I spent some time this weekend updating the blog roll and other side bars, which I had otherwise left untouched for a year or two. Hypothetically one could use Internet Archive to see how the blog roll has changed since this blog’s inception twelve years ago. Many of the internet’s best blogs simply do not exist any more. Other things have been added to or dropped from the list as my interests have changed.
To the blog roll category I have added a list of podcasts I listen to as well as a list of academic or institutional researchers/research centers I follow. These are not the only researchers whose work I try to keep up with, but they are the researchers who keep well maintained pages listing their most recent research. For the most part I have eliminated websites from the blog roll if they are not still actively producing content, but there were four exceptions: Xavier Marquez’s Annotated Footnotes, Nibras Kazimi’s Talisman’s Gate, Pseudoerasmus’ old blog, and Mike Duncan’s History of Rome Podcast podcast. Marquez, Kazimi, and Pseudoerasmus have not posted in a year and Duncan officially completed his podcast a few years ago. However the content on all three sites is of such quality that they are worth wading through the backlogs.
The content linked to can split into six main categories: history, behavioral science, Asian politics and current affairs, strategic theory and war, and general literary or cultural commentary. Not coincidentally, my own writing is focused on the same suite of topics.
Sententiae Antiquae and Far Outliers are both essentially commonplace books; the author of the first provides daily excerpts from the surviving corpus of ancient Latin and Greek works; the second’s passages are drawn mostly from works of contemporary historians, and range across the span of human history.
Sean Manning is a specialist in ancient Persia; his blog Book and Sword provides an interesting if very in-the-weeds look at epigraphy, historical linguistics, archaeology, historiography, and ancient historical sources. He also occasionally comments on contemporary politics or historical periods as the mood fits him. Will Buckner’s Traditions of Conflict provides a fascinating look at the ethnography and archaeology of simple societies and the role that violence, ritual, and hierarchy played inside them. Xavier Marquez is a political scientist, and his writing at Abandoned Footnotes is very much grounded in theory of political science. However, his favorite subjects (authoritarianism and political cults) are rooted in 20th century political history and so I will put his work here. Razib Khan’s Gene Expression is divided evenly between population genetics, social commentary, and history, but half of those genetics posts are on historical topics. He also co-hosts The Insight, which covers similar ground, sans the social commentary.
I follow several podcasts and book review sites that help me stay aware of new books and idea in historical work. I regularly listen to the New Books in East Asian Studies and New Books in Military History podcasts for this reason; Reviews in History, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and the book review sections for H-Net Asia and EH-Net fulfill a similar function. Economic history, ‘big history,’ and other attempt to apply the methodology of social sciences to the study of history has long been an interest and passion of mine, though I have not had the time to follow as closely as I once did. When it was still a live thing, Pseudoerasmus’ blog was simply the best website around on this topic (now he seems mostly to use twitter). The GMU Economic History Group is one of the central groups doing active research on this topic; two academics associates with the group that I follow with particular interest are Mark Koyama and Melanie Xue. Stanford history professor Walter Schiedel has moved from a traditional classicist into a leading proponent of incorporating models and data from economics, climatology, etc. into historical research; Peter Turchin is another example of the same trend but from the other end: he began his career as an ecologist. He is the journal editor of Cliodynamics: A Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History, which I peruse with interest.
Yuri Pines is one of the world’s premier sinologists. He has helpfully uploaded a pdf copy of almost everything he has ever written on his site. Oriens Extremis is a flag ship journal in sinology; the other journal that I check up on a few times a year is the Journal of Chinese Military History.
I believe that Behavioral and Brain Sciences is simply the best journal in this field. It may be the best journal in any field; if all journals were to be obliterated tomorrow and I get to keep only one, Behavioral and Brain Sciences would be it. Edge and Aeon often cover similar topics but for a popular audience. I follow with particular interest developments in political psychology, cross-cultural psychology, social cognition, judgement and decision making, and the intersections of each of these with affective neuroscience, evolutionary anthropology, cultural evolution, and philosophy of mind. Some of the researchers who I follow (and who keep their websites up to date) in these fields include: Luke Conway, Luke Glowacki, Joshua Kertzer, Jospeh Henrich, Cecilia Heyes, Thomas Talhelm, Michele Gelfand, Paul Glimcher, Hannah Nam, Jennifer Lerner, Peter DeScioli, Coren Apicella, Hugo Mercier, Olivier Morin, and the various people involved at the Center for Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture. There are many others I would add to this list if they kept their websites updated.
Ginger Cambell’s Brain Science Podcast is an excellent way to keep up with new research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology. The group blog Cognition and Culture, on the other hand, is an engaging series of jottings from the folks connected to the Paris school of cultural evolution.
Gwern Branwen and Scott Alexander are two prominent rationalist bloggers. Like a lot of rationalist content their writing straddles behavioral science, cultural commentary, and esoteric problems in technology or economics.
Currently the best site in this category is Andrew Batson’s blog on Chinese politics, economics, and history. Ma Tianijie’s Chublic Opinion is also very useful, though Ma has not posted new material in a distressing amount of time. Nathan Batto’s blog Frozen Garlic is updated often, though its topic is narrow: Taiwanese electoral politics and polling. Those interested in Taiwanese politics will also want to follow the podcast/youtube show Current Affairs Taiwan. It is criminally under-followed, despite being the single best thing in the English language on the topic.
The Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, Hoover’s Chinese Leadership Monitor, and the Journal of Contemporary China tend to be written in mind-numbingly boring prose, but the research presented is important and useful.
Jaideep Prahbu’s takes on various topics in international affairs is the sole Indian perspective represented on my blogroll. I would like to expand that category, but struggle to find writers who are both 1) Excellent, and 2) Collect all of their writing on one web-page.
WAR AND STRATEGY
Back in the days of the old Strategy Sphere this category made up the majority of my blog roll. Today all of those old blogs are dead; none of the blogs on the roll today fall in this category. Readers interested in the topic are better off following publications like War on the Rocks, Strategy Bridge, and Small Wars Journal on the shorter side, and Naval War College Review, Parameters, and Infinity Journal for longer, peer-reviewed material. I am always impressed with the Naval War College Review in particular; somehow they manage to present topics of importance without ever declining into brain-killing RANDspeak.
Speaking of RANDspeak, I also keep track of several think tanks that work on defense issues. Pound for pound the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment is the single best think tank in Washington. I will defend them to the death. Australia’s Lowy Institute and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute also produce a lot of content that will interest readers of this blog. I find the work of the 2049 Institute and CNAS to be a bit less even, but when they produce a good report is is usually a very good report. Other institutions have stellar individual researchers I follow, but are usually not worth following as an institution.
There are dozens of podcasts on these topics and I hate all of them. The only exception is the Midrats Radio Show, which manages to keep conversations real and grounded in a way almost nothing else in the eternally image conscious nat/sec world is. I strongly recommend it.
The Privacy, Security and OSINT Show is not really about defense issues, but if you work in that field you may find it interesting. The host is a former FBI cybercrimes investigator and currently runs a firm that helps celebrities, individuals threatened by stalkers, and privacy nerds disappear. If this show does not make you paranoid nothing else will.
LITERARY, SOCIAL, AND CULTURAL COMMENTARY
Evidence Anecdotal is another common-place book style blog. His entries are almost always lifted from the letters, diaries, and forgotten books of the luminaries of English literature. The podcast Canon Ball is an engaging attempt to read and discuss all of the authors included in Bloom’s Western Canon. Their episodes are a bit hit-and-miss, but the hits (like their episode on Paradise Lost) are thought provoking in the extreme.
The Art of Manliness really surprised me. I thought the episodes would be as shallow as their episode descriptions make them out to be: but they are not! I am consistently impressed with the quality of the episodes and the guests that show up on the Art of Manliness podcast. For an example of an episode that completely surprised me with its quality, try listening to “Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialists World.” It is marketed at the intellectual level of an Oprah episode, but give it a try and you will find it as good as any other podcast I have linked to here.
A podcast that does not market itself at the intellectual level of an Oprah episode is Manifesto! This podcast wanders all over 20th and 21st century intellectual history. It typically has a more literary and philosophical bent than most of the other stuff on my side bar. Along those lines, Tara Isabella Burton and Lauren Oyler are two contemporary essayists of a literary bent that I particularly enjoy. Ross Douthat likely needs no introduction; this is the category in which he belongs. This category, like that of the behavioral science researchers, would also be larger if essayists were in the habit of maintaining and updating their websites.
I am probably more exposed to commentators with a world view or educational background in the social sciences. Marginal Revolution is the most famous of this sort. Of similar style to Marginal Revolution but slightly different focus is Nathaniel Givens’ Difficult Run and “Isegoria’s” Isegoria. Givens’ perspective is very much that of an economist with a dash of standard American Mormon sensibilities added in. On the other hand, I think Isegoria’s background is in some field of engineering. Politically he would likely self-identify as a neoreactionary if you put the question to him, but he manages to avoid both the zaniness and racial hatred popular with that set. All three tend to operate by collecting very interesting news items and social science studies and offering to readers with a few comments attached.
I do not know who runs The Worthy House, but I do know he will be altogether too reactionary for many of my readers. This one is a little too eager to burn the world down. But in the meantime he reviews many interesting books and provides an equally interesting window into the worldview of a certain sort of rightist.
Ben Thompson’s Stratechery belongs into an entirely different group. Thompson’s main topic is consumer technology and business strategy, and he writes up his thoughts on the maneuverings of Facebook, Apple, et. al a few times a week. I put him in this category because his essays double as social and political commentary on the intersections between technology, economics, and cultural life. His observations here are smart and worth reflecting on.
Randall Collins is a retired sociologist who spends his retirement writing up small sociological analyses of random topics (the micro-sociology of the lives of figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Gandhi, and…. Jesus Christ, the sociology of American gun violence, education driven social stratification, etc). He posts these on his blog, Sociological Eye, a few times a year.
Adam Elkus’ newest blog is what prompted me to go and retool the side bar in the first place. Elkus began his first blog back in the heyday of the old Strategy Sphere and has blogged on and off again since its collapse. While some of his new posts touch on defense topics, his interests have in large part shifted over the last decade to new frontiers: memetics, computational social science, artificial intelligence, and the dysfunctions of various epistemic communities, be they on twitter or in the halls of government.
Well that is everyone on the sidebar. Now that I have written out, I am curious: what are your favorite blogs, writers, or researchers? Feel free to post links to their content below.