top of page
  • Writer's pictureCrone


Noreena Hertz is publishing a book about the politics of loneliness. I heard her interviewed on Talking Politics and was struck with how closely her analysis fit with what I have been talking about in the posts on trust (Trust, Further reflections on trust, Trust - foundations and fixes, Trust in societies, Trust in democracy and perhaps also From the inside and Second person.)

She has written about polarisation - and also how people find a salve for loneliness in groups of others who share their feelings of alienation; about aging and about youth (it's her view that the 16-25 year olds are suffering considerable loneliness - here is an article related to that theme of her argument); about being alone in the city and in the countryside or smaller communities and so on. All forms of loneliness have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. She also spoke about how AI could both ease and increase loneliness - an area that I think I'll explore more in a shorter post at some point in the coming days.

Many aspects of her conversation with David Runciman were interesting to me.

One was that although they didn't specifically address inequality, it did seem that many of the symptoms they were considering could be partly attributed to that cause - as Wilkinson and Pickett claim in The Inner Level. In addition, Hertz stated how right wing populist parties have been far more effective in relating to the loneliness (as in the feelings of isolation, alienation and anxiety) among a certain cadre of the electorate than the left has been - something that I have also noted. (I can't recall for the life of me where. I wish I could.)

She said that there is an opportunity for a brave and visionary politician to say that she experiences loneliness and understands this sense of dis-ease and alienation and will be seeking to address it. I agree - and the politician would need a vision, perhaps something akin to that which I have outlined. Hertz advises governments to revitalise communities - 800 libraries in the UK have closed in recent years, for example - and address feelings of exclusion and marginalisation. She mentioned participatory democracy - specifically not referenda - but certain schemes on a local level. I would expand that, as I have said before, to deliberative democracy to address a variety of issues, for example: what to do with statues of morally ambiguous people, euthanasia, genetic enhancement, asylum policies, climate change policies and so on.

This visionary politician would also need to be regarding the populace as not just numbers and not just individuals but 'thous'. She would be exemplifying that perspective.

Indeed, Hertz states this clearly, albeit in different language: she advises citizens to model the virtues of inclusive democracy which she lists as reciprocity, empathy, kindness and tolerance. She says that as individuals we must consciously practice these skills on a daily basis. And here I thought, 'Yes, indeed, this is the "thou" perspective; this is what I mean by treating others with trust*.' Indeed, she specifically stated that in trials of bringing together people with different perspectives, those involved said they felt greater trust in their fellows after meeting someone with opposing views.

One of the modules of my course, which I will be taking in October, incorporates 'well-being'. So far none of the papers have addressed loneliness (though the discussions of what well-being is sometimes, though not always, mention the pleasure and/or importance of relationships). I'm hoping that maybe I could focus on this area. I do think that loneliness, in its wider implications (alienation, marginalisation) limits or decreases trust* and this is something that I genuinely believe has deleterious personal and societal consequences.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page