Growing Old

CHIYou know you’re of a certain age when all the movies you go to see are animations, and are mostly U rated. I just saw my tenth kids’ movie of the year, not counting Frozen, which I have seen twice this year at the cinema, after seeing it twice last year when it first came out, and of course, having watched it again, and again, and again at home on DVD; and not counting Home Alone either, which I got to see on the big screen for the first time as a birthday treat earlier in the year. I have no expectation of seeing a better movie than Frozen for quite some time. Here is my list of this year’s lot, in a rough order, and bearing in mind there are two months to go still:

  1. The Boxtrolls [awesome]
  2. The Book of Life [the least scary kids’ movie with loads of death in it that you could imagine]
  3. Earth to Echo [ET meets Blair Witch without the scariness of either]
  4. The Nut Job [clever doubling of human and animal capers]
  5. Peabody and Sherman [a movie for dads]
  6. Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy [the least disappointing of the lot]
  7. The Lego Movie [awesome only in parts]
  8. Dolphin Tale 2 [not good enough to make me watch the first one]
  9. Tarzan (The Legend Starts Here) [very peculiar]
  10. Postman Pat: The Movie [forgot about all the good characters]

I seem to have missed a couple aimed at the target audience of which I am now a part, such as Maleficent and Muppets Most Wanted. This year, I have seen a grand total of 1 grown-up movie, which was ’71. On the basis of this rather skewed sample, I think the difference between kids’ movies and grown-up movies is that death always seems to have a redemptive purpose in the kids’ movies – ‘cos there is a surprising amount of death in most of these films.


I went to the launch event yesterday of a new ESRC-funded project, led by Nick Clarke at Southampton, exploring Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain 1937-2014. It’s an innovative project, combining quantitative and qualitative methods – but especially interesting in attempting to get at the ways in which politics has been ordinarily talked about over this period. An interesting challenge, no doubt, is for the project to not get overwhelmed by a rhetoric of decline; the promise of the project is to re-frame how questions about changing practices of political engagement are asked in the first place.

Bite Size Theory: The Ethics of Deconstruction

“Democracy is a fragile, agnostic, doxic form of political life, where fragility is the price to be paid for the refusal of all forms of immanentism. Democracy is the politics of difficulty, opacity, and dirty hands, of the fact that the social is not a complete, transparent oeuvre, that political action is always taken on an open, undecidable terrain.”

Simon Critchley, 1992, The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, Blackwell.

Bite Size Theory: Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy

“At the source of democracy can be found the rejection of a number of things: power detached from the social ensemble, law that governs an immutable order, and a spiritual authority possessing knowledge of the ultimate ends of human conduct and of the community. However, it is not enough to say at the source of democracy: this rejection has been democracy’s permanent driving energy. A force of negativity inhabits it.”

Claude Lefort, 1999, Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy. New York, Columbia University Press

Bite Size Theory: The Sources of Social Power (Volume 4)

“Neoliberals, like socialists, must compromise with power realities to achieve any of their goals. So within what is often called the neoliberal movement I distinguish four tendencies: principled neoliberalism elevating markets and individualism, the interests of capitalists, the interests of political elites, and a conservatism that uses the state to enforce morality, law and order, nationalism, and militarism. Though there is overlap among all of these, it is useful analytically to separate them.”

Michael Mann, 2013, The Sources of Social Power: Volume 4, Globalizations, 1945-2011, Cambridge University Press.

Bite Size Theory: Religion and Rationality

“I only want to say that the evidence of my relation to a theological heritage does not bother me, as long as one recognizes the methodological difference of the discourses: that is, as long as the philosophical discourse conforms to the distinctive demands of justificatory speech. In my view, a philosophy that oversteps the bounds of methodological atheism loses its philosophical seriousness.”

Jürgen Habermas, 2002, Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity, Polity Press.

Bite Size Theory: Between Facts and Norms

“Democratic procedure, which establishes a network of pragmatic considerations, compromises, and discourses of self-understanding and of justice, grounds the presumption that reasonable or fair results are obtained insofar as the flow of relevant information and its proper handling have not been obstructed.”

Jürgen Habermas, 1996, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, Polity Press.

Bite Size Theory: The Laws of Hostility

“The Enlightenment, confronted by the evil of politics, goes down in a display of true religious pageantry, showing that morality cannot be conceived without the guarantee of some sort of transcendence.”

Pierre Saint-Armand, 1996, The Laws of Hostility, University of Minnesota Press.

Bite Size Theory: The New Yorker View

“Gros is a professor of philosophy at a French University – at the finest of French Universities, the University of Paris XII, and also at the great Sciences Po – and if you did not know this already you would not have to read much of this book [A Philosophy of Walking] to guess that it was so. […] Instead of historical argument supported by evidence, or chronicle illuminated by interpretation, he gives us oracular assertion, supported by more oracular assertion. In this game, it is batting average that counts: if four out of ten of your oracular assertions are arresting oracular assertions, you’re golden.”

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 1st September 2014.