This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Dune / Production Stills / Warner Brothers Pictures

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From Joseph Schumpeter and the economics of imperialism to Frank Herbert the Republican Salafist, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Joseph Schumpeter and the Economics of Imperialism

John E. King

Joseph Alois Schumpeter was one of the most prominent political economists during the first half of the twentieth century. He published prolifically in both German and English on questions of economic theory, economic sociology, economic and social policy, and the history of ideas. A phrase Schumpeter coined to describe the essence of capitalism as he understood it, “creative destruction,” has become one of the most familiar terms in the economic lexicon.

In politics, Schumpeter was a liberal conservative — or perhaps a conservative liberal — but he was also deeply influenced by his Marxian contemporaries. As a student at the University of Vienna, Schumpeter was a member of Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk’s legendary graduate seminar, along with three leading Austro-Marxists — Rudolf Hilferding, Otto Bauer, and Emil Lederer — and the free-market liberal Ludwig von Mises. [continue reading]

Moscow Diary: What the success of a US soap says about modern Russia

Max Seddon
Financial Times

With up to 175,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border and Vladimir Putin warning the west not to cross his “red lines”, there’s talk of war again in Moscow. But you wouldn’t know it from my Instagram feed, which is full of selfies from flashy oligarch-funded art centres: Kremlin-connected gas magnate Leonid Mikhelson has just opened GES-2, an enormous new “house of culture”, while Putin’s inconveniently timed video summit with Joe Biden the other week meant that I had to flog my tickets to see London avant-jazz band Sons of Kemet in Garage, the museum funded by Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

A decade or so ago, when I wrote art reviews for The Moscow Times expat newspaper as a student, Russia’s contemporary scene could have only dreamt of something like GES-2, then a decaying century-old relic. Like Tate Modern, it occupies a former power station, which Italian architect Renzo Piano has bathed in light — or at least what little light there is in Moscow in December — with floor-to-ceiling windows and glass roofing like a greenhouse. [continue reading]

Vanessa Thorpe

Exploring Leicester Museum & Art Gallery 12 years ago, trainee curator Tara Munroe came across a stack of discarded oil paintings. The troubling scenes they portrayed would go on to change the direction of her career and may soon alter wider attitudes to art history. The paintings depicted wealthy colonial life in South America and the Caribbean, and had been marked for destruction by the gallery. But the images, which each subtly grade racial and social distinctions, spoke clearly and powerfully to Munroe. “To me, they are beautiful paintings but they have a very dark message within them,” she told the Observer as she prepared for the first public display of the unrestored paintings, in Leicester in the new year.

Now an expert in black heritage and the director of Opal 22 Arts and Edutainment, Munroe has doggedly continued her research into the origin and meaning of the five rare late-18th-century works she found. First, she persuaded the city’s art gallery & museum to save the works that had originally been categorised as distasteful and irrelevant, then she started to try to discover who had painted them and why. In the last few months, she has won funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to curate a further, bigger exhibition of the paintings in 2023. [continue reading]

Toyota Topped G.M. in U.S. Car Sales in 2021, a First for a Foreign Automaker

Neal E. Boudette
New York Times

Toyota Motor unseated General Motors as the top-selling automaker in the United States last year, becoming the first manufacturer based outside the country to achieve that feat in the industry’s nearly 120-year history.

That milestone underlines the changes shaking automakers, which face strong competition and external forces as they move into electric vehicles. And it came in a tumultuous and strange year in which automakers contended with an accelerating shift to electric vehicles and struggled with profound manufacturing challenges. New car sales have been damped by a severe shortage of computer chips that forced automakers to idle plants even though demand for cars has been incredibly robust. G.M., Ford Motor and Stellantis, the automaker created by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, produced and sold fewer cars than they had hoped to in 2021 because they were hit hard by the chip shortage. Toyota was not hurt as much. [continue reading]

Frank Herbert, the Republican Salafist

Haris A. Durrani

n 1965, Frank Herbert published the novel “Dune,” the first in a classic series about a planet called Arrakis that is rich in “the spice,” a precious resource of the distant future. The saga narrates the story of the Atreides, a family that comes to rule the planet and the indigenous Fremen. The tale is often understood as an anti-colonial epic. It projects into the eons Middle Eastern, African and Asian cultures, alongside indigenous traditions across the Americas. In particular, it imagines a thoroughly Muslim future.

But the saga may appear contradictory. Herbert engaged thoughtfully (if imperfectly) with a variety of what might be called non-Western traditions, including Islamic thought. But he also leaned strongly toward the Republican Party — a label seemingly at odds with such engagement. The dissonance is often seen as irreconcilable: “Dune” explores anti-colonialism and decenters Western thought, while Herbert’s politics simply stand in uncomfortable opposition. Underlying that discomfort is the belief that genuine engagement with non-Western traditions cannot share kinship with the political right. Some have attempted to explain Herbert’s engagement by way of his politics: His portrayal of non-Western traditions must grow out of his conservative worldview and is therefore largely negative. It is impossible for both to have existed in the same mind. He must be a Janus — a man of two faces. [continue reading]