ISBN: 978-1-5275-1116-3

Peter Abell


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It is difficult to imagine, but this volume ranges from an analysis of the evolution of the world system to an essay on Fermat’s last theorem, along with much else. His compass is breathtaking, even audacious. What holds this diversity together is how a study of current social, political, cultural and intellectual events can be located in the longer-term dynamics of the world system. This is achieved by a mixture of qualitative and quantitative materials describing current events and their likely extrapolations. It is a study of how social, political and religious groupings change, identity is expressed and how these interact with each other. Whether or not Gordon Burt achieves this mighty objective will cause debate, but constructive debate. Many social scientists will entertain reservations about his objectives particularly as he claims to follow academic standards in his modelling. To put it succinctly, can a snapshot illuminate the nature of complex time series? Burt certainly provides strong evidence that his innovative methods bear significant fruit even if one questions his methodology, the various and diverse essays make for fascinating reading. For instance, will the current surge of nationalism defeat supra national sentiments and values? Are current observations only a spike or are they harbingers of things to come? By studying how current events are embedded in wider socio political and cultural events (as diverse as Fermat's last theorem and political events), Gordon Burt claims that such issues can be studied in the context of a new agenda exploring 'all aspects of society paying special attention to values with special interest in modelling'. Whatever our attitude to this agenda, we should congratulate Gordon Burt on his intellectual audacity.