Thursday, December 08, 2016

Analogy to the "end of history" peirod

Interesting thought piece from Paul Mason, The Soviet Union collapsed overnight. Don’t assume western democracy will last forever Guardian 12/05/2016:

Since Putin stole the 2011 election, and the subsequent protest movement was suppressed, the young people who took part in it have retreated into an angry silence. It’s not exactly a new situation for Russian intellectuals. Lenin was arrested here in 1887 for leading a student protest and spent most of the next 30 years in exile or underground. Then the Bolsheviks suppressed free speech and political opposition for another 70 years and Russia’s capitalist oligarchs are doing their best to suppress it now.

In the face of this, why do Russian artists, philosophers and journalists persist in their belief in change? In short, because they have seen the moral and physical collapse of something that once seemed permanent: the Soviet Union.
He ties it to the present moment by saying, "Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, it has become possible to believe a similar collapse will happen in the west, to globalisation and liberal values."

He uses the example of Putin's emergence after the strong medicine of neoliberalism and austerity economics applied to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union:

Compared with the chaos of the 1990s, Putinism has felt like a redemption. Putin has, at the cost of diplomatic isolation and the suppression of democratic rights, restored growth, order and national pride. Now all over the world there are mini-Putins: the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orbán; the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; the would-be French fascist president, Marine Le Pen. If – as they desire – the west descends into economic nationalism, everybody under the age of 50 will go through the same kind of ideological shock the Russians went through in the late 80s.
There are historical trends. The problem is, they're tricky to discern as they are happening. Which brings me to one of my favorite Hegel quotes: "The Owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering."

Meaning that we can't tell what a historical period really was about until it's ending. On the pessimistic side, I know, but a useful caution. Because people do make history and aren't completely at the mercy of broad trends.

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