Pinpointing responsibility for Russian atrocities in Bucha

In November I wrote a blog post asking the question, "What organization and what commanders have directed the campaign of atrocity, murder, rape, mutilation, torture, and abduction in Ukraine? Is there good investigative reporting on where orders for these unspeakable atrocities and crimes against humanity are coming from?" Now, thanks to some stupendous reporting by the New York …

Koestler’s observations of Soviet totalitarianism

In honor of the remembrance of the ninetieth anniversary of the Holodomor, it is worth recalling Arthur Koestler's first-hand observations of the devastation of 1932-33 in Ukraine. In 1932 Koestler undertook a tour of the Soviet Union as a journalist, under the sponsorship of the Comintern. What he witnessed during these months of travel led …

Who is ordering torture and execution in Ukraine?

With the retreat of Russian forces from Kherson this month, new evidence of gruesome atrocities against civilians has become visible (link). A very important question arises: What organization and what commanders have directed this campaign of atrocity, murder, rape, mutilation, torture, and abduction? Is there good investigative reporting on where orders for these unspeakable atrocities and …

João Ohara’s new synthesis of the philosophy of history

What is the subject matter of the philosophy of history? This is an extremely difficult question to answer given the wide range of topics, methods, and philosophical perspectives that have been included under the umbrella since 1750. It is therefore a welcome development to read João Ohara's very interesting and illuminating discussion of this topic …

A culturally conservative streak in Tony Judt

Tony Judt was a remarkable historian of the twentieth century and a sparkling public intellectual. In most dimensions he was a progressive force within the space of commentators on recent history and contemporary politics. However, in a number of instances he was a bit tone-deaf in his version of American progressive values. This tendency is …

Marx’s influences as a social scientist

image: Menzel depicting a proletarian (Adolf von Menzel) It is customary to hold that the main influences on Marx's thought fell into three streams: French socialism, English political economy, and Hegelian philosophy. Each strand is evident in his writings, from early to late. Certainly Marx's ideas about a communist society were developed in relation to …

River warfare in the US Civil War

The mental images that most Americans have of the American Civil War involve the scenes of major land battles -- Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg. Armies marched dozens of miles, prepared encampments and defensive works, and either attacked the enemy in its own prepared defenses or awaited contact with the enemy. The picture is Napoleonic: an …

Confronting Evil in History

(free download through October 7 at https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009104265) My short book Confronting Evil in History has just been published in Cambridge Elements in the Elements in Historical Theory and Practice series edited by Daniel Woolf.  Here is the abstract: Evil is sometimes thought to be incomprehensible and abnormal, falling outside of familiar historical and human processes. And yet the twentieth …

Malcolm Muggeridge on the Holodomor

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was a much-read English left journalist, critic, and international observer and a close friend of George Orwell in the 1930s. Muggeridge wrote an introduction to Orwell's novel Burmese Days, and along with Tony Powell, he made arrangements for Orwell's funeral in 1950. (Ian Hunter's Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life provides an excellent biographical study.)  Muggeridge was a strong supporter …

Philosophers and Marx in the 1950s

In the 1960s, as an undergraduate and eventually a graduate student in philosophy, I had the strong impression that Anglophone philosophy did not pay much attention to the philosophy and theories of Karl Marx. He was regarded as a "dead dog". His work was rarely treated in the history of philosophy in the 1950s and …

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