Notebook

Swedish leaders and a lesson in hubris

Sweden’s social democrats dominated politics for half a century. But continuous power bred arrogance, ideology and eventual economic stagnation.

When merit became myth

Although merit is an age-old idea, the West’s post-60s culture of narcissism reshaped it in novel ways, spurring the rise of smug meritocrats.

This woman’s work

Male-dominated music is no meritocracy. But look beyond chart rankings and sales, and the work of true artists endures.

Apology for a woman writing

Not all women in ancient Greece benefited from the advent of democracy – but exceptions like Aspasia are a source of inspiration today.

Angels among us

Rainer Maria Rilke’s masterpiece extends the dimensions of poetic discourse and offers a fresh view of humanity.

What if Bach and Handel had met?

The massive international stature of Handel’s success seems to have irked Bach’s acolytes enough for them to fashion a false binary which to an extent persists to this day.

The promise of Greenland

Inhospitable Greenland is no longer a geopolitical wasteland. New opportunities are spawning competition for the island.

Cats rule

Cats are the winners from pandemic lockdowns. We could learn a thing or two from them.

Fighting the good fight

Culture wars are as old as politics itself – and far from being inauthentic confections, they cut to the heart of real, living disagreements about history, identity, nationhood and belonging.

Rodin’s eternal peace

The brief re-opening of the Rodin Museum’s gardens gave Parisians a bewitching respite from their everyday cares.

The original women in STEM

Women played a vital role in the early history of botany – let’s not reduce their contribution to kitsch romance.

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