Studies of Life

Learning by doing.

Category Archives for: Reading

Chinese modernity and its idiosyncracies

25 October 2016 by Jim

As Martin Jacques suggests in his book When China rules the World, further development will not lead to China becoming like the West. Instead, Chinese modernity carries its own cultural idiosyncrasies, as Japanese modernity does: even though Japan is at least as developed as Europe and Northern America, it is very different in even the most basic features of its society, including its social relationships and the role of its institutions.

This in itself is a lesson in humility. China will develop in its own interesting way, so we do not have a blueprint for how things work out. Indeed, it might be suggested that instead of all countries converging on Western liberal market democracy as the ultimate form of the state, developing countries might well get inspiration from other, well-functioning and fast-growing countries like China, which enjoy a lot of social peace despite not having the same kinds of freedoms as the West does. (more…)

Buddhist Meditation for the Non-Religious

12 February 2014 by Jim

Quite unlike my typical rational self, I have been reading up on meditation, especially Buddhist meditation. Buddhism as such may well be called a religion, but by virtue of its emphasis on personal practice and the comparatively low amount of mysticism, it seems to be one of the most unobtrusive and least dogmatic religions there are. There is no obligation to subscribe to all of its beliefs.

The common ground covered by religions that makes them appeal to all people in some way is the essence of religion. Everything else, the mysticism and wacky beliefs around the edges are colourful ornaments. Buddhism seems to have a very large part of non-dogmatic content and only a little slither of ornaments.

Review of I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone by Lanchester

23 July 2013 by Jim

Since the financial crisis exploded we’ve been bombarded with information about it, but I had yet to find a complete, thorough account of what actually happened. I have found precisely that with IOU by John Lanchester.

To quote the author and illustrate the essence of the book: “The credit crunch was based on a climate (the post-Cold War victory party of free-market capitalism), a problem (the subprime mortgages), a mistake (the mathematical models of risk), and a failure (that of the regulators). […] So: a huge unregulated boom in which almost all the upside went directly into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which the losses were socialized. That is literally nobody’s idea of how the world is supposed to work.” (more…)