Tony Judt

English-American historian

Tony Robert Judt (2 January 19486 August 2010) was a British historian, essayist, and university professor who specialized in European history.

QuotesEdit

  • It is the liberals, then, who count. They are, as it might be, the canaries in the sulphurous mineshaft of modern democracy. The alacrity with which many of America’s most prominent liberals have censored themselves in the name of the War on Terror, the enthusiasm with which they have invented ideological and moral cover for war and war crimes and proffered that cover to their political enemies: all this is a bad sign. Liberal intellectuals used to be distinguished precisely by their efforts to think for themselves, rather than in the service of others. Intellectuals should not be smugly theorising endless war, much less confidently promoting and excusing it. They should be engaged in disturbing the peace – their own above all.
    • "Bush’s Useful Idiots", London Review of Books (21 September 2006)
  • Some people, myself included, advocated foreign intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo while opposing our adventure in Iraq. Sam Moyn might find this inconsistent, but (on this occasion at least) it is the world that is inconsistent, not us. During the Balkan wars individuals’ rights were under ascertainable threat in real time. Outside intervention could make a difference, and it did. This was not the case in Iraq. We should always be suspicious of the invocation of universal “rights” as a cover for sectional interests. But it doesn’t follow from this that talk of rights is “really” always about something else. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. How, then, should we adjust our response? Well, there is a serviceable Keynesian answer to that: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”
    • "Double-Entry Moral Bookkeeping", The Nation (April 25, 2007)
  • My concern tonight is the following: Why is it that here in the United States we have such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society from the one whose dysfunctions and inequalities trouble us so? We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present, much less offer alternatives to it. Why is it so beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?
  • What, then, is to be done? We have to begin with the state: as the incarnation of collective interests, collective purposes, and collective goods. If we cannot learn to “think the state” once again, we shall not get very far. But what precisely should the state do? Minimally, it should not duplicate unnecessarily: as Keynes wrote, “The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all.” And we know from the bitter experience of the past century that there are some things that states should most certainly not be doing.
  • We don’t live in a world of fixed historical laws that says the—as you describe it—liberal state was born at a particular time, lived and died, and that’s what we’re stuck with. But there are reasons why some things are much harder to retain, to invent, to reinvent than others.
    • quoted in "Talking With Tony Judt", The Nation (April 29, 2010) by Christine Smallwood
  •  What’s missing from public conversation and public policy conversation is precisely a sort of moral underpinning, a sense of the moral purposes that bind people together in functional societies. And part of the attraction of someone who otherwise didn’t appeal to me in the least—like, say, Pope John Paul II—was how he managed to connect with young people. Whether it was in Eastern Europe or Latin America or wherever, his was the sense of an absolutely, unambiguously, morally noncompromising view about what is right and what is wrong. It seems to me that we need to reintroduce some of that. We need to reintroduce confidently and unashamedly that kind of language into the public realm. And not expel it, so to speak, into church for Sunday. It’s not only on Sunday that some things are right and some things are wrong.
    • quoted in "Talking With Tony Judt", The Nation (April 29, 2010) by Christine Smallwood
  • One of the very few things that I know I believe strongly is that we must learn how to make a better world out of usable pasts rather than dreaming of infinite futures. It’s a very late-Enlightenment view that says that the only way to make a better future is to believe that the future will be better. Smarter people than me used to believe very differently and I think it is time to listen to them once again.
  • Where does that leave me? Trying, as usual, to square general truths with particular circumstances. That’s the difference between pure ethics and political theory; but it isn’t resolved by simply abandoning the tension and sliding to one end of the pole.
  • God knows I can think of enough things that I did wrong both personally and as part of my cohort. But I never abandoned what I thought of as the benefits of the postwar consensus in favour of sectional advantage. Actually, I was always a bit awkward in this as other respects. As you know, I was against root-and-branch school comprehensivization on the grounds that the postwar arrangements combining meritocracy with opportunity, while imperfect and logically indefensible, were better than the radical schemes on offer – which have trashed much of the pedagogical gains of the early postwar decades.
  • I hate publicity, celebrity, fame, and notoriety, all of which are associated with controversy in its public form. But, in fairness, all my life I've been rather upfront with my opinions and never hidden them on grounds of conformity or (I fear) politesse. However, until the wretched Polish consulate affair, I don't think I was ever controversial—I was certainly not known outside of the hermetic little world of the academy, and my contrarian scholarly writings aroused no great fuss.
    • quoted in Evan R. Goldstein, "The Trials of Tony Judt", The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 06, 2010)
  • I am, I discover in late middle age, a work in progress.
    • quoted in Samuel Moyn, "Intellectuals, Reason, and History: In Memory of Tony Judt", H-France Salon (2012)

Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 (1992)Edit

  • In practice, the writer or scholar who aspires to that public position which defines intellectuals and distinguishes them from mere scribblers has always had to choose between being the apologist for rulers or an advisor to the people; the tragedy of the twentieth century is that these two functions have ceased to exist independently of one another, and intellectuals like Sartre who thought they were fulfilling one role were inevitably drawn to play both. If their successors, in France or elsewhere, are truly to put this past behind them, it will not be enough to recognize past mistakes. It will also be necessary to accept that entailed in the very meaning for modern society of the term intellectual are a number of roles that writers and scholars today may no longer wish to fulfill; indeed, a refusal to occupy the post of the (engaged) intellectual may be the most positive of the steps modern thinkers can take in any serious effort to come to terms with their own responsibility for our common recent past.
    • p. 319

The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century (1998)Edit

  • History is not written as it was experienced, nor should it be. The inhabitants of the past know better than we do what it was like to live there, but they were not well placed, most of them, to understand what was happening to them and why.
    • Introduction: The Misjudgment of Paris
  • From the end of World War I until the middle of the middle of the 1970s, French public life was shaped and misshaped by three overlapping and intersecting forms of collective and individual irresponsibility. The first of these was political. Reading the history of interwar France, one is struck again and again by the incompetence, the insouciance and the culpable negligence of the men who governed the country and represented its citizens. This is not a political observation, in the partisan sense, but rather a cultural one.
    • Introduction: The Misjudgment of Paris
  • If the era of political irresponsibility in France lasted from 1918 to 1958, the age of moral irresponsibility may be said to have begun in the mid-thirties and endured for the best part of four decades.
    • Introduction: The Misjudgment of Paris
  • This book is about three Frenchmen who lived and wrote against the grain of these three ages of irresponsibility. They were very different men and would have been surprised to think of themselves as a group, yet they have something rather distinctive in common. All three played an important role in the France of their lifetime but lived at a slightly awkward tangent to their contemporaries. For much of his adult life each was an object of dislike, suspicion, contempt, or hatred for many of his peers and contemporaries; only at the end of their long lives were Léon Blum and Raymond Aron, for quite different reasons, able to relax into the comfort of near-universal admiration, respect, and, in some quarters, adulation. Camus, who had experienced all three by the age of thirty-five, died twelve years later an insecure and much-maligned figure; it would be thirty years before his reputation would recover.
    • Introduction: The Misjudgment of Paris

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005)Edit

  • Europe is the smallest continent. It is not really even a continent—just a subcontinental annexe to Asia. The whole of Europe (excluding Russia and Turkey) comprises just five and a half million square kilometers: less than two thirds the area of Brazil, not much more than half the size of China or the US. It is dwarfed by Russia, which covers seventeen million square kilometers. But in the intensity of its internal differences and contrasts, Europe is unique.
    • Preface & Acknowledgements
  • Europe is not re-entering its troubled wartime past—on the contrary, it is leaving it. Germany today, like the rest of Europe, is more conscious of its twentieth-century history than at any time in the past fifty years. But this does not mean that it is being drawn back into it. For that history never went away.
    • Introduction
  • Sixty years after Hitler's death, his war and its consequences are entering history. Postwar in Europe lasted a very long time, but it is finally coming to a close.
    • Introduction
  • It was in the Second World War, then, that the full force of the modern European state was mobilized for the first time, for the primary purpose of conquering and exploiting other Europeans.
    • Chap. 1 : The Legacy of War
  • The war changed everything. East of the Elbe, the Soviets and their local representatives inherited a sub-continent where a radical break with the past had already taken place. What was not utterly discredited was irretrievably damaged. Exiled governments from Oslo, Brussels or the Hague could return from London and hope to take up the legitimate authority they had been forced to relinquish in 1940. But the old rulers of Bucharest and Sofia, Warsaw, Budapest and even Prague had no future: their world had been swept aside by the Nazis' transformative violence. It remained only to decide the political shape of the new order that must now replace the unrecoverable past.
    • Chap. 1 : The Legacy of War
  • The two perspectives—doctrine and calculation—were not necessarily in conflict. Ulbricht and his colleagues certainly believed that the way to expunge Nazism from Germany was by effecting a socio-economic transformation: they were not particularly interested in individual responsibility or moral re-education. But they also understood that Nazism was not just a trick perpetrated on an innocent German proletariat.
    • Chap. 2 : Retribution
  • This distrust of short-term memory, the search for serviceable myths of anti-Fascism—for a Germany of anti-Nazis, a France of Resisters or a Poland of victims—was the most important invisible legacy of World War Two in Europe. In its positive form it facilitated national recovery by allowing men like Marshall Tito, Charles De Gaulle or Konrad Adenauer to offer their fellow countrymen a plausible and even prideful account of themselves. Even East Germany claimed a noble point of origin, an invented tradition: the fabled and largely fabricated Communist 'uprising' in Buchenwald in April 1945. Such accounts allowed countries that had suffered war passively, like the Netherlands, to set aside the record of their compromises, and those whose activism had proven misguided, like Croatia, to bury it in a blurred story of competing heroisms.
    Without such collective amnesia, Europe's astonishing post-war recovery would not have been possible. To be sure, much was put out of mind that would subsequently return in discomforting ways. But only much later would it become clear just how much post-war Europe rested on foundation myths that would fracture and shift with the passage of years. In the circumstances of 1945, in a continent covered with rubble, there was much to be gained by behaving as though the past was indeed dead and buried and a new age about to begin. The price paid was a certain amount of selective, collective forgetting, notably in Germany. But then, in Germany above all, there was much to forget.
    • Chap. 2 : Retribution
  • Fascism and war were thus the bridge linking heterodox, marginal and often controversial notions of economic planning with mainstream post-war economic policy. Yet this compromised heritage had little impact on planning's appeal— whatever its associations with far Right, far Left, occupation or war, planning was quite distinctly not associated with the discredited politics of the inter-war years, a point widely held in its favour. What planning was really about was faith in the state. In many countries this reflected a well-founded awareness, enhanced by the experience of war, that in the absence of any other agency of regulation or distribution, only the state now stood between the individual and destitution. But contemporary enthusiasm for an interventionist state went beyond desperation or self-interest.
    • Chap. 3 : The Rehabilitation of Europe
  • The economics of Planning drew directly upon the lessons of the 1930s—a successful strategy for post-war recovery must preclude any return to economic stagnation, depression, protectionism and above all unemployment. The same considerations lay behind the creation of the modern European welfare state. In the conventional wisdom of the 1940s, the political polarizations of the last inter-war decade were born directly of economic depression and its social costs.
    • Chap. 3 : The Rehabilitation of Europe
  • The post-1945 urge for change went well beyond the provision of welfare. The years following World War Two were a sort of foreshortened Age of Reform, during which many long-pressing problems were belatedly addressed. One of the most important of these was the matter of agrarian reform, which many well-informed contemporaries saw as Europe's most pressing dilemma.
    • Chap. 3 : The Rehabilitation of Europe
  • Statesmen whose experience reached back beyond the troubled inter-war decades to the more settled and self-confident era before 1914 thus had a particular attraction. In the continuity of their person they could facilitate a difficult transition from the over-heated politics of the recent past to a coming era of rapid social transformation. Whatever their party 'label', the elder statesmen of Europe were all, by 1945, skeptical, pragmatic practitioners of the art of the possible. This personal distance from the over-confident dogmas of inter-war politics faithfully reflected the mood of their constituents. A post-'ideological' age was beginning.
    • Chap. 3 : The Rehabilitation of Europe
  • The logic of the Marshall Plan required the lifting of all restrictions upon (West) German production and output, so that the country might once again make its crucial contribution to the European economy. Indeed, Secretary of State Marshall made clear from the outset that his Plan meant an end to French hopes of war reparations from Germany—the point, after all, was to develop and integrate Germany, not make of it a dependent pariah. But in order to avoid a tragic re-run of the events of the 1920s—in which frustrated efforts to extract war reparations from a prostrate Germany had led, as it seemed in retrospect, directly to French insecurity, German resentment and the rise of Hitler—it was clear to the Americans and their friends that the Marshall Plan would only work as part of a broader political settlement in which French and Germans alike could see real and lasting advantage. There was no mystery to this—a post-war settlement in Germany was the key to Europe's future, and this was as obvious in Moscow as it was in Paris, London or Washington. But the shape such a settlement should take was an altogether more contentious matter.
    • Chap. 3 : The Rehabilitation of Europe
  • In fact, Yalta left the truly important issue—arrangements for post-war Germany—off the table precisely because it was so important and intractable. And it is unlikely that the Western leaders could have got a better deal out of Stalin during these last months of the war, even if it had occurred to them to try.
    • Chap. 4 : The Impossible Settlement
  • Thus the post-war Bretton Woods system did not come about all at once. The participants at Bretton Woods had anticipated universal international convertibility by the end of the 1940s, but their calculations did not allow for the political and economic consequences of the coming of the Cold War (or, indeed, of the Marshall Plan). Put differently, the high ideals of those setting out plans and institutions for a better international system presumed a stable era of international cooperation from which all would gain.
    • Chap. 4 : The Impossible Settlement
  • Stalin himself was famously risk-averse, which is why some commentators then and since regretted the West's failure to exercise 'containment' sooner and further forward. But no-one wanted another war in these years, and whereas Stalin could readily be dissuaded from trying to destabilize Paris or Rome (since he had no armies there), the Soviet presence further east was a non-negotiable affair, as everyone recognized.
    • Chap. 4 : The Impossible Settlement
  • It should be clear from this narrative that there is little to be gained from asking 'who started the Cold War?' To the extent that the Cold War was about Germany, the final outcome—a divided country—was probably preferred by all parties to a Germany united against them. No one planned this outcome in May 1945, but few were deeply discontented with it.
    • Chap. 4 : The Impossible Settlement
  • Looking back, it is somewhat ironic that after fighting a murderous war to reduce the power of an over-mighty Germany at the heart of the European continent, the victors should have proven so unable to agree on post-war arrangements to keep the German colossus down that they ended up dividing it between them in order to benefit separately from its restored strength. It had become clear—first to the British, then to the Americans, belatedly to the French and finally to the Soviets— that the only way to keep Germany from being the problem was to change the terms of the debate and declare it the solution. This was uncomfortable, but it worked. In the words of Noel Annan, a British intelligence officer in occupied Germany, It was odious to find oneself in alliance with people who had been willing to go along with Hitler to keep Communism at bay. But the best hope for the West was to encourage the Germans themselves to create a Western democratic state.
    • Chap. 4 : The Impossible Settlement
  • Stalin’s calculations were typically indifferent to national variety. Where Communists could reasonably hope to secure power by legal or ostensibly legal means this appears to have been Stalin’s preference, at least through the autumn of 1947. But the point was power, not legality, which is why Communists’ tactics became more confrontational and less embarrassed by judicial or political constraints, even at the cost of alienating foreign sympathy, once it was clear that electoral success would elude them.
    • Chap. 5 : The Coming of the Cold War
  • If Stalin engineered the Prague coup without fully anticipating these consequences, it was not just because he had always planned to enforce his writ in a certain way throughout the bloc. Nor was it because Czechoslovakia mattered much in the grand scheme of things. What happened in Prague—and what was happening at the same time in Germany, where Soviet policy was moving swiftly from stonewalling and disagreement to open confrontation with her former allies—was a return by Stalin to the style and strategy of an earlier era. This shift was driven in general terms by Stalin’s anxiety at his inability to shape European and German affairs as he wished; but also and above all by his growing irritation with Yugoslavia.
    • Chap. 5 : The Coming of the Cold War
  • To outside observers, Communism was a single political entity, shaped and run from the Moscow ‘Centre’. But from Stalin’s perspective matters were more complicated. From the late Twenties through to the outbreak of war, Moscow had indeed succeeded in imposing its control over the world Communist movement, except in China. But the war had changed everything. In its resistance against the Germans the Soviet Union had been forced to invoke patriotism, liberty, democracy and many other ‘bourgeois’ goals. Communism had lost its revolutionary edge and become, deliberately, part of a broad anti-Fascist coalition. This had been the tactic of the pre-war Popular Fronts too, of course, but in the Thirties Moscow had been able to keep tight control of its foreign parties—through financial aid, personal intervention and terror.
    • Chap. 5 : The Coming of the Cold War
  • Domestic politics in post-war Britain were taken up with matters of social justice and the institutional reforms it required. This was to a considerable degree the result of a cumulative failure on the part of previous governments to address social inequalities; the belated re-centering of debate around urgently needed public expenditure—on health, education, transport, housing, pensions and the like—seemed to many to constitute a well-earned reward for the country’s recent sacrifices. But it also meant that most British voters (and many British Members of Parliament) had absolutely no idea of how poor their country was and what it had cost them to win their epic struggle with Germany.
    • Chap. 5 : The Coming of the Cold War
  • What Stalin wanted in Europe above all, as we have seen, was security. But he was also interested in the economic benefits to be had from his victories in the West. The little states of central Europe, from Poland to Bulgaria, had lived under the shadow of German dominion long before World War Two: in the 1930s especially, Nazi Germany was their main trading partner and source of foreign capital. During the war this relationship had been simplified into one of master and slave, with Germany extracting for its war effort the maximum possible output from land and people. What happened after 1945 was that the Soviet Union took over, quite literally, where the Germans had left off, attaching eastern Europe to its own economy as a resource to be exploited at will.
    • Chap. 6 : Into the Whirlwind
  • The Communist state was in a permanent condition of undeclared war against its own citizens. Like Lenin, Stalin understood the need for enemies, and it was in the logic of the Stalinist state that it was constantly mobilizing against its foes—external, but above all domestic.
    • Chap. 6 : Into the Whirlwind
  • Instead, the imposition of a Russian rather than a German solution cut Europe’s vulnerable eastern half away from the body of the continent. At the time this was not a matter of great concern to western Europeans themselves. With the exception of the Germans, the nation most directly affected by the division of Europe but also ill-placed to voice displeasure at it, western Europeans were largely indifferent to the disappearance of eastern Europe. Indeed, they soon became so accustomed to it, and were anyway so preoccupied with the remarkable changes taking place in their own countries, that it seemed quite natural that there should be an impermeable armed barrier running from the Baltic to the Adriatic. But for the peoples to the east of that barrier, thrust back as it seemed into a grimy, forgotten corner of their own continent, at the mercy of a semi-alien Great Power no better off than they and parasitic upon their shrinking resources, history itself ground slowly to a halt.
    • Chap. 6 : Into the Whirlwind
  • The intellectual condition of post-war Western Europe would have been unrecognizable to a visitor from even the quite recent past. German-speaking central Europe—the engine room of European culture for the first third of the twentieth century—had ceased to exist.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • At the core of anti-Fascist rhetoric as deployed by the official Left was a simple binary view of political allegiance: we are what they are not. They (the Fascists, Nazis, Franco-ists, Nationalists) are Right, we are Left. They are reactionary, we are Progressive. They stand for War, we stand for Peace. They are the forces of Evil, we are on the side of Good. In the words of Klaus Mann, in Paris in 1935: whatever Fascism is, we are not and we are against it. Since most of the anti-Fascists’ opponents made a point of defining their own politics as above all anti-Communist (this was part of Nazism’s wartime appeal to conservative elites in countries as far apart as Denmark and Romania), this tidy symmetry worked to the Communists’ polemical advantage. Philo-Communism, or at least anti-anti-Communism, was the logical essence of anti-Fascism.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • ‘Anti-Fascism’, with its sub-text of resistance and alliance, was also related to the lingering favorable image of the wartime Soviet Union, the genuine sympathy that many Western Europeans felt for the heroic victors of Kursk and Stalingrad.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • Communism excited intellectuals in a way that neither Hitler nor (especially) liberal democracy could hope to match. Communism was exotic in locale and heroic in scale.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • This fear of serving anti-Soviet interests was not new. But by the early fifties it was a major calculation in European intellectual debates, above all in France.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • If the Left had the wind in its sails and History on its side, then a new generation of Right-wing literati would take pride in being defiant losers, turning the genuine decadence and death-seeking solipsism of inter-war writers like Drieu la Rochelle and Ernst Jünger into a social and sartorial style—thereby anticipating the ‘young fogeys’ of Mrs Thatcher’s Britain.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • Liberal intellectuals, then, whether of the continental persuasion like Aron or Luigi Einaudi, or in the British sense like Isaiah Berlin, were always distinctly more comfortable than most conservatives with the American connection that history had imposed upon them. The same was true, curious as it may seem, of Social Democrats. This was in part because the memory of FDR was still fresh, and many of the American diplomats and policy-makers with whom Europeans dealt in these years were New Dealers, who encouraged an active role for the state in economic and social policy and whose political sympathies fell to the left of center.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • In cultural matters, the Communists did not even need to take the initiative. Fear of American domination, of the loss of national autonomy and initiative, brought into the ‘progressive’ camp men and women of all political stripes and none.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • The Communists’ attitude towards their mass movements was strictly instrumental—the Peace Movement was only ever a vehicle for Soviet policy, which is why it suddenly adopted the theme of ‘peaceful co-existence’ in 1951, taking its cue from a shift in Stalin’s international strategy. Privately, Communists—especially in the eastern bloc—had little but scorn for the illusions of their fellow-travellers.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • The cultural competition of the early Cold War years was asymmetrical. Among European cultural elites there was still a widespread sentiment that they shared, across ideological divides and even bridging the Iron Curtain, a common culture to which America posed a threat. The French in particular took this line, echoing the early post-war efforts of their diplomats to trace an international policy independent of American control.
    • Chap. 7 : Culture Wars
  • Western Europeans owed their newfound well-being to the uncertainties of the Cold War. The internationalization of political confrontations, and the consequent engagement of the United States, helped draw the sting from domestic political conflicts.
    • Chap. 8 : The Politics of Stability
  • This paradox—that a peaceful European settlement was taking shape even as the two Great Powers of the day were arming themselves to the hilt and preparing for the eventuality of a thermonuclear war—was not so bizarre as it might appear. The growing emphasis in US and Soviet strategic thinking on nuclear weapons, and the intercontinental missiles with which to deliver them, released European states from the need to compete in an arena where they could not hope to match the resources of the superpowers, even though central Europe remained the most likely terrain over which any future war might be fought. For this reason, the Cold War in Western Europe was experienced quite differently in these years from the way it was felt in the United States, or indeed in the USSR.
    • Chap. 8 : The Politics of Stability
  • The outcome of the Berlin crisis showed that the two Great Powers had more in common than they sometimes appreciated. If Moscow undertook not to raise again the question of Allied status in Berlin, Washington would accept the reality of East German government there and would resist West German pressure for nuclear weapons. Both sides had an interest in stability in central Europe; but more to the point, the US and the USSR were both tired of responding to the demands and complaints of their respective German clients.
    • Chap. 8 : The Politics of Stability
  • In important respects Italy’s condition after the war stood comparison with that of Austria. Both countries had fought alongside Germany and had suffered accordingly after the war (Italy paid a total of $360 million in reparations to the Soviet Union, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania and Ethiopia). Like Italy, Austria was a poor and unstable country whose post-war renaissance could hardly have been predicted from her recent past. The country’s two dominant political groupings had spent the inter-war years in bitter conflict. Most Austrian Social Democrats had regarded the emergence in 1918 of a truncated Austrian state out of the ruins of the Habsburg Empire as an economic and political nonsense. In their view the German-speaking remnant of the old Dual Monarchy ought logically to have joined its fellow Germans in an Anschluss (union), and would have done so had the self-determination clauses of the Versailles agreements been applied consistently.
    • Chap. 8 : The Politics of Stability
  • Internationally condemned after Hitler’s fall for blindly obeying immoral orders, Germans thus turned the defect of their industrious obedience into a national virtue. The shattering impact of their country’s total defeat and subsequent occupation made West Germans amenable to the imposition of democracy in a way that few could have imagined a decade earlier. In place of the ‘devotion for its rulers’ that Heine had first observed in the German people a century before, Germans in the nineteen-fifties attracted international respect for their similarly wholehearted devotion to efficiency, detail, and quality in the manufacture of finished products.
    • Chap. 8 : The Politics of Stability
  • No French government except Léon Blum’s short-lived Popular Front of 1936 paid serious attention to the grievous mis-rule practiced by colonial administrators in French North Africa. Moderate Algerian nationalists like Ferhat Abbas were well known to French politicians and intellectuals before and after World War Two, but no-one really expected Paris to concede their modest goals of self-government or ‘home rule’ any time soon.
    • Chap. 9 : Lost Illusion
  • The ‘European project’, in so far as it ever existed outside the heads of a few idealists, had stalled by the mid-nineteen-fifties. The French National Assembly had vetoed the proposed European army, and with it any talk of enhanced European coordination. Various regional accords on the Benelux model had been reached—notably the Scandinavian ‘Common Nordic Labor Market’ in 1954—but nothing more ambitious was on the agenda. Advocates of European cooperation could point only to the new European Atomic Energy Community, announced in the spring of 1955; but this—like the Coal and Steel Community—was a French initiative and its success lay, symptomatically, in its narrow and largely technical mandate. If the British were still as skeptical as ever about the prospects for European unity, theirs was not an altogether unreasonable view.
    • Chap. 9 : Lost Illusion
  • The resulting ‘goulash Communism’ secured the stability of Hungary; and the memory of Hungary ensured the stability of the rest of the Bloc, at least for the next decade. But this came at a cost. For most people living under Communism, the ‘Socialist’ system had lost whatever radical, forward-looking, utopian promise once attached to it, and which had been part of its appeal—especially to the young—as recently as the early fifties. It was now just a way of life to be endured. That did not mean it could not last a very long time—few after 1956 anticipated an early end to the Soviet system of rule. Indeed, there had been rather more optimism on that score before the events of that year. But after November 1956 the Communist states of Eastern Europe, like the Soviet Union itself, began their descent into a decades-long twilight of stagnation, corruption and cynicism.
    The Soviets too would pay a price for this—in many ways, 1956 represented the defeat and collapse of the revolutionary myth so successfully cultivated by Lenin and his heirs.
    • Chap. 9 : Lost Illusion
  • The economic history of post-war western Europe is best understood as an inversion of the story of the immediately preceding decades. The 1930s Malthusian emphasis on protection and retrenchment was abandoned in favor of liberalized trade. Instead of cutting their expenditure and budgets, governments increased them. Almost everywhere there was a sustained commitment to long-term public and private investment in infrastructure and machinery; older factories and equipment were updated or replaced, with attendant gains in efficiency and productivity; there was a marked increase in international trade; and an employed and youthful population demanded and could afford an expanding range of goods.
    The post-war economic ‘boom’ differed slightly in its timing from place to place, coming first to Germany and Britain and only a little later to France and Italy; and it was experienced differently according to national variations in taxation, public expenditure or investment emphasis. The initial outlays of most post-war governments went above all on infrastructure modernization—the building or upgrading of roads, railways, houses and factories. Consumer spending in some countries was deliberately held back, with the result—as we have seen—that many people experienced the first post-war years as a time of continuing, if modified, penury. The degree of relative change also depended, of course, on the point of departure: the wealthier the country, the less immediate and dramatic it seemed.
    • Chap. 10 : The Age of Affluence
  • The 1960s saw the apogee of the European state. The relation of the citizen to the state in Western Europe in the course of the previous century had been a shifting compromise between military needs and political claims: the modern rights of newly enfranchised citizens offset by older obligations to defend the realm. But since 1945 that relationship had come increasingly to be characterised by a dense tissue of social benefits and economic strategies in which it was the state that served its subjects, rather than the other way around.
    • Chap. 11 : The Social Democratic Moment
  • The rise in the influence of the state upon the employment and welfare of its citizens was accompanied by a steady reduction in its authority over their morals and opinions. At the time this was not seen as a paradox. Liberal and Social Democratic advocates for the European welfare state saw no reason in principle why government should not pay close attention to the economic or medical welfare of the population, guaranteeing citizens’ well-being from cradle to grave, while keeping its nose firmly out of their views and practices on strictly personal matters like religion and sex, or artistic taste and judgement. The Christian Democrats of Germany or Italy, for whom the state still had a legitimate interest in the manners and mores of its subjects, could not so readily make this distinction. But they too faced growing pressure to adapt.
    • Chap. 11 : The Social Democratic Moment
  • The diminishing standing of public authorities in matters of morality and personal relationships in no way supposed a decline in the role of the state in the cultural affairs of the nation. Quite the contrary. The broad Western European consensus of the age held that only the state had the resources to service the cultural needs of its citizens: left to themselves, individuals and communities would lack both means and initiative. It was the responsibility of a well-run public authority to deliver cultural nourishment no less than food, lodging and employment. In such matters Social and Christian Democrats thought alike, and both were heir to the great Victorian-era improvers, though with far greater resources to hand. The aesthetic revolt of the Sixties changed little in this respect: the new (‘counter-’) culture demanded and obtained the same funding as the old.
    • Chap. 11 : The Social Democratic Moment
  • Moments of great cultural significance are often appreciated only in retrospect. The Sixties were different: the transcendent importance contemporaries attached to their own times—and their own selves—was one of the special features of the age.
    • Chap. 12 : The Spectre of Revolution
  • But it is symptomatic of the fundamentally apolitical mood of May 1968 that the best-selling French books on the subject a generation later are not serious works of historical analysis, much less the earnest doctrinal tracts of the time, but collections of contemporary graffiti and slogans. Culled from the walls, noticeboards and streets of the city, these witty one-liners encourage young people to make love, have fun, mock those in authority, generally do what feels good—and change the world almost as a by-product.
    • Chap. 12 : The Spectre of Revolution
  • It was one of the self-delusions of the age that the Sixties were an era of heightened political consciousness. ‘Everyone’ (or at least everyone under twenty-five attending an educational establishment and drawn to radical ideas) was in the streets and mobilized for a cause. The deflation of the causes—and the demobilization of the coming decades—thus confers in retrospect an air of failure upon a decade of frenetic political activity. But in certain important respects the Sixties were actually a vital decade for the opposite reason: they were the moment when Europeans in both halves of the continent began their definitive turn away from ideological politics.
    Thus the slogans and projects of the Sixties’ generation, far from re-awakening a revolutionary tradition whose language and symbols they so energetically sought to reinvigorate, can be seen in hindsight to have served as its swansong. In Eastern Europe, the ‘revisionist’ interlude and its tragic dénouement saw off the last illusions of Marxism as a practice. In the West, Marxist and para-Marxist theories soared clear of any relationship to local reality, disqualifying themselves from any future role in serious public debate. In 1945 the radical Right had discredited itself as a legitimate vehicle for political expression. By 1970, the radical Left was set fair to emulate it. A 180-year cycle of ideological politics in Europe was drawing to a close.
    • Chap. 13 : The End of the Affair
  • One immediate result of the economic down-turn was a hardening of attitudes towards ‘foreign’ workers of all sorts. If published unemployment rates in West Germany (close to zero in 1970) did not climb above 8 percent of the labor force despite a slump in demand for manufactured goods, it was because most of the unemployed workers in Germany were not German—and thus not officially recorded.
    • Chap. 14 : Diminished Expectations
  • In the past, the social cost of economic change on this scale, and at this pace, would have been traumatic, with unpredictable political consequences. Thanks to the institutions of the welfare state—and perhaps the diminished political enthusiasms of the time—protest was contained. But it was far from absent. In the years 1969-1975 there were angry marches, sit-ins, strikes and petitions all across industrial Western Europe, from Spain (where 1.5 million days were lost to industrial strikes in the years 1973-75) to Britain, where two major strikes by coalminers—in 1972 and 1974—persuaded a nervous Conservative government that it might be the better part of valor to postpone major mine closures for a few more years, even at the cost of further subsidies charged to the population at large.
    • Chap. 14 : Diminished Expectations
  • The greatest beneficiaries of the modern welfare state, after all, were the middle classes.
    • Chap. 14 : Diminished Expectations
  • If one strand in the heritage of the Sixties was high-cultural pretension, the other, its intimate inversion, was a hardening crust of knowing cynicism. The relative innocence of rock and roll was increasingly displaced by media-wise pop bands whose stock in trade was a derisive appropriation and degradation of the style forged by their immediate precursors. Much as popular romances and tabloid journalism had once fastened on to mass literacy for commercial advantage, so ‘punk’ rock appeared in the Seventies in order to exploit the market for popular music. Presented as ‘counter-cultural’ it was in fact parasitic upon mainstream culture, invoking violent images and radical language for frequently mercenary ends.
    • Chap. 14 : Diminished Expectations
  • The longevity of Europe’s political parties derived from a remarkable continuity in the ecology of the electorate. The choice between Labour and Conservatives in Britain, or Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in West Germany, no longer reflected deep divisions over particular policies, much less profound ‘lifestyle’ preferences as they would come to be known. In most places it was an echo of longstanding, trans-generational voting habits, determined by the class, religion or locality of the voter rather than by the party’s program. Men and women voted as their parents had voted, depending on where they lived, where they worked and what they earned.
    • Chap. 15 : Politics in a New Key
  • Eurocommunism was thus a contradiction in terms, despite the best efforts of its spokesmen.
    • Chap. 15 : Politics in a New Key
  • In the short run the Soviet authorities and their colleagues in eastern Europe could certainly suppress easily enough any voices raised on behalf of individual or collective rights: in 1977 the leaders of a Ukrainian ‘Helsinki Rights’ group were arrested and sentenced to terms ranging from three to fifteen years. But the very emphasis that Communist leaders had placed upon ‘Helsinki’ as the source of their regimes’ international legitimacy would now come to haunt them: by invoking Moscow’s own recent commitments, critics (at home and abroad) could now bring public pressure to bear on the Soviet regimes. Against this sort of opposition, violent repression was not just ineffective but, to the extent that it was public knowledge, self-defeating. Hoist by the petard of their own cynicism, Leonid Brezhnev and his colleagues had inadvertently opened a breach in their own defenses. Against all expectation, it was to prove mortal.
    • Chap. 15 : Politics in a New Key
  • The democratic transition of Mediterranean Europe was quite the most remarkable and unexpected development of the age.
    • Chap. 16 : A Time of Transition
  • ‘Europe’, in short, was coming to represent a significant ‘moral hazard’, as its carping critics, in Britain in particular, gleefully insisted. The decades-long drive to overcome continental disunity by purely technical measures was looking decidedly political, while lacking the redeeming legitimacy of a traditional political project pursued by an elected class of familiar politicians. Insofar as ‘Europe’ had a distinctive goal, its economic strategy was still grounded in the calculations and ambitions of the Fifties. As for its politics: the confident, interventionist tone of pronouncements from the European Commission—and the authority and open chequebooks with which European experts descended on distant regions—bespoke a style of government rooted firmly in the social-democratic heyday of the early Sixties.
    • Chap. 16 : A Time of Transition
  • Every politically significant revolution is anticipated by a transformation of the intellectual landscape. The European upheavals of the 1980s were no exception. The economic crisis of the early Seventies undermined the optimism of Western Europe’s post-war decades, fracturing conventional political parties and propelling unfamiliar issues to the center of public debate. Political argument on both sides of the Cold War divide was breaking decisively with decades of encrusted mental habits—and, with unexpected speed, forming new ones. For better and for worse, a new realism was being born.
    • Chap. 17 : The New Realism
  • Economic liberalization did not signal the fall of the welfare state, nor even its terminal decline, notwithstanding the hopes of its theorists. It did, though, illustrate a seismic shift in the allocation of resources and initiative from public to private sectors. This change went far beyond the technical question of who owned which factories, or how much regulation there was to be in any given industry. For nearly half a century Europeans had watched the state, and public authorities, play a steadily more prominent part in their affairs. This process had become so commonplace that the premise behind it—that the activist state was a necessary condition of economic growth and social amelioration—was largely taken for granted. Without the cumulative unraveling of this assumption in the course of the waning decades of the century, neither Thatcherism nor the Mitterrand volte-face would have been possible.
    • Chap. 17 : The New Realism
  • Behind the long ‘Social-Democratic moment’ in Western Europe there had lain not just pragmatic faith in the public sector, or allegiance to Keynesian economic principles, but a sense of the shape of the age that influenced and for many decades stifled even its would-be critics.
    • Chap. 18 : The Power of the Powerless
  • Lenin’s distinctive contribution to European history had been to kidnap the centrifugal political heritage of European radicalism and channel it into power through an innovative system of monopolized control: unhesitatingly gathered and forcefully retained in one place. The Communist system might corrode indefinitely at the periphery; but the initiative for its final collapse could only come from the centre. In the story of Communism’s demise, the remarkable flowering in Prague or Warsaw of a new kind of opposition was only the end of the beginning. The emergence of a new kind of leadership in Moscow itself, however, was to be the beginning of the end.
    • Chap. 18 : The Power of the Powerless
  • Gorbachev did more than just let the colonies go. By indicating that he would not intervene he decisively undermined the only real source of political legitimacy available to the rulers of the satellite states: the promise (or threat) of military intervention from Moscow. Without that threat the local regimes were politically naked. Economically they might have struggled for a few more years, but there, too, the logic of Soviet retreat was implacable: once Moscow started charging world market prices for its exports to Comecon countries (as it did in 1990) the latter, heavily dependent on imperial subsidies, would have collapsed in any event.
    As this last example suggests, Gorbachev was letting Communism fall in eastern Europe in order to save it in Russia itself—just as Stalin had built the satellite regimes not for their own sake but as a security for his western frontier. Tactically Gorbachev miscalculated badly—within two years the lessons of Eastern Europe would be used against the region’s liberator on his home territory. But strategically his achievement was immense and unprecedented. No other territorial empire in recorded history ever abandoned its dominions so rapidly, with such good grace and so little bloodshed. Gorbachev cannot take direct credit for what happened in 1989—he did not plan it and only hazily grasped its long-term import. But he was the permissive and precipitating cause. It was Mr Gorbachev’s revolution.
    • Chap. 19 : The End of the Old Order
  • The American President’s publicly-aired caution is a further salutary reminder of the limited part played by the USA in these developments. Pace the self-congratulatory narrative that has entered the American public record, Washington did not ‘bring down’ Communism—Communism imploded of its own accord.
    • Chap. 20 : A Fissile Continent
  • But this still left unresolved two much harder dilemmas. What should be done with former Communist Party members and police officials? If they were not accused of specific crimes, then should they suffer any punishment at all for their past acts? Should they be allowed to participate in public life—as policemen, politicians, even prime ministers? Why not? After all, many of them had cooperated actively in the dismantling of their own regime. But if not, if there were to be restrictions placed on the civic or political rights of such people, then how long should such restrictions apply and how far down the old nomenklatura should they reach? These questions were broadly comparable to those faced by Allied occupiers of post-war Germany trying to apply their program of de-Nazification—except that after 1989 the decisions were being taken not by an army of occupation but by the parties directly concerned.
    • Chap. 21 : The Reckoning
  • Uncontentious decisions were typically made in Brussels by experts and civil servants. Policies likely to affect significant electoral constituencies or national interests were hammered out in the Council of Ministers and produced complicated compromises or else expensive deals. Whatever could not be resolved or agreed was simply left in abeyance. The dominant member states—Britain, Germany and above all France—could not always count on getting what they wanted; but whatever they truly did not want did not come to pass.
    • Chap. 22 : The Old Europe—and the New
  • Europeans may have lost faith in their politicians, but at the core of the European system of government there is something that even the most radical anti-system parties have not dared to attack head on and which continues to attract near-universal allegiance. That something is certainly not the European Union, for all its manifold merits. It is not democracy: too abstract, too nebulous and perhaps too often invoked to stand in isolation as an object for admiration. Nor is it freedom or the rule of law—not seriously threatened in the West for many decades and already taken for granted by a younger generation of Europeans in all the member states of the EU. What binds Europeans together, even when they are deeply critical of some aspect or other of its practical workings, is what it has become conventional to call—in disjunctive but revealing contrast with ‘the American way of life’—the ‘European model of society’.
    • Chap. 22 : The Old Europe—and the New
  • That history should have weighed so heavily upon European affairs at the start of the twenty-first century was ironic, considering how lightly it lay upon the shoulders of contemporary Europeans. The problem was not so much education—the teaching or mis-teaching of history in schools, though in some parts of southeastern Europe this too was a source of concern—as the public uses to which the past was now put. In authoritarian societies, of course, this was an old story; but Europe, by its self-definition, was post-authoritarian. Governments no longer exercised a monopoly over knowledge and history could not readily be altered for political convenience.
    • Chap. 23 : The Varieties of Europe
  • In contrast to the United States, which continued to treat ‘Islam’ and Muslims as a distant challenge, alien and hostile, best addressed by heightened security and ‘pre-emptive war’, Europe’s governments had good reason to see the matter very differently. In France especially, the crisis in the Middle East was no longer a matter of foreign policy: it had become a domestic problem. The transmigration of passions and frustrations from persecuted Arabs in Palestine to their angry, dispirited brethren in Paris should not have come as a surprise—it was, after all, another legacy of empire.
    • Chap. 23 : The Varieties of Europe
  • But the Derrida-Habermas initiative, even though it articulated sentiments shared by many Europeans, passed virtually unnoticed. It was not reported as news, nor was it quoted by sympathizers. No-one implored its authors to take up their pens and lead the way forward. The governments of a significant number of European states, including France, Germany, Belgium and later Spain, undoubtedly sympathized in general terms with the views expressed in these essays; but it did not occur to any of them to invite Professors Derrida or Eco in for consultation. The whole project sputtered out. One hundred years after the Dreyfus Affair, fifty years after the apotheosis of Jean-Paul Sartre, Europe’s leading intellectuals had thrown a petition—and no-one came.
    • Chap. 24 : Europe as a Way of Life

Ill Fares the Land (2010)Edit

  • Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.
    • Introduction
  • We have entered an age of insecurity—economic insecurity, physical insecurity, political insecurity. The fact that we are largely unaware of this is small comfort: few in 1914 predicted the utter collapse of their world and the economic and political catastrophes that followed. Insecurity breeds fear. And fear—fear of change, fear of decline, fear of strangers and an unfamiliar world—is corroding the trust and interdependence on which civil societies rest.
    • Introduction
  • All change is disruptive. We have seen that the specter of terrorism is enough to cast stable democracies into turmoil. Climate change will have even more dramatic consequences. Men and women will be thrown back upon the resources of the state. They will look to their political leaders and representatives to protect them: open societies will once again be urged to close in upon themselves, sacrificing freedom for ‘security’. The choice will no longer be between the state and the market, but between two sorts of state. It is thus incumbent upon us to re-conceive the role of government. If we do not, others will.
    • Introduction
  • Inequality is corrosive. It rots societies from within. The impact of material differences takes a while to show up: but in due course competition for status and goods increases; people feel a growing sense of superiority (or inferiority) based on their possessions; prejudice towards those on the lower ranks of the social ladder hardens; crime spikes and the pathologies of social disadvantage become ever more marked. The legacy of unregulated wealth creation is bitter indeed.
    • Ch. 1 : The Way We Live Now
  • The ‘false precision’ of which Maynard Keynes accused his economist critics is with us still. Worse: we have smuggled in a misleadingly ‘ethical’ vocabulary to bolster our economic arguments, furnishing us with a self-satisfied gloss upon crassly utilitarian calculations. When imposing welfare cuts on the poor, for example, legislators in the UK and US alike have taken a singular pride in the ‘hard choices’ they have had to make.
    • Ch. 1 : The Way We Live Now
  • The past was neither as good nor as bad as we suppose: it was just different. If we tell ourselves nostalgic stories, we shall never engage the problems that face us in the present—and the same is true if we fondly suppose that our own world is better in every way. The past really is another country: we cannot go back. However, there is something worse than idealizing the past—or presenting it to ourselves and our children as a chamber of horrors: forgetting it.
    • Ch. 2 : The World We Have Lost
  • What did trust, cooperation, progressive taxation and the interventionist state bequeath to western societies in the decades following 1945? The short answer is, in varying degrees, security, prosperity, social services and greater equality. We have grown accustomed in recent years to the assertion that the price paid for these benefits—in economic inefficiency, insufficient innovation, stifled entrepreneurship, public debt and a loss of private initiative—was too high. Most of these criticisms are demonstrably false.
    • Ch. 2 : The World We Have Lost
  • We no longer have political movements. While thousands of us may come together for a rally or march, we are bound together on such occasions by a single shared interest. Any effort to convert such interests into collective goals is usually undermined by the fragmented individualism of our concerns. Laudable goals—fighting climate change, opposing war, advocating public healthcare or penalizing bankers—are united by nothing more than the expression of emotion. In our political as in our economic lives, we have become consumers: choosing from a broad gamut of competing objectives, we find it hard to imagine ways or reasons to combine these into a coherent whole. We must do better than this.
    • Ch. 3 : The Unbearable Lightness of Politics
  • Unfortunately, pragmatism is not always good politics. The greatest asset of mid-20th century social democracy—its willingness to compromise its own core beliefs in the name of balance, tolerance, fairness and freedom—now looks more like weakness: a loss of nerve in the face of changed circumstances. We find it hard to look past those compromises to recall the qualities that informed progressive thought in the first place: what the early 20th century syndicalist Edouard Berth termed “a revolt of the spirit against . . . a world in which man was threatened by a monstrous moral and metaphysical materialism”.
    • Ch. 4 : Goodbye to All That?
  • We face today two practical dilemmas. The first can be succinctly described as the return of the ‘social question’. For Victorian reformers—or American activists of the pre-1914 age of reform—the challenge posed by the social question of their time was straightforward: how was a liberal society to respond to the poverty, overcrowding, dirt, malnutrition and ill health of the new industrial cities? How were the working masses to be brought into the community—as voters, as citizens, as participants—without upheaval, protest and even revolution? What should be done to alleviate the suffering and injustices to which the urban working masses were now exposed and how was the ruling elite of the day to be brought to see the need for change?
    The history of the 20th century West is in large measure the history of efforts to answer these questions. The responses proved spectacularly successful: not only was revolution avoided but the industrial proletariat was integrated to a remarkable degree. Only in countries where any liberal reform was prevented by authoritarian rulers did the social question rephrase itself as a political challenge, typically ending in violent confrontation. In the middle of the 19th century, sharp-eyed observers like Karl Marx had taken it for granted that the only way the inequities of industrial capitalism could be overcome was by revolution. The idea that they could be dissolved peacefully into New Deals, Great Societies and welfare states simply never would have occurred to him.
    • Ch. 5 : What Is to be Done?
  • Political skepticism is the source of so many of our dilemmas. Even if free markets worked as advertised, it would be hard to claim that they constituted a sufficient basis for the well-lived life. So what precisely is it that we find lacking in unrestrained financial capitalism, or ‘commercial society’ as the 18th century had it? What do we find instinctively amiss in our present arrangements and what can we do about them? What is it that offends our sense of propriety when faced with unfettered lobbying by the wealthy at the expense of everyone else? What have we lost?
    We are all children of the Greeks. We intuitively grasp the need for a sense of moral direction: it is not necessary to be familiar with Socrates to feel that the unexamined life is not worth much. Natural Aristotelians, we assume that a just society is one in which justice is habitually practiced; a good society one in which people behave well. But in order for such an implicitly circular account to convince, we need to agree on the meaning of ‘just’ or ‘well’.
    • Ch. 5 : What Is to be Done?
  • The case for reviving the state does not rest uniquely upon its contributions to modern society as a collective project; there is a more urgent consideration. We have entered an age of fear. Insecurity is once again an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Insecurity born of terrorism, of course; but also, and more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of our daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have also lost control, to forces beyond their reach.
    • Ch. 6 : The Shape of Things to Come
  • It would seem to follow that the ‘invisible hand’ is not much help when it comes to practical legislation. There are too many areas of life where we cannot be relied upon to advance our collective interests merely by doing what we think is best for each of us. Today, when the market and the free play of private interests so obviously do not come together to collective advantage, we need to know when to intervene.
    • Ch. 6 : The Shape of Things to Come
  • Even in Scandinavia, where social democratic institutions were far more culturally ingrained, membership of the EU—or even just participation in the World Trade Organization and other international agencies—appeared to constrain locally-initiated legislation. In short, social democracy seemed doomed by that same internationalization which its early theorists had so enthusiastically adumbrated as the future of capitalism.
    From this perspective, social democracy—like liberalism—was a byproduct of the rise of the European nation-state: a political idea keyed to the social challenges of industrialization in developed societies. Not only was there no ‘socialism’ in America, but social democracy as a working compromise between radical goals and liberal traditions lacked widespread support in any other continent. There was no shortage of enthusiasm for revolutionary socialism in much of the non-Western world, but the distinctively European compromise did not export well.
    • Conclusion: What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?
  • In writing this book, I hope I have offered some guidance to those—the young especially—trying to articulate their objections to our way of life. However, this is not enough. As citizens of a free society, we have a duty to look critically at our world. But if we think we know what is wrong, we must act upon that knowledge. Philosophers, it was famously observed, have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
    • Conclusion: What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?

Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012)Edit

  • In some sense it is my story, too. I grew up and read and became a historian and, I like to think, an intellectual. The Jewish question was never at the center of my own intellectual life, or indeed my historical work. But it intrudes, inevitably, and with ever greater force. One of the aims of this book is to allow such themes to encounter each other, to permit the intellectual history of the twentieth century to meet the history of the Jews. This is a personal as well as a scholarly effort: after all, many of us who have, in our work, kept these themes distinct are ourselves Jews.
    • Ch. 1: The Name Remains: Jewish Questioner
  • The two decades following the end of the late-nineteenth century economic depression were the first great age of globalization; the world economy was truly becoming integrated in just the ways Keynes suggested. For precisely this reason, the scale of the collapse during and after the First World War and the rate at which economies contracted between the wars is difficult for us to appreciate even now. Passports were introduced; the gold standard returned (in 1925 in the British case, reinstated by Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill over Keynes’s objections); currencies collapsed; trade declined.
    • Ch. 1: The Name Remains: Jewish Questioner
  • The three quarters of century that followed Austria’s collapse in the 1930s can be seen as a duel between Keynes and Hayek. Keynes, as I was saying, begins with the observation that under conditions of economic uncertainty we would be imprudent to assume stable outcomes and therefore had better devise ways to intervene in order to bring these about. Hayek, writing quite consciously against Keynes and from the Austrian experience, argues in the The Road to Serfdom that intervention—planning, however benevolent or well-intentioned and whatever the political context—must end badly. His book was published in 1945 and is most remarkable for its prediction that the post–World War II British welfare state already in the making should anticipate a fate similar to that of the socialist experiment in post-1918 Vienna. Starting with socialist planning, you would end with Hitler or a comparable successor. For Hayek, in short, the lesson of Austria and indeed the disaster of interwar Europe at large boiled down to this: don’t intervene, and don’t plan. Planning hands the initiative to those who would, in the end, destroy society (and the economy) to the benefit of the state. Three quarters of a century later, this remains for many people (especially here in the U.S.) the salient moral lesson of the twentieth century.
    • Ch. 1: The Name Remains: Jewish Questioner
  • “Telling the truth”—which for so long was itself a problematic exercise thanks to competing “truths” and the cost of airing them publicly—now became a virtue in itself. And the bigger the truth you have to tell, the greater your claim upon the attention of fellow citizens and sympathetic observers. Thus, despite the obvious risk of appearing to compete with the ultimate truth of Jewish genocide, speaking openly about hitherto uncomfortable episodes in the recent German past opens the possibility of encouraging the telling of many stories.
    • Ch. 1: The Name Remains: Jewish Questioner
  • Perhaps the real difficulty facing anyone seeking intellectuals at the highest political levels in England is that the intellectual agenda which drove ideologically-configured political movements in continental Europe was quite absent in London.
    • Ch. 2: London and Language: English Writer
  • So I certainly don’t regard myself as brave. I just see myself—if I want to indulge a little immodesty—as rather more honest and outspoken than some other people I know.
    • Ch. 4 : King’s and Kibbutzim: Cambridge Zionist

Quotes about JudtEdit

  • As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books, that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts.

    Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles.

  • Judt is at least clear about what our priorities should be. They are quite simply the traditional goals of social democracy: a pragmatic balance of freedom and fairness, of individual liberty and social cohesion. [...] Social democrats need to remember how they used to measure efficiency not only by means of spreadsheets, but in social result.

    These solutions are painted with the same broad brush that Judt often wields throughout the book. This sweep is the book’s strength and weakness. We need thinkers to stand back and capture the big picture. But real change requires hundreds of piecemeal, practical changes. That is not to diminish the importance of panoramic visions. Obama’s crusading “yes we can” seems a thousand miles from the tortuous negotiations behind the eventual passing of the healthcare bill. But without his campaign’s clear purpose and simple message, the bill would never have even got before Congress. Judt’s impassioned, often angry polemic is likewise sorely needed, but much more sober, practical thinking is needed too, if the land is to fare better.

  • The most striking thing about Judt's narrative is his essentially amoral view of history. That isn't to say Judt is amoral as a writer. He certainly is not. But he doesn't believe in history has a necessary trajectory, nor does he much care about narratives of inevitable progress. Europe was wrecked after the War. French opinion polls in 1946 list "food," "bread," and "meat" as the public's main concerns. In the East, bad harvests and droughts brought back reports of cannibalism.
    • Ta-Nehisi Coates, 'War and Welfare Went Hand in Hand', The Atlantic (November 4, 2013)
  • Judt’s essays become both more important and more troubling for being brought together in one volume. The publication of Reappraisals certainly confirms, were any confirmation still needed, his standing as a significant figure in the public intellectual life of the contemporary United States. I salute the range, the command, and the courage displayed in his writing. But spending a prolonged spell in his literary company also leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I feel that I would be forced into banging the table in my turn if I wanted to enter the conversations whose terms he partly sets. We need historians to play the role that Judt so ably does, but perhaps we need them also to be a bit less at ease with that role. The best works of history rarely yield unambiguous support to any political cause or affiliation, and we look to the vocabulary, register, and cadence of good historical writing to communicate that chastened sense of complexity which otherwise can struggle to get itself heard in public debate. That’s not everything, of course. But it’s not ‘nothing’, either.
    • Stefan Collini, Common Writing: Essays on Literary Culture and Public Debate (2016), Chap. 11: ‘New Orwells’?
  • He is cranky, unfair to his intellectual opponents, and he repeatedly misrepresents thinkers such as Hayek on some fairly simple points. He conducts unsubstantiated attacks on various New York Times columnists, as if they had once beaten him in a debate and this was his revenge.
  • It is unclear why Tony Judt hates Clinton so much--Bill Clinton was, I think, (except for that big problem with the zipper) the best president America has had since Truman (or maybe Eisenhower), and the most liberal president America has had since LBJ. But hate Bill Clinton Tony Judt does. And that, I think, is the source of the energy behind his massive misreading of Reich.
  • To my knowledge, but I don't know everything and it is not too late, Professor Judt has not yet acknowledged publicly that he did not tell the truth. You will have noticed that, in speaking of the contre-vérité of his article, I never said that Professor Judt had lied. Everything that is false cannot be imputed to a lie. The lie is not an error. Already Plato and Augustine insisted on this in unison. If the concept of lie has some resistant specificity, it must be rigorously distinguished from error, from ignorance, from prejudice, from faulty reasoning, and even from failure in the realm of knowledge or still again-and this is where things will soon have to get more complicated for us-from failure in the realm of action, practice, or technique. If the lie is neither the failure of knowledge and knowhow, nor error, if it implies ill will or bad faith in the order of moral reason, not of practice but of pure practical reason, if it addresses belief rather than knowledge, then the project of a history of the lie should not resemble in the least what could be called, following Nietzsche in The Twilight of the Idols, the history of an error [Geschichte eines Irrtums].
    • Jacques Derrida, "History of the Lie: Prolegomena", published in Futures of Jacques Derrida, ed. Richard Rand (2001)
  • His style is temperate rather than polemical, allusive rather than dogmatic. He is not easy to pin down. I suspect that, like Michael Oakeshott, he does not believe in conclusions, preferring conversation to meander according to the quality of those taking part. The reader is left with impressions and suggestions, jostling each other for attention. He avoids the catcalls and blazing generalities that pass for debate in today’s cyber world.
    • Bruce Grant, "A nimble mind: Offerings and jeremiads from the stoic Tony Judt", Australian Book Review (March 2011)
  • Even when he is wrong, however, Judt writes with fearless integrity and moral seriousness. Like Raymond Aron, the subtle and relentless French polemicist whose spirit breathes through these pages, Judt is a liberal thinker dedicated to demystifying liberal illusions.
  • Postwar tells the story of how that happened. The book is ambitiously organized to combine the whole of the postwar history of Europe—Western and Eastern—into a single conceptual framework. The result is not a work of dispassionate scholarship. In the preface, Judt describes his approach as an "avowedly personal interpretation" of the recent European past. "In a word that has acquired undeservedly pejorative connotations," he writes, Postwar is "opinionated." Judt's thesis, developed through 900 pages, is this: Europe remade itself by forgetting its past. "The first postwar Europe was built upon deliberate mis-memory—upon forgetting as a way of life." And there was much to forget: collaboration, genocide, extreme deprivation.
    • Evan R. Goldstein, "The Trials of Tony Judt", The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 06, 2010)
  • One of these pasts is the lost role of the public intellectual: well-informed but willing to range beyond the ghetto of expertise—who doesn’t just observe but also tries to intervene or provoke. The economic background to Ill Fares the Land might be incomplete but the reappraising anger is just. Tony’s willingness to take on this topic—to use his fast-depleting energies on this particular stage at this particular time—is yet another dramatic intervention, combining a personal voice with a knowledge of history and sense of occasion in a way that is both responsive and responsible, timely and moral.
  • What struck me as I was reading Judt’s reflections on Sartre, Camus, Kolakowski, Hobsbawm, Koestler etc., most of which obviously have to do with Communism and Marxism, are two things. First, they were discussions of ideas where people (“real people”) have almost no place, and second, their discussion, so anachronistically placed around the events in the 1930s or 1940s, has very scant real-life resonance to somebody who lived under Communism in the 1970s and 1980s (like me) and obviously even less to anyone today. It occurred to me that practically no one of these people (Kolakowski obviously excepted) lived under Communism and for them the Cold War battles were waged in New York and Paris. Moreover, they were waged around the issues that were of almost total irrelevance to the “real people” in Eastern Europe. In some sense, these “battles” replicated Lenin without Leninism: primacy of ideology, disregard of real life.
  • Judt’s very narrow focus on Western Europe, plus Poland, makes him not realize how politically parochial he can be at times. In an otherwise nice essay on Romania (a bit unusual given the geographically constrained topics of the book), Judt reports, with apparent disapproval, how a listener in a Romanian town asked him whether European Union should be limited only to Christian nations (p. 258). The question is supposed to illustrate the “nativism” of the Balkan man. Judt finds the idea abhorrent. But only five pages later (p. 263), Judt mentions how Bucharest, being “Balkanic” and “Byzantine” (as opposed to Central European cities) somehow rules the country out from the membership in Europe. Thus, in the span of five pages, we move from a seeming (skin-deep?) cosmopolitan inclusiveness to cultural nativism.
    There are many similar contradictions, rather bizarrely displaying the prejudices of the author—the very same prejudices that, when political correctness lights are “on”, he rejects in other, less enlightened, individuals.
  • The excellence of “Postwar” was no doubt hard to achieve—Judt says that he began planning the book in 1989—but it is easy to describe. The writing is vivid; the coverage—of little countries as well as of great ones—is virtually superhuman; and, above all, the book is smart. Every page contains unexpected data, or a fresh observation, or a familiar observation freshly turned. And there are more than eight hundred pages.
  • “Postwar” is first-rate political, economic, and social history. The only sections that are unworthy of the author’s talents are the brief ventures into intellectual history, and the proverbial British prudishness about abstract ideas may have something to do with this. As a reference to the philosopher Jacques Derrida as “the literary critic Jacques Derrida” suggests, Judt has no patience for Continental thought, whose prominence, such as it was, he tends to attribute to a combination of fashionableness and ambition.
  • Judt is so suspicious of intellectualism that at one point he suggests that the British are immune to it. “The species has always been uncommon in Britain,” he says of the public intellectual. This is almost comical. What about, in the period covered in Judt’s own book, Bertrand Russell, C. P. Snow, and the man who was arguably the most influential public intellectual of the Cold War era, George Orwell?
  • The conversion of Tony Judt has been less radical but more interesting. He made his name excoriating French left-wing intellectuals for their failure to champion rights–a failure he saw as rooted in their nation’s revolutionary tradition, especially when measured against Anglo-American political wisdom. Rights have an “extrapolitical status,” he wrote thirteen years ago, diagnosing as French pathology the error of making them “an object of suspicion.” Now he says that universalistic invocations of rights often mask particular interests–and never more so than in America’s current wars–even though he once chastised opponents of rights who took this very position. Formerly treating them as an intellectual talisman, Judt now complains in passing about “the abstract universalism of ‘rights’–and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name.” He warns that such abstractions can all too easily lead those who invoke them to “readily mistake the US president’s myopic rigidity for their own moral rectitude.” Of course, Judt still understands himself to be a committed liberal intellectual, at a time when he thinks practically all other liberals have disappeared. But not just the world has changed; he has too, and most strikingly in his acknowledgment that his old standard can hallow many causes.
    • Samuel Moyn, "On the Genealogy of Morals", The Nation (Mar 29, 2007)
  • Tony knew that the disappearance of social theory, our common fate today, is not to be remedied so easily. The programmatic alternative to the present Tony came to favor— imagining a different future—depends, as he saw, on a social theory underlying it. And in spite of the fact that Marxism towered over the modern landscape, there are other possibilities. Keynes—Tony’s apparent hero at the end—presupposed a social theory too, though so did Friedrich Hayek, and the point is not just to revive their dispute simply to take sides but rather to understand their contention as the clash of philosophical visions it was, both broadly about the nature of social life and more narrowly about the place of modernity in it.
    • Samuel Moyn, "Intellectuals, Reason, and History: In Memory of Tony Judt", H-France Salon (2012)
  • Tony Judt, in short, was a mass of contradictions, a polemicist as well as a prophet, a philosopher as well as a pamphleteer; but, most of all, through these pages, he emerges as a wellspring of enlightenment you need to spend time with. Stab him, and he will bleed; but hug him and perhaps he may shed a tear.
    • Peter Preston, "The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt – review", The Guardian, 21 Nov 2010

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: