An Interview with Adam Curtis

As part of The Economist’s Open Future initiative, we interviewed Adam Curtis at his work studio in London. The conversation glided from individualism and data to populism and “this sense of doom” that people feel.

Mr Curtis: Things change and people like me like things changing …. I have this theory that what globalisation has now degraded to is a giant scam that allows very big corporations to pay no tax. That’s its real function—while the sense of moral purpose has dropped away. It’s a system that has become corroded. All I’m arguing is that just what you were saying: that it’s just not working.

What I’m asking for is a system that acts dynamically, which is what politics should do. It should look at the situation, like a good journalist does, and realise that people feel that it isn’t working because you and I know that’s true. We can argue over whether it’s working technically or not, but people feel like it isn’t. And when politicians are faced by that, there’s no way back. So that may open the door to what I see as the real role of politics, a dynamic responsive way.

I’ve always liked “War and Peace” where the two central figures are Napoleon and a Russian general called Kutuzov. Napoleon thinks you can control the whole world and make it your own. But Kutuzov, who everyone derides in the novel and who is in charge of defending Moscow, says “No, you can’t control the world because it’s chaos—but there are moments within the chaos that you can use for your own purpose”. That’s what politics is about. It’s exciting and dynamic. It’s got a narrative to it and, like good journalism, it responds to what’s happening.

And really, that’s all I’m asking for, because politics and journalism have become static and repetitive. I know within microseconds what an article is going to say, what a television program is going to be like and what most music is going to be like. I’m bored and I get bored, I think lots of people get bored, because I’m quite normal. That leads to a degrading of everything, which allows corruption to happen. Whereas, if you have a dynamic responsive system, there is a sense that you’re going somewhere even if you never get there. I’m quite conservative in that way, because I’m saying that the things that politics aims for has stopped and I want it back.

Read More at The Economist

Read the rest at The Economist