Friday, November 6, 2009

Industrial Revolutions - Modern History lectures

About ten days ago I wrote a post about the various university lecture series you can follow about Modern Western History. Even though each of these have their own perspectives, themes and pet-subjects, there are a number of items that can simply not be passed over. One of those and one fo the first you are to encounter is that of the Industrial Revolution.

The latest of these courses is Professor John Merriman's European Civilization, 1648-1945. In this series lecture 8 is dedicated to this subject and it is aptly called: Industrial Revolutions. Observe the plural; an elementary point Merriman makes is that there are several industrial revolutions. A revolution for each population center, a revolution for each industry and consecutive revolutions. This means not only one wave of industrialization after another, but also, a kick off by an agricultural revolution.

Berkeley's History 5 by Professor Margaret Anderson also mentions the agricultural revolution and dedicates special attention to it. Without this phenomenon food supplies could not have grown to the level that allowed for larger urban centers and the freeing up of a sizable proportion of the population for industry rather than agriculture.

A cultural implication of the industrial revolution has been mentioned also by others (History 5 by Carla Hesse and UCLA's history 1c by Lynn Hunt), but most elegantly displayed by Merriman as yet another industrial revolution: factory work. As opposed to traditional work of farmers and artisans which is independent and flexible, the large scale enterprises after industrialization had to operate like clockwork. Industrialization revolutionizes therefore time and the worker's disposition of his own time.

Israeli at the London School of Economics

I do not usually write about podcasts I found a waste of time listening to. The Israeli deputy minister of foreign Affairs Dani Ayalon was invited to the London School of Economics to present Israel's view on the Israeli-Arab conflict and most of this resulted in a tedious repetition of the atmosphere and rhetoric that inevitably hangs around this issue. Not only did Ayalon's speech hold much that had not been said many times before, also the restless audience did not bring much news to make life really difficult for this spokesperson.

It seems, the more the atmosphere is heated, the fewer discourse there is. Especially on this podcast, one is presented with a lot of shouting - it takes the event about 15 minutes to actually manage to begin. The prickly retorts Ayalon has for the disruptive elements in the audience boil down to: when your argument is weak, you voice will go up. However, also his own talk was, in my ears, not particularly strong. I would rather have real powerful speakers really engage with each other in argument, not in a shouting match.

The reason I write is in the end that as a sample from the LSE lecture series, this was a very exceptional case. Contrary to the usual quiet academic hearings, this one was full of action and from that point of view, it was fascinating to witness how the action developed. Fascinating not only how Ayalon, but also how the mediator, the majority of the audience and the protesters dealt with the raucous affair.

More LSE
Michael Sandel,
Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung,
Natural Resource Management,
The Iran power struggle,