Will’s review essay on Sedated: How Modern Capitalism Created Our Mental Health Crisis by James Davies is available to read for free on the Prospect magazine website here during its two-week paywall holiday.
‘Not a day goes by without further frontline despatches from the war between our established liberal ideology and the strange new realities that body-forth from the future. Taking today — the one on which I sat down to write this article — as representative, I found in my morning bulletins a report about how the US Constitution’s vaunted separation of powers — personified by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — was leading inexorably to the indictment, and hence removal, of “rogue” President Donald Trump. Then there was an item about the minister for women, whose public musings about the rise in the numbers of young people applying for gender-reassignment therapies were being taken as prima facie evidence that she doubted the authenticity of trans people’s claims to be gender dysphoric.
‘Also trending was an opinion piece bemoaning the fake polarisation of British politics. The writer pointed out that the issues surrounding our imminent departure from the EU are being inadequately debated by our main political parties. Both Labour and the Tories, argued the writer, would prefer to concentrate on internal power struggles as different factions attempt to tar each other with illiberalism, whether that be anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.
‘As for news of liberalism that could be summarised without the prefix “ill”, there was little that was reassuring. Only an item suggesting that the Liberal Democrats’ revolving-door leader, Vince Cable, would probably exit for good once the UK had left the EU, given that the party’s commitment to remain — its sole raison d’être since the 2016 referendum — will no longer be relevant.’
Read the rest of Will Self’s article at Prospect magazine.
Headspace, the second edition of Prospect’s new monthly podcast, features Will Self debunking the “romance delusion”.
“Quoting his subject’s words at the head of the chapter on the design and development of Apple’s iPhone, Leander Kahney makes Jony Ive sound oracular: “When we are at these early stages in design … often we’ll talk about the story for the product — we’re talking about perception. We’re talking about how you feel about the product, not in a physical sense, but in a perceptual sense.” Throughout his biography of Apple’s design magus for nigh on the past two decades, Kahney comes at Ive’s notion of the “narrative” of a product time and again, but it’s this formulation that most closely approaches the metaphysical, seemingly suggesting that all those iMacs, PowerBooks, iPods and iPads that Ive has been responsible for mind-birthing should be considered not as mere phenomena, but actual noumena; for, what else can he mean by “perceptual” — as distinct from “physical” — if not some apprehension of how the iPhone is in itself, freed from the capacitive touch of our fingers?
“You may find this rather too high-flown for a mobile phone — or a laptop, or a tablet computer for that matter — but when it comes to Apple and its products the sky is no limit: in 2012, the company founded 36 years earlier in the garage of a Californian bungalow by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, reached a market capitalisation of $660bn, surpassing the record set by Microsoft in 1999 and making it the most valuable publicly traded company ever. It is in the perception (and I use the term here in an ordinary language, non-Ive sense) that Apple piled up this mountain of pelf not simply by flogging clever electronic gizmos, but by somehow altering global consciousness, that the company’s own identity finds its fullest expression. Other tech giants may have their schticks — Microsoft slick and savvy, Google cuddly and approachable, Facebook brash and sophomoric — but only Apple claims to have elevated its marketing strategy to the status of a transcendental aesthetic.”
Read the rest of Will’s review of the book at the Prospect website here.
Listen to Will Self on Radio 4’s Any Questions last month on the iPlayer here. Other speakers include Ken Clarke, Harriet Harman and the editor of Prospect, Bronwen Maddox (where, incidentally, Will has a large piece on the seduction of advertising and Robert Heath’s Seducing the Subconscious in the current issue).
Will Self’s piece about abolishing the monarchy is now on the Prospect website here.