George Watson Releases HERESIES AND HERETICS

Though they may claim to have no cause, all rebels, James Dean included, need something to rebel against; 'Heresies' says George Watson, 'need orthodoxies'.

Twentieth-century Britain, however, lacked the orthodoxies necessary for truly challenging thought and its written presentation in literature. The late nineteenth century was the first age in which intellectuals changed their minds again and again, the Victorians having bequeathed ideologies, with an intelligentsia which moved from one limited consensus to another at high speed. The twentieth century inherited that alarming tradition, but after 1908, under Asquith, the Edwardians moved to a free market welfare state; later collectivism became fashionable, between two world wars; then, in the 1970s and after, the world moved back to free market welfare, a system under which orthodoxies are limited. In December 1994 Labour abolished Clause Four after nearly forty years of strife and hesitation, and the media, at a loss for a story, turned to sex-scandals and phone-hacking. Nobody mentioned it, but the spirit of Asquith had ultimately survived and won.

That ultimate triumph was not without dust or heat. Heresies and Heretics is about that heat and that dust ? a critical tradition that rashly abdicated all truth-claims, an intelligentsia reluctant to admit it had once put faith and hope in exterminatory dictators in Russia, Germany and China. As this heat and dust settled, lessons were taught for those willing to listen. But these lessons, in the best British tradition, were taught through wits and by jesters.

P.G. Wodehouse, The Forgotten Churchill, Arthur Quiller-Couch, E.M. Forster, C.P. Snow, Hugh Sykes Davies, Angus Wilson, Moses Finley, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Frank Kermode and Douglas Adams are all studied for their lessons to a society clinging to various long-cherished political and intellectual assumptions. Lessons our society today may have benefited from had we not branded them heresies from heretics.




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