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The satirists and the experts

Bullard, P. ORCID: (2018) The satirists and the experts. Critical Quarterly, 59 (4). pp. 5-20. ISSN 1467-8705

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/criq.12377


Attacks on the status of the mandarin classes have become a common feature of public debate since Michael Gove’s famous declaration that we have all "had enough of experts". But Gove echoes some old themes in British political writing. This paper uncovers the source of those echoes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writings on the ‘craft’ of government, and in contemporary satirical literature. In A Tale of a Tub and Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift combined satire on Sir Robert Walpole’s technocratic statecraft with a broader attack on the emerging professional classes. But the violence of his satire was mitigated by his sense of how manual expertise might serve as a positive analogy for a statesmanship that is at once materially grounded and ethically ambitious. But does this eighteenth-century line of thinking still resonate in today’s crisis of expertise?

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:73971


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