History Department, University of Exeter
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From the rise of America’s reactionary right to the rise of illiberal nationalism in Japan, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Rise of the Reactionary
Distrust of high theory used to be a mainstay of conservatism. Edmund Burke, scrutinizing support for the French Revolution, had seen connections with sinister “literary caballers, and intriguing philosophers, with political theologians and theological politicians.”
Even in the middle of the past century, when American intellectuals on the right were publishing the books that buttressed a movement—Peter Viereck’s “Conservatism Revisited” (1949), Whittaker Chambers’s “Witness” (1952), and Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” (1953)—a shared aversion to grand philosophizing was palpable. What was needed, Viereck wrote, was a “revolt against ideology” and a defense of what Kirk called “permanent things,” to offset, if possible, drastic changes, whether wrought in the blood of the Russian Revolution or, as Chambers wrote of the New Deal, in “a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking.” Conservatives wanted, above all, to conserve. “The American political mind has never thought much along consciously radical lines,” the political scientist Clinton Rossiter wrote, in “Conservatism in America” (1955). Yet, at more or less the moment Rossiter wrote this, some on the right were making a different case, more strident and aggressive, and unafraid of world-historical theories. [continue reading]
How suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst became an ‘honorary Ethiopian’
Just inside the entrance of the Addis Ababa home of British historian Richard Pankhurst hangs a black and white photo of his suffragette mother, Sylvia Pankhurst. She is pictured wearing a long and elaborate Edwardian dress with sleeves to her wrists, beneath a heading: “Votes for Women.”
She was one of the women whose campaigns, which included going on hunger-strike, led to British women being allowed to vote in the early 20th Century. In the nearby sitting room, a tapestry hanging on a wall testifies to a less well known side of his mother. It depicts Ms Pankhurst in June 1935 walking down a gravel path through a garden in the English city of Bath, accompanied by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. [continue reading]
Tom Hayden Obituary
When he was running, unsuccessfully, in the 1990s to be governor of California, Tom Hayden, who has died aged 76, complained ruefully to the Los Angeles Times that his image among the voters of his adopted state could be summed up in just four words: “60s radical Jane Fonda”.
He had been married for 17 years to Fonda, Hollywood royalty and a living symbol of what many loved and more despised about the New Left. Although she was many times a millionaire, they lived modestly in a house in Santa Monica that did not even have sea views, and did their own shopping and laundry.
He was indeed a radical in the 1960s and – although the subjects that drew his thoughtful rage and formidable energy varied in the course of his life – a radical he remained. “I’m Jefferson in terms of democracy,” he said, “I’m Thoreau in terms of environment, and Crazy Horse in terms of social movements.” [continue reading]
Cambodia has come a long way in 25 years of peace – but it’s far from perfect
After decades of tragic conflict and bloodshed, Cambodia finally found a measure of peace in 1991, when 19 governments met in Paris to sign the Paris Peace Agreements. This was a pivotal moment in the country’s history and it opened the door to what turned out to be a remarkable period of recovery and relative peace.
The agreements covered four major priorities: national reconciliation, the right of self-determination through free and fair elections, a ceasefire and cessation of outside military assistance (including the withdrawal of foreign forces), and the protection of human rights (including the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons). [continue reading]
Contemporary Political Dynamics of Japanese Nationalism
This essay examines why nationalism seems to be on the rise in Asia and beyond at a time when globalization is also becoming more salient, by focusing on the political dynamics that propelled both changes in Japan in the post-Cold War era. The more open and liberal type of nationalism that appeared in Japan in the 1980s to the mid-1990s was followed by an abrupt revisionist backlash beginning in the late 1990s.
This illiberal, authoritarian turn in contemporary nationalism was confirmed and accelerated during the premiership of Koizumi Jun’ichiro (2001-06), when further neoliberal reforms were simultaneously implemented. I argue that the New Right transformation of Japanese politics –the combined ascendancy of economic liberalism and political illiberalism—is the driving force of contemporary nationalism in Japan. [continue reading]
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