Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

L'Espresso | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Atlantic | Outlook India | Commentary | London Review of Books | La vie des idees | ADN cultura | The Economist | Elet es Irodalom

L'Espresso 17.10.2008 (Italy)

Politics and religion, groans Umberto Eco in his Bustina di Minerva, is not only disastrously linked on the far side of the Atlantic. In his own Catholic homeland, fundamentalists are gaining ground among the Christians. "Whereas in the past, American fundamentalists drew a thick line between themselves and the Catholics, Catholics today are moving ever closer to fundamentalist positions – and not only in America (just look at the bizarre return of anti-Darwinism after years of a Church-orchestrated ceasefire on the evolutionary theory front). That the Italian Church did not join sides with a practising Catholic like Prodi, but jumped into bed with a confesssionless, rakish divorcee, raises the suspicion that, in Italy too, the voices of the believers are now being offered to the first politician who, independent of any religious values, is prepared to make maximum concessions to whatever dogmatic powers support him."

Le Nouvel Observateur 16.10.2008 (France)

It is absurd to present religious fundamentalists as a counterforce to modernity, Islam expert Oliver Roy tells the Nouvel Obs, when they are actually more like agents of modernity. "Globalisation has strengthened fundamentalist forms of religion, whether we are talking about Islamic Salafism or the Protestantism of the Evangelicals. For the fundamentalists, the worldly cultures - traditional or modern - are pure heathenism. They are opposed to culture because it does nothing for religion and is therefore useless, or it is even seen as a hindrance to authentic religious practice. The fundamentalists do not only not suffer from culture's retreat under the sign of globalism, they are actually profiting from it." Roy has just published a new book in France, "La Sainte Ignorance" (Seuil)

The Atlantic 01.11.2008 (USA)

In an detailed and illuminating article, Andrew Sullivan, former editor-in-chief of The New Republic explains "Why I Blog". As he sees it, the hotly disputed question of whether blogs will replace long newspaper articles, is a redundant one: after all jazz did not take out classical music. "This is actually a golden era for journalism. The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before. And yet it has exposed a hunger and need for traditional writing that, in the age of television's dominance, had seemed on the wane."

Further articles: James Fallows asks: "How can official China possibly do such a clumsy and self-defeating job of presenting itself to the world?" Jeffrey Goldberg explains why airport controls are a waste of time, after he successfully smuggled two cans of Budweiser Light though the metal detectors in a neoprene beer belly. Paul Bloom presents the latest findings from the neuroscience of identity (in the first person plural).

Outlook India 27.10.2008 (India)

Sanjay Suri is a little peeved that the Booker Prize went to Aravind Adiga's novel "The White Tiger" (excerpt): "There is truth in what he says, both about the anger in the underbelly and the unmindful middle class. The difficulty many have with the book is in the tone, the calculated coinciding of an observation with what a Western eye would like to see."

Commentary 01.11.2008 (USA)

Financial journalist John Steele Gordon sees the current finance crisis not as the fallout of rampant capitalism but, to the contrary, as the result of the failure of the so-called "government sponsored enterprises" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "By 2007, Fannie and Freddie owned about half of the 12 trillion dollars in outstanding mortgages, an unprecedented concentration of debt - and of risk." Thanks to the regulations adopted in 1995 under Clinton, "Fannie and Freddie were now permitted to invest up to 40 times their capital in mortgages; banks, by contrast, were limited to only ten times their capital. Put briefly, in order to increase the number of mortgages Fannie and Freddie could underwrite, the federal government allowed them to become grossly undercapitalized - that is, grossly to reduce their one source of insurance against failure. That was bad enough; then came politics to make it much worse. ... Unlike other large, profit-seeking financial institutions, they were headquartered in Washington, D.C., and were political to their fingertips. Their management and boards tended to come from the political world, not the business world. And some were corrupt. ... Moreover, both companies made generous political contributions, especially to those members of Congress who sat on oversight committees."

London Review of Books 19.10.2008 (UK)

John Lancaster has a very different take on the financial crisis: "A huge unregulated boom in which almost all the upside went directly into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which the losses were socialised. That is literally nobody's idea of how the financial system is supposed to work. It is just as much an abomination to the free marketeer as it is to the social democrat or outright leftist. But the models and alternatives don't seem to be forthcoming: there is an ideological and theoretical vacuum where the challenge from the left used to be. Capitalism no longer has a global antagonist, just at the moment when it has never needed one more – if only to clarify thinking and values, and to provide the chorus of jeering and Schadenfreude which at this moment is deeply appropriate. I would be providing it myself if I weren’t so frightened."

La vie des idees 17.10.2008 (France)

As the markets crash around us, everybody keeps harping on about the return of the state, notes philosopher and civil society theorist Bruno Bernardi, but it's not that simple: "The nationalisation we are seeing at the moment, whether part or full, open or disguised, is limited to financial companies. It neither represents the return of a state-run economy, nor the return of the state as employer, but something fundamentally new: the institution of the state which runs a financial market. This means restructuring the market as a state institution or restructuring the state as a market facility."

ADN cultura 19.10.2008 (Argentina)

Susana Reinoso conducts an interview with author Paolo Coelho who was celebrated at the Frankfurt Book Fair for selling his first 100 million books. "I have no idea what an Argentinian, a Norwegian and a Chinese have in common, but they all read my books. This gives me hope that culture can still function as a bridge. While everything else collapses – the economy and politics, people can still communicate, with the help of stories, of literature, painting and music. As for internet piracy, it can't be turned back. But not to worry, when everyone is a pirate, a new system will come into being. The illegal will become legal. It was like that with the English: first of all they were pirates, then lords, and that's how they created an empire. The internet is a very positive and strong instrument for social activity. I spend three hours a day on the internet. The only danger I see is in the search engines, where the potential for manipulation lies. The book still has a special value in the internet: what you can't find on the market, you can find there."

The Economist 17.10.2008 (UK)

The Economist comments rather drily on the discovery of Milan Kundera's signature at the bottom of a letter denouncing a Czech spy. "As Mr Kundera himself has written so eloquently, 'the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.' Under totalitarianism, fairy tales good and bad often trumped truth. Some heroes of the Prague Spring in 1968 had been enthusiastic backers of the Stalinist regime's murderous purges after the communist putsch of 1948. Mr Hradilek [the man who found the incriminating file -ed.] surmises that Mr Kundera probably acted out of self-interest, not malice or conviction. Millions faced such choices in those times. Some have owned up; many have not. Countless episodes like that linger over eastern Europe like an invisible toxic cloud."

The Economist has been sending out warning signals about the credit crunch since December 2004 - on its font cover. Gawker has compiled these images of doom.

Elet es Irodalom 17.10.2008 (Hungary)

Since the fall of communism, more and more foreigners are moving to Hungary. But the Hungarian state has yet to find a strategy to help these immigrants integrate into their new surroundings – and the population is not always open to new arrivals, as Gabor Michalko, of the Geographical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA), explains in an interview: "The Hungarians tend to be rather wary of outsiders, sometimes even suspicious and hostile, they are slow to open up and make friends. Unfortunately this in an inherited pattern. In the past two decades since the end of communism, there have undoubtedly been countless changes for the good, basically because of the new generation which, despite economic difficulties, finds it much easier to travel abroad and learn about new customs. But the process is achingly slow. On the language skills front, there has been no clear improvement, and the Hungarians continue to be – literally and mentally – immobile." - let's talk european