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Posts Tagged ‘John Herschel

“The real war will never get in the books”*…

Still, historians try. And as Anton Jäger argues in his consideration of Charles S. Maier‘s The Project-State and Its Rivals- A New History of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, that’s a challenging, frustrating, but ultimately very useful thing…

“We thought we knew the story of the twentieth century,” Charles Maier notes in an announcement for his new book The Project State and Its Rivals. Both haunting and tantalizing, the sentence’s past tense speaks to a profoundly contemporary mood. As the twenty-first century progresses, confident visions about the previous century conceived from the vantage point of the 1990s—the “age of extremes” resolved by a set of liberal settlements—no longer seem safe and secure. In 2023, the European extreme Right is establishing itself as a force of government, populism is going global, and inter-imperial tensions have ushered in a new arms race. In Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland is currently polling above 20 percent, while Modi is set to win another term in India with an approval rating near 80 percent. To the desperation of liberals nostalgic for the 1990s, the “end of the end of history” has arrived.

As Maier surmises, there might be a connection between this sense of surprise and the comfortable judgments we tend to make about humani­ty’s last hundred years. “If the twentieth century meant the triumph of liberalism,” he asks, “why have the era’s darker impulses—ethnic nationalism, racist violence, and populist authoritarianism—revived?” The question provides the working hypothesis for Maier’s new mono­graph, a self-described “rethinking of the long twentieth century,” which aims to “explain the fraying of our own civic culture” while also “allowing hope for its recovery.” Provocatively, Maier’s focus is on “both democracies and dictatorships that sought not just to retain power but to transform their societies,” next to “new forms of imperial domination,” “global networks of finance,” and “international associations” that both challenged and shaped the state. The ambition is nothing less than a new general theory of the twentieth century, one that would allow us to deal with an unmastered past, but also to gain proper self-understanding in a new and confusing century.

Readers would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable candidate for the task than Charles S. Maier. At eighty-four, Maier—still teaching European and international history at Harvard—remains a scholar with panoramic disciplinary reach. His 1975 debut, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the Decade after World War I, swiftly established itself a masterpiece of comparative political history. Based on a prior Harvard dissertation complemented with a decade of additional archival research, it examined the fraught resolution of the crises of liberalism after 1918, and what factors deter­mined the potential emergence and stymieing of authoritarian regimes. After works on Germany’s collective memory of the Holocaust and an elite-driven account of the fall of East Germany, he waded into histori­cal political science with Leviathan 2.0: Inventing Modern Statehood in 2014, followed by Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging since 1500 in 2016. Clearly a product of a buoyant Cold War academe, Maier has always been locked in an uneasy pas-à-deux with Marxism: attentive to the class content of political life, but never taken to monolithic views of business interests and overly abstract notions of capital. His work on political economy looked closely at the class coalitions that gave way to divergent corporatist settlements in the 1920s and ’30s, and how these national blocs interlocked with differing international arrangements—a Marxist historiography despite itself. He also took the force of ideas seriously, weaving a tapestry of conceptual, political, and economic history, which explains the unique force of his writing. Yet unlike cultural historians, Maier has retained an interest in causality through the construction of comparative counterfactuals—what Britain and Germany shared in 1918, for instance, or why English Tories did not need a Duce and why the American South was different from the Mezzogiorno—a sensibility that also informed his consistently transnational approach to the twentieth century.

The Project State and Its Rivals exudes a similarly boundless ambition. As the book’s announcements make clear, Maier is on the lookout for a unifying category to cohere our historical experience of the twentieth century—or, more specifically, the forms of statehood that emerged in the interwar period, and that still present such vexing challenges to our intellectual imagination…

A critical account of Maier’s hypothesis, eminently worth reading in full: “The Rise and Fall of the Project State: Rethinking the Twentieth Century,” from @AntonJaegermm in @AmericanAffrs. Via Adam Tooze/@adam_tooze.

* Walt Whitman

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As we keep searching, we might pause to contrast the rigorously serious with the frivolously venal: it was on this date in 1835 that the New York Sun began a series of six articles detailing the discovery of civilized life on the moon; circulation soared.  Now known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles attributed the “discovery” to Sir John Herschel, the greatest living astronomer of the day.  Herschel was initially amused, wryly noting that his own real observations could never be as exciting.  But ultimately he tired of having to answer questioners who believed the story.  The series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, while the paper did admit (on September 16, 1835) that the whole thing was a “satire,” it never issued a retraction (and didn’t suffer a drop in sales).

The “ruby amphitheater” on the Moon, per the New York Sun (source)

“Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on”*…

A German American Bund march on 86th Street in New York, 1939

In 1939, 20,000 Americans rallied in New York’s Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism – an event largely forgotten from American history. Marshall Curry‘s A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN, made entirely from archival footage filmed that night, transports audiences to this chilling gathering and shines a light on the power of demagoguery and anti-Semitism in the United States…

Visit the web site for background and follow-on links: “A Night at the Garden,” from @marshallcurry via the invaluable @Matt_Muir and his Web Curios.

* Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

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As we face history, we might recall that it was on this date in 1835 that the New York Sun began a series of six articles detailing the discovery of civilized life on the moon; circulation soared.  Now known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles attributed the “discovery” to Sir John Herschel, the greatest living astronomer of the day.  Herschel was initially amused, wryly noting that his own real observations could never be as exciting.  But ultimately he tired of having to answer questioners who believed the story.  The series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, while the paper did admit (on September 16, 1835) that the whole thing was a “satire,” it never issued a retraction (and didn’t suffer a drop in sales).

The “ruby amphitheater” on the Moon, per the New York Sun (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 25, 2022 at 1:00 am

And that’s the way it is…

source

Arguments rage as to how the U.S. sailed into the economic eddy in which we’re caught, and as to how we should navigate out.  (Your correspondent’s thoughts, FWIW, are littered among the postings in his other blog.)  But the situation is what it is…  a situation that the folks at ProPublica have profiled, current as to data available this month.

Some selections:

– Annual rate at which the GDP grew this year: 1.3 percent between April and June, 0.4 percent between January and March
– Average annual GDP growth from 1998-2007: 3.02 percent
– Total jobs lost since January 2008: 8.7 million
– Total jobs recovered since January 2008: 1.8 million
– Unemployment rate in July 2011: 9.1 percent
– The “natural unemployment rate”: 5 percent
– Months that the unemployment rate has been around 9 percent or more: 28
– Number of unemployed people in July 2011: 13.9 million
– Number of long-term unemployed people in June 2011: 6.3 million, or 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Number of long-term unemployed people in July 2011: 6.2 million, still about 44.4 percent of the unemployed
– Years it will take to get back to an unemployment rate of 5 percent: four years if we’re adding jobs at 350,000 per month; 11 years if we’re adding jobs at the 2005 rate of 210,000 per month

More at ProPublica… In an economy the fundamental premise of which is consumption, and in which employment gains demand a GDP growth rate of over 2%, it’s a sobering picture.

As we contemplating re-stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1835 that the New York Sun began a series of six articles detailing the discovery of civilized life on the moon.  Now known as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles attributed the “discovery” to Sir John Herschel, the greatest living astronmer of the day.  Herschel was initially amused, wryly noting that his own real observations could never be as exciting.  But ultimately he tired of having to answer questioners who believed the story.  The series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction.

The “ruby amphitheater” on the Moon, per the New York Sun (source)

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