- Notes on Frantz Fanon Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
- Why some countries come together and others fall apart Andreas Wimmer, Aeon
- Ethiopia is already “the China of Africa” Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View
- Israel and the parable of Samson the Weakling Michael Koplow, Ottomans and Zionists
I came across a collection of essays and blogs by the late Fred Halliday, entitled Political Journeys (2007), published in the last few years of his life. Halliday, who died in 2010 at only 64 years of age, was one of my professors in the International Relations Department at the London School of Economics in the mid-nineties. By some standards he was the big departmental star, not only as a researcher, but also as a public intellectual.
Like most professors he was firmly left wing, a former communist who moved somewhat to the centre. To his credit, his teaching was immaculate: you could not tell his political ideas from his lecturing or the extensive international political theory reading list he gave. He was known for his expertise of the Middle East, revolutions, and his feminism. But he was also a good theorist, and his book Rethinking International Relations (1994) is especially a real treat.
While going through Political Journeys my eyes fell on a piece about ‘the world’s twelve worst ideas in 2007’. Most of them still stand, also from a classical liberal and libertarian viewpoint, and warrant a full discussion by themselves. Yet for now I just list them here, in descending order, with short explanations between parentheses when not self-explanatory:
12. human behaviour can be predicted (against the scientific fallacy in the social sciences)
11. the world is speeding up (large areas I human life still consume the same amount of time as ever before, despite acceleration in other areas)
10. we have no need for history
9. we live in a ‘post-feminist epoch’ (still a need for feminism, given the position of women in most parts of the world)
8. markets are a natural phenomenon, which allow for the efficient allocation of resources and preferences (clearly I strongly disagree with Halliday here, although he seems to mix up real free markets and those characterised by government interference)
7. religion should again be allowed, when not encouraged, to play a role in political and social life (points to the fight against the influence of religion on public life)
6. in the modern world we do not need utopias (aspiration to a better world as necessary part of the human condition)
5. we should welcome the spread of English as a world language (while practical it comes with cultural arrogance by the Anglo-Saxons)
4. the world is divided into comparable moral blocs or civilisations (there is indeed a set of common values shared across the world)
3. diasporas have a legitimate role to play in national and international politics (refutes the idea that diaspora have a special insight into their homeland, and Halliday then points to the negative and backward role in the resolution of the conflicts in their countries of origin)
2. the only thing ‘they’ understand is force (plain colonial and hegemonic thinking)
1. the world’s population problems and the spread of AIDS can be solved by ‘natural’ means (against those who oppose condoms use and other contraceptives)
That’s the subject of my weekend column over at RealClearHistory. An excerpt:
6. The Dutch Empire vied for supremacy with the Portuguese empire, which, beginning in 1580 with the Iberian Union of Spain and Portugal, was a rival Catholic state attempting to establish a global hegemony of its own. The Portuguese were actually the first Europeans to establish trading forts throughout the world, but the aforementioned Iberian Union severely weakened Lisbon’s plans for global hegemony due to the fact that the union made Portugal the junior partner. The Dutch conquered and then established colonial rule at Portuguese colonies on four different continents, and unlike the Portuguese, focused on commercial interests rather than converting the natives to Catholicism and creating a politically connected empire. Because of the commercial nature of the Dutch project, many of the indigenous factions were happy to switch from Portugal to the Netherlands as business partners. And partners they were. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch (as well as the British and French later on) paid rent to local political units on the trading forts they built throughout the world. Such was the nature of power on the world scene before the end of the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.
Please, read the rest.
- China’s Christianity problem (and Islam too) Ian Johnson, NY Times
- An Indian Merchant in Marseilles, 1792 Blake Smith, the Appendix
- The Island Where France’s Colonial Legacy Lives On Maddy Crowell, the Atlantic
- The Ugly Critique of Chick-Fil-A’s Christianity Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg View
- What is the cost of “tractable” economic models? Beatrice Cherrier, Undercover Historian
- Facts vs. hand-waving in economics Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling
- How factories changed the world Donald Sassoon, New Statesman
- Defending the Mughals became a way to defend colonial rule Blake Smith, the Wire