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Sharp quarrel

Espen Søbye delivers both interesting and cervulant analyzes of human folly. At times, the texts had dressed in a more down-to-earth language.


Cultural critic Espen Søbye works, among other things, as a book reviewer in Dagbladet, and is often distinguished by a sharp and liberating ability to distinguish dirt from cinnamon. In the article collection Word for word it gets the most dirt, because Søbye fosters the most credibility. Other articles are more informative and debatable, such as when he examines the role of statistics in the arrests of Norwegian Jews during the war, or when he talks about stock fraud in the capital at the turn of the last century.

The book consists of 17 articles and essays from Søbye's hand in the period 1986 to 2004, and they cover everything from child labor in Norwegian industry to Se og Hør.

Oil barons and freedom of choice

It is important that someone cuts through the Power Study and Statoil's long fingers in poor countries, to mention some of what Søbye dissects. Not least the alliance between our domestic oil giant and the Norwegian Red Cross. It was established by former Secretary General Jonas Gahr Støre, who according to Søbye has also had other ties to Statoil. About such alliances, the author writes: “Corruption researchers have shown that building schools, orphanages and the like in underdeveloped countries impedes both political prioritization and governance in the countries they apply to. Such help works like corruption money. They impede democratization and help the countries forever be Statoil's clients. ”

It is also important that some people cry out that budding prophets like psychiatrist Finn Skårderud do not always wear clothes. So does Søbye when he reviews Skårderud's book Other travel. But Søbye can also quarrel. The psychiatrist says that dream interpretation should contribute to "new and more stories about one's life, which hopefully means more freedom of choice and a better life." they lose many weak. For most people, freedom of choice and a better life entail the opportunity to choose marriage, divorce, having children alone, being able to retrain from librarian to tailor and so on. A social democratic welfare society is more suited to supporting these opportunities than a market liberalist. The psychiatrist hardly thought of the freedom to build a transnational business empire when he wrote this.


Occasionally, Søbye's lyrics quiver, as he mentions the "apocalypse literature" on September 11, though not everything can be swallowed raw. One who gets his passport inscribed is American social scientist Noam Chomsky "whose self-image as moral global conscience at times reaches messianic heights". Søbye's royal idea is that September 11 was a news and not a historical event. Maybe. But it is difficult to explain that the terrorist attack changed the consciousness of many, albeit never so media-dependent. On September 11, Chomsky said, among other things: "This is a historic event, but unfortunately not because of the size or nature of the atrocity, but because of who the victims were."

It's not easy to see where Chomsky is wrong there. Still, it's worth listening when Søbye says: "The books that make the act of terrorism a historic turning point give bin Laden the position of opposition leader in the Arab world, and President Bush can legitimize what it should be in the shelter of the same apocalyptic mood."

Academic tumors

Not all articles are equally well written. Some are burdened by a lot of framing and awkward sentence-building such as: "But from a disease description in a work to make the author's diagnosis, something quite different, and both logically and historically literary, is invalid."

Academic adversities are also struggling, such as the fact that author Hans E. Kinck "did not let the [essay] genre fall into impressionistic skepticism," and that Erik Fosnes Hansen's imagery in Hymn at the end of the journey is «anti-modernist and fundamentalist« and: «… the domination-free conversation is utopia, just as criticism presupposes it. By assuming utopia, it is realized. "

The last one is from the preface. It opens with Kant: "Reason is just that which withstands its free and public examination." To this, Søbye comments: "From this position it can be argued that today there is too little criticism and too much skepticism and ambiguity, too little monologue and too much dialogue, too few proclamations and too many comments, too few manifestations and too many opinions it has to announce. ”

It is unclear which noun "it" refers to. The rhetoric lacks any address and confuses an ordinary person more than it irritates. One can wonder what kind of audience Søbye is addressing.

Furthermore, he says that the criticism tries to be unconditional and unconditional. This may be true of the universities' philosophical faculties, but in ordinary life criticism is conditional on both who criticizes and what. Also Søbye's criticism. He does not own the truth.

Søbye concludes the preface: "The criticism has nothing to teach, it can never be instructive, just an example of imitation and is at its core anti-authoritarian."

Probably he means to follow. In that case, the sentence is contradictory. What do we do with criticism that has nothing to teach? In his review of the statistics for the Nazis' arrests of Norwegian Jews, he says: "The intention is not to judge moral judgments neither by police nor by officials, but to ask: What can be learned from what happened?"

Is Søbye's criticism never derogatory and at its core anti-authoritarian? The answer depends on who you ask.

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