The Historians’ Diagnosis

The conversation about a world in disarray feels urgent, elusive, etherized. Who will name this crisis and the roots of it: war, tribalism, maldistributed money, and pain, exceptionalism for rich people, maybe, for a rich nation in a poor world? Historians are the guides we turn to first, for the big picture, the connections between, say, a brutal turn in our weather, and the Age of Easy Oil now closing; the nasty hangover of our own American Century; the palsy in democratic politics here and abroad; the rise of nativist nationalism again, the lurch toward strongman rule; and in Ukraine, the catastrophic reversion to war as the way. Who’ll get us to see it whole and to confront it in time?

Helen Thompson is the first of three very different historians we’re calling on this hour to trace patterns from the past into the global predicament today. Oil and gas are Helen Thompson’s angle of observation. Jackson Lears will be up next, tracking the course of American empire. Robin Kelley, who writes about Freedom Dreams in the black radical imagination, will follow with an argument about the old roots of twenty-first century fascism. And so we begin the second season of a radio-podcast series we call “In Search of Monsters,” in collaboration with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Bonus conversation with the Quincy Institute’s George Beebe:

Guest List
Helen Thompson
Professor of History at the University of Cambridge.
Jackson Lears
Professor of History at Rutgers.
Robin D.G. Kelley
Historian at UCLA.

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