Joseph Lee

Life
1942- [J. J. Lee]; b. Co. Kerry, son of a Garda Siochána; ed. Gormanstown, Co. Meath; UCD; Dept. of Finance; proceeded to Institute of European History, Mainz; afterwards at Peterhouse, Cambridge; appt. to Chair of Mod. History, UUC, 1973; issued Modernisation of Ireland 1848-1918 (1973); also Ireland 1912-1985 (1989), winner of Irish Times Literature Award, 1992; also ed., Ireland: Towards a Sense of Place (Cork UP 1985) - initially an RTÉ lecture-series; currently working at NYU in 2007; director of Irish Studies Centre, NYU. DIL2

[ top ]

Works
Monographs, The Modernisation of Irish Society 1848-1918 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1973; rep. 2008), 224pp.; ed., Ireland: Towards a Sense of Place (Cork UP 1985) [incl. Lee, ‘Centralisation and Community’; c.p.92]; Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge UP 1989).

Articles incl. ‘University, State and Society in Ireland, 1983’, in The Crane Bag [‘The Forum Issue: Education, Religion, Arts, Psychology’], Vol. 7, No. 2 (1983), pp.5-12; ‘The Irish’, in Seán Dunne, ed., Cork Review [Sean Ó Faoláin Special Issue] (Cork 1991), p.66-67 [see infra]; contrib. to Kieran A. Kennedy, From Famine to Feast: Economic and Social Change in Ireland 1847-1997 (Dublin: IPA 2000), 182pp.

Miscellaneous incls. review of Cormac Ó Grada, A Rocky Road: The Irish Economy Since the 1920s (Manchester UP 1997), in Times Literary Supplement, 30 Jan. 1998.

[ top ]

Commentary
Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992 (Four Courts Press 2000), quotes J. J. Lee: ‘Most Irish economists have clung to neo-classical models with a diligence which largely precludes conceptual originality even while fostering technical virtuosity.’; ‘The kernel of the problem is the desire to exclude “non-economic” factors from “economic” analysis. It is striking that a country with so distinctive a pattern of under-development has made so little contribution to development economics.’ (Lee, Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society, Cambridge UP 1985, p.583). McCarthy remarks that Lee makes scarcely any reference to Raymond Crotty, ‘the best known advocate of development politics’ (viz., Ireland in Crisis: A Study in Capitalist Colonial Underdevelopment, 1986), and remarks: ‘Lee is chiefly interested in what he calls “performance”, being mainly the economic performance of the independent Free State and then Republic. Ideas are significant, or achieve prominence in what he calls the “market of ideas”, to the extent that they are traken up by government for the purpose of policy formation. Yet when he comments on the stagnancy of economic theorisation in the Republic, he misses the irony that, in using the “market of ideas” as his dominant metaphor for intellectual activity, he is reproducing the performance-oriented cost-benefit model he is criticising for its tendency to filter out “non-economic” ideas.’ (p.25.) [Cont.]

[ top ]

Conor McCarthy (Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, 2000) - cont.: Quotes preface of The Modernisation of Irish Society 1848-1918: ‘a term [modernisation] widely, if ambiguously, used in international scholarship, modernisation may prove immune to the parochial preoccupations implicit in equally exclusive and more emotive concepts like gaelicisation and anglicisation. Modernism is defined as the growth of equality of opportunity […&c.]’, and remarks: ‘In the anxiety to avoid “parochial preoccupations” and “emotive concepts”, this passage betrays the lineaments of historical revisionism […] In the concentration on the “equality of opportunity”, merit and functional specialisation, the traces of individualism are visible. It is clear that Lee’s concept of modernisation corresponds to the technocratic idea of development promulgated by modernisation theory. The concept of functional specialisation suggests a debt to structuralist functionalism, the dominant school of American sociology betwee[n] the Second World War and the late 1960s, when Lee was writing. [sic].] (p.28.)

[ top ]

R. V. Comerford (‘Political Myths in Modern Ireland’, 1988): ‘Professor Lee’s recent comparative analysis of Irish economic performance since 1922 can be interpreted to mean that the twenty-six county area has simply continued to be as it was before 1922, peripheral region integrated but not assimilated into a larger economic entity. The extent and intensity of cultural and socio-cultural dependence at every level is plain to see. Some kind of benchmark was reached earlier this year with a report that a Dublin newspaper, for long a bastion of Irish political and cultural independence, was considering the use of spare printing capacity to run off an Irish edition of an English tabloid newspaper. [...]’ (In Irishness in a Changing Society, ed. George Sandulescu [Princess Grace Irish Library], Gerrards Cross, 1988, p.11.)

[ top ]

Quotations

Sundry remarks ...
 
‘[T]he possessor principle overrides the performer principle ...’
‘The source of the bleakness must still be sought more in the inertia of the indigens [...] than in the niggardliness of nature ...’
‘If begrudgery is rampant in contemporary Ireland, it is a direct inheritance from, not a perversion of, traditional Ireland.’
 
—Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society (Cambridge UP 1989), pp.390, 365; 523, 647; all quoted in Geert Lernout, ed., The Crows Behind the Plough: History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Poetry and Drama, Rodopi 1991, p.13.)


The Modernisation of Irish Society 1848-1918 (Clarendon Press 1973): ‘[The book is written] in the hope that modernisation may prove immune to the parochial preoccupations implicit in equally elusive and more emotive concepts like the gaelicisation and anglicisation. Modernisation is defined as the growth of equality and opportunity. This requires that merit supersede birth as the main criterion for the distribution of income, status and power, and this in turn involves the creation of political consciousness among the masses, the decline of deference based on inherited status, and the growth of functional specialisation, without which merit can hardly begin to be measured.

[ top ]

The Modernisation of Irish Society (1973) - cont.: ‘There has been extraordinarily little research into either state or sciety in ireland. That partly reflects the success of the state in establishing itself so quickly, despite the painful parturtitive process, that it could come ot be conveniently taken for granted. But the universities must bear a large share of the blame for the neglect of social research [... &c.]’ (p.8.; see longer extracts, attached.]

[ top ]

University, State and Society in Ireland’: [...] ‘Concepts of relevance and needs are not incompatible with the idea of a university. What is incompatible is banality of mind [...] The pre-occupation with the tactical, and the slighting of the strategic, affects the quality of performance right across the spectrum in Irish life. .. The ultimate irony of the Gadarene obsession of the short term operators is that they cannot even get the short term right. And they cannot get it right because within their own myopic terms of reference they misjudge the springs of sustained economic progress, particularly in a country lacking mineral resouces. Such countries must rely overwhelmingly on human ressources. And th quality of human resourses is a function of the general cultural coherence of a society.’ (In The Crane Bag [“The Forum Issue: Education, Religion, Arts, Psychology” Issue], Vol. 7, 2, 1983, pp.5-12p.9.)

[ top ]

Centre cannot hold: ‘What we have is centralisation without cohesion [...] if the centralisers hold the locals to be unfit for self-government, the performance of the centralised government has scarcely sufficed to silence the sceptics who hold the Irish to be unfit for self-government’, and further: ‘we are unique ... in having abandoned our national language, reputedly to sell the cow [...] other small states, who lacked the imagination to take so apparently progressive a step as jettisoning their obscure languages, have sold the cow distinctly more successfully than ourselves [...] we bartered the language, but we could not even get a proper mess of pottage for it ... our unusual feat of losing on the cultural swings and losing on the economic roundabouts [...] we have failed to develop a serious tradition of native social thought [...] we have imitated much and learned little [...].’ (See Kieran Kennedy, ed., Ireland in Transition [Thomas Davis Lectures 1985], Mercier Press [1985]; quoted by Roy Johnston in Books Ireland, Feb. 1987, p.10 [review].)

[ top ]

Ireland 1912-1985 (Cambridge UP 1989): ‘The Northern virus inevitably infected the Southern body politic. The wonder is that it infected it so little for so long. This was partly due to the quarantine measures adopted by Jack Lynch [Taoiseach]. His own instinct was against involvement. But he had to tread carefully. ‘Re-unification’ held ritualistic pride of place not only on the agenda of ‘national aims’ but in Fianna Fáil rhetoric. Public opinion, as far as one can tell in the absence of specific surveys, had subscribed overwhelmingly to the aspiration of a united Ireland since partition, at least as long as nothing need be done about it. In 1969 the majority seemed to be mainly concerned to prevent the problem spilling over into the South, while at the same time being anxious to protect Catholics in the North from feared Protestant pogroms. / Lynch thus found himself confronting a confused popular instinct, searching for a way to do nothing while persuading itself of its anxiety to do something. How to disengage from the implications of the rhetoric without affronting self-respect required a sustained mastery of shuffle techniques. (p.458; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, Four Courts Press 2000, p.62.)

[ top ]

Modern Ireland, 1922-1985 (1989): ‘Perhaps the Irish did not want economic growth? [...] The image of Ireland as an island sublimely submerged in a sea of spirituality carries little conviction [...] Even those inclined to attribute superior spirituality to the Irish must hesitate to explain the relative [economic] retardation of Northern Ireland [...] If Irish fishermen cannot compete with [foreign fishermen], it is not because the fish have chosen to boycott them. Nature, it must be concluded, has not been conspicuously niggardly towards Ireland.’ (pp.522-23; quoted in Loredana Salis, ‘‘“So Greek with Consequence””: Classical Tragedy in Contemporary Irish Drama’, PhD Diss., UUC, 2005.)

[ top ]

Irish share issues (Statist, 1983)] comment on the fate of Irish share issues: ‘No sooner does a company come with its £1 share offered at par […] than benevolent speculators push up the quotation to a big premium, in some cases as much as 200 or 300% in a very few hours and this inflation in patent rights must in a great many directions result in loss and disappointment … we are given to understand that promoters whose antecedents are not altogether pleasant in regard to bringing our undertakings in London and the provinces in this country have devoted their attention to the unsophisticated Irish. This attitude to the Irish is really a bouleversement of the old fashion[ed] cry of “no Irish need apply”.’ (Quoted in Cormac Ó Grada, Ireland: A New Economic History 1780-1939, Clarendon Press 1994, pb. 1995, p.376.)

[ top ]

Food for thought: Reviewing Cormac Ó Grada, A Rocky Road: The Irish Economy Since the 1920s (Manchester UP 1997), in Times Literary Supplement (30 Jan. 1998), Professor Lee concludes with reflections on the superior performance of Northern Ireland economic to the Republic up to the 1990s, and the ‘surpass[ing]’ of that decade, remarking that ‘diehards on both sides of the ideological divide will, no doubt, quote economic statistics’ while this ‘probing study’ gives ‘students of relative trends [...] so much food for thought [. &c.]’.

[ top ]

Language & identity: ‘[O]nly the husk of identity is left without the language’ (Ireland 1912-1985, p.662; cited in Greene, ‘Growing up Irish’, in ‘The Irish Psyche’, special issue of The Irish Journal of Psychology, 15, 2 & 3, 1994, p.367.)

Irish work ethic: ‘A cluster of historically conditioned reflexes continues to influence [the Irish] work ethic. From the Land Acts to the Common Agricultural Policy, many farmers have reaped a higher return from investment in politics than investment in agriculture.’ (Lee, ‘Society and Culture’, from Unequal Achievements &c., ed. Frank Litton, Dublin 1982, p.10; cited in Breda Dunne, An Intelligent Visitor’s Guide to the Irish, Mercier 1990).

[ top ]

Highs & lows: ‘[.] the lowest living standards, the highest emigration rates, the worst employment rates, and the most intellectually stultifying society in northern Europe’ (Ireland 1945-1970, 1979, p.24; cited in Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, Pluto Press 1998, p.93.)

[ top ]

State analysis: ‘[T]he most striking lacuna of all in our intellectual activity concerns analysis of the state itself. The nature of the Irish state has become quite central to the nature of Irish society. In no northern European country does the state play so pervasive a role. And in no northern European country has so little analysis been devoted to the role of the state.’ (‘Centralisation and Community’, in Lee, ed., Ireland: Towards a Sense of Place, Cork UP 1985, p.92; quoted in T. J. Barrington, ‘Frontiers of the Mind’, in Across the Frontiers: Ireland in the 1990s, ed. Richard Kearney, Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1989, p.36.)

[ top ]

Risk-taking: ‘[The Irish 1930s] saw unprecedented economic experimentation and risk-taking by the state, whether in general policy or in the creation of state-sponsored bodies such as Aer Lingus and Bord na Mona, to try to achieve goals long proclaimed in the developmental thinking of Irish nationalism.’ (‘From Empire to Europe: The Lost State 1922 – 1973’, in Contesting the State: Lessons from the Irish Case, ed. Maura Asdhead, Peadar Kerby & Michelle Millar, Manchester UP 2008, p.38; quoted in Carl Campbell, UUC MA Diss., 2009.)

[ top ]

Notes
Brian J. Goggin, reviewing Damien Kiberd, Media in Ireland: the Search for Diversity (Dublin: Four Courts 1998), 94pp., remarks that ‘Joe Lee, one of the speakers, thinks of Ireland as carrying “the psychological baggage of an inferiority complex”, a view that some recent research suggests is mistaken. he fears “the infiltration of the silent value sustem about the nature of soiceity that dominates the international media. That value system is based on hedonistic, or no-fault, individualism.” But research discussed in media Audiences in Ireland suggests that Irish cultures are able to resist outside influences. While Lee suggests that “there would be no difficultry in substantianting the view that there was an overwhelming assumption on the part of RTÉ programmers that no-fault divorce was the correct response”, Stephen Ryan’s research . comes to the opposite conclusion.’ (Books Ireland, Summer 1998, p.166; note that Stephen Ryan, et al., are discussed in the ensuing part of the review devoted to Mary J. Kelly & Barbara O’Connor, Media Audiences in Ireland: Power and Cultural Identity (UCD Press 1998), 286pp.

[ top ]