Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, with Stephen Kotkin

Books by Kotkin STEPHEN KOTKIN: I think there are a lot of people out there, but I can’t see anyone. Which is fortunate. I get stage fright. I have to thank Jean Strouse again for the year at the Cullman Center. There are many pages of this book that would not be in there had it not been for the New York Public Library’s collection, and I am very grateful. In fact, we were just[ …]

Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, with Stephen Kotkin (podcast)

[Video version available here.] http://media.nypl.org/audio/LIVE_2015-3-31_Kotkin_and_Zizek.mp3 Books by Kotkin STEPHEN KOTKIN: I think there are a lot of people out there, but I can’t see anyone. Which is fortunate. I get stage fright. I have to thank Jean Strouse again for the year at the Cullman Center. There are many pages of this book that would not be in there had it not been for the New York Public Library’s collection, and I am very grateful.[ …]

The truth shall set you free, but not this truth

As the drama surrounding Julian Assange escalates, it is worth momentarily distinguishing WikiLeaks from its mercurial founder, and instead asking what WikiLeaks itself means today. Thus far, the story has been cast as a struggle between WikiLeaks and the United States empire. The central issue, then, is whether the publishing of confidential state documents is an act in support of the freedom of information, of the people’s right to know, or an act of terrorism[ …]

The miracle of Tahrir Square

The uprising was universal: it was immediately possible for all of us around the world to identify with it, to recognise what it was about, without any need for cultural analysis of the features of Egyptian society. In contrast to Iran’s Khomeini revolution (where Leftists had to smuggle their message into the predominantly Islamist frame), here the frame is clearly that of a universal secular call for freedom and justice, so that the Muslim Brotherhood[ …]

For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square

One cannot but note the “miraculous” nature of the events in Egypt: something has happened that few predicted, violating the experts’ opinions, as if the uprising was not simply the result of social causes but the intervention of a mysterious agency that we can call, in a Platonic way, the eternal idea of freedom, justice and dignity. The uprising was universal: it was immediately possible for all of us around the world to identify with[ …]

Why fear the Arab revolutionary spirit?

What cannot but strike the eye in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is the conspicuous absence of Muslim fundamentalism. In the best secular democratic tradition, people simply revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. The cynical wisdom of western liberals, according to which, in Arab countries, genuine democratic sense is limited to narrow liberal elites while the vast majority can only be mobilised through religious fundamentalism[ …]

Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks

In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It’s a useful analogy: isn’t Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s organiser, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? In the film, the district attorney, Harvey Dent, an obsessive vigilante who is corrupted and himself commits murders, is killed by Batman. Batman and his friend police commissioner Gordon realise that the city’s morale would suffer[ …]