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Head Hand Heart Reviews

Head Hand Heart by David Goodhart

Head Hand Heart

The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century

David Goodhart

3.73 out of 5

8 reviews

Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 8 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9780241391570
  • The GuardianBook of the Day
3 stars out of 5
William Davies
9 Sep 2020

"Head Hand Heart expends more time and effort on dismantling the existing hierarchy of esteem than it does on constructing a new one"

Head Hand Heart’s deeper significance for conservatism lies in how it joins the dots of Britain’s current cultural and economic malaises. Goodhart is impassioned and hopeful, but the underlying ideological message is stark: the post-1945 era of rising prosperity and collective flourishing via greater education for all is over. He may well be right that the liberal vision of the knowledge economy has hit the buffers. But many people, especially younger generations, will need a lot more than this book before they see shrinking cultural horizons as something to celebrate.


3 stars out of 5
18 Sep 2020

"As in Goodhart’s previous books, globalisation is at the root of the problem"

The book is not an easy read, for while Goodhart rails against the dominance of “head” work, he is the ultimate “head” writer. His work relies on a blizzard of figures and references to academic papers and other clever tomes; among the few people who make an appearance, quite a lot seem to be his friends and relations. The book would have packed a more powerful punch had he tramped the country, as Hochschild and Vance did, talking to people about their experiences. Despite its heavily worn learning, the book is less an argument than a lament on a familiar theme. 

4 stars out of 5
17 Sep 2020

"Anyone wanting to think about the way forward in a post-Covid world can learn much from this valuable book"

He concludes by admitting that his book is more a diagnosis than policy blueprint, although he offers numerous ideas for achieving change. Not all convince. Proposals for using the honours system and revising GDP calculations to better reflect the value of hand and heart work seem unlikely to change attitudes significantly for example. But anyone wanting to think about the way forward in a post-Covid world can still learn much from this valuable book.

4 stars out of 5
14 Sep 2020

"by highlighting dimensions of life and work that have been stripped of prestige in an age of individualism, he performs a valuable service"

Goodhart’s presentation of working-class values, in his last book and in this one, is too prone to emphasise a rather reactionary form of “small-C” conservatism, when the reality is surely less straightforward. Attachment to family and place and continuity – key “somewhere” values – does not inevitably go along with a suspicion of diversity and an aversion to change (although in certain political conjunctures, it might). And, at times, the author seems a little too keen to gratuitously bait liberal readers. At one point, discussing family values, he even takes a sideswipe at the sexual mores of the Bloomsbury set. But by highlighting dimensions of life and work that have been stripped of prestige in an age of individualism, he performs a valuable service. 

4 stars out of 5
13 Sep 2020

"The ‘educated elites’ have been favoured over the rest for far too long, argues this compelling look at populism’s roots"

Goodhart has thus written something of an unofficial sequel to Michael Young’s The Rise of the Meritocracy, published in 1958, which warned that Britain would morph into what it is today, a broken society led by an insular, self-interested cognitive elite that has lost touch with the wider country.

4 stars out of 5
James Bloodworth
12 Sep 2020

"Goodhart’s book makes the case for a recalibration of Britain’s economic priorities"

Head Hand Heart is one of the better attempts to voice the predicament of those whose dream — to live an ordinary, decent life — is often thwarted by a cognitive-obsessed society that disdains those who are not natural exam-passers. Pleasingly, Goodhart’s book makes the case for a recalibration of Britain’s economic priorities, while eschewing the chip-on-the-shoulder clichés that ruin so many other contemporary anti-establishment tracts.

3 stars out of 5
1 Sep 2020

"Goodhart writes about all this with shrewdness and skill."

He touches briefly on this, but then says, ‘they choose to play in a league where they are bound to be the losers, in part because they attract so little research funding’. That is not a choice they have made. It is the result of a distinctive English elite view that there is only a single way of judging universities. There is no reason for that. We can have different universities with different missions. America does. Germany does. If only Goodhart understood that, he would find that they could be powerful allies in tackling the problems that concern him.

5 stars out of 5
Kenneth Baker
29 Aug 2020

"This brilliant sequel to ‘The Road to Somewhere’ asks us to value hands and hearts, not just university degrees"

he target of all secondary school head teachers is to get as many of their students as they can into universities. This was all very well when there was a mass of professional, managerial middle-class jobs, but Artificial Intelligence has cut a swathe through those and already we have the phenomenon of under-employed and unemployed graduates. Our biggest problem will be the coming tsunami of youth unemployment, for when expectations are dashed the mood changes to annoyance, resentment, and disengagement with the democratic process. Goodhart calls his book a diagnosis, but he also suggests a cure: a fundamental change to the English school curriculum.