George Gordon “That’s Lord To You” Byron lived the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle well before one of those things had even been invented. In a day when poetry was the public’s poison, Byron leveraged his prose (plus his rock star hair) to embark on a veritable world tour … only instead of cities, he visited a collection of orifices so vast that it couldn’t possibly fit on the back of a T-shirt. Along the way, he recorded his escapades in detail in his memoirs, which he later passed on to fellow poet Thomas Moore. He also left strict instructions for his publisher, John Murray, to only publish them after his death, presumably because he didn’t care to be present for the spontaneous combustion of Europe’s collective pants.
Having lived at the turn of the 19th century, Byron of course died terribly, and at the ripe old age of thirty-goddamn-six. He’d been leading resistance fighters in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire at the time (“poet” used to be synonymous with “tough guy”), and it took a full month for his pickled remains to get back to England. As they did, a small group, including Moore, parliamentarian John Hobhouse, Murray, and Murray’s 16-year-old son (heir to the publishing business), gathered in Murray’s office to decide the fate of Byron’s memoirs. After a series of heated arguments and probably a slap fight or three, the group took the two bound manuscript volumes and, page by page, fed them to a fire.
Ada Lovelace facts I learnt from spending the evening reading a biography of her:
Despite the popular image of her mother Annabella not allowing her to read poetry/fiction because of her father (Byron), she did - her favourite book was apparently Dickens’ Dombey and Son and when she was dying Dickens actually came and read some of it to her
Also her famous never seeing Byron was true but when she was an adult she did read his poetry/have his portrait/visit his old home (famed for the drinking out of skulls debauchery) Newstead Abbey and was buried in the family crypt with him
She was into gambling and got into debts from it, but also used her mathematical ability to try and gamble scientifically, making her a bit like a Vegas card counting maths genius
She was known for being eccentric and outspoken and once spent a dinner party sat next to her father’s old best friend Hobhouse (who obviously she never met in the context of her father) where her conversation shocked him because she was talking about the afterlife and how the idea was just for comfort
When she was a child she wanted to invent a method of flying that was modelled on a bird and signed letters to her mother ‘Carrier Pigeon’
Not only did she work with Babbage as she is famed for, but she was interested in a lot of other science, and up until her death (aged thirty six) she was possibly still trying to fund actually building Babbage’s Analytical Engine
Don’t reblog this, because I’m not in the mood to get in the 43,000th identical argument about my views today.
I’m gonna answer these questions together.
I try to avoid explicitly attaching myself to an ideology right now, because I draw influence from a lot of different strains of political thought and thus have a position that is often pretty idiosyncratic. However, if asked to label it using popular terms, my views are closest to those of social democrats and democratic socialists.
In the immediate term, I’m an advocate of reformist efforts in favor of a mixed market economy with a strong redistributive welfare state, political and economic democracy, anti-racism, feminism, internationalist anti-interventionism, labor rights, environmentalism, and civil liberties. I hope such reforms can the be built on to achieve more transformative change over the longer-term: the permanent democratization and decentralization of political and economic power, a form of democratic, liberal, market socialism. I’ve hinted at my thoughts about what exactly that looks like (cooperative businesses, democratizing political reforms, public utilities, credit unions and public banks, housing co-ops, etc.) but I’ve yet to go into detail about it.
To help provide context, I draw theoretical influence from Eduard Bernstein, John Rawls, Leonard Hobhouse, Amartya Sen, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Michael Harrington, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Paine, Gar Alperovitz, and countless others.
As such, I find myself in a very weird place in political circles. There’s surprisingly little going on that’s left of Bernie Sanders but right of Socialist Alternative. I feel very much the same way you do, second anon- far too anti-authoritarian for Leninists, too reformist and focused on feasibility for anarchists, and constantly frustrated with the shallowness and insufficiency of mainstream left-liberalism.
When it comes to action, my idea is to support whoever’s ideologically close to me doing serious work right now. If I’m being honest, I’m not doing nearly as much activism work as I should be right now, but I’d like to support the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, support progressives running for office and keep pressure on the Democratic Party, join protests and campaigns that local progressive organizations are holding (NAACP, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.), and continue educating myself and others.
Hey Brett! I've seen the term "neoliberal" thrown around a lot recently, and i'm confused as to its meaning. Can you explain what a neoliberal is, and how it differs from a liberal?
It’s good you asked, because I recently made a post briefly explaining the history of neoliberalism in America here. I’d recommend reading that for a lot of good background knowledge (and good knowledge about U.S. politics in general). Put more simply though, neoliberalism is, to quote that post, an ideology that “calls for a revitalization of the classical liberal view of economic policy. Concretely, this means free trade, low taxes, deregulation, privatization, and balanced budgets.”
As for how it differs from being a liberal, this is an area where a really important point has to be made, one that people on Tumblr do an awful job of clarifying: there are multiple different meanings to the term “liberal.”
Let’s start with “classical liberalism.” Liberalism was first used in reference to Enlightenment-era thinkers like John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and others. For all their differences, these thinkers were united by a common worldview distinct from others at the time. They criticized feudalism, theocracy, tradition, aristocracy, and monarchy, instead arguing that society should be based on human reason. Over time, a “classical liberal” viewpoint emerged, based on individuality; human nature; private property, markets, and what would eventually be known as capitalism; and a restrained, limited government that served only the role of protecting the rights and liberties of the people.
The United States was the first nation to attempt the creation of a society based on liberal principles, applicable at the time only for a small segment of the population (white, land-owning men). You can see it not just in the works of Thomas Jefferson, but just as much in the works of James Madison, who argued in The Federalist Papers for a government based on social contract, political pluralism, and the separation of powers within government. The liberal American Revolution was followed by the French Revolution, also based in (a more left-wing interpretation of) liberal philosophy. In the 1810′s, the Spanish “liberales,” advocating for liberal constitutionalism against an absolutist monarchy, were the first major group to ever refer to themselves as “liberals” (Edmund Fawcett, “Liberalism: The Life of an Idea,” pg. 7), and the term grew in popularity from there. A wave of liberal revolutions swept across Europe in 1848, and the idea only grew in power from there.
By the 1880′s, classical liberalism was the dominant ideology in both the US and the UK. However, in the wake of the economic disruption of the second industrial revolution, a number of thinkers around this time began to develop a “new liberalism,” which we now refer to as “social liberalism.” This started with T.H. Green, but also included J.A. Hobson and Leonard Hobhouse in the UK; Herbert Croly and Lester Frank Ward in the US; Friedrich Naumann in Germany; and Léon Bourgeois in France (Fawcett, 186-197). Social liberalism accepted many of the tenants of classical liberalism but expanded them. Protection against governmental power, they argued, was not enough: people needed protection against economic power and social power as well. Additionally, they came to accept the idea of “positive liberty”- freedom to- along with the classical liberal idea of “negative liberty”- freedom from. This means that people should have the means to practice freedom, not just the freedom itself. To quote Naumann: “You can be free only when you know how you’ll make it through the month” (Fawcett, 188).
It is this “social liberalism” which took terminological root in the United States (at first during the progressive era, then finally through the New Deal,) as what we now refer to as “liberalism.” American “liberalism” is a center-left reading of classical liberalism.
Today, when radical leftists on here talk about liberalism, they’re talking about the broad heritage of classical liberalism that is dominant in all of Western society today: belief in democratic society, private property and markets, human rights, liberty, secularism, individuality, separation of powers, and so on. This is what is meant when I and others on here refer to me as a “liberal”: I’m a believer in that basic outline of a society.
Sorry, that was a lot of information, but it helps me clarify my answer to your question. Neoliberalism is an attempt to revitalize and resurrect many of the economic tenets of classical liberalism into a modern society, and thus exists in the broad “liberal” framework along side “social liberalism,” even though it is dramatically different from it. Think about it like this:
Rousseau was wrong, Mill was wrong, Bernstein was wrong, Hobhouse was wrong, Keynes was wrong, Rawls was wrong, Sen is wrong, Chomsky is wrong, Alperovitz is wrong, and on and on. Everyone whose ideas have influenced mine has been flawed in some way. You don’t need to consider someone infallible to consider them useful.
Pictured - The ‘white feather campaign”. Female vigilantes in Britain handed out white feathers to able-bodied young men not in uniform as a token of their supposed cowardice.
The first battle to break out in Britain during the world war was a scuffle in London between pro-war and anti-war demonstrators on the day that Britain declared war on Germany. Though men in other European nations, where conscription was widespread, had to fight whether they liked it or not, liberal Britain saw the growth of a pacifist movement opposed to the war on religious or political grounds. Since Britain did not introduce conscription until 1916 not joining the military was a choice, though an increasingly uncomfortable one. As the death toll mounted and patriotic fever swelled, those who opposed the war found themselves accused of cowardice or enemy sympathies.
When conscription arrived in 1916, first for unmarried men and then for all males in May, the various strands of the pacifist movement came together. The government was mindful of the break with tradition that conscription caused, and allowed for the exemption of non-religious conscientious objectors. The Military Service Acts also allowed the exemption from conscription of the Quakers and other peace churches.
Though the governments line seems generous, those who chose not to fight faced persecution. “Conchies” as they were known, were treated like criminals, sometimes forced to face local tribunals where they were accused of being pusillanimous shirkers. Some actually went to jail for the crime of “shirking”. In the streets, young women approached men who looked as though they should be at the front, and humiliated them by giving them white feathers as symbols of their supposed cowardice.
Though few Britons understood it, there were two different categories of conscientious objectors: absolutists, who refused to participate in the war effort whatsoever, for which they were sent to prison, and alternativists who chose to participate in a non-combat role. The majority of conscientious objectors were alternativists who spent the war in kitchens, farms, and hospitals. The Quakers established their own medical detachment, the Friends’ Ambulance Unit. Those who refused alternate work, like Stephen Hobhouse, a Quaker, endured brutal treatment in prison.