Historians, Slaves of Fashion?

Daniel Gullotta’s Age of Jackson podcast is one of the few I listen to regularly. In 2021 I don’t have a lot of spare bandwidth to keep track of developments in my favorite field of American history, but I do listen to his interviews with new authors in the field to stay somewhat up to date. Listening to a book talk is not the same thing as reading a book, of course, but it is better than slowly having years of labor slip away from memory with disuse.

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The Framers and the Framed: Notes On the Slate Star Codex Controversy

Let’s talk about the grand Slate Star Codex brouhaha. A lot of people have already written about this. Here is the original New York Times piece that started the controversy. [1] Against the Grey Lady we have Cathy Young, Robby Soave, Micah Meadowcroft, Matthew Yglesias, Freddie DeBoer, Scott Aaronson, Noah Smith, and Dan Drezner, as […]

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Why Writers (and Think Tankers) Feud So Viciously

Some of the things that make “the discourse” terrible are new to social media—especially Twitter. But not all. Some other problems are very, very old. Perhaps the best guide to today’s Twitter beefs was written near three centuries ago.  Listen here to one Adam Smith, theorist of moral sentiments. Our journey begins with an observation: […]

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Understanding Taiwanese Nationalism: A Historical Primer in Bullet Points

  Noah Smith has a recent substack note discussing Taiwan. In the comments section there are a number of heated arguments over whether Taiwanese language, history, politics, and so forth are enough to justify thinking of Taiwan the way Smith does: as its own “civilization.” When reading through these debates I was struck by the […]

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Where Have All the Great Works Gone?

A few months ago I wrote about Oswald Spengler’s attempt at comparative world history. I expressed severe reservations with Spengler’s methods and conclusions.[1] But for me the most fascinating parts of the book were the footnotes to Spengler’s main argument. Take, for example, Spengler’s attempt to compare and contrast members of his chosen pantheon of […]

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Assessing the Trump China Strategy: The Key Documents

Now is the proper time for the broader foreign policy community to step back and assess the successes and failures of Trump era diplomacy. There have already been a few attempts of this sort for Trump’s China policy, but I find myself disappointed, if not entirely surprised, with how vapid and partisan these assessments tend […]

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On Life in the Shadow of the Boomers

Image source Ideology, which was once the road to action, has become a dead end. —Daniel Bell (1960) Yuval Levin’s 2017 book Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism has several interesting passages inside it, but none so interesting as Levin’s meditation on the generational frame that clouds the modern mind. […]

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Rethink What You Know About Xi’s Belt and Road

  Countries of the Belt and Road. Earlier this month I wrote: I wish less analysts asked, “What did Xi hope to accomplish by creating the Belt and Road?” and instead wondered, “What did Xi hope to accomplish by associating the SOE infrastructure-industrial complex so closely with his personal foreign policy?” [1] This question follows […]

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Counting Speeches to Understand Xi Jinping

In her 2018 article for The International Journal of Afro-Asian Studies, “Translating Xi Jinping’s speeches: China’s search for discursive power between ‘political correctness’ and ‘external propaganda,’” Tanina Zappone presents an interesting figure: Zappone used the five volumes of Selected Works of Mao Zedong, the three volumes of the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, the two […]

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