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Confronting Defeat

Perry Anderson: Hobsbawm’s Histories, 17 October 2002

... Presented as a pendant to Age of Extremes, a personal portrait hung opposite the historical landscape, what light does Interesting Times throw on Eric Hobsbawm’s vision of the 20th century, and overall narrative of modernity?1 In overarching conception, The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire and Age of Extremes can be regarded as a single enterprise – a tetralogy which has no equal as a systematic account of how the contemporary world was made ...

Dégringolade

Perry Anderson: The Fall of France, 2 September 2004

La France qui tombe 
by Nicolas Baverez.
Perrin, 134 pp., €5.50, January 2004, 2 262 02163 5
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La Face cachée du ‘Monde’: Du contre-pouvoir aux abus de pouvoir 
by Pierre Péan and Philippe Cohen.
Mille et Une Nuits, 631 pp., €24, February 2003, 2 84205 756 2
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... France is, of all European countries, the most difficult for any foreigner to write about. Its intractability is a function, in the first instance, of the immense output on their society produced by the French themselves, on a scale undreamt of elsewhere. Seventy titles just on the electoral campaign of spring 2002. Two hundred books on Mitterrand. Three thousand on De Gaulle ...

Gandhi Centre Stage

Perry Anderson, 5 July 2012

... Astonishing thought: that any culture or civilisation should have this continuity for five or six thousand years or more; and not in a static or unchanging sense, for India was changing and progressing all the time,’ marvelled the country’s future ruler a few years before coming to power. There was ‘something unique’ about the antiquity of the subcontinent and its ‘tremendous impress of oneness’, making its inhabitants ‘throughout these ages distinctively Indian, with the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... Carlo Ginzburg became famous as a historian for extraordinary discoveries about popular belief, and what was taken by its persecutors to be witchcraft, in the early modern period. The Night Battles and The Cheese and the Worms, each a case-study from the north-east corner of Italy, were followed by a synthesis of Eurasian sweep in Ecstasies. The work that has appeared since is no less challenging, but there has been a significant alteration of its forms, and many of its themes ...

Peace without Empire

Perry Anderson, 2 December 2021

Conquering Peace: From the Enlightenment to the European Union 
by Stella Ghervas.
Harvard, 528 pp., £31.95, March, 978 0 674 97526 2
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... In a period​ of general ideological conformity in Western Europe, a pensée unique disturbed but not really discarded under the blows of 2008 and 2020, the once communist states of Eastern Europe have produced some of the most creative and independent minds in the EU and its borderlands. Among these exceptions to the drift of the time could be numbered such different figures as Dmitri Furman of Russia, Gáspár Tamás of Hungary and Slavoj Žižek of Yugoslavia, born in the 1940s; Jan Zielonka of Poland, born in the 1950s; and Ivan Krastev of Bulgaria in the 1960s ...

Kemalism

Perry Anderson: After the Ottomans, 11 September 2008

... The greatest single truth to declare itself in the wake of 1989,’ J.G.A. Pocock wrote two years afterwards, is that the frontiers of ‘Europe’ towards the east are everywhere open and indeterminate. ‘Europe’, it can now be seen, is not a continent – as in the ancient geographers’ dream – but a subcontinent: a peninsula of the Eurasian landmass, like India in being inhabited by a highly distinctive chain of interacting cultures, but unlike it in lacking a clearly marked geophysical frontier ...

The Divisions of Cyprus

Perry Anderson, 24 April 2008

... Enlargement, widely regarded as the greatest single achievement of the European Union since the end of the Cold War, and occasion for more or less unqualified self-congratulation, has left one inconspicuous thorn in the palm of Brussels. The furthest east of all the EU’s new acquisitions, even if the most prosperous and democratic, has been a tribulation to its establishment, one that neither fits the uplifting narrative of the deliverance of captive nations from Communism, nor furthers the strategic aims of Union diplomacy, indeed impedes them ...

Depicting Europe

Perry Anderson, 20 September 2007

... An epiphany is beguiling Europe. Far from dwindling in historical significance, the Old World is about to assume an importance for humanity it has never, in all its days of dubious past glory, before possessed. At the end of Postwar, his 800-page account of the continent since 1945, the historian Tony Judt exclaims at ‘Europe’s emergence in the dawn of the 21st century as a paragon of the international virtues: a community of values … held up by Europeans and non-Europeans alike as an exemplar for all to emulate ...

Land without Prejudice

Perry Anderson: Berlusconi’s Italy, 21 March 2002

... Italy has long occupied a peculiar position within the concert of Europe. By wealth and population it belongs alongside France, Britain and Germany as one of the four leading states of the Union. But it has never played a comparable role in the affairs of the continent, and has rarely been regarded as a diplomatic partner or rival of much significance ...

Russia’s Managed Democracy

Perry Anderson: Why Putin?, 25 January 2007

... Under lowering skies, a thin line of mourners stretched silently outside the funeral hall. Barring the entrance, hulking riot police kept them waiting until assorted dignitaries – Anatoly Chubais, Nato envoys, an impotent ombudsman – had paid their respects. Eventually they were let in to view the corpse of the murdered woman, her forehead wrapped in the white ribbon of the Orthodox rite, her body, slight enough anyway, diminished by the flower-encrusted bier ...

Why Partition?

Perry Anderson, 19 July 2012

... By 1945, the era of Gandhi was over, and that of Nehru had begun. It is conventional to dwell on the contrasts between the two, but the bearing of these on the outcome of the struggle for independence has remained by and large in the shadows. Nor are the contrasts themselves always well captured. Nehru was a generation younger; of handsome appearance; came from a much higher social class; had an elite education in the West; lacked religious beliefs; enjoyed many an affair ...

Lula’s Brazil

Perry Anderson, 31 March 2011

... Contrary to a well-known English dictum, stoical if self-exonerating, all political lives do not end in failure. In postwar Europe, it is enough to think of Adenauer or De Gasperi, or perhaps even more impressively, Franco. But it is true that, in democratic conditions, to be more popular at the close than at the outset of a prolonged period in office is rare ...

One Exceptional Figure Stood Out

Perry Anderson: Dmitri Furman, 30 July 2015

... Famously,​ Russia gave the concept of an intelligentsia to the world. Though the term itself was first recorded in Poland, it was in Russia that it became common currency in the 1860s, reaching the West some two decades later. In historical memory, it remains the cultural marker perhaps most classically associated with the country to this day. The greatness of Russian literature in the 19th century, in a line of writers who so often appeared the conscience of their society, has much to do with that ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... Are​ there any appropriate dimensions to literary biography as a form? The stature of a writer, and length of life, might be expected to provide some co-ordinates. Yet even among modern masters there is little consistency. James died in his early seventies, Musil in his early sixties: Leon Edel and Karl Corino awarded them each two thousand pages ...

Time Unfolded

Perry Anderson: Powell v. the World, 2 August 2018

... Comparisons​ between works of art, Adorno maintained in Minima Moralia, are inevitably at once refused and demanded by them. That they may simply be incongruous he disregarded. Cases where parallels are as close as those between Proust and Powell lend ‘the compulsion to evaluate’ he thought so generally inescapable a particular force, requiring especial care ...

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