9780670913220 / 0670913227

Up the Down Escalator by Leadbeater, Charles





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About the book:

Up the Down Escalator is a commendable book by Charles Leadbeater, one of the leading lights of New Labour thinking, who claims that contemporary thinkers are too pessimistic in analysing the effects of globalism. In response to both radical and conservative critics of globalisation, Leadbeater offers what is often a painfully cheery and upbeat assessment of the ways in which global science, technology and business will affect all our lives for the better, suggesting that "far from retreating from globalisation we should take it forward and deepen the process, from markets and trade to society and governance".

Leadbeater spends a long time analysing just why everyone has been so relentlessly pessimistic about globalism; instead, his book "challenges the power of pessimism: arguing against pessimism feels like walking up the down escalator, it is quite hard work. Yet there are strong grounds for thinking quite optimistically about what the 21st century might hold". Rejecting the 20th century belief in utopias, Leadbeater argues for a personal and political investment in technology, which he argues "will open up ways to transform our world far more than politics". The book is full of interesting discussions of the importance of the Internet, but often descends into rousing but ultimately opaque political rhetoric, like "dispense with the vocabulary and social security and instead focus on policies for learning and the family". Terrorism, religious fundamentalism, Africa and Asia hardly figure in Leadbeaters book (which annoyingly lacks an index). These are curious omissions in a book that claims to point the global way forward. Up the Down Escalator is elegantly written, but at over 300 pages its argument is just too broad and lacking in specific analysis to be convincing, however pleasant the picture he paints of the future. Jerry Brotton

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