Thursday, December 22, 2005

Three bits of reading for our futures 

Stimulated by the posting in the Appollo Project blog asking for suggestions on what LibDems should be reading at this time to build up an understanding of Liberalism. Well, three more suggestions.

1 Life, and How to Survive It
2 At Home In The universe
3 An Intimate History of Humanity

Firstly, a pop psychology book, ‘Life, And How To Survive It’ by John Cleese (yes him) and Robin Skinner. A look at what it means to have various levels of mental well-being. It is a very funny book, as well as a good overview of one approach to a psychology of life.

One theme that can be teased from this book is that Liberal Democrats have some advantages, as our political approach is conductive to encouraging good mental health! It is in our interest to encourage good mental health in our supporters as well as amongst activist and LibDem office-holders. Mind you, anyone can probably name at least one LibDem who refutes the suggestion that we have a particular talent in this, so it is not infallible.

It is also possible to reach the conclusion from this book that some of our opponents have an interest in encouraging lower levels of mental well-being in the country generally as this encourages harmful and illiberal attitudes. Do read it, and see what you think.

Secondly, a book by Stuart Kauffman 'At Home In The Universe'

Basically deals with self-organising systems, our increasing understanding of how stable complex systems can emerge and sustain themselves from simple beginnings and without having to follow planning targets set by a central governing system. Concepts covered include self-organisation, ‘Emergence’ in the systemic sense, and the importance of both individual and collective actions. Order and breakdown are very close together in this emerging worldview.

This includes the origin of life, chemical reactions, social organisations and the rise and fall of civilisations.

The arguments presented here have some clear and important implications for Liberals trying to establish firm justifications for decentralised procedures without falling into the old trap of free-market ideological incantations.

Thirdly, one of the important books in my life ‘An Intimate History of Humanity’ by Theodore Zeldin. Some hate it, but for me it shows through the snippets of many peoples stories something of what it can mean to be richly human. If you read nothing else read the last few paragraphs about the founding of the Emmaus movement and the importance of truly meeting other people openly and as equals. Because there lies the roots of Hope, and Hope is the most radical think in all humanity.

Happy reading to anyone following up these suggestions – I would be interested in any reactions to these books.

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