ANDREW WILSHERE: Normblog made me reconsider almost everything on which I’ve ever had a political opinion

Andrew Wilshere

[first published on Andrew’s blog]

I don’t quite remember how I began reading the weblog of Norman Geras. I know it was before I began my Master’s in 2006, because perhaps his greatest book, The Contract of Mutual Indifference, was on the course reading list. It must have been before that, because I remember it taking several months before I realised that this Norman Geras with the weblog was the same Norman Geras who appeared on my university reading list. I was so taken aback that I emailed him to check that I hadn’t made a mistake. “I’m only surprised,” he wrote, “that you didn’t see the Norman Geras connection earlier”.

My experience both of the academy and of the internet was such that, even in the face of compelling self-evidence, I couldn’t believe that a serious political theorist was also writing an engaging blog for the general reader. The disorientating sense I had — of a meeting between two alien worlds of discourse — goes to show how rare a writer Geras was (even rarer in 2006). All too infrequently does high-quality scholarship overlap with accessible output that ordinary readers can digest and engage with. It is to Norm’s great credit not only that he pioneered a website which offered just that, but also that he maintained it so fastidiously, so regularly, and with such clarity and conciseness.

Normblog made me reconsider almost everything on which I’ve ever had a political opinion, such was the force of Norm’s arguments. Over the years, I particularly remember his tenacious take-downs of the UCU’s casual dismissal of antisemitism, his support for same-sex marriage, and his inimitable neologism of the “verkrappt left”. The good people [That’s “good person”! — Ed.] at Normfest are maintaining an aggregate of tributes. I’ll just draw attention here to Eve Garrard’s excellent obituary in the Guardian.

Thank you, Norm, for your intellectual honesty, your insight, and your superb sense of humour. May you rest in peace.