A History of Japan

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I have been on an epic journey. Yes: a search for great history about Japan and China. Not historical fiction/sexy history, mind you, but well written, factually true history that is not afraid to embrace the narrative of history. This is to say that every book I have read on Japan or China is either a bit childish (i.e. a picture book of ninjas) or is a dry, academic tome that refuses to let the reader enjoy hisself. Fist of all, historians who write in the ‘academic style’ in the name of scientific accuracy forget that their book still forms a highly ‘biased’ narrative anyway, it’s just not a very good, much less enjoyable one. The ‘academic style’ reads like a report, a skimming, a fear to embrace the drama of history.

I want facts, tables, graphs, and hard-headed historical analysis, and that calls for in depth, rigours research. But I also want to be transported to a time and place; I want to drink in the pageantry, the heady atmosphere of the times. This means a narrative, some half-way decent writing, and above all, insight. Chinese and Japanese history is fascinating; it’s incredibly rich and varied and yet it remains totally remote from the Western reader. Also, since narrative is how most people come to understand and process complex information, narrative is crucial and legitimate, even in a ‘scientific’ sense.

My search continues with A History of Japan 1334-1615 (Volume 2) by Sir George Sansom. I guess it serves me right: this book was first published in the early ’60s. This book is a solid read, full of good information. Yet it covers Japan’s high middle ages, perhaps the most “exciting” period in their history, and Sansom largely avoids “telling the story” if you know what I mean. This is the “Age of the Country at War” a time when ruthless warlords where engaged in constant warfare, yet sought relief in the high arts. This is the period of the Japanese tea ceremony (where certain ceramic pieces used for preparing tea where not only named and nationally known but worth a fortune) and ninja and samurai and warrior monks duking it out in a wheels-within-wheels power struggle. Sounds interesting? Well, too dang bad.

Sansom provides an account whose frame of reference remains Western-centric. What I mean by this is that Japanese military activities and tactics are analysed in comparison to European tactics and history. Little light is shed on Japanese culture; the inner workings and assumptions and shaping environmental factors. Sansom either assumes we already know a lot about Japan, or is afraid of wading into waters he himself is unsure of. This books limits itself  to “high history;” the movements and commandments of great leaders.

Not a bad book, but it lacks narrative, depth and insight. The Search Continues.

 

President Orange, Part II

I’m sure that most Americans – even those who voted for Trump – and even Trump himself are not fascist.

But that doesn’t matter. Trump has now occupied a facist nexus in American politics. The alignment of forces and motives, the decay of civil society, all point to truely alarming parallels to Germany in the 1930s. I make this statement not out of hyperbole or sophistry, but with a full understanding of what happened to Germany in the ’30s. I wrote my masters dissertation on this period, understanding exactly what happened and why.

When the Media like The Washington Post pen articles like “Who is the Real Donald Trump (and what does he stand for),” they totally miss the point. Trump has no plan; no program; there is no core set of principals. His strength is this very formlessness. He’s a  Rorschach Inkblot Test for America. This is exactly part of the appeal of for right politics; most individuals and institutional forces can either perceive an advantage, or find some sort of rational for supporting the proto-fascist. Hitler attracted the support of the German military and big industrial businesses (who reckoned that they could both control Hitler and use him against their enemies, the Socialist and Communist parties arguing for a more equitable distribution of wealth); the lower middle class fell for Hitler because his emotional argument fit their predicament. German traditionalists and nostalgics (longing for the return of the Kaiser) found Hitler and acceptable stand  in.

Hitler, like Trump, appeals to strange and broad coalition of social elements (note that the far-right tends to borrow and mimic some of the ideas of the Left; ‘Nazi’ means National Socialist. Both are demagogues; both lack a grasp of reality; both are extremely cunning in a tactical sense (like who do I need to placate right now, who can I intimidate into silence right now, who can I destroy right now?). It’s a strange mix of fervour and emotion on one hand a devastating cynical calculation of “ironic distance” (i.e., I know that Trump is a buffoon, but because I am white and rich, I know that I will be okay) on the other.

What we call fascism actually occurs when the ‘fantasy’ meets reality, and in the desperate need to maintain the fantasy, civil society is totally destroyed. This is what happened in Germany and could easily happen to us. The ‘fantasy’ is that Trump is a successful businessman who will run the government like a business; that the insecurity and poverty of White America will go away, that the minorities and messy reality will fade into the background, that Obama and Hilary and the Democrats actively worked against America and that government regulation is a sinister plot; that America has always been a White, Christian Nation, and that Trump will wash away plot against this White, Christian Nation.

This is truely fantasy; we where never a White, Christian Nation (however many of us thought or felt that it was). The Founding Fathers chose not to choose; the unifying metaphor in our Constitution is an Enlightenment conception of a classical, civil republic along the lines of ancient Athens or Rome. Living in a “liberal democracy” means we choose not to choose. And this is the essence of what Trump, and the sad morons who voted for him, utterly threatens.

Trump will have to satisfy the populists (the alt-right, the plumbers and car mechanics who voted for him) and the powerful moneyed and corporate interests who perceive Trump to be an unusual Queen on the chess board of profit-maximisation. These forces are tenuously aligned; and when the whiney, meme-driven Republican fantasy actually has to govern and meets the full force of reality (i.e. repealing NAFTA won’t bring the steel mills back or the coal mines back, stripping away environmental regulation won’t benefit America’s vulnerable middle class, etc), Trump’s only real option to main power will be to go full fascism: the only way to benefit the populists and the corporations will be to destroy our civil society, our liberties. Massive government spending on the military will cover for the stripping away of the last of our liberties. This will be the only way to maintain the Fantasy.

So what do we do now?

The main thing will be to not let Trump get normalised. The election season cannot end. Everything word and action of his Administration must be problematised and subverted. Any respect given to Trump – even lines like “show respect for the office” must be mocked, must be sabotaged. Those who voted for Trump must be barraged by a constant stream of truth, mockery and sarcasm. Like a dog that’s peed on a rug, we have to rub their noses in it. They are insecure, ignorant people; we must make their shameful mistake public and constant. There is nothing ‘normal’ or ‘ok’ about Trump. Nothing at all. We must strengthen our civil society so that Trump withers away before he is forced into a sort of “Reichstag Fire” moment.

Already the “give Trump a chance, he might just be another Republican president line” has picked up steam, especially amongst the corporate/centrist democrat crowd (Tom Hanks for one). It’s clear from the general tenor of the GOP and Trump himself, and the cabinet choices that his well not be “just another Republican presidency.” This has to be stopped. We can’t let that be the narrative that the Democrats adopt.

I’m trying to look on the bright side. A lot of conservative poison will be drawn out by this election; a lot of stupid Republican ideas that have been around forever (like running the government like a business) will get aired. Hell, people might even learn something. The idea here is that at least the Republican fantasy playbook well be carried out by a cheeto-colored buffoon instead of someone more competent: better a Hermann Goring than a Reinhard Heydrich.

The silver lining is that the Clinton machine is done; it is possible that the Democrats can be become a truely progressive party that responds to the needs of American voters.

In reflecting on what has just happened in America on the 8th, three things standout First, the “center” in American politics has collapsed. Second, historical parallels to the 1968 presidential election and the 18th Amendment – Prohibition – seem freshly relevant, as well as, I hate to say it, 1930’s Germany. Last, the idea that a larger, techy, urban – and largely apolitical society is increasingly the reality of America today: call it “cosmopolis.”

Identity politics has been a disaster; it needs to be abandoned. It’s not just a poor indicator of how people vote (like when we say “white males voted Trump” what really mean is like 65% of them did; that leaves an awful lot of white males who didn’t vote Trump). Political Correctness, while based on noble motives (you have to treat people with respect and would it kill you to have some empathy?), has likewise been a disaster. The problem with “Black Lives Matters” isn’t that it is wrong or incorrect, it simply doesn’t work, like calling for “socialism now” or burning an American flag in protest. People can’t think in the abstract enough to understand those actions and symbols; we are too easy to manipulate. Racism is not about Black people, it’s about White Insecurity (in a fundamental sense).

Already, the tendency to talk about the ‘white working class’ or the ‘aggrieved white male’ as the driving for behind Trump already misses the point; it’s already wrong. What is the real problem is neoliberalism (capitalism for capitalism’s sake; which is stripping away our culture and values and even the basis of democracy in the name of ever-more-profit). I am not denying the racism, I am saying that identity politics is the wrong way forward and needs to be abandoned. We need less “labels” and more policies; new language and programs which totally shift the paradigm of American politics as far away as possible from the canned bickering of Baby-boomer politics.

 

My last point here is that the real danger is the lurking, boring and technical aspects of Trump and authoritarianism. While our Buffoon-In-Chief districts with Twitter, and outrageous racist comments, the CIA and FBI will gain unlimited surveillance powers. The military will grow larger and more bloated; corporate profit will explode at the cost of the environment and our society. Republicans will intrench themselves ever more deeply into our judicial system, and institute a new, ever-more-subtle Jim Crow.

We cannot let this “campaign” end.

Acceptance

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The exciting conclusion to the Souther Reach Trilogy. Vandermeer delivers a satisfying conclusion, carefully balancing answers and closure with open-endedness and, well, acceptance.

About half-way through the book, I’ll admit I was worried. Some of Vandermeer’s rhetorical tricks and plot gambits where starting to become obvious, even predictable. I wondered if he knew how to steer his creation, this mysterious universe to a satisfactory close, one that didn’t crap out in cliche, or end in sheer meaningless mystery. I will say that this book is the least-well crafted of the three, the least taunt. It’s still great though, and I it is rare for me to rush out and finish a trilogy, especially a science-fiction/gothic horror one at that.

The message and meaning of the Southern Reach Trilogy is surprisingly profound, surprisingly metaphysical and relevant. Science fails utterly to deliver results about “Area X.” This inability to nail down and find a human meaning or language or system to Area X is one of the defining themes of the book. The efforts of secretive bureaucracies – the sinister Central – to above all else control everything and everyone become vicious, Kalfkaesque and self-defeating.

This is a great series, definitely in line with Murakami, Lovecraft and Poe.

Judas Unchained

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In the future, humankind travels by wormholes and expands outward into the galaxy. This is a future humanity that is familiar: it reminds me of The Fifth Element universe. So despite amazing advances in technology (people can be cloned and their memory stored and so are effectively living for ever; starships go faster than the speed of light), human society is reassuringly familiar. Scarcity, exploitation, money and power – still around in force. The power of a handful of corporations equal (or supersede) that of the centralised government, known as the  Commonwealth.

Due to events in the preceding book, which I haven’t bothered to read, the Commonwealth is under attack from without – an invasion from a ruthless ant-like species – and from within by a mysterious actor known as the ‘Starflyer.’ It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect.

This book was a change of pace for me. While massive at 1200 pages, it was light reading; great value at $3. It’s an entertaining space opera. Wing Commander meets Blade Runner meets Starship Troopers. Thrill at one-dimensional characters grinding through the plot. There is a Howard Hughes; a Jeff Goldblum-in-Independence Day; a super sleuth, a sexy reporter, some typical politicians, a typical teenager, and a whole cast that standout by how similar they all seem to be in their thoughts and actions.

Don’t get me wrong, the plot has some nice twists and some of the set-pieces are cleaver and original (but this being sci-fi, one comes to expect this). You spend a lot of time with characters which are totally uninteresting or cliche; they inexplicably come to the fore, while many interesting, or at least un-cliche characters seem to fade into the background. It all seems to depend on the needs of the plot.

This is a far cry from sci-fi at its best, yet throughly enjoyable. The Battlestar Galactica reboot comes to mind as a much better spend-of-time.

God in Pain

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God in Pain is a unique book. Not just another missive from famous (celebrity?) Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, this collection of essays are deeply theological in nature. Zizek’s interlocutor is Boris Gunjevic – a professor of ethics at a biblical institute in Zagreb – and the these two characters contribute a radical and complex discussion of Christianity and theology in the modern world.

Zizek doesn’t just phone this one in. Zizek’s essays in this book are some of his most focused. Famous for wide-ranging critical insights it was refreshing to find a sense of “what Zizek really believes” in these pages. Zizek and Gunjevic do not argue from the clunky perspective of atheist versus believer; this is not a set piece for atheists to see their champion smash an “intelligent theist.” Zizek would never come out and directly say “I am an atheist” or “I am Christian,” in large part because his position is complex and nuanced. The answer to weather Zizek is a believer or not probably depends more on what your definition of God is. For Zizek there is no single clear answer and I think this is probably one of the more important implication of his essays here.

There is no opposition between Zizek and Gunjevic, rather a totally unique and often complimentary thought process. Neither represent typical or mainstream opinions or ideas on religion. In fact, I find it sad that we have to go to the Balkans to find such excellent thinking on the subject. Every essay is brilliant and unique.

Gunjevic is not your typical Christian – if I had to guess, I would say Eastern Orthodox, but that would only be a guess. There is no sectarian line here. Steeped in church history and early thinkers, Gunjevic is more at home with St. Augustine, Duns Scotus and the Apostles than with the pop-culture gambits that Zizek deploys to make his points. Yet Gunjevic is also steeped in high Marxist ideas and language: the result is rather disorienting shifts in tone and language: Aquinas abuts Lukacs and Gramsci. Gunjevic even charmingly and quaintly thinks and talks in the old sense of “the Revolution.” Theology is anti-Capitalist.

But these oddities really work to Gunjevic’s advantage: you never know what’s coming next and the result is that Gunjevic can take you into well worn territory and come out with a new and exciting interpretation, like reading the Gospel of Mark as a sort of revolutionary, Che Gueverra of the ancient world. The simple, honest thrill of reading a genuine Marxist Christian is something that just doesn’t happen in Trump’s America.

Gunjevic’s most intriguing idea is deploying St. Augustine as a guide to the modern world of global capitalism. Thus a direct parallel is drawn between the Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the American-led world of neoliberalism. For a theologian like Gunjevic, this is “Empire” in general: the base world that seeks after power, glory, money and fame. Augustine occupies a similar socio-political space as we, Gunjevic suggests; we have the same relationship to Empire. The Augustinian response then, is a sort of moral retreat from the world, held to gather by small, faithful communities. Gunjevic’s vision is highly acetic and perhaps even a little useless, but the idea of reading Augustine like a 1970’s critical theorist (like Erich Fromm) really appeals to me.

Zizek provides most of the real fireworks. Where Gunjevic will dwell for pages on exegesis, then switch abruptly to Hegelese, Zizek’s essays here remain accessible and disciplined by Zizek’s standards. One essay (I have found that you never really know what you are going to get based on the title) is essentially ‘Zizek on Islam.’ I would love to take you through every twist and turn and discover of Zizek’s thought, but I have found that the sheer amount of information and context needed is overwhelming. Zizek starts by reading Islam in the Freudian/psychological sense and detects that its underlying “sustaining” psychological drama is that of the orphan. Where Judaism has Abraham and the succession of generations and Christianity has the Holy Family, Islam seems to reject paternal or familial patterns in favour of a suppressed female (Hagar) origin where God intervenes directly where the paternal figure fails. Zizek locates Islamic terrorism as a product of the modern condition, but clearly outlines how the religion lends itself to extremism. Note how Zizek provides a comprehensive and nuanced discussion of radical Islam without resorting to cliches or “picking a side.”

In a whirlwind, Zizek moves on to the Muslim veil or burqa. Yes, Zizek says, the veil is used to control women and takes it to the next step to see in Islam an extreme, suppressed libido. This is due in part to suppress the psychological birth (Muhammad decended from) from a female slave. But Zizek goes even further; he demonstrates that the veil is used to hid what is not there. The burqa is used to suggest that there is a true and pure femininity, something worth hiding. Brilliant.

Perhaps the most important essay – Zizek’s “Only a Suffering God can Save Us” – is a powerful, comprehensive work on theodicy. You know: “If God is Good and Omnipotent, how can there be Evil?” Zizek does far more than offer his two cents here: he summarises ‘classic’ views of theodicy (like the legalistic sin-and-punishment conception, or the idea that disasters are an extreme test of our faith, or the “God moves in mysterious ways” notion), then launches into his own. For Zizek, the above question essentially misses the point (and perhaps obscuring his answer, in my reading, indicating that God is not omnipotent). For Zizek, God is totally embedded in our reality. Through the mystery of the Cross, our pain is his pain and vice versa; in other words, the Crucifixion was the only way for God to understand us.

Zizek points out that the humanistic response to disasters like the Holocaust is “insufficient” to explain or justify the event. A larger meaning is needed. It seems that Zizek does believe, but for what I can only describe as sociological reasons. God is that which is Sublime; a sort of essential mystery and meaning behind things. I think that Zizek thinks we cannot do without those things.

I have not done justice to the ideas and arguments in this book. Let me end by highly recommending it – this is critical thinking and reflective thinking at its best.

President-Elect Orange

There was a moment watching the election results when all those upper midwestern states shifted red and I knew that our country was about take a very dark, very different future. I felt sick. In the words of a shell-shocked CNN pundit – I think it was Van Jones – “this is a tectonic shift.”

Yes, the racism – Van Jones’ ‘Whitelash’ – and sexism of America were on full display but that neither scared me nor surprised me. I don’t think it was the racists that swung it for Trump. What did scare me was that a crucial number of people (maybe the “Shy Trump voter”) that actually think Trump is going to…to what? Save them? Save them from what? Make America Great Again? What does that mean?

It’s not the anger, frustration and resentment; I share those emotions. It’s the fact that so many think that Trump will fix things for them. And that is what scares me. Really scares me. Because the level of “magical thinking”  – otherwise known as stupidity – to think that President Pussy-Graber will bring back the steel mills and restore America’s place in the world and make all the inconvenient facts  and reality in general go away has the distinct whiff of true fascism.

There is the narrative of the voter who, while not liking Trump, really wants change and just wants to upset the apple cart for the sake of upsetting the apple-cart. Again, I can appreciate that; it does have a certain satisfying appeal. But this rationale must again fail because Trump isn’t an outsider. Trump won’t actually damage the neoliberal economic order – yes, he might withdraw from NAFTA – but that is small potatoes.  Watch closely as his corrupt Administration slashes taxes on massive corporations and his fellow billionaires, and corporate America finds itself perfectly comfortable with Trump.

The only applecart that has been upset is America as a liberal democracy. These voters clearly didn’t consider the environmental damage that will be inflicted. Trump and the Republicans have no interest in being America’s president: they are going to rule viciously in favour of Duck Commander and Corporate America.

The entire right-wing populist edifice is built on the Fox News echo chamber, where a few crucial assumptions have been made: 1) Obama specifically and Democrats/Liberals in general are out to destroy America, 2) Obama has been a disaster as president, 3) taxation and regulation are the reason for economic decline and the death of the middle class. The entire Republican tone and mindset has been one of “aggrieved, angry, forgotten white male”. It’s secretly been this since Nixon, but with Trump, it is now out in the open in a way that I wish were only an episode of Black Mirror.

But what happens when this victim mindset has to actually govern? What happens when the assumptions I listed above have to be put into action? Trump and the Republicans will have no excuse when the steel mills don’t return, when rural America doesn’t return to prosperity, when gays continue to be seen on the streets and things go from bad to worse. Because clearly their entire mindset is based on a system of lies and falsehoods; it is out and out delusional.

How far will Trump and the Republicans go to maintain their illusions? Is is where the possibility of American Fascism and Apartheid become very, very real. When Trump’s pathetic, truck-stop-dive-bar level understanding of government (like for every new regulation, two must be eliminated, a frieze on the hiring of new federal employees) fails to make any meaningful change and actually makes things worse what are they going to do? The temptation will be a Reichstag Fire moment; the full leap into endless militarism. The temptation to dismantle the last vestiges of democracy might be too tempting and too easy. The Republicans – unable to win things like the popular vote – must stay in power by tactics like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and controlling judges. Democracy won’t function if people are over-worked, ignorant and fearful.

There is the long Republican tradition where a charismatic figure is elected, but the actual administration is left largely to a core of Republican insiders. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California, Reagan, Bush and Cheney. There is a possibility, supported by Trump’s actions in picking a VP earlier in the campaign that what we are actually going to get is a Pence Administration, with Trump as demagogue and  distractor in chief. While this is not necessarily the case – all bets are off you haven’t noticed – there is a decent chance that the next few years will be a typically disastrous Republican administration, but no worse.

The second scenario is that Trump and his gaggle of deplorables, alt-right bizzaros and strange sycophants runs rough shod over everybody and everything. The full Trump. I don’t know what will happen in this scenario; either Trump will be quickly abandoned and possibly impeached after two or four years, or it will be literally the end of democracy and America  in any recognisable form.

Since Bill Clinton’s Administration, the Democrats have been a corporate centrist neoliberal party. Hillary fully embraced the mantle of The Establishment; full catered to insider Republicans instead of progressives.  Her staff, and the inner core of the DNC where clearly locked in a baby-boomer centric, outdated model for American elections where the only way to win is to occupy the center and make no gaffes.

So it is no surprise that millennials and blacks didn’t turn out to vote for her. Hillary offered relative sanity, but nothing else. She really is the Herbert Humphrey of our time: the insider’s pick that nobody actually wanted. The Democrats, true to form, played to lose and where generally more interested in pleasing their corporate sponsors then acting like party that represented the interests of genuine Americans. This is not about lazy millennials too lazy and spoiled to show up to vote: this is about a DNC that had nothing to offer. Hillary was always the candidate we where meant to pick. They have nobody to blame but themselves.

So forcing myself to be hopeful here: this election does open a door for truely progressive politics a la Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to emerge. To quote Naomi Klein’s excellent article in The Guardian, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/rise-of-the-davos-class-sealed-americas-fate?CMP=fb_us): “The Democratic party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned.” This is the real opening of the election. It’s the only way that the Democrats can hope to win elections, but more importantly, it is the only way for our country to recover and move forward.

 

 

Authority

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It is pretty rare for me to get hooked by a book series – a science-fictiony one at that. But hooked I am on Jeff Vandermeer’s (Van Der Meer?) Southern Reach Trilogy. Authority is the second book in the series, and while I have been grumbling about the short length of each of the books (shouldn’t this be one big book in stead of three tiny books?), I have to grudgingly admit that there might be a reason beyond a publisher trying to sequeeze three purchases out of one piece of work.

Even though Authority nicely picks off where the first book leaves off, it is subject to a fairly radical change of setting and character, which I think does justify three books. I do not think I should give too much away here, but Van Der Meer (Vandermeer?) masterfully shifted the subject of narration fairly drastically. The result is powerful; the reader is supplied with both more answers and more questions, while the fundamental mystery of the books remains elusive.

Part of what makes these books so good is that they do not conform to any trope that we as readers have become familiar with. If you are reading a mystery series like Longmire, no matter what twists and turns the author throws at you, you know that in the end, Sheriff Longmire will discover who the murderer is and serve some folksy justice. There is none of that in the Southern Reach books. You have no idea what to expect next: no familiar rules of literature seem to apply. Alien invasion? Psychological parable about how the monster is us? Dystopian ecological disaster? Revenge of Gaia? Supernatural horror a la Lovecraft? This makes the reading absolutely gripping as a result.

As I meditate on the mysteries of Area X, I am struck by the real strength of the books: it’s the writing. Vandermeer (Vander Meer?) pays the reader the compliment of trusting our intelligence and attention span. This is one of those books where the mind of the reader fills in the gaps and silences in the story; Vandermeer knows exactly what he is doing, and the result is a great reading experience.

Spectrum

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Spectrum by Perry Anderson presents itself as a sort of critical series of essays from thinkers across the political spectrum. And so it, but his basic framework breaks down once you get past “center.” This is actually a far more wide-ranging book then the cover would have you expect. Instead of a hard-core political science punch-up, it’s more a digest of critical biographies and summers of various intellectual figures. Including a final essay on the author’s own father (which is not as boring as that might sound).

The real strength of the book is Anderson himself; while most of the essay topics I found only mildly interesting, Anderson’s writing remained crisp and insightful throughout. In fact, I would be terrified for Anderson to read my own blog and give his review of it, so razor sharp is Anderson’s mind and pen. Some of the best minds and works of the past century get held up for our inspection; all are shown to have cracks and serious o discrepancies.  Anderson commands a truely humbling command of history, philosophy, political science, literature, film and language; he also commands an intellect which cuts to the core of any philosophy or program. The result is that even the most vaunted thinkers wind up seeming human, all too human.

While this books is a bit outdated – published 2005 – it is still relevant and interesting. His essays on right wing thinkers (Hayek, Strauss, Oakeshott, and Schmitt) is a masterful summary and basic criticism of their work. Thinker like John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas (classified more in the center) also get aptly summarised; Anderson deconstructs their theories with a rapier. On the Left, poor Hobsbawm gets the works too. Anderson is kindly to his victims, but the damage is done. It’s hard to imagine a single thinker or book or idea out there which Anderson cannot instantly see though.

This book generated much food for thought for me. It enlarged my world and deepened my understanding of a surprising number of thinkers.