A Scholar’s Stage forum member reports that he and a friend recently finished reading John Darwin’s After Tamerlane. Enraptured by Darwin’s account of flourish and fall, they ask what else they might read to understand the rise and decline of peoples and powers over the course of human history.
In my mind there are four central parts to this tale:
Image Source It would take gods to give men laws. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau  This is going to be one of those essays where I throw a lot of things on the wall and see what sticks. We are going to range today from the American Revolution to Cambodian spirits to hunter-gatherer conceptions of authority to […]
One of the great ironies of 20th century history: Marxist revolutionaries could only ever seize power in the wrong countries. Marx imagined a revolution of industrial proletariat; he expected that this proletariat would at first achieve its aims in highly industrialized nations like England and Germany. His theory of socialism presupposed that a successful transition […]
Mary McAuley’s Soviet Politics: 1917-1991 is one of those rare works that marries concision with intellectual heft. Though only 123 pages in length, every page sparkles with insight. Though not a tour de force in the traditional sense, it manages to say something noteworthy about nearly every aspect of Soviet political history. Many of the […]
Several months ago I wrote a few reflections on Ross Douthat’s newest book, The Decadent Society. As I noted, Douthat’s most interesting claim is that we live in an age of intellectual sterility. We cycle ever backwards to the intellectual, cultural, and political priorities of 1975. In response, I argued that complaints of cultural sterility […]
Image source This post is a reading list. It is not a list of books I recommend for I have not read them all—at least, not yet. But it might form the center kernel of a top-notch reading group. The topic: Leninist politics. The importance of understanding Leninist organization, ideology, tactics, symbolism and so forth […]
Earlier this year I published a series of notes under the title “On Cultures That Build.” The thesis of that piece (the most popular thing I have written for any publication this year) was that both innovation and institutional capacity are at least partially a product of social training and cultural experience. Americans were once […]