Power to the people has been the rallying cry of 2017. It’s what propelled Donald Trump to presidency, led Theresa May to call an election (though her bet failed dreadfully, her people persuaded to think in a more expansive way), and installed fear in us at the prospect of Marine le Pen at the Elysée Palace (she lost to Emmanuel Macron but she still had support from a third of the French population).
In his essay “L’Affaire Macron”, Marc Weitzmann suggests that the epidemic of nationalism actually began in France; that underneath its ideals of liberté and égalité, there has been a desire, starting with the case of Dreyfus, to keep France for the French. And so Emmanuel Macron’s challenge is even bigger than one might imagine: to help his nation believe in a wider, more global ideal, beyond the need, daunting in itself, to fix problems at home.
Writer Adam LeBor meets fellow-writer and intellectual Michael Ignatieff, the head of Central European University, in their shared hometown of Budapest, to reflect on where the worldwide flirting with populism might lead. Not to 1930s Germany, Ignatieff insists, thankfully; though propaganda and responses, in many countries in the world, might have worrying resonances of a time that one had hoped was in the past, there is no organised violence, nothing comparable to those earlier, dark decades. Ignatieff suggests that people can be inspired to dream again. Naturally the two writers also discuss the future of Budapest’s Central European University, and what threat the attack on the part of the Hungarian government poses.
With the reissue of US writer Norman Podhoretz’s iconic 1960s instruction manual “Making It”, Benjamin Moser examines how power can build, and then destroy, a man. His tale is both entertaining and enlightening.
Finally, our writers and cartoonists look at what the Bible has to say about power, and what power the media has left – enough to be equal to the serial aggressions of President Trump?