Ed Miliband delivers a speech on international development at The Almeida Theatre in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Jacob Hacker: Miliband’s not talking about “predistribution” but he has embraced my big idea

The US academic behind the concept on how Labour's manifesto reflects a new economic philosophy.

I’m an American academic who’s mostly written about US public policy. Yet back in 2012, my work was mentioned by not one but two major British political figures. The first was Ed Miliband, who spoke approvingly of an idea I had discussed called “predistribution.” Miliband praised the idea as an alternative to New Labour’s hands-off approach to markets, which used tax revenues from an expanding financial sector to help those left behind.  To Miliband, the goal in the wake of the financial crisis was not just to redistribute after the fact, but to encourage better market outcomes from the start – “to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy.”

The other British political figure to mention my work was a little less friendly. During PMQs, David Cameron joked that the Labour leader had a “new guru,” a “Mr J Hacker.” That was funny (although I had to Google “Yes, Prime Minister” to fully appreciate the joke). But then the Prime Minister said, “Mr. J Hacker’s recommendation is that we spend an extra £200bn and borrow an extra £200bn in this Parliament.” Humor provides license to stretch the truth, but this was a lie. I had never written about the British budget, much less given recommendations to anyone about taxing and spending. But it was a revealing lie, for it underscored the central deception at the heart of the current government’s approach to the economy.

Britain faces two great challenges. The first is the long-term slowdown of productivity growth that has gone hand-in-hand with the economy’s excessive financialisation over recent decades. The second is the growing gap between those at the top and the rest of British workers, whose jobs have become less secure while their pay has stagnated.

The coalition now in power has mostly ignored both problem, choosing instead to focus on the phantom menace of a national credit default. (No rich country with its own currency has ever defaulted on its debt.) That in turn has resulted in a strange paradox: austerity has slowed growth so much that austerity has failed to produce big budget savings. Economically, Britain has suffered through a modern form of blood-letting: painful treatment that has mostly weakened the patient.  It’s a good thing the coalition has stopped drawing so much blood, but tragic so much had to be spilled.

The British media have mostly played along with this shell game, reporting on the political struggle as if the central issue was the budget deficit rather than growth and inequality. More important, journalists have reported hardly at all on the huge gap between the coalition government’s initial promises and the present reality. The deficit was supposed to be gone by now. Today, it continues well into the foreseeable future, constraining what any new government can do.  The economy is now recovering, but Britain’s economic record since the downturn has been much worse than the United States’ – worse even than the British recovery from the Great Depression. By any measure, this is not an inspiring result.

As a political scientist, I know bad deeds often go unpunished in electoral politics. Voters pay the most attention to economic trends just before the vote, and they’re generally not so great at the counterfactual thinking needed to compare those trends with alternatives that might have played out under different leadership. To make that comparison harder, continental Europe has gone even farther down the austerity road, so relatively speaking Britain looks pretty good. And, of course, this election promises to be one of the most unsettled in British history. The rise of the SNP has pulled Scottish anti-austerity voters from Labour (and will immensely complicate the formation of a government after the election). For all these reason, the poor record of the governing party – or Labour’s competing economic vision – probably won’t be decisive on 7 May.

But the fact remains that one of the two major British political figures who commented on “predistribution” back in 2012 will be the next prime minister. As the election looms, it is high time we looked beyond the personalities and gaffes and asked: Does the Labour Party have a new economic philosophy? More important, in the event Labour forms the next government, will that philosophy work?

 

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The first time I spoke of predistribution was at a conference in Oslo in 2011. Miliband, less than a year into his tenure as Labour leader, was in attendance. Later, we met at an academic seminar in Oxford; the exchange continued over subsequent conversations in London. To him and others, I emphasised that it was the idea, not the label, that mattered. The idea, which draws on my joint work with fellow political scientist Paul Pierson, is that government has an enormous, inevitable influence on how well markets work and who they help and hurt – even before it sends out a single check. The message of post-1970s economic debates is that government mostly just redistributes the autonomously generated rewards of growth. The main lesson of history, however, is that government is vital to the advance of innovation and productivity and to the translation of these economic gains into social gains. Through the rules for the markets it enforces and the public investments in skills, technologies, and infrastructure that it makes, government helps us grow richer, healthier, and better educated. It doesn’t just slice the pie up; it makes the pie bigger.

Consider the two biggest transformations of the twentieth century: the roughly doubling of life expectancy and the more than fourfold increase in GDP per capita in rich nations.  These were not zero-sum changes that redistributed a fixed pot. They were positive-sum changes that, over time, made almost everyone better off. And they were directly tied up with government policy. Most of the public health and medical breakthroughs that revolutionised our lives (and which even cautious estimates suggest are worth much more than the increases in income we have enjoyed) can be credited to the regulatory and investment power of the state. To cite just a few examples, public health efforts in the early twentieth century, the development of antibiotics and vaccines, the successful campaign to reduce tobacco consumption, the spread of publicly guaranteed insurance, the major breakthroughs in cancer care, the reduction in air and water pollution, and most of the major medical technologies of our day, including breakthrough prescription drugs – all began with public research and funding. Indeed, in the case of the initial quartet of examples, government directly engineered huge efforts to catalyse changes in the organisation of societies and health care systems that allowed us to live longer and with less disability than ever before.

Similarly, most of the major innovations that drove the skyrocketing of economic productivity over this same period emerged out of public research and funding. Markets are brilliant at allocating goods and drawing on existing knowledge to meet consumer demand. But they notoriously under-invest in the basic infrastructure of prosperity, both physical and intellectual. Public education remains the greatest government investment ever made. Public roads, communications and transportation networks, and energy infrastructure are close behind. Even the twentieth century’s technological revolution, which propelled quantum leaps in productivity, relied heavily on government impetus. The computer and internet, for example, trace their origins to massive public investments in R&D (much of it defense-related) made by the United States and Europe during and after World War II. As University of Sussex economist Marian Mazzucato has persuasively argued, even the ubiquitous iPhone owes most of its major elements (including that friendly voice that asks you to repeat what you said) to government research and funding. 

The need for government to play this catalysing role has not faded in the twenty-first century. Far from it: Complex knowledge economies are more interdependent and more reliant on investments in skills and technologies – and more prone to short-sighted private action – than ever.  If the public foundations of twentieth-century prosperity included electrification, modern transportation and communication networks, and the municipal infrastructure that enabled cities to become healthy hubs for innovation and advancement, the twenty-first century list must expand to include the infrastructure for advanced digital communication, newer and more efficient forms of mass transit, and platforms for a green-energy economy, such as smart electric grids. These sorts of vital investments will not happen without government taking the lead, and they are extraordinarily attractive today, given low interest rates and a backlog of needs.

Does Labour have such an investment strategy?  The party’s 2015 manifesto is encouraging. It calls for greater investment in a “world-class infrastructure” and both college and vocational education. It calls for greater investments in early education through expanded child care for pre-school children and wraparound care at schools for those in primary education. It vows to set up a National Infrastructure Commission to determine goals and encourage their achievement in an efficient, non-partisan fashion.  An underlying growth strategy emerges, one built on higher wages, better infrastructure, greener energy, and digital technology. For example, one promise is to ensure all of the country has high-speed broadband by the end of the next parliament.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Is the rhetoric backed by the commitment of government dollar? Here the differences between the two parties could not be more stark, but so too is the lingering effect of austerity. Having failed to meet prior deficit-reduction targets, the Tories have loosened up in the short term and doubled down in the long term. Their goal is to create a substantial budget surplus within five years, which would imply reducing public spending to a share of GDP not seen since before World War II. This goal will require sharply reducing public investments, as well as virtually every other sort of public spending. Indeed, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that it implies total, inflation-adjusted cuts of 40 percent to so-called unprotected departments (that is, everything besides health, schools, and overseas aid).

By contrast, Labour leaders have left themselves more room to shift spending toward productive investment. For starters, they have focused on the structural deficit, excluding public investment (whose long-term returns, decades of research shows, greatly exceed initial commitments). The goal is balance the current account, which would require relatively modest cuts. Moreover, the cabining off of investment spending means that, in principle, true capital investments should not be in budgetary conflict with other priorities. Nonetheless, these investment commitments could be more robust if the budget situation had not so deteriorated relative to expectations since 2010.

Still, Labour has embraced a central pillar of predistribution: public investment in physical and human capital that make society richer. Given Britain’s slow productivity growth, paltry R&D spending, and subpar infrastructure, this is a major positive step toward a more innovative, digitally connected, and green British economy.

 

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If contemporary political leaders have been too quick to discount the value of public investment, they have also been too slow to recognize the dangers of private speculation. Certainly, New Labour in Britain and New Democrats in the United States were complicit in the deregulation of the financial sector that contributed to the recent financial crisis, and certainly Labour has paid a heavy price for the resulting economic crisis that both major parties failed to foresee or forestall.

Since the crisis, however, there has been a much clearer contrast between right and left in both nations. Conservatives are mostly quiet about the need for continuing reform, implying that the problem mainly concerns the “culture” of finance, rather than distorted policies and rigged markets. And they have been much more sympathetic to the self-interested claims of big financial actors. By contrast, progressive leaders – and Miliband is no exception – have called for greater attention to the distorted incentives that allow financial actors to impose huge risks on all of society while reaping huge rewards themselves. If there is anything that defines the breach between today’s Labour Party and that of the Blair/Brown era, it is the recognition that something went seriously awry at the top of the income pyramid during the speculative boom of the 1990s and 2000s.

The United States and Britain, the most financialised economies in the world, suffer from a common problem of “profits without prosperity” – there has been economic growth, but little of it is going into long-term investment or workers’ paychecks.  In fact, the growing share of the economy consumed by finance in both nations has been mostly a double negative. It has pulled money and talent from more productive sectors while imposing enormous costs and risks on everyone but favored insiders. What economists call “rent-seeking” – the generation of excess returns for privileged players through the exercise of market power, political influence, or both – does not just occur when special interests wheedle special deals from the government. Far more common, it reflects the passivity of government in the face of major distortions of the market that benefit a favored few at the expense of most everyone else. Nowhere has this been more true than in the financial sector.

Moreover, the negative effects on corporate behavior are not just limited to the financial sector itself. Managers outside the financial sector have focused more and more on immediate shareholder returns rather than long-term growth, as well as on fostering favorable policies that allow them to profit at society’s expense.  This has been the greatest cost of the run-up of incomes at the very top so characteristic of the United States and Britain. Experts who worry about this trend do not think that great fortunes are inherently bad. Our concern is that they are tied up with market developments that are bad for everyone else, and that they lead to imbalances in political power that make it hard to address those market distortions. Again, nowhere has this been more true than the financial sector.

For that reason, perhaps the most promising aspect of Labour’s new philosophy is its invocation of “an economy based on mutual obligations.” What that means remains vague, but two concrete initiatives suggest an ambition to shift how the financial and corporate world works in fundamental ways. The first is a set of measures designed to reduce the focus on short-term movement in stock prices, including proposals to encourage institutional investors to focus on long-term performance of companies they invest in and changes in takeover rules to increase the sway of long-term investors and strengthen the now-largely-toothless “public interest” test (a change recently advocated by takeover experts Aeron Davis, David Offenbach, Richard Stevens, and Nick Grant). 

The second set of measures – in many ways more far-reaching – would make it harder for executives to receive large pay packages absent strong performance or without worker say. These reforms include mandatory disclosure of votes on executive pay by investment and pension fund managers and, most sweeping of all, mandatory employee representation on pay-setting committees. These are ambitious ideas that could address the very real problems of short-termism and self-dealing that have hurt the economy, fed inequality, and increased financial risk.

 

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Investment takes time to pay off. The natural question, therefore, is whether Labour can create jobs and expand productivity in the near term – and, no less important, ensure that those taking these jobs receive a decent share of the productivity gains their work helps enable. Viewed as a problem of predistribution, the question is whether Labour can foster fulfilling, well paid, and socially valuable jobs for as many citizens as possible. Supplements to wages can be valuable, but workers want a job and opportunities for upward mobility more than a public check. Moreover, redistribution can breed resentment, especially in an age of greater cynicism about government effectiveness. Taxation and redistribution are cornerstones of progressive governance, but they cannot do the work on their own.

Instead, the core policy tool must be macroeconomic policies that ensure tight labor markets. That means substantial public investment in job-creating projects necessary for long-term growth and overall spending policies that are mindful of the demonstrated negative effects of austerity on jobs and incomes. As just discussed, it also means rules and levies that reduce the risks of financial instability. Ensuring high levels of workforce participation also requires active policies to help people enter the workforce and change jobs,  to develop new skills, to take their benefits from job to job, and to balance work and the care of children and elders.

Thankfully, the Labour manifesto is comparatively strong in all these areas. The roughly £50bn difference in implied spending cuts documented by the IFS represents the largest fiscal gap between the parties in modern history – and a fateful difference. Hippocrates’ Oath says, “First, do no harm.” Everything that has happened in Europe over the last half-decade has suggested the substantial harm of steep spending cuts. Moving carefully to balance the books is, by itself, a pro-jobs program.

Less noticed, Labour has called for a range of efforts squarely targeted at increased workforce participation. Most notably, it has pledged to increased by two-thirds (from 15 to 25 hours per week) the number of hours of free child care for working families – a proven strategy for increasing workforce participation of parents, especially mothers – and it has singled out vocational education as a major area of investment.

Most of the commentators who have paid attention to Labour’s programme have asked, rightly, whether it will bring up wages enough to deal with the strains facing ordinary workers. But there is another side to the “wage squeeze” – high prices. Almost completely missed, the Labour proposals contain a number that are mostly about lowering the “rents” that privileged market actors receive so that the paychecks of workers go farther.

Literally so, in the case of housing – the biggest cost for most consumers, and a cost that has skyrocketed in Britain as affordable housing has virtually disappeared. Against this backdrop, Labour’s emphasis on building new homes that workers can afford and encouraging longer-term tenancy arrangements for renters are welcome, if still somewhat undeveloped. More specific and unusual, the Labour manifesto makes the case that energy, water, and transport costs all can be brought down.  These are all classic mixed markets combining public and private investment, in which government has a vital role to play as a countervailing power on behalf of consumers. And alongside the reforms of finance and corporate governance, they signal at least a partial embrace of the central idea of predistribution – that government authority can be used to reduce economic strains by improving how markets work, rather than just redistributing income or providing benefits.

Behind all these priorities lurks a difficult question: whether predistribution of the sort I have discussed is even possible given the decline of labor unions. Empowering ordinary workers within the workplace and democratic politics is central to making markets work for most workers. Yet we live in a post-labor world, in which wage increases are not going to naturally track productivity gains because of workers’ bargaining power. If wages are to rise steadily again, a broader range of strategies will be required, including minimum wages, high labor standards, and the promotion of creative alternatives to unions. So far, Labour’s statements have emphasized a higher minimum wage and the elimination of the most exploitative labor practices, such as zero-hour contracts. Yet there has been a notable lack of serious discussion of the alternative to unions that could provide some degree of representation for workers. In the United States, a vibrant debate is taking place about work councils, social movement unionism, and other new organisational forms loosely group under the label “alt.labor.” With trade union membership down sharply over the last generation,  Labour leaders would be well served to expand the conversation, too.

 

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Elections are contests of personalities, but also contests of ideas. They are big multi-player games that are fun to watch, but also tests of competing governing philosophies that have enormous consequences for how societies evolve over time. It would be too much to expect commentators and voters to put aside entirely their favored prejudices and petty fascinations. But it is not too much to ask that the most reflective among them step back and assess the bigger terrain.

Five years ago, I experienced my proverbial 15 minutes of fame on an unexpected side of Atlantic. “Predistribution” has mostly disappeared from the lexicon of British politicians – and thankfully so. But the idea hasn’t, mostly because the challenge of how to restore well-functioning markets in rich democracies amid growing inequality and persistent insecurity remains so pressing.  Labour has embraced that challenge, and if a crazy election, well-timed burst of pre-election growth, and less-than-charismatic leader mean its program lies fallow, that will be a loss for Britain’s economy as well as for our idealised vision of elections. If Labour could successfully pursue the ideas its leaders have laid out on paper, Britain would move much farther in addressing low productivity and high inequality than it would otherwise. The Prime Minister had a good laugh at “Mr. J. Hacker,” but the British economy would be better off if he had paid attention to what I was actually saying.

 

A 1907 painting of Spinoza, who was excommunicated from Judaism in 1656. Credit: SAMUEL HIRSZENBERG
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Why atheists are true believers too

How atheisms are imitating the religions they claim to reject.

In 1995 Richard Dawkins became the first ever “professor for the public understanding of science” at Oxford University. By the time he retired, 13 years later, it looked as if he had privately renegotiated his contract; for he was now functioning as Oxford’s very own professor for the public misunderstanding of religion.

In The God Delusion (2006) he argued that the existence of God was a scientific hypothesis which was almost – almost – demonstrably false. Miracles were scientifically impossible (yes, professor, I think we knew that: the clue was in the word “miracles”). And the creation story in the Book of Genesis was very bad science indeed. Opposing the stupidities of modern “creationism”, and all the other pseudo-scientific or anti-scientific dogmas of the fundamentalists, is one thing. Criticising the moral evils committed by religious fanatics is another, and no less worthwhile. Yet to treat religion itself as merely a defective form of science is a strangely crude error, rather like thinking that poetry is just a way of conveying factual statements that are to be tested for their truth or falsehood.

In his new book, Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray – who, I should mention, is no more a religious believer than I am – has little time for the so-called New Atheism of Dawkins and Co. The confusion of religion with science is only one of the points he objects to. Even if it can be shown that religion involves the creation of illusions, he argues, that does not mean that religion can or should be dispensed with; for “there is nothing in science that says illusion may not be useful, even indispensable, in life”. As for the idea of the American New Atheist Sam Harris that we can develop “a science of good and evil” which will contain all the correct liberal values: Gray sees this as a piece of astonishing and culpable naivety, ignoring nearly two centuries’ worth of evidence that scientism in ethics and illiberalism go happily hand-in-hand.

If this short book were just another intervention in the Dawkinsian “God debate”, it would be very short indeed. In fact it would get no further than page 23 where, at the end of his brief opening chapter, Gray concludes damningly that “the organised atheism of the present century is mostly a media phenomenon, and best appreciated as a type of entertainment”.

But the New Atheism is the least of the seven varieties that make up the subject-matter of this book. The others are all much more interesting, being connected with significant elements in our culture. And if the phrase “our culture” sounds parochial, well, that is an issue Gray deals with explicitly, pointing out that what we call “atheism” is something much more specific than just a rejection or absence of religion as such. It is a rejection of certain religious beliefs – and that narrows the field already, as many religions of the world are not primarily belief-systems at all. In particular, Gray argues, it is a rejection of belief in an omnipotent creator-god, which means that while atheism is Christianity’s close relative, it bears no relation to Hinduism or Buddhism at all.

So this is a book about post-Christian thinking – most of it, in Gray’s view, pretty bad thinking, too. One of his targets is secular humanism, which he describes as “a hollowed-out version of the Christian belief in salvation through history”. Another is what he calls “making a religion from science”, a delusion which he traces all the way from Mesmerism in the late 18th century, via dialectical materialism in the 19th and 20th, to those futurist thinkers today who dream of uploading a human being’s consciousness to computer circuits, thereby rendering it immortal. And another is political religion, “from Jacobinism through communism and Nazism to contemporary evangelical liberalism”.

Obviously there are overlaps between these three varieties of modern atheism; dialectical materialism, for instance, has also formed part of the creed of Marxist political religion. The one fundamental thing they have in common, on Gray’s account, is that they are all doctrines of progress, of an onwards and upwards march of humanity through history. Whether he is right to say that secular humanism is committed to this view, I am not so sure; doubtless, those who believe in humanist ethics will also think that if more and more people adopt their ethical system the world will become a better place, yet it’s not clear why they should regard that as inevitable.

But one thing at least is clear: John Gray regards all belief in human progress as the most pernicious of delusions. Despite all his eloquence on this subject, some readers may feel that his argument runs away with him, taking him further than he needs to go. It would be enough, surely, to say that the basic moral qualities of human beings have not changed over time, and that there’s no reason to think that any improvements in human behaviour that have taken place are part of a pattern of inevitable progress. Yet Gray goes further, claiming that there has been no real improvement at all.

The abolition of slavery? Slave auctions in “Islamic State” territory have been advertised on Facebook. The abandonment of torture? It has persisted at Guantanamo Bay. Well, yes; but having pockets of slavery here and there in the world is not the same as the situation 200 years ago, when it was a huge and entrenched institution, questioned only by a small minority. Yes, torture continues, but not as a standard judicial procedure. And in many countries there have been substantial, long-term changes in attitude and treatment where female subjugation, child labour and the criminalisation of homosexuality are concerned. Surely there must be some way of acknowledging this, without relapsing into Pollyannaish Steven Pinkerism?

One reason for Gray’s emphasis on the theme of temporal progress is that it fits these various secular atheisms into a larger pattern – that of salvation through history. And this brings us to the core of his argument: out of the whole range of major religions, only Christianity works in a historical dimension like this, which means that the secular atheisms are imitating, or unconsciously reproducing, a central feature of the very religion they claim to reject.

He makes this point again and again. These modern atheists’ view of the world is “inherited” from Christianity. Their belief in progress is “a secular avatar of a religious idea of redemption”. Jacobinism and Bolshevism were “channels” for the millenarian myths of Christianity. Bolshevism was in a “lineage” going back to medieval millenarianism. The apocalyptic myths of radical Christian movements “renewed themselves” in secular, political forms.

Having watched Gray wield his scalpel so effectively on other writers’ arguments, I can’t help thinking that this one deserves a few incisions. What does it mean to say that a communist who yearns for the coming of the classless society is really expressing just the same view as a millenarian looking to the reign of Christ on earth? The form of the belief may be roughly similar, but the content is entirely different. And if these are “inherited” ideas standing in a “lineage”, what is the evidence of a continuous chain of transmission – from, say, the 16th-century radical Anabaptists of Münster (whose chaotic quasi-communist experiment Gray describes in graphic detail) to the Bolsheviks of Petrograd and Moscow? As for the religious myths “renewing themselves” in a secular guise: this seems perilously close to the mindset of Dawkins’s theory of “memes”, which Gray has scornfully dismissed as hardly a theory at all.

Gray also mentions a Gnostic “impulse” that has recurred, unchanged, over two millennia. But if the same impulse can produce a religious idea in one period and a secular one in another, it seems that the impulse is something that stands behind both, itself neither secular nor religious. In which case, the modern atheisms may be not so much reproducing religious beliefs as expressing some basic yearnings that are pre-religious or non-religious in themselves. These are dark theoretical waters, and I am not convinced that Gray has got to the bottom of them.

Yet what he has done is to produce a marvellously stimulating account of some major currents of post-Christian thought, in which ideas and arguments leap constantly off the page like white-hot sparks from an anvil. The dismissals are concise and often devastating; but there are also wonderfully funny details, lovingly accumulated by a wry observer of human foolishness. It is nice to learn, for example, that Auguste Comte’s secular religion of Positivism imposed on its followers “special types of clothing, with buttons placed on the back so that they could not be worn without the help of others – thereby promoting altruism”. And I would challenge anyone to read Gray’s account of the cult of Ayn Rand, with its compulsory cigarette-smoking and rational tap-dancing, and not laugh out loud.

But what of Gray’s own post-religious beliefs? He certainly does not belong in the fifth category discussed here, that of “misotheists” – the Marquis de Sade, Dostoevsky and William Empson – whose views were shaped by a positive hatred of God. (Here, at least, he has no difficulty in showing that some kinds of atheism are dependent intimately and inseparably on Christian theology.) Gray’s own sympathies are divided between his two final varieties: the naturalistic, undogmatic and guaranteed progress-free atheism of the philosopher George Santayana; and the philosophico-theological theories of Spinoza and Schopenhauer, which argued obscurely both that a greater reality, possibly to be identified as Spirit or God, existed, and that to talk about it as a god who created the world, or intervened in it, or issued commands to humans, was to misunderstand it entirely.

Santayana was himself an admirer of Spinoza, and towards the end of the book, Gray quotes his characterisation of the Dutch-Jewish philosopher as follows: “By overcoming all human weaknesses, even when they seem kindly or noble, and by honouring power and truth, even if they should slay him, he entered the sanctuary of an unruffled superhuman wisdom.” I am not sure that this is quite the image that readers should take away of Gray, whose tolerance of human weaknesses – at the personal level, if not the intellectual one – seems admirably generous. Nor can it be guaranteed that people will acquire unruffled superhuman wisdom by reading this book. More likely they will find themselves tremendously, even painfully, ruffled. And I mean that as high praise, for an author who is one of the greatest intellectual provocateurs of our time. 

Noel Malcolm is editor of the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes and a fellow of All Souls, Oxford

John Gray will appear in conversation with Jason Cowley at Waterstones Trafalgar Square, London WC2, on 2 May (newstatesman.com/events)

Seven Types of Atheism
John Gray
Allen Lane, 176pp, £17.99