George Orwell: Politics and the English Language

The only end, liable occasionally to conflict with that which we have been insisting on, and at all comparable to it in importance—the only other condition essential to good government—is this: That it be government by a select body, not by the collectively: That political questions be not decided by an appeal, either direct or indirect, to the judgment or will of an uninstructed mass, whether of gentlemen or of clowns; but by the deliberately-formed opinions of a comparatively few, specially educated for the task. This is an element of good government which has existed, in a greater or less degree, in some aristocracies, though unhappily not in our own; and has been the cause of whatever reputation for prudent and skilful administration those governments have enjoyed. It has seldom been found in any aristocracies but those which were avowedly such. Aristocracies in the guise of monarchies (such as those of England and France) have very generally been aristocracies of idlers; while the others (such as Rome, Venice, and Holland) might partially be considered as aristocracies of experienced and laborious men. , the one by which this excellence is possessed in the most eminent degree is the government of Prussia—a powerfully and the most highly educated men in the kingdom. The British government in India partakes (with considerable modifications) of the same character.

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For the particulars of this education of the American people by means of political institutions, we must refer to the work itself; of which it is one of the minor recommendations, that it has never been equalled even as a mere statement and explanation of the institutions of the United States. The general principle to which M. de Tocqueville has given the sanction of his authority, merits more consideration than it has yet received from the professed labourers in the cause of national education. It has often been said, and requires to be repeated still oftener, that books and discourses alone are not education; that life is a problem, not a theorem: that action can only be learnt in action. A child learns to write its name only by a succession of trials; and is a man to be taught to use his mind and guide his conduct by mere precept? What can be learnt in schools is important, but not all-important. The main branch of the education of human beings is their habitual employment; which must be either their individual vocation, or some matter of general concern, in which they are called to take a part. The private money-getting occupation of almost every one is more or less a mechanical routine; it brings but few of his faculties into action, while its exclusive pursuit tends to fasten his attention and interest exclusively upon himself, and upon his family as an appendage of himself; making him indifferent to the public, to the more generous objects and the nobler interests, and, in his inordinate regard for his personal comforts, selfish and cowardly. Balance these tendencies by contrary ones; give him something to do for the public, whether as a vestryman, a juryman, or an elector; and, in that degree, his ideas and feelings are taken out of this narrow circle. He becomes acquainted with more varied business, and a larger range of considerations. He is made to feel that besides the interests which separate him from his fellow-citizens, he has interests which connect him with them, that not only the common weal is his weal, but that it partly depends upon his exertions. Whatever might be the case in some other constitutions of society, the spirit of a commercial people will be, we are persuaded, essentially mean and slavish, wherever public spirit is not cultivated by an extensive participation of the people in the business of government in detail; nor will the desideratum of a general diffusion of intelligence among either the middle or lower classes be realized, but by a corresponding dissemination of public functions and a voice in public affairs.


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The Collective Imagination explores the social foundations of the human imagination. In a lucid and wide-ranging discussion, Peter Murphy looks at the collective expression of the imagination in our economies, universities, cities, and political systems, providing a tour-de-force account of the power of the imagination to unite opposites and find similarities among things that we ordinarily think of as different. It is not only individuals who possess the power to imagine; societies do as well. A compelling journey through various peak moments of creation, this book examines the cities and nations, institutions and individuals who ply the paraphernalia of paradoxes and dialogues, wry dramaturgy and witty expression that set the act of creation in motion. Whilst exploring the manner in which, through the media of pattern, figure, and shape, and the miracles of metaphor, things come into being, Murphy recognises that creative periods never last: creative forms invariably tire; inventive centres inevitably fade. The Collective Imagination explores the contemporary dilemmas and historic pathos caused by this-as cities and societies, periods and generations slip behind in the race for economic and social discovery. Left bewildered and bothered, and struggling to catch up, they substitute empty bombast, faded glory, chronic dullness or stolid glumness for initiative, irony, and inventiveness. A comprehensive audit of the creativity claims of the post-modern age - that finds them badly wanting and looks to the future - The Collective Imagination will appeal to sociologists and philosophers concerned with cultural theory, cultural and media studies and aesthetics.


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The Collective Imagination explores the social foundations of the human imagination. In a lucid and wide-ranging discussion, Peter Murphy looks at the collective expression of the imagination in our economies, universities, cities, and political systems, providing a tour-de-force account of the power of the imagination to unite opposites and find similarities among things that we ordinarily think of as different. It is not only individuals who possess the power to imagine; societies do as well. A compelling journey through various peak moments of creation, this book examines the cities and nations, institutions and individuals who ply the paraphernalia of paradoxes and dialogues, wry dramaturgy and witty expression that set the act of creation in motion. Whilst exploring the manner in which, through the media of pattern, figure, and shape, and the miracles of metaphor, things come into being, Murphy recognises that creative periods never last: creative forms invariably tire; inventive centres inevitably fade. The Collective Imagination explores the contemporary dilemmas and historic pathos caused by this-as cities and societies, periods and generations slip behind in the race for economic and social discovery. Left bewildered and bothered, and struggling to catch up, they substitute empty bombast, faded glory, chronic dullness or stolid glumness for initiative, irony, and inventiveness. A comprehensive audit of the creativity claims of the post-modern age - that finds them badly wanting and looks to the future - The Collective Imagination will appeal to sociologists and philosophers concerned with cultural theory, cultural and media studies and aesthetics.