I was listening to Radio National (621 AM) whilst I was cooking dinner when I heard this man, Tony Judt (Director of the Remarque Institute at New York University), speak. It was a recording of the 2009 Remarque lecture he delivered entitled, ‘What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?‘. I was immediately struck by what he was saying and it deeply resonated with me. I would suggest that all politicians and advisors on the Left of politics – especially the Australian Labor Party – should listen to this. Clarity and direction are the main rewards they will reap.
NOTE: Please bookmark this page if you don’t have time to listen to the lecture now and would like to. It is well worth your time.
“We have lost the capacity to think of public affairs except in, and in a very restricted sense, in economic terms. When we ask of a policy or a proposal, is it good or bad? We don’t actually ask, is it good or bad? We ask, is it efficient? Is it productive? Would it benefit gross domestic product? Would it be efficient in that respect? Would it contribute or not contribute to growth and so on. We ask, in a very restricted sense, economic questions, we talk economics as a language of public policy. That is not a natural condition, it is an acquired one.” [Adapted transcript found here at The New York Review of Books]
I highly recommend listening to the entire lecture (found on the Radio National website here) as hearing Judt speak and arguing his contention is and was a wonderful experience. Also whilst you listen to the recording keep in mind that Judt was paralysed from the neck down, in a wheelchair, using a breathing apparatus (as his nose muscles could not breathe for him). This only increases my admiration for his dedication to teaching history and sharing his ideas.
Watch the full video of the lecture here (including Judt’s informal and humorous introduction and explanation of his situation).
Tony Judt died from Motor Neurone Disease on the 6th of August, 2010.
If you listen or watch this lecture I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and responses to Judt’s position.
Tony Judt on having Motor Neurone Disease – speaks to The Guardian