Thinker's Corner

Great Expectations: the creative industries in the new economy by James Heartfield (Design Agenda, 10-18 Manor Gardens, London N7 6JT, £7.50, ISBN 0-9538758-0-6). In this thought-provoking paper, Heartfield attempts to lay bare the facts about the changing perception of design and the arts in Britain today. He develops the idea that there has been a shift in the national psyche, elevating artists and designers to almost mythological status - heights they often cannot live up to. According to Heartfield, the way in which the art world has responded to these "great expectations" has been varied: examples range from Tate Modern, which has captured the public imagination, to the much derided Millennium Dome. However, he conveys a darker side to this "style revolution", in that "the public's fascination with creative work . . . has come about because of the lack of reward in conventional work". A balanced, refreshing account in a social climate of "Cool Britannia" and Tory xenophobia.

The Invisible Revolution: the globalisation of power and its consequences for our politics at home and abroad by Paddy Ashdown (Centre for Reform, Dean Bradley House, 52 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF, £8, ISBN 1-902622-18-9). A year after quitting the Lib Dem leadership and in advance of the November publication of his memoirs, Paddy Ashdown airs his thoughts on the future of Britain, Europe and the world in three lectures given this year. Ashdown notes the withering of the nation state, mocks Westminster's pretensions to power and nails his own pro-European colours to the mast. He is most interesting when musing on the future of global management, arguing from experience gleaned in Kosovo that, for despots, "forgiveness can be national; justice should be international". There are some spirited insights, but, on the whole, it is a rhetoric-infected attempt to pass off old chestnuts about the new century as hitherto undiscovered gems.