What are you reading? – 6 April 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 6, 2017
Source: iStock

Hillegonda Rietveld, professor of sonic culture, London South Bank University, is reading Titia Ketelaar’s Mind the Gap: Het Engelse eilandgevoel en de vele tegenstellingen in één land (Spectrum, 2017). “With a focus on Englishness, Ketelaar – who spent seven years as UK correspondent for the Dutch daily paper NRC Handelsblad – provides a Dutch perspective on the British faultlines that became apparent during the Brexit referendum. She explains how the majority of the Brexit vote emerged from a disenfranchised section of the English population living in economically struggling areas, which can be roughly mapped on to a class-based North-South divide and contrasted to the inhabitants of wealthier cities, especially London. English identity has been given a sharper focus by a devolving UK, enhancing the longing for a mythical green and pleasant land. This is further given shape by perceived threats from the outside: scapegoats in the form of migrants and Europe. As the book grapples with England’s enigmatic island mentality, its citizens are urged to mend its multiple internal gaps.”

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil (Orion, 2017). “The best academics go on forever. Likewise ex-Detective Inspector John Rebus, formerly of Lothian and the Borders Constabulary and Police Scotland. In Rebus’ 21st outing, Ian Rankin deploys his regular roster of characters: Darryl Christie, Malcolm Fox, Siobhan Clarke, Deborah Quant, Christine Essom and of course ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty. He adds his usual leavening of assorted low-lifes, a few of the rich and/or famous, including a banker and an ageing pop musician, and throws in a (wholly one-dimensional) Ukrainian villain. The ending leaves no doubt that Rebus’ career, despite a health scare caused by the tobacco habit he is now trying to kick, is not finished. Only Rankin can make mobsters’ violence seem as enfolding and comfortable as an electric blanket.”

Michael Marinetto, senior lecturer in business ethics, Cardiff University Business School, is reading Joe Erle, Cahal Moran and Zach Ward-Perkins’ The Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts (Manchester University Press, 2017). “Reading The Econocracy felt like one of those punk moments when a younger generation does not wait for the established (older) order to fade away or shuffle off before attempting a coup d’état . The book is written by former University of Manchester students who were founders of the Post-Crash Economics Society. The Econocracy is their attempt to redefine economics – its first principles, purpose and pedagogy, since the teaching of economics in universities, they claim, is flawed and outdated. It proves an inspiring read – a telling indictment of academic economics, which in effect is overseen by a class of professorial aristocrats who act like modern-day witch doctors. The book is sharp, incisive, readable – and humane. It could be retitled: ‘Never Mind the Economists’.”

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