Notes on a radical interpretation of the Cold War

[Also here]. I’ve been reading Gabriel and Joyce Kolko’s classic The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945–54 (1972). Being a brilliant materialist analysis that’s utterly indispensable to an understanding of the postwar world, the book is out of print and hard to find anywhere. It’s a massive tome, but I thought I’d quote here just a few necessary correctives to the bromides and platitudes of mainstream liberal scholarship. (Almost by definition, liberal historians are worse at their craft—more superficial and ideological—than radical historians, because the latter get to the root of the matter, as is suggested by the etymology of the very word ‘radical.’) The ov

On the fight against misogyny

As a leftist, "I wish we could all just get along." Wouldn't that be nice? Maybe it would get boring pretty quickly. But a little less conflict between people, a little more peace and quiet, would be great. People have such trouble dealing with each other! So much cruelty and hostility, so little empathy and understanding. Relations between the sexes, for example, are so fraught with conflict and despair -- there's so frequently disrespect on both sides, and not only in romantic relationships but every other kind as well. All relationships can be difficult, of course, just because we're all different people with different perspectives, values, and interests, but intersexual relationships are

A little misanthropy can be a healthy thing

This is from a letter Sigmund Freud wrote to his pastor friend Oskar Pfister: I do not break my head very much about good and evil, but I have found little that is ‘good’ about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think, though your experiences of life can hardly have been different from mine. If we are to talk of ethics, I subscribe to a high ideal from which most of the human beings I have come across depart most lamentably. He expressed the thought more concisely in another letter: “In the depths of my hea

Marxist theories of imperialism

[Years ago I took notes on the book mentioned below, which I thought I'd post here for the heck of it. Maybe someone will find them useful.] Reading Anthony Brewer’s Marxist Theories of Imperialism: A Critical Survey (1980). Sometimes my living in a postmodern culture makes me forget just how obvious the economic interpretation of history is. “The motives for imperial expansion,” Brewer says, “were predominantly economic. Some historians now seek to deny this, but the men of the East India Company, the Spanish Conquistadores, the investors in South African mines and the slave traders knew very well what they wanted. They wanted to be rich. Colonial empires were exploited ruthlessly for econo

A plea for honesty in discussions of sex and gender

A recent article of mine, called "Political Correctness Is Getting Out of Hand," elicited some angry emails. Not from people who disagreed with the thesis -- it seems that not only conservatives and centrists but even most leftists think political correctness sometimes goes too far -- but from people who objected to this sentence: "Ultimately it isn’t permitted....even to state manifest truths, such as that men on average are taller and physically stronger than women, or that, e.g., women tend to be attracted to male dominance (for instance men taller than they) and the dominant male." The idea that women on average are attracted to male "dominance," as manifested for example in "alpha males

Thoughts on planning vs. the market

Been reading The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations Are Laying the Foundation for Socialism. It's a good book: provides useful ammunition to deal with the arguments of free-market enthusiasts. Planning on very large scales not only can work, contrary to Hayekian dogmas, but is nearly ubiquitous and does work. (In our present society, it works primarily to uphold the power of the ruling class.) Corporations, for one thing, are planned economies. And the state amounts in many respects to one vast planned economy. I just wanted to observe here that the economist J. W. Mason, whom the authors quote, makes a good point on the utility-to-capitalists of the "free mar

Thoughts from the dark

Lugubrious. That's the word for how I'm feeling tonight. That and self-indulgent. So I thought I'd write a blog post. These midnight moods used to ambush me frequently when I was in my 20s, sometimes eliciting sentimental poetry. Now I'm older, not much wiser, more callused, but still susceptible once in a while to the misty melancholy of existential yearning. Diffuse nostalgia, regret, the old hackneyed lament for some undefined state that seems to have been lost but never really existed in the first place. A person close to me is gone and so here I am now sitting on my bed in Brooklyn ruminating and regretting but resigned because life is loss and I've known more than my share, so I can ac

What will "the revolution" look like?

Here's a blog post for you masochists who are interested in the debates that go on among Marxist intellectuals over questions around revolution, strategies to get from capitalism to socialism, Leninism and its relevance or lack thereof to the present, etc. It's kind of remarkable, actually, how much collective time is devoted to these abstract questions, how many thousands of words are produced rehashing, relitigating, revising, rewriting, and reconsidering debates that took place a hundred years ago between those old comrades and rivals Lenin, Kautsky, Luxemburg, Bernstein, Trotsky, Pannekoek, and the rest of them. Back and forth fly the ripostes, on leftist websites like Jacobin and Verso:


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