Book Review: Adam Tooze, “The Deluge”

“Liberalism is the only thing that can save civilization from chaos – from a flood of ultra-radicalism that will swamp the world…” These are the words of Woodrow Wilson aboard the SS George Washington in December 1918, reflecting on the tasks confronted by the United States and her allies after their victory in the First World War. It is also the fundamental thesis of Adam Tooze’s The Deluge, the long-awaited followup to his brilliant discussion of the political economy of Nazi Germany (for a discussion of which, see here and following). Applying his profound talent for combining political economy with international relations, Tooze’s central subject is the aftermath of World War I and the challenge of creating a new world order amidst the ruins of the old European powers. This challenge, as he presents it, was a dual one. On the one hand it involved the recognition by all European powers, victors or vanquished, that the United States was now the pre-eminent economic power in the world, with the potential of translating this tremendous advantage into equivalent military and political power on the world stage; and on the other hand it involved the attempts by Woodrow Wilson as American President to effect this transformation of the world balance of powers while simultaneously disentangling the United States from a war alliance that he had never wanted in the first place, and which threatened to perpetually constrain the freedom of action the Americans needed to make this potential a reality.

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An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union

The eventual downfall of the USSR has often been seen as a self-evident example of the failure of central planning, both as a principle and especially in practice. The critics of the USSR also point to the low standard of living of the population during its existence, the prevalence of famines, the low availability and shoddy quality of consumer goods, and its continued lagging behind the United States in production as more proofs of the failure of ‘socialist construction’. Although these criticisms are not entirely without merit, they need to be contextualized and qualified strongly to be properly understood. It is therefore important to provide a rough outline of the economic history of the collapse of the USSR and its meaning. Because the focus of this article is on the economic problematic, more detail than is usual will be presented about these issues, whereas some political, cultural and social developments of importance will be largely avoided. Continue reading “An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union”

Edward Hallett Carr on History and Revolution

This is a transcript of an interview with the famous British historian E.H. Carr as done by New Left Review in the year 1978, under the title “The Left Today”. Carr, one of the early serious specialists in Russian and Soviet history (a little outdated now but still very useful and readable) was at the time 86 years old. Although he was never a Communist, he clearly identified with the political left, and spent much of his academic efforts combating conservative and liberal (Whiggish) historiography. Nonetheless, for a significant of his career he was not an academic, but worked at the Foreign Office, and later as assistant editor of The Times, neither of which are exactly known for being left-wing. This gave him a broad and nonsectarian perspective on events. Continue reading “Edward Hallett Carr on History and Revolution”