Question: What impact does your work have on the world?
Ferguson: Oh probably none. I mean what can one do as a writer and lecturer but to write, put it out, make the arguments as best one can, and hope that somebody somewhere is listening?
All my adult life I’ve dabbled in journalism. It’s been my hobby the way other people have fishing as a hobby. And I also write for a serious reason, which is that I want as many people as possible to hear what I say. And they may also be inclined to read 1,000 page long books. So I give them the 1,000 word version or even the 900 word version. Or I make television programs. Or I do interviews for web sites; because in this idealistic way I want to communicate to the largest possible audience and not just to that privileged elite of people who get to study at Harvard.
Whether anybody is paying the blindest bit of attention is very hard to gauge. It’s not like being an opera singer. You’ve had a good night when they stand and cheer. When you write, often it’s a deafening silence. You can’t even tell if the people who buy the book have bothered to read it. And you can’t even tell if the people who’ve read the book have made the first bit of sense of it.
So I don’t know. I suppose I try to make arguments about the issues that I’ve wrote towards understanding. And I have this naïve, undying optimism that at least some people are listening to these arguments; and maybe, maybe, maybe in their decision-making, whether it’s the decision to vote or some higher order decision, they will be influenced by something I’ve said.
Recorded on: Oct 31 2008