Tony Judt

Tony Robert Judt, FBA was a British historian, essayist, and university professor who specialized in European history. Judt moved to New York and served as the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University, and Director of NYU's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. He was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1996 Judt was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.
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Something is profoundly wrong with the way we think about how we should live today.

In Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, one of our leading historians and thinkers, reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment. Judt masterfully crystallizes what we've all been feeling into a way to think our way into, and thus out of, our great collective dis-ease about the current state of things.

As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America - the guarantee of a basal level of security, stability and fairness -- is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it's no longer part of the common discourse. Judt offers the language we need to address our common needs, rejecting the nihilistic individualism of the far right and the debunked socialism of the past. To find a way forward, we must look to our not so distant past and to social democracy in action: to re-enshrining fairness over mere efficiency.

Distinctly absent from our national dialogue, social democrats believe that the state can play an enhanced role in our lives without threatening our liberties. Instead of placing blind faith in the market-as we have to our detriment for the past thirty years-social democrats entrust their fellow citizens and the state itself.

Ill Fares the Land challenges us to confront our societal ills and to shoulder responsibility for the world we live in. For hope remains. In reintroducing alternatives to the status quo, Judt reinvigorates our political conversation, providing the tools necessary to imagine a new form of governance, a new way of life.
"Ideas crackle" in this triumphant final book of Tony Judt, taking readers on "a wild ride through the ideological currents and shoals of 20th century thought.” (Los Angeles Times)

The final book of the brilliant historian and indomitable public critic Tony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century maps the issues and concerns of a turbulent age on to a life of intellectual conflict and engagement.

The twentieth century comes to life as an age of ideas--a time when, for good and for ill, the thoughts of the few reigned over the lives of the many. Judt presents the triumphs and the failures of prominent intellectuals, adeptly explaining both their ideas and the risks of their political commitments.  Spanning an era with unprecedented clarity and insight, Thinking the Twentieth Century is a tour-de-force, a classic engagement of modern thought by one of the century’s most incisive thinkers.

The exceptional nature of this work is evident in its very structure--a series of intimate conversations between Judt and his friend and fellow historian Timothy Snyder, grounded in the texts of the time and focused by the intensity of their vision.  Judt's astounding eloquence and range are here on display as never before.  Traversing the complexities of modern life with ease, he and Snyder revive both thoughts and thinkers, guiding us through the debates that made our world. As forgotten ideas are revisited and fashionable trends scrutinized, the shape of a century emerges.  Judt and Snyder draw us deep into their analysis, making us feel that we too are part of the conversation. We become aware of the obligations of the present to the past, and the force of historical perspective and moral considerations in the critique and reform of society, then and now.

In restoring and indeed exemplifying the best of intellectual life in the twentieth century, Thinking the Twentieth Century opens pathways to a moral life for the twenty-first. This is a book about the past, but it is also an argument for the kind of future we should strive for: Thinking the Twentieth Century is about the life of the mind--and the mindful life.
In an age in which the lack of independent public intellectuals has often been sorely lamented, the historian Tony Judt played a rare and valuable role, bringing together history and current events, Europe and America, what was and what is with what should be. In When the Facts Change, Tony Judt’s widow and fellow historian Jennifer Homans has assembled an essential collection of the most important and influential pieces written in the last fifteen years of Judt’s life, the years in which he found his voice in the public sphere. Included are seminal essays on the full range of Judt’s concerns, including Europe as an idea and in reality, before 1989 and thereafter; Israel, the Holocaust and the Jews; American hyperpower and the world after 9/11; and issues of social inclusion and social justice in an age of increasing inequality. 

Judt was at once most at home and in a state of what he called internal exile from his native England, from Europe, and from America, and he finally settled in New York—between them all. He was a historian of the twentieth century acutely aware of the dangers of ethnic exceptionalism, and if he was shaped by anything, it was the Jewish past and his own secularism. His essays on Israel ignited a firestorm debate for their forthright criticisms of Israeli government polices relating to the Palestinians and the occupied territories. Those crucial pieces are published here in book form for the first time, including an essay, never previously published, called “What Is to Be Done?”  These pieces are suffused with a deep compassion for the Israeli dilemma, a compassion that instilled in Judt a sense of responsibility to speak out and try to find a better path, away from what he saw as a road to ruin.

When the Facts Change also contains Judt’s homages to the culture heroes who were some of his greatest inspirations: Amos Elon, François Furet, Leszek Kolakowski, and perhaps above all Albert Camus, who never accepted the complacent view that the problem of evil couldn't lie within us as well as outside us. Included here too is a magnificent two-part essay on the social and political importance of railway travel to our modern conception of a good society; as well as the urgent text of “What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy,” the final public speech of his life, delivered from a wheelchair after he had been stricken with a terrible illness; and a tender and wise dialogue with his then-teenage son, Daniel, about the different outlooks and burdens of their two generations.

To read When the Facts Change is to miss Tony Judt’s voice terribly, but to cherish it for what it was, and still is: a wise, human, deeply informed view on our most pressing concerns, delivered in good faith.
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