1870-1914: Was Civil Society on þe Side of þe Angels?, &
BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2022-08-02 Tu
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FIRST: 1870-1914: Was Civil Society on the Side of the Angels?: An Outtake from Slouching Towards Utopia
From 1815 to 1914 Europe avoided the society-shaking Moloch of multi-year great-power high-mobilization war. 1859, 1866, and 1870 were all settled quickly, with the victors in the opening battles careful not to demand so much at the conference table as to lead the losers to roll the dice with the levée en masse and industrial mobilization as well.
But that did not happen in 1914.
And the very sharp Dominic Lieven blames… civil society.
Lieven takes the view of an oligarchic establishment politician simply trying to calm things down, but “rattled and bedeviled” by a press and a public opinion that wants WAR:
Dominic Lieven: The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I & Revolution: ‘A common feature across Europe [before 1914] was the growth of civil society and its impact through the press, lobbies, and political parties on governments. In contemporary parlance, civil society is always supposed to be on the side of the angels. As regards international relations in pre–1914 Europe, this was not true. Civil society, meaning above all the press, often played a big role in stoking international conflict. This might be just a question of pandering to public prejudices and thirst for sensations, but it rattled and bedeviled policy-makers nonetheless.
More serious were systematic efforts to use foreign policy as a means to generate nationalist support for governments at home, in the process undermining the rational calculations on which diplomatic bargaining was based. No great power, Russia included, was entirely innocent in this respect…
He also, it is true, blames aristocratic and oligarchic governments thinking that what their régimes needed to stabilize themselves against democrats and socialists was “a short victorious war”.
Is this an accurate and adequate analysis? I think that it, by and large, is.
You see, in the generation before World War I the right was thinking up new justifications for its basic principle: “What I have, I hold!” English naturalist Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species had set intellectual waves in motion: ideas that turned into social Darwinism. The social Darwinists justified economic inequality not by looking to the past, to the descent of the rich from the henchmen of William the Conqueror, but by looking to the present and the future, by claiming that inherent and inherited traits accounted for their economic success and justified the existing economic inequalities that had them at the top. (But why? You did nothing to get your genes, other than choosing the right parents.)
As John Maynard Keynes was to remark a generation later, in the eyes of the social Darwinists:
socialist interferences became . . . impious, as calculated to retard the onward movement of the mighty process by which we ourselves had risen like Aphrodite out of the primeval slime of ocean….
One step further, and they were identifying genes with races.
One step further, and they were identifying races with geographical, linguistic, and cultural nations.
One step further, and they were proposing that the superior nations—races—should be encouraged to breed, and others should not.
One step further, and the road to doing so was to launch or accept genocidal war.
Social Darwinists justified economic inequality within societies as part of a progressive struggle for existence that, via evolution, improved the gene pool. Why not, then, take the next step, and see relationships between nations as a similar struggle for existence that, again via evolution, improved the gene pool? “I am better than you” became, all too easily, “We are better than they.” And “we” had to have the weapons to prove it, should it come to a fight.
In the decade after 1900 Britain’s alarm at the growing size of the German battle fleet mounted. Britain imported half its food. A German battle fleet that controlled the seas around Britain could starve half of Britain to death. So, as Winston S. Churchill told the story, the Liberal Party government to appease the navy and the press offered to fund four new dreadnought-class battleships a year to defend against the growing German fleet.
The navy demanded six.
And, Churchill said, “We compromised at eight.”
The political, social, cultural, and economic barometer was dropping. The warning signs were abundant: a right-wing upper class had, by and large, lost its social role; politicians were increasingly anxious to paper over class divisions with appeals to national unity; a social Darwinist ideological current advocating struggle—even or especially military struggle by peoples-in-arms—over not what language a province would be administered in, but whose grandchildren would live there, was growing. These issues were storing up trouble as 1914 approached. The unleashing of unprecedented economic growth had shaken the world and transformed politics. And at the end of that transformation was a pronounced imperial and militaristic turn.
In 1919, John Maynard Keynes would write, bitterly, that he, his peers, and his elders among the well-thinking, self-confident establishment had all shrugged off the warning signs and passively sat by. They had regarded:
the projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this [pre-1914 economic growth] paradise . . . [as] little more than the amusements of [the] daily newspaper.” To him and his ilk, Keynes would say, looking back through the rearview mirror, the idea that the progressive system of increasing prosperity might break down was “aberrant [and] scandalous”—and easily avoidable…
As 1914 approached, there was no intellectual or organizational antimilitarist countermobilization to speak of to try to head off catastrophe.
Consider the venerated Max Weber, for one. Note that Weber was, in pre–World War I Germany, solidly in the center-left. He was no socialist, but he was otherwise a friend to political democracy, to mass education, and to economic prosperity, and a foe to parasitic aristocracies and rigid social orders. In his inaugural lecture as professor at Freiburg university in 1895, “The National State and Economic Policy,” Weber summarized the worldview he shared with many:
We all consider the German character of the East as something that should be protected. . . . The German peasants and day-labourers of the East are not being pushed off the land in an open conflict by politically-superior opponents. Instead, they are getting the worst of it in the silent and dreary struggle of everyday economic existence, they are abandoning their homeland to a race which stands on a lower level, and moving towards a dark future in which they will sink without trace. . . . Our successors will not hold us responsible before history for the kind of economic organization we hand over to them, but rather for the amount of elbow-room we conquer for them in the world.
Weber, a dark-haired square-headed German-speaking Caucasian male greatly feared dark-haired square-headed Caucasian males who spoke… Polish. Half a century later, the largest single military command of German speakers ever,Adolf Hitler’s Army Group South, would be fighting even larger formations of the Red Army in Ukraine in a war seeking to win German “elbow-room”. Its commander would be a man named at birth Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Lewinski.
The “von” signifies that the name is a German noble name. But “Lewinski” (Levi-ski)—is not a name that springs from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language tree. The suffix “-ski” is Slavic: it signifies that the name is a Polish noble name—it’s the Polish analog to the German “von.” And then there is what is in between the “von” and the “ski”: “Levi.”
There is not a more Jewish surname in the world than “Levi.” Yet Fritz Erich Georg Eduard worked diligently and enthusiastically for Adolf Hitler.
He was Helene née von Sperling’s tenth child and fifth son. Helene’s sister Hedwig was childless. So Helene gave Fritz Erich Georg Eduard to Hedwig, and she and her husband von Manstein adopted him.
It was under that name—von Manstein—that he made his career in the Imperial, Weimar Republic, and Nazi armies.
Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein né von Lewinski was a nationalist, and a militarist. He, and millions like him, believed this to such an extent that either Hayekian or Polanyian notions of any sort of peaceful market path toward utopia shrank to near invisibility. The von Lewinskys, von Sperlings, and von Mansteins had five Prussian generals among them, including both of Erich’s grandparents. Helene and Hedwig’s sister Gertrude married Paul von Hindenberg, which made that field marshal and right-wing Weimar Republic president Erich’s uncle.
The scary thing is that German nationalism was not exceptional in pre–World War I Europe. Rather, if not quite the norm, it was close to it. Usually manifest, nationalism was understood as destiny in a winner-take-most (maybe all) contest in which war was viewed not as a catastrophe but as an opportunity: an opportunity for national assertion, national mobilization, and the creation of a stronger national identity—as well as an opportunity to win the spoils of war, whatever those might be.
Very Briefly Noted:
Garrison Lovely: Do We Need a Better Understanding of ‘Progress’? <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220615-do-we-need-a-better-understanding-of-progress>
Jon S. Cohen & Martin L. Weitzman (1974): A Marxian Model of Enclosures: ‘A model is constructed which provides a coherent and logically consistent framework for analyzing the enclosure movement…. Marx’s analysis of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ can be given an interpretation that is more reasonable, logically consistent, and empirically sound than is commonly acknowledged… <https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/weitzman/files/marxianmodelenclosures.pdf>
Corbin Davenport: US CHIPS Act: What Is It, and Will It Make Devices Cheaper? <https://www.howtogeek.com/821941/us-chips-act-what-is-it-and-will-it-make-devices-cheaper/>
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld & Steven Tian: Russia’s Economy Really Is Crumbling Under Sanctions: ‘Nine myths about the effects of sanctions and business retreats, debunked… <https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/07/22/russia-economy-sanctions-myths-ruble-business/>
Kelsey Piper: A Q&A with Development Economist Charles Kenny on Studying How The World Gets Better <https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/23198871/charles-kenny-interview-economist-getting-better>
Emily Hamilton: Why Tokyo Works: ‘A new book helps explain why Tokyo’s land use and development policies have helped make it an enticing and affordable city… <https://www.discoursemagazine.com/uncategorized/2022/06/07/why-tokyo-works/>
Eric J. Topol & Demis Hassabis: How DeepMind Unlocks Medicine’s Secrets: ‘It’s Not All Fun and Games… <https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/975013>
Wikipedia: List of Japanese Inventions & Discoveries <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Japanese_inventions_and_discoveries>
Charles Schumer: Summary of the Energy Security and Climate Change Investments in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 <https://www.democrats.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/summary_of_the_energy_security_and_climate_change_investments_in_the_inflation_reduction_act_of_2022.pdf>
Om Malik: The Future of Tech as I See It <https://om.co/2022/07/21/tech-future-four-trends-2022/>
Brendan Bordelon & Eleanor Mueller: Biden Wants an Industrial Renaissance. He Can’t Do It Without Immigration Reform <https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/31/microchip-immigration-tech-00048242>
Twitter & ‘Stack:
Tim Miller: ’[Susan Collins’s] "I will oppose an overwhelmingly popular bill to protect gay marriage that I would otherwise support because I’m mad that the Democrats held a vote on a microchip bill that I also supported" has got to be the best example of DC brain worms I have ever encountered…
Amanda Terkel @aterkelSusan Collins tells @JNicholsonInDC that same-sex marriage bill may be doomed now bc of what Dems did on the inflation reduction bill https://t.co/ndnTOLxbEt
Bruce Bartlett: ’The media is hyping inflation because it gets lots of eyeballs and clicks. Right-wingers hype inflation because it creates political pressure on Democrats to abandon their agenda and support Republican ideas about budget-cutting…
Robert Reich @RBReichWhy is the establishment spewing myths about inflation? Because one of the main drivers of inflation is corporate profits. Corporations get away with price gouging because they face little to no competition. They use the specter of inflation as cover to rip us all off.
Josh Barro: The Big Question About The Inflation Reduction Act: How Well Will Added Tax Enforcement Work?
Suppose you knew that the world was about to begin a giant wheel away from global warming producing technologies to clean, greener technologies. Suppose you knew that, as a result, the money was going to flow like water to grease this transition. Suppose you were a company with many engineers with expertise in energy, transportation, and energy-intensive manufacturing systems. Would not you see this forthcoming transition as a gold mine, for your engineers could place you at the head of it, and make sure that your organizations profited immensely from this mobilization?
What kind of a strange and sinister, fuck wit would seek to create great poverty and misery in the future by trying to stop this wheel, would view it as a danger to your personal piggy bank, rather than as an opportunity to become rich, do good, and become honored?
Jane McMullen: The Audacious Pr Plot That Seeded Doubt About Climate Change: ‘Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting - between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius—forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us…. The prospective client, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC)—which represented the oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries—was looking for a communications partner to change the narrative on climate change. Don Rheem and Terry Yosie, two of Harrison’s team present that day, are sharing their stories for the first time…
It is only 1/3 of Republicans in the Senate, Noah. It is only 1/8 of Republicans in the House, Noah. Remember: this is a party that designed a capital tax cut that managed to provide no net incentives to boost investment. Policy effectiveness is not their game. Rent-seeking is:
Noah Smith: Industrial Policy Starts with Semiconductors: ‘The CHIPS Act,.. in absolute size… is not incredibly huge… sufficient to build only 2 to 4 [Fabs]…. TSMC… is spending almost twice as much as the U.S. government over the next three years to build its own new facilities. And the total amount that Apple invested in China in the last few years (mostly not for semiconductors, but for other manufactured goods) was… over five times the CHIPS Act’s total outlay. But CHIPS is still important, because… 17 Republicans joined Democrats [in the Senate] in voting for the bill…. Why did Republicans and Democrats join together to throw dominant “neoliberal” economic orthodoxy out on its ear? Well, partly because there’s a general shift away from thinking that economists’ nostrums about free trade and government non-intervention contain anything worth listening to. But in the case of semiconductors, there were some pretty big reasons on top of that. Chips were the natural industry for industrial policy to make a comeback…
Viewing 1989 through a nationalist, rather than a democratic or a liberal lens may well be correct. And do consider that the world of 2100 is likely to have an annual average income-per-capita level of $50,000. That is indeed going to be a very different world:
Branko Milanovic: On Import Substitution, Fukuyama, Eternal Growth & More: ‘Fukuyama… got 1989 wrong…. Essentially nationalist revolts were proclaimed by Fukuyama and other maîtres à penser of the time to be the revolutions of democracy…. But… the broader point… regarding a terminus in the evolution of human institutions… democracy in the political sphere and capitalism in the economic sphere, is simplistic…. The human desire for “betterment”, as Adam Smith called it, has no limits…. Every development creates new needs. We did not have a need for mobile phones before they existed. But we have that need now. We do not have a need to fly to Mars for a weekend right now (even if Elon Musk might feel that way). It seems slightly bizarre to us today to have such a “need”. But in several generations, it will not be so bizarre. It will be like our “need” to go on vacation to Mexico or Italy. Thus economic growth and needs are, if you will, in a dialectical relationship: more growth creates new needs that require more growth to satisfy them. There is no end to that…
Matt appears to be confused and uncertain about what works, and what should be the take away from all of this. My takeaway is:Tthings worked! We accomplished a great deal, more than we had any business, hoping for! And everybody played a part! The people who pressured Manchin played a part! And Manchin played a big part!
If it does not all fall apart at the last minute, that is:
Matthew Yglesias: How the Green New Deal Became the Inflation Reduction Act: ‘The IRA is a good bill, and to the extent that the left wants to embrace it and claim credit, I don’t want to discourage them…. Bernie Sanders and other left-wing members of Congress are proving to be pretty pragmatic about voting for bills that can pass—I’ve always thought it’s striking how much more sensible Bernie-the-legislator is than Bernie-the-Twitter-personality. But I think it’s instructive to consider the success of the IRA negotiations through the lens of the Green New Deal construct. “Green New Deal” was a strikingly successful slogan…. On policy content, though, I think the IRA owes this idea relatively little…. The erroneous conceit of the climate left is a kind of political romanticism about the climate issue. They not only want the government to take major action on climate change, but they also want it to be the case that the mass public is crying out for the government to do this with special interests standing in their way…. [It took] reducing greenhouse gas emissions, something the public supports but doesn’t think is very important, and pairs it with multiple unrelated and highly controversial social changes as if deliberately trying to maximize political backlash…. If you look at what ultimately brought Manchin around to the energy title of IRA, it’s that Biden and Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer embraced a technology-agnostic view of decarbonization that envisions roles for hydrogen, nuclear, and point-of-source carbon capture. Manchin is aware that the coal industry is dying no matter what America does on climate (it kept dying during Trump’s four years in office) and wisely sees an opportunity to capture upside for his state if America can go beyond oil into a future of nuclear, clean gas, and hydrogen…. I really don’t want to be too churlish here. At the end of the day, the climate left wanted to put their issue on the agenda, and they succeeded. To get something done they had to compromise, and they did. If they and their allies see it as a success story, that’s genuinely good…
I confess I do not understand British politics – neither the Tory, the Liberal, nor the Labour side of it. But it does look significantly worse than American politics. Our Trump is at least in exile. They have lots of little Trumps, all of them running loose, wild, and free:
Rachel Sylvester: The Tory Coalition Is Fracturing Without Johnson—& It Will Only Get Uglier: ‘The Tory Party has still not resolved the inherent tension between the economic populism favoured by its voters in the red wall and the fiscal conservatism of its traditional supporters in the true blue shires…. Eurosceptic Conservative MPs are insisting that the next prime minister delivers a “proper Brexit,” echoing Farage’s criticism that the UK’s departure from the EU was “Brexit in Name Only.”… This time it will not just be Farage shouting “betrayal” from the sidelines, unconstrained by the realities of power, Johnson will be sitting in the House of Commons offering the promised land and whipping up dissent against his successor. The petition demanding that his name is added to the list of leadership candidates shows his capacity to become the figurehead of the rebel right…. We need to ask ourselves how we wended up with this parade of gargoyles in the first place. Why did the British political class acquiesce in the Brexit fiasco? Why couldn’t they continue with the sensible, “grown-up” policies of the Thatcher/Blair consensus? Since 2007 it has become increasingly difficult to sell the political idea that home ownership and rising property values can provide economic security for all…
“Become deadly in an instant” is a very good thing to remember. Trump is a clown. But thugs and murderers can work for clowns, and win applause from them:
Steve Schmidt: Do We Want Democracy Too?: ‘Avner Less… observed that there are Adolph Eichmann’s everywhere. They are all around us, he said. He said they are “latent in a democracy,” but that in a “dictatorship of the left or right, they become deadly in an instant.”… American democracy remains a fragile experiment that has entered a period of contestation…. It is important to remember the American flag when thinking about America’s progress towards being a full democracy in which all people are equal under the law…