Thursday, 8 October 2015

Turning points 2. The secular shift. When and why?

In a continuation of our invitation to debate, and in our established ‘broad-brush’ approach, we, in the Sempringham office, conclude that overall since medieval times western society has moved from an emphasis on the collective to an emphasis on the individual. This emphasis is sharply illustrated by Martin Luther’s agonies with his individual (that is personal) salvation. This new emphasis was greatly enhanced by the development of printing, a development that led to a massive increase in information and opinion and enabled individuals unmediated (by others, priests or teachers or rulers) progress in their ambition to self fulfilment. When economies were transformed by mechanisation, developments that began in Britain in the mid eighteenth century and gathered pace, self fulfilment in a religious sense (and notwithstanding Victorian religious hypocrisy) mutated, some say was hijacked, to self enhancement in the material sphere and the world of ‘getting and spending’. It is this latter ‘man-made world’, a world of physical ease and abundant possessions, that has captured the ambition of so many in traditional, less developed, societies.

Contributor: Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office.
8 October 2015

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Turning points 1. The world of man-made objects

As we suggested in a recent blog [6 September 2015], we love reasoned debate in the Sempringham eLearning office; debate is fundamental to good study in History. We don’t retreat before the bigger issues but we do have a tendency, some will have noticed, to a ‘broad-brush’ approach. We decided to share what we thought on the theme of ‘turning points’: readers and classes who engage in debate may take up the challenge and agree or disagree with our conclusions. As with the original Olympics ideal, it is the participation that is more important than the conclusion. Here is the first 'turning points' blog: others will follow.

Turning points debate 1. The world of man-made objects.

In the Sempringham eLearning office we concluded that, in  the post-classical world, there have been only two turning points in the history of man-made objects; first, the replacement of man power by mechanical power [through water wheels, steam power, petrol and electrical engines and so on]. All changes and developments after the 'switch', from man power to mechanical power after the ‘turning point’, were extensions and applications of the initial change and led incrementally to a transformation of the world of work and of society, and not separate turning points. The second turning point was the creation of digitisation [based on the discovery of the electron in the structure of the atom] and its application to computing, programming and the world wide web.
What is the significance of the restriction of turning points to only two? If the time period for the first was some  200 years it is reasonable to conclude the digital ‘revolution’, only some 40 years of age, has a long distance to run and that the extent of applications has only just begun.

Contributor: Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office.

29 September 2015

The resilience of the major world belief systems

There is endless debate in the Sempringham eLearning office, as Sempringham blog followers would expect. Recently we concluded there were, in broad terms [based on numbers of people influenced and depth of belief] four major belief systems in the world; the Western liberal world view, the Islamic, the Indian subcontinent Hindu belief nexus and, fourthly, the embedded residual Confucian world view of China. Each embodies rigidities and contradictions but of the four we saw more potential and a greater resilience in the Indian/Hindu world view. Our judgement is partly based on the millennia-long history of the subcontinent.

Contributor: Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office.

6 September 2015

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Magna Carta and the rule of law

During the jollities and celebration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede, 19 June 1215, its importance as a stage in the dynamic relationship of the King and the barons has exceeded comment on its place ion the development of the rule of law. In the Sempringham ‘concepts series’ [mostly open access: ], Gilbert Pleuger who explores the rule of law concept, argues that the rule of law is a truer guide to the quality of a liberal democratic government than trite comments of the genre ‘one man, one vote’

Contributor: Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office
18 June 2015

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The End of History, again

Writing soon after the rapid collapse of soviet governments in Russia and Eastern Europe in 1989, Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay ‘The End of History’ for The National Interest journal. He argued that the collapsed communist governments removed the existence of an alternative to ‘western’ liberal democracy and ended the ‘point, counterpoint’ inter-state pattern. Twenty-five years later the debate about the conflict between communism and liberal democracy, with emphasis upon property ownership, economic management, government and military structures does ‘feel’ very tired: even Marx’s analysis seems empty.

If readers agree to an extent, this writer suggests the reason for ennui with traditional History is the failure of traditional History to acknowledge and incorporate the massive intrusion of the cultural aspect into the dynamic of history. In this circumstance History as political narrative is seen as hugely incomplete almost to the place of irrelevance as sociologist as well as cultural historians gain prominence. Yes, the old (arguably easier) History is dead. Cultural History has a far more complicated anatomy than Rankean-style national or local histories centred on state or local administrative documents.

Any movement, such as the Islamic State, will have ‘free riders’, those who seek to join an (ideological-based) power train but the vigour of the Islamic expression should challenge the prudent liberal democrat to ponder the deficiencies or incompleteness of their ideology. A part response but not the full answer may reflect the contradictions of liberalism that were identified in the 1890s. One response to the contradictions gained expression in political ideologies in the 1920s and 1930s. Reasons for other deficiencies will be presented in later posts from our office and may contribute to comprehension.

Contributor Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Déjà vu x2 – well, more or less

Repeating History? After the Scottish referendum in 2014 we noted the increased electoral supprt for the SNP and our minds in the Sempringahm office turned to British and Irish history. Between 1874 and 1910, the electoral era of the Second and the Third Reform Acts, in the 7 elections of those years, the Irish Nationalists had between 59 and 86 MPs and held the balance of power between the two main parties at that time, the Conservatives and the Liberals. In the 2010-15 Parliament there are 40 Scottish constituency Labour MPs. If these constituencies do not return Labour MPs the UK Labour Party has less chance having sufficient MPs to form a government outright. Polling suggests that many and possibly most constituencies who have a Labour MP will return a SNP candidate on 7 May. Thereby a situation not unlike the parliaments of 1874-1910 will be created with the Scottish Nationalist Party in a similar position to the Irish Nationalists 140-105 years ago.

Image and the man. Russia’s new ‘tsar’ Vladimir Putin, not so terrible as Ivan IV, but seen by the UK security services as creating a new cold war threat, presents himself in publicity photos as an ‘alpha male’, bare chested in traditional Russian male pursuits but he was beaten to that pose by some 90 years by Benito Mussolini, leader of the Fasci di Combattimento. Readers of this item in the September issue of new perspective, Vol 21, No 1 (page 22) will have the benefit of evidential photos to illustrate the comment.

Contributor Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The western world and the non western world

The United States, in particular, and the western world in general have ‘peddled’ worldwide for many decades the virtues of liberal democracy and the associated universal suffrage. As the Arab Spring [Dec 2010 to mid 2012] illustrated the energy of nurtured popular aspirations, mobilised and in part co-ordinated by contemporary communications, that is by the mobile phone, made political ambitions more achievable. The unleashed ambitions brought the mass movements into conflict with either entrenched elites [the Army in Egypt] or sectional tribal interests [Libya] or awakened sectional religious and social groupings [Syria and Iraq]. The ensuring conflicts have put back the achievement of liberal democratic western ideals.

Contributor Geoff Williams. Sempringham eLearning Office