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July Books 4) The Age of Fallibility

4) The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror, by George Soros

Kindly sent me by the author, who of course I know through work anyway. To get a quick summary of his views, you could start with his New York Times interview here or his videoblog interview here. In effect, he is attempting to provide the American liberal tradition with a stronger intellectual base. He is disarmingly frank about why he does it:
To sum it up, I believe I combine three qualifications. First, I have developed a conceptual framework that has given me a certain understanding of history, and, in particular, what I call far-from-equilibrium situations; second, I have a set of firm ethical and political beliefs; and third, I have made a lot of money.
When you're in that position, you can write whatever you like, and it is therefore with some bemusement that the casual reader expecting a book on contemporary US politics will find that the first seventy pages actually address the nature of reality and its relationship to human thought, in order to better contextualise Soros' ideal of an open society. I'm not especially well placed to rate this in terms of academic content of originality; I never studied philosophy or politics, though I have been a practitioner of the latter, and I did scrape a little below the surface of the philosophy of science back in my historian days. However it seems sound enough, particularly his linkage with and development of the notions of Karl Popper. It is certainly an awful lot more convincing, as an analysis of human history, than Hari Seldon.

In the introduction he gleefully quotes Branko Crvenkovski as describing him as a "stateless statesman", but in fact he reveals a very strong sense of U.S. citizenship and even patriotism. His exploration of the question of "What's Wrong with America?" is that of a grieving insider. He worries that America is so busy trying to feel good that it has lost any thirst for knowing the truth. He thinks that America has difficulties dealing with death (and his own shorter time horizon, since he is now seventy-five, is a recurrent theme in the book). He is appalled at the way America's reputation in the world, and its ability to persuade others to its cause, have been destroyed by its own policy on the "war on terror" (a concept which he dissects forensically).
There is a confusion in President Bush's mind about what democracy means. When he says that democracy will prevail, he really means that America will prevail. But a democratic government needs to gain the backing of the electorate and that is not necessarily the same as the backing of the United States. The contradiction became evident in the recent elections in Egypt, and even more in Palestine.
He swipes also at globalisation and fundamentalist belief in the free market, and devotes a brief but intensely argued section to the question of energy and preventing global warming (a cause to which he says he was converted by Al Gore), but criticises the anti-globalisation Left's attacks on the WTO and various summits on the grounds that these are the wrong target: "The international institutions largely reflect the policies of the member states; it is the member states that have to be held responsible."

So, rather a thought-provoking little book; much less shrill, much more reflective, more prescriptive, and in many ways much sadder than what I've read of, say, Noam Chomsky. I think anyone who is seriously interested in fixing what's wrong with the US should try and get hold of it.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
bennmorland
Jul. 9th, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC)
Count me as a one of those who shall try to get hold of it. Thanks for the review.

Oh, utterly random, but have you read a little book called "On Toleration" by Michael Walzer? I was given it by a philosophy professor some years back and I found it an interesting read.
alese
Jul. 9th, 2006 04:03 pm (UTC)
Based on your review, I'll definitely keep an eye out for this book. It sounds fascinating. I've also been impressed by what I've read by Michael Walzer, though I'm now trying to recall what the actual title of that book was...
sameen
Jul. 23rd, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
i've ordered this book in advance and just missed him at the LSE
S
ernesto5
Aug. 6th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
Hey Nicholas, I hope you could help me. I wanted to ask and give my analysis about the current situation with the UK pound (sterling) of George Soros. Could you please send me an email that I could reach him at or help me to pass along, or forward, my message? Many thanks.

Ernesto5, Livejournal member as well.
nwhyte
Aug. 6th, 2006 08:22 am (UTC)
His email is pretty easy to find on his website - www.georgesoros.com !
ernesto5
Aug. 6th, 2006 10:39 am (UTC)
i must be a tool.
i can't find it on his website! clumsy me.

do you think you could point it out for me and pass me the exact link? (of course, relying on the kindness of strangers)
nwhyte
Aug. 6th, 2006 11:06 am (UTC)
Re: i must be a tool.
I'm sorry, but if he hasn't put his email in the public domain I don't think I can really pass it on to others! I hope you understand.
nwhyte
Aug. 6th, 2006 11:07 am (UTC)
Re: i must be a tool.
(My apologies for suggesting that it was easy to find - apparently not as obvious as I thought.)
ernesto5
Aug. 8th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: i must be a tool.
no problem at all! I totally understand!

However, did you think you could help me pass on the message? May I send you the text of the email I would like to send and if you feel it's appropriate, then you could forward it to him by you, yourself, on my behalf? Either way, thank you for your quick replies!
nwhyte
Aug. 9th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
Re: i must be a tool.
Doesn't really work, I'm afraid, for professional reasons.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 18th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)
George
George,
How open is a society that is forced and manipulated, through fear, to practice or adhere to Islam? How open is a society that must live in fear of terror, because the terrorists were given too much tolerance, while those that can keep them at bay, too little tolerance?

I was born here. My father and grandfather fought for this "open" place America! You immigrate here, and put forth great effort into movements that change, destabilize, and damage America. Also, you clearly have no deep rooted attachment to American culture, so, it is no wonder your political efforts do not appreciate nor protect, uniquely American interests

My message to you is - Stop fucking up my country George. You haven't been around that long, and your money won't protect you if we must go to civil war to protect this country.

You need to re-assess what you are doing, and, what your true end motives are. If you believe that your activities are positive for the US, then you are making mistakes.
jeffthinx
Oct. 6th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: George
Anonymous.
You've got courage enough to cus George Soros...but not enough to identify yourself. Hmm...I could quit right there...but I do have a couple of things to say.
You appear to be the product of the last thirty years of the dumbing-down of our society by the "feel-good" generation of political and spiritual leaders in this country. That's their plan: dumb-down the populace below the capacity for critical thinking...then take-over is easy. Goering told us at Nurnberg how the Nazis did it.
The percentage of GDP spent on education, health, civil and social services in this country has been plummeting for 30 years, while the wealth of the richest of us has EXPLODED! The cashier at your grocery store is making less today (adjusted for inflation) than 20 years ago! And, while Congress hasn't seen fit to increase the minimum wage for ten years (or even tie it to the rate of inflation), it doesn't miss any chance to give itself a pay raise. Oh you didn't hear about that?...that's because it happened, as usual, in the middle of the night.
And, while the poorest of us often have to choose between paying for food or rent and paying for health care, Congress has no such worry. They are 100% covered (no deductible...no co-pay) by a plan which is funded by the rest of us taxpaying chumps.
Meanwhile, this nation's infrastructure is crumbling (think twice next time you're about to drive under a bridge); the environment is choking; and no one has yet begun talking about population control (world population doubled from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century...and it's doubled again in the 50 years since. At that rate how long do you think it'll be before we truly are all standing shoulder to shoulder? We better either learn how to stop procreating...or stop hating each other...or...here's a novel idea: how about both!)
But there's Billions to borrow and spend on the ridiculous "war" on terrorism...not to mention this wasted and irrelevant effort in Iraq.
So just what is it about your America that you think George Soros is "fucking-up"?...your freedom to be secure in your stupidity?...your freedom to nourish your xenophobia? (look it up).
Ironically, George Soros' dream (and the dream of many of us) for America (and the world) would absolutely preserve your freedom to be a moron...and probably subsidize it too. Would George Bush and his cabal of draft-dodging, chicken-hawk, oil and power obsessed neo-cons be willing to preserve the freedoms of those who disagree with them? Hell, they're already tossing out the 4th amendment and the Geneva Conventions! Heil Bush! By the way, have you done your tour in Iraq (or anywhere in the military) yet?
OK, I'm done "ranting"...you can go out now a check to see if someone like me has come along and turned your American flag upside-down.
saare_snowqueen
Sep. 19th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
In defense of George
Dear Anonymous,

Let's start with paragraph 2: You may have been born in America, but I'll bet at least a few of your grandmothers and grandfathers were not - unless of course you are of American Indian descent - which somehow I doubt. America was built by incomers - not its indigenous residents and many if not most of those incomers had a deep and abiding love for their adopted home.
"There is a confusion in President Bush's mind about what democracy means. When he says that democracy will prevail, he really means that America will prevail."

I think this confusion extends to our Mr Anonymous. I suspect you are right - Mr Anonymous, Mr Soros probably doesn't share your belief in the necessity of protecting - YOUR "uniquely American interests" but that does not mean that he doesn't believe in Democracy or in the value of the American ideal. He seems however to be deeply sorrowful at the kidnapping of the dream of America by narrow-minded racist bigots like yourself.

For the record, Mr Anonymous, I was born in America, as were both my parents, but I left it already 25 years ago because I couldn't stand the stench of people like you.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 6th, 2006 07:49 am (UTC)
george soros is evil
My Message is george soros is evil liberal,came from bad background jews(bed jews,descendent of ones that kiled Jesus, God true Son. Fast ,only see he spitch I found out he is jews, because jewa is liberal, ever thing wrong is good for them,usually jews are democratic liberal,very evil.george soros only know how to make money,when the TV speaker wsa teling he the truth,got upset,just like imorality Bill Clinton.I was surprise. jews people truly need Jesus and Jesus principles. First the spirit.This man came from evil war countreis,German,Poland, Budpest. I don't know how he can be in USA? georgesoros made critic aganist Bill O'reilly.Bill O'reilly man with God principles. Bill O'reilly is Cristian man like soros ins't. So send my e-mail was mystake,I was looking for way to contact with soros when accidently I put my e-mail.george soros have 2 destroid merriage.he is money taker,and evil. soros never can help USA,never,never, for me he is like germans,stil have personality of conected with the history of pass.
nwhyte
Oct. 6th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Re: george soros is evil
Gosh, I honestly can't decide if this is genuine or parody!
nbrown2
Dec. 7th, 2006 11:11 pm (UTC)
Soros became conviced of Global Warming by Gore?
Can you say more about some of the prescriptions provided in the book?

Also, I find it very interesting that Soros became convinced of global warming by Al Gore. I wonder what other influential people Al Gore has convinced.

Nathan Brown
Learn how to prevent global warming by joining me in making one easy change.
nwhyte
Dec. 8th, 2006 06:33 am (UTC)
Re: Soros became conviced of Global Warming by Gore?
If you want to know more about the book, I suggest you read the extarcts on Soros' own web site - or better, buy it!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 15th, 2007 11:01 am (UTC)
Keep up the outstanding work and thank you
Cool!..
Nice work...
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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