Stuart Jeffries

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Nicolas Sarkozy's problem is that he hasn't read enough Hegel. Let me rephrase that: one of his problems is that he hasn't read enough Hegel. When the French president told a special session of parliament in Versailles earlier this week, "We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity", he would have done better to hold his tongue, and instead reflect on that passage in the Philosophy of Right in which Hegel distinguishes between abstract and concrete freedom.

The former means the freedom to do whatever you want, which, as you know, is the basis of western civilisation and why you can choose between 23 different kinds of coffee in your local cafe, or 32 different kinds of four-inch wedges the glossies tell you look sexy this summer but in none of which you can walk comfortably.…  Seguir leyendo »

Beneath Dresden lay the catacombs. Towards the end of the second world war, the authorities decided that these cellars under the beautiful baroque Old Town could provide cover from British air raids. On February 13 1945, the bombers arrived and many civilians fled below to avoid being killed by shrapnel or crumbling buildings, or being burned alive.But, writes Jorg Friedrich in his book The Fire: the Bombing of Germany 1940-45, "this tightly meshed underground construction was a landscape of insanity". Such was the incendiary impact of the bombing that heat, gases, flames and smoke whipped through the labyrinth. People panicked. In one underground corridor, 50 people got so wedged that their bodies were found fused together from the heat.…  Seguir leyendo »