Wishing a Comfortable New 12 months to all readers of this weblog – thanks for studying.
It has been a miserable 2022 and the omens for 2023 don’t look nice. I’m not utterly satisfied in regards to the polycrisis notion, however for someone within the UK the influence of occasions (the struggle), the cyclical downturn and the structural weaknesses of our economic system and society (the place to start out?) make for a bleak begin to the yr.
So how higher to start my studying, amid the stress-free mayhem and dying of detective fiction (and a fast re-read of The Wealth of Nations to determine whether or not I’ve something to say in an upcoming Adam Smith workshop), than Katie Stallard’s Dancing on Bones? A journalist, the writer has reported for years from Russia, China and North Korea. The e book was revealed simply as Russia invaded Ukraine, so doesn’t replicate the newest occasions, nevertheless it begins in Ukraine in 2014, with the preliminary invasion of Crimea. The e book is a mirrored image on how these autocrats – Xi , Putin and the Kims – use historical past (I ought to write ‘historical past’) to cement their maintain on energy. Specifically, it describes how in every case historical past has been rewritten into fantasy, with a particular battle was a regime founding story. I hadn’t recognized that the USSR used to not make such a giant deal of World Struggle 2, that China’s memorial days have been much more not too long ago launched, or certainly that the successive Kims merely invented the account of the Korean struggle that’s taught to all North Korean topics from kindergarten on.
It’s a bit disconcerting to learn of the occasions of 1989 informed as distant historical past – I’m sufficiently old to have super-clear recollections of watching the TV studies from East Germany, from Prague, from Romania in late 1989, and in certainly one of my jobs immersed myself within the element of perestroika to interpret the USSR economic system.
Essentially the most participating elements of the book are these informed from direct expertise, the reportage, not surprisingly. Even so, I realized issues I hadn’t recognized – particularly about N Korea – and it’s very nicely written. It’s an excellent complement to the superb Strongmen by Ruth Ben-Ghiat (I haven’t learn Gideon Rachman’s The Age of the Strongman). Let’s hope 2023 turns into a nasty yr for autocrats.