You may have caught Big Ideas on ABC Radio National on the weekend. If not, head over and listen to the podcast.
It’s Tony Judt delivering the 2009 Remarque lecture “What is Living and What is Dead in Social Democracy?” and there’s an edited transcript here. The lecture was given in the context of the American debate about health care. He explores the frozen language of social democracy that is mired in debates of 70 years earlier and has been co-opted by politicians across the board now, leaving nothing new to say. But, he says, social democrats need to lay claim to past successes that are being dismantled and challenged and to assert anew that a public sector, collective identity and common purposes are things that are worth fighting for.
If you do listen to the podcast, you’ll hear that the delivery is stilted and strained- not easy listening. Tony Judt was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008 and this lecture was delivered from a wheelchair, assisted by a breathing machine. That’s courage.
He wrote a brilliant piece called “Night” for the NYRB. Read it, and be grateful and humbled.