Ambition in twenty-first-century politics has none of the depths of field it acquired in the writings of Shakespeare or Webster. There’s something utterly banal about it, and about those who manage to fight their way to the top of the heap. In the words of one cabinet colleague, Morrison is ‘the sort of guy you would get to do your books, not make Prime Minister.
'"It is not just that the left and right consider each other repellent," observes Jeff Sparrow in Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right. "It’s also that they find each other almost incomprehensible." Trigger Warnings and The Death of Truth are notable contributions to what has become a deluge of books and articles trying to explain how we arrived at this point. They offer different diagnoses, but share some basic assumptions. Both propose that the peculiarity of contemporary discourse is, to a significant extent, a product of the culture wars.'
It is always a good idea, I think, to resist the temptation to regard the politics of one’s own time as especially awful, but recent history does seem to have provided no shortage of prima facie evidence that there is something a bit unhinged and perhaps even pathological about contemporary conflicts. As Pankaj Mishra and Kenan Malik both argue, the volatility and irrationalism of the present are expressions of widespread feelings of alienation, resentment, anger and hatred. This much, at least, seems obvious enough. The difficult question Mishra and Malik set out to answer is why this should be the case.
'Why did people vote for Trump? That is the question we should be asking ourselves, and it’s one that’s given extra urgency by the fact that his ascendency is not an isolated case, but the most spectacular instance of a more general phenomenon. In Europe, a veritable basket of deplorables is now angling for the votes of the disaffected. If liberals and leftwingers are serious about wresting momentum from them, they will have to understand their appeal.'