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Short, not brutish, and quite popular

Hobbes's Leviathan As the editor of CONCEPT’s twitter feed (@shortnotbrutish) it was with some satisfaction that I saw the number of followers edge past 1,000 the other day. Now, the first thing to say is that 1,000 followers would seem the smallest of small beer were you, say, Lady Gaga (34m followers; about the same population size as Uganda), Stephen Fry (5.5m) or even the Institute for Public Policy Research (21.6k), so I wouldn’t want to get this out of proportion. Still, for a feed providing short quotes from political philosophers, it felt like an achievement of sorts.

For one thing it shows that political philosophers, often thought of as a rather long-winded species, are capable of making short, pithy, and tolerably entertaining statements, which can be captured within the 140 character limits of the twittersphere. These are of course taken out of context, and even out of the sentence that provides their natural habitat, in order to be rendered tweetable. But at the potential cost of offending the contextual purist we provide thought-provoking ideas, words, and phrases from the vast corpus of work that might reasonably be considered both ‘political’, and ‘philosophical’ You tend to know you’ve hit the spot when quotations get multiple retweets, the on-line equivalent of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

One of the most retweeted of recent posts was this from Vilfredo Pareto: ‘When it is useful to them, men can believe a theory of which they know nothing more than its name’ – written before anyone had even heard of post-modernism.

Francis Bacon also scored a hit with ‘Money is like muck. Not good unless it be spread’ which, like most good quotes, speaks for itself.

@shortnotbrutish does not seek to push a political agenda of its own, we just look for interesting material, be it from right, centre, left, or left-field. I leave you with my own personal favourite from the archives, also much retweeted, which comes to us from the American economist J K Galbraith: ‘Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.’

Mat Humphrey


Published inPolitical theory

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