British Steel was privatised in 1988 by the Conservative government of Thatcher. It merged with the Dutch steel producer Koninklijke Hoogovens to form Corus Group on 6 October 1999. Corus itself was taken over in March 2007 by the Indian steel operator Tata Steel. In a series of brilliant portraits James Meek shows how Britain’s common wealth became private, & the impact it has had on us all. In a series of panoramic accounts, Meek explores the human stories behind the incremental privatization of the nation over the last three decades. As our national assets are being sold, the new buyers reap the rewards, & the ordinary consumer is left to pay the ever-rising bill.

LRB journalist James Meek looks at what the great experiment in privatisation has meant for the industries it covered. The … More

Born OTD in 1872, British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, & Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. “Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying ‘Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.’ Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told & acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, & that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.”

Intolerance and bigotry lie at the heart of all human suffering. So claims Bertrand Russell at the outset of In … More

Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty is guided by a simple argument: that motherhood is the place in our culture where we lodge – or rather bury – the reality of our own conflicts, of psychic life, and what it means to be fully human. Mothers are the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings, for everything that is wrong with the world, which becomes their task (unrealizable, of course) to repair. To the familiar claim that too much is asked of mothers – a long-standing feminist plaint – Rose adds a further dimension. She questions what we are doing when we ask mothers to carry the burden of everything that is hardest to contemplate about our society and ourselves.

By making mothers the objects of licensed cruelty, we blind ourselves to the world’s iniquities and shut down the portals … More

Kerry Hudson is proudly working class but she was never proudly poor. The poverty she grew up in was all-encompassing, grinding & often dehumanising. Always on the move with her single mother, Kerry attended nine primary schools & five secondaries, living in B&Bs & council flats. She scores eight out of ten on the Adverse Childhood Experiences measure of childhood trauma. Twenty years later, Kerry’s life is unrecognisable. She’s a prizewinning novelist who has travelled the world. She has a secure home, a loving partner & access to art, music, film & books. But she often finds herself looking over her shoulder, caught somehow between two worlds.

Lowborn is Kerry’s exploration of where she came from. She revisits the towns she grew up in to try to … More

1996 & the End of History examines the year as it panned out in the UK not just in politics but in music, light entertainment & sport. It was the zenith of a decade which will go down as remarkably untroubled by modern standards; following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, prior to 9/11, in which political conditions of peace & apparent economic prosperity created an overall mood of frivolity, postmodern anti-seriousness & a desire to get back to sunnier times..

..before the grim onset of the strife-ridden 70s and 80s. 1996 could be seen in the UK as a subconscious … More

Born OTD in 1900, German-born American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist, Erich Fromm. Fromm sees right to the heart of our contradictory needs for community and for freedom like no other writer before or since. In Fear of Freedom, Fromm warns that the price of community is indeed high, and it is the individual who pays. Fascism and authoritarianism may seem like receding shadows for some, but are cruel realities for many.

“Escape from Freedom attempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of … More

“..I was distracted from the frontline, though, by appearance on Top of the Pops one Thursday night of a new group. The sampled Prince Buster screech at the start of the song… Now, Saturday mornings were spent exploring every possible way of exchanging my pocket money for 2-Tone and 2-Tone related products.”

Know Your Place Is a collection of essays about the working class, written by the working class. We had an … More

In the early 90s a handful of people concerned with the crisis of homelessness & joblessness among the young started the Foyer movement in Britain. They were influenced by the experience of their equivalents in France & Germany who had developed what the French call Foyers de Jeunes Travailleurs as an ‘integrated approach to meeting the needs of young people during their transition from dependence to independence by linking affordable accommodation to training & employment’.

By 1997 there were 46 Foyers operating in the UK with a further 32 due to open during the year … More

Born OTD in 1876, John Griffith London, AKA Jack London. The People of the Abyss is a book by Jack London about life in the East End of London in 1902. He wrote this first-hand account after living in the East End for several weeks, sometimes staying in workhouses or sleeping on the streets. In his attempt to understand the working-class of this deprived area of London the author stayed as a lodger with a poor family. The conditions he experienced and wrote about were the same as those endured by an estimated 500,000 of the contemporary London poor.

As well as being a literary masterpiece, The People of the Abyss stands as a major sociological study. While other … More

In the first global overview of philosophy, Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures in different parts of the world.

What we call ‘philosophy’ in the West is not even half the story. Julian Baggini sets out to expand our … More