friends. Imagine that, of all the women in the world, she’s the one you want for a wife – not just for an educational Mrs Robinson-style roll in the hay, but for a wife. Now think about that in a world in which children – especially, sons – are even more important than they are in our own culture.

When Achilles among the dead hears that his son, Neoptolemus, has become a great warrior, he is temporarily reconciled even to the death he finds worse than being a slave – his steps are light as he leaves Odysseus who has brought him the news:

off he went, the ghost of the great runner, Aeacus’ grandson
loping with long strides across the fields of asphodel,
triumphant in all I had told him of his son,
his gallant glorious son.

In marrying Penelope, then, you are almost certainly depriving yourself of children, of gallant glorious sons. What could possibly compensate for that? Furthermore, why do no suitors at all show up for 17 years, and why, when they do, are they all so young? Why doesn’t anyone of Penelope’s own generation find her attractive?…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/unveiling-the-erotic-mysteries-at-the-heart-of-homers-odyssey

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Resultado de imagem para Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach.

Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach. Photo courtesy The Amsterdam Museum/Wikipedia

This is how Europe became the richest place on earth: by being politically fragmented, yet intellectually united

Joel Mokyr is the Robert H Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history at Northwestern University in Illinois. In 2006, he was awarded the biennial Heineken Award for History offered by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. His latest book is A Culture of Growth: Origins of the Modern Economy (2016).

How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Learned tomes by historians, economists, political scientists and other scholars fill many bookshelves with explanations of how and why the process of modern economic growth or ‘the Great Enrichment’ exploded in western Europe in the 18th century. One of the oldest and most persuasive explanations is the long political fragmentation of Europe. For centuries, no ruler had ever been able to unite Europe the way the Mongols and the Mings had united China.

It should be emphasised that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture. It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable.

How did this work? In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. The economic historian Eric L Jones called this ‘the States system’. The costs of European political division into multiple competing states were substantial: they included almost incessant warfare, protectionism, and other coordination failures. Many scholars now believe, however, that in the long run the benefits of competing states might have been larger than the costs. In particular, the existence of multiple competing states encouraged scientific and technological innovation.

The idea that European political fragmentation, despite its evident costs, also brought great benefits, enjoys a distinguished lineage. In the closing chapter of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1789), Edward Gibbon wrote: ‘Europe is now divided into 12 powerful, though unequal, kingdoms.’ Three of them he called ‘respectable commonwealths’, the rest ‘a variety of smaller, though independent, states’. The ‘abuses of tyranny are restrained by the mutual influence of fear and shame’, Gibbon wrote, adding that ‘republics have acquired order and stability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, or, at least, of moderation; and some sense of honour and justice is introduced into the most defective constitutions by the general manners of the times.’

In other words, the rivalries between the states, and their examples to one another, also meliorated some of the worst possibilities of political authoritarianism. Gibbon added that ‘in peace, the progress of knowledge and industry is accelerated by the emulation of so many active rivals’. Other Enlightenment writers, David Hume and Immanuel Kant for example, saw it the same way. From the early 18th-century reforms of Russia’s Peter the Great, to the United States’ panicked technological mobilisation in response to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik, interstate competition was a powerful economic mover. More important, perhaps, the ‘states system’ constrained the ability of political and religious authorities to control intellectual innovation. If conservative rulers clamped down on heretical and subversive (that is, original and creative) thought, their smartest citizens would just go elsewhere (as many of them, indeed, did).

Apossible objection to this view is that political fragmentation was not enough. The Indian subcontinent and the Middle East were fragmented for much of their history, and Africa even more so, yet they did not experience a Great Enrichment. Clearly, more was needed. The size of the ‘market’ that intellectual and technological innovators faced was one element of scientific and technological development that has not perhaps received as much attention it should. In 1769, for example, Matthew Boulton wrote to his partner James Watt: ‘It is not worth my while to manufacture [your engine] for three counties only; but I find it very well worth my while to make it for all the world.’

What was true for steam engines was equally true for books and essays on astronomy, medicine and mathematics. Writing such a book involved fixed costs, and so the size of the market mattered. If fragmentation meant that the constituency of each innovator was small, it would have dampened the incentives.

In early modern Europe, however, political and religious fragmentation did not mean small audiences for intellectual innovators. Political fragmentation existed alongside a remarkable intellectual and cultural unity. Europe offered a more or less integrated market for ideas, a continent-wide network of learned men and women, in which new ideas were distributed and circulated. European cultural unity was rooted in its classical heritage and, among intellectuals, the widespread use of Latin as their lingua franca. The structure of the medieval Christian Church also provided an element shared throughout the continent. Indeed, long before the term ‘Europe’ was commonly used, it was called ‘Christendom’.

If Europe’s intellectuals moved with unprecedented frequency and ease, their ideas travelled even faster

While for much of the Middle Ages the intensity of intellectual activity (in terms of both the number of participants and the heatedness of the debates) was light compared to what it was to become, after 1500 it was transnational. In early modern Europe, national boundaries mattered little in the thin but lively and mobile community of intellectuals in Europe. Despite slow and uncomfortable travel, many of Europe’s leading intellectuals moved back and forth between states. Both the Valencia-born Juan Luis Vives and the Rotterdam-born Desiderius Erasmus, two of the most prominent leaders of 16th-century European humanism, embodied the footloose quality of Europe’s leading thinkers: Vives studied in Paris, lived most of his life in Flanders, but was also a member of Corpus Christi College in Oxford. For a while, he served as a tutor to Henry VIII’s daughter Mary. Erasmus moved back between Leuven, England and Basel. But he also spent time in Turin and Venice. Such mobility among intellectuals grew even more pronounced in the 17th century…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/how-did-europe-become-the-richest-part-of-the-world

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