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More bad sequels
Noah Smith tells us:
‘Cold War 2 is a reality, and we’re all living in it right now.’
Martin Wolf is comfy in his ‘90s time-warp:
How, then, should democratic capitalism fit into the world? Liberal democracies need to preserve the vitality of their own system, while managing their relationships with the rest of the world, in order to preserve peace, prosperity and planet. The relationship must be one of co-operation, competition, coexistence and, where essential, calibrated confrontation. A particularly large challenge will be managing the relationship with China. But it cannot and must not be one of conflict. Nobody would gain from that. Russia’s war against Ukraine is surely catastrophe enough.
So what is to be done? First, strengthen co-operation among democracies and democratic values, including by undertaking a renewal of failing systems. Second, avoid what the political scientist Graham Allison has called the “Thucydides Trap” — the tendency for mutual suspicion between rising and established powers to generate conflict. Third, promote mutually beneficial interdependence. Finally, co-operate on shared objectives. An obvious first step is to open an intense dialogue with China on the ways forward for managed relations.
And don’t worry, the gliberals have not yet been replaced by GPT, although you have to feel that day is getting close.
Timothy Snyder announces:
This is a once-in-lifetime conjuncture, not to be wasted. The Ukrainians have given us a chance to turn this century around, a chance for freedom and security that we could not have achieved by our own efforts, no matter who we happen to be. All we have to do is help them win.
And Timothy Garton Ash looks towards a great European future:
Yet a better future for Ukraine and Europe is possible. It’s worth emphasizing the scale of this historic opportunity. Anchoring Ukraine (together with Moldova and Georgia) firmly in the geopolitical West would mean the effective end of the Russian empire. As a result, for the first time in European history, we would have a fully postimperial Europe—that is, a Europe with neither overseas nor land empires. It would mean another great advance, comparable in scale to that after 1989, toward the goal memorably formulated at that time as “Europe whole and free.”
One does not need to venture far to find similar content.
Remember what Francis Ford Coppola said:
There used to be studio films… Now there are Marvel pictures. And what is a Marvel picture? A Marvel picture is one prototype movie that is made over and over and over and over and over again to look different.
The Marvel model extends to thinking about politics.
Hermann Broch on kitsch in 1933:
…kitsch is always subject to the dogmatic influence of the past - it will never take its vocabulary of reality from the world directly but will apply pre-used vocabularies, which in its hands rigidify into cliche…
Milan Kundera building on Broch:
Broch demonstrates that kitsch is something other than simply a work in poor taste. There is a kitsch attitude. Kitsch behavior. The kitsch-man's (Kitschmensch) need for kitsch: it is the need to gaze into the mirror of the beautifying lie and to be moved to tears of gratification at one's own reflection.
To this list can be added kitsch analysis, and the kitsch analyst.
Adam Tooze has not yet suffered that fate, but having the found concept of ‘polycrisis’ also be found by the Davos crew has led him to explain / defend himself here and here. Plenty there to consider, but here let us focus on one word:
Rather than reconciliation and reconvergence, the Biden team holds out something far weirder.
Whether it makes sense or not, the folks in Washington are cooking up something weird.
Meanwhile China is sending balloons over the United States, it is not just in Washington that things are getting weird.
One hundred years ago Robert Musil judged that his ‘age lacks synthesis’. The same might be said of the present moment. Whether it is the ‘Thucydides Trap’, ‘democracy versus authoritarianism’, a new ‘Cold War’, or whatever tired frame one wants to drag out, beware microwaved renditions of the world. Whatever melange this is, it is distinctly weirder than those comforting cliches would suggest. Lapsing into kitsch analysis - Nietzsche’s eternal return transposed onto geopolitics - will not help with comprehending where we might be falling, drifting, floating, marching...