Up the Down Escalator: Why the Global Pessimists are Wrong

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9780141010021: Up the Down Escalator: Why the Global Pessimists are Wrong

The 1990s appeared to be Utopian - the Cold War had ended and democracy had begun to spread around the world. At home, the new economy, New Labour and New Britain declared a break with the past. The terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 however, brought a different, more sombre mood, but one already hinted at by the collapse of the high-tech stock boom and increasing fears about globalization. This text argues that pessimism is the most powerful ideology of the early-21st-century and further, that it is fundamentally wrong. The author claims that the main forces shaping our society - innovation and technology, globalization and education and democracy and self-government - offer grounds for optimism.

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Review:

Up the Down Escalator is a commendable book by Charles Leadbeater, one of the leading lights of New Labour thinking, who claims that contemporary thinkers are too pessimistic in analysing the effects of globalism. In response to both radical and conservative critics of globalisation, Leadbeater offers what is often a painfully cheery and upbeat assessment of the ways in which global science, technology and business will affect all our lives for the better, suggesting that "far from retreating from globalisation we should take it forward and deepen the process, from markets and trade to society and governance".

Leadbeater spends a long time analysing just why everyone has been so relentlessly pessimistic about globalism; instead, his book "challenges the power of pessimism: arguing against pessimism feels like walking up the down escalator, it is quite hard work. Yet there are strong grounds for thinking quite optimistically about what the 21st century might hold". Rejecting the 20th century belief in utopias, Leadbeater argues for a personal and political investment in technology, which he argues "will open up ways to transform our world far more than politics". The book is full of interesting discussions of the importance of the Internet, but often descends into rousing but ultimately opaque political rhetoric, like "dispense with the vocabulary and social security and instead focus on policies for learning and the family". Terrorism, religious fundamentalism, Africa and Asia hardly figure in Leadbeater’s book (which annoyingly lacks an index). These are curious omissions in a book that claims to point the global way forward. Up the Down Escalator is elegantly written, but at over 300 pages its argument is just too broad and lacking in specific analysis to be convincing, however pleasant the picture he paints of the future. –Jerry Brotton

About the Author:

Charles Leadbeater is an adviser to the Downing Street Policy Unit, the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Commission. He is also a Demos research associate and a journalist for the Guardian, Financial Times and New Statesman. His previous book, LIVING ON THIN AIR, was published by Viking in 1999. He lives in London E8.

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Book Description Penguin Books, London, 2003. Paperback, very good plus condition, corners lightly creased rear page. 370 pp. Charles Leadbeater challenges the Pessimist Alliance - there are plenty of reasons for optimism. Globalization has not gone too far, and in order to correct problems of poverty and inequality we need to progress further. Bookseller Inventory # 20102

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