Tony Judt, fully Tony Robert Judt

Tony
Judt, fully Tony Robert Judt
1948
2010

British Historian, Essayist and University Professor Who Specialized In European History

Author Quotes

As in the past, therefore, eastern Europeans have had to compete with the West on a markedly uneven playing field, lacking local capital and foreign markets and able to export only low-margin foods and raw materials or else industrial and consumer goods kept cheap thanks to low wages and public subsidy.

By 1945, few people believed any longer in the magic of the market. This was an intellectual revolution. Classical economics mandated a tiny role for the state in economic policymaking.

Elections to Parliament, congressional elections and the choice of National Assembly members are still our only means for converting public opinion into collective action under law. So young people must not abandon faith in our political institutions.

For thirty years students have been complaining to me that ?it was easy for you?: your generation had ideals and ideas, you believed in something, you were able to change things. ?We? (the children of the ?80s, the ?90s, the ?aughts?) have nothing. In many respects my students are right. It was easy for us?just as it was easy, at least in this sense, for the generations who came before us. The last time a cohort of young people expressed comparable frustration at the emptiness of their lives and the dispiriting purposelessness of their world was in the 1920s: it is not by chance that historians speak of a ?lost generation?.

History is not written as it was experienced, nor should it be. The inhabitants of the past know better than we do what it was like to live there, but they were not well placed, most of them, to understand what was happening to them and why.

I grew up in a world where the social democratic state was the norm, not the exception.

I went to live on a kibbutz, and I'd idealized the world of collective, agrarian work, where everyone was equal, everyone contributed, that all this awful European intellectual stuff just fell away.

I'm regarded outside New York University as a looney tunes leftie, self-hating Jewish communist; inside the university, I'm regarded as a typical, old-fashioned, white male liberal elitist. I like that. I'm on the edge of both; it makes me feel comfortable.

Instead of acting in court, I decided to act onstage.

Life closely track your income: residents of wealthy districts can expect to live longer and better.

Moreover, it was social democracy and the welfare state that bound the professional and commercial middle classes to liberal institutions in the wake of World War II.

Over the past thirty years we have thrown all this away.

Sixty years after Hitler's death, his war and its consequences are entering history. Postwar in Europe lasted a very long time, but it is finally coming to a close.

the 20th century morality tale of ?socialism vs. freedom? or ?communism vs. capitalism? is misleading. Capitalism is not a political system; it is a form of economic life, compatible in practice with right-wing dictatorships (Chile under Pinochet), left-wing dictatorships (contemporary China), social-democratic monarchies (Sweden) and plutocratic republics (the United States).

The implicit consensus of the postwar decades was now broken, and a new, decidedly unnatural consensus was beginning to emerge around the primacy of private interest.

The past was neither as good nor as bad as we suppose: it was just different. If we tell ourselves nostalgic stories, we shall never engage the problems that face us in the present?and the same is true if we fondly suppose that our own world is better in every way. The past really is another country: we cannot go back. However,there is something worse than idealizing the past?or presenting it to ourselves and our children as a chamber of horrors: forgetting it.

There is some evidence that Gorbachev conceded this crucial point inadvertently, when he acceded in May 1990 to President Bush?s suggestion that Germany?s right of self-determination should include the freedom to ?choose its alliances?.

Undergraduates today can select from a swathe of identity studies.... The shortcoming of all these para-academic programs is not that they concentrate on a given ethnic or geographical minority; it is that they encourage members of that minority to study themselves - thereby simultaneously negating the goals of a liberal education and reinforcing the sectarian and ghetto mentalities they purport to undermine.

We have entered an age of insecurity?economic insecurity, physical insecurity, political insecurity. The fact that we are largely unaware of this is small comfort: few in 1914 predicted the utter collapse of their world and the economic and political catastrophes that followed. Insecurity breeds fear. And fear?fear of change, fear of decline, fear of strangers and an unfamiliar world?is corroding the trust and interdependence on which civil societies rest.

What did trust, cooperation, progressive taxation and the interventionist state bequeath to western societies in the decades following 1945? The short answer is, in varying degrees, security, prosperity, social services and greater equality. We have grown accustomed in recent years to the assertion that the price paid for these benefits?in economic inefficiency, insufficient innovation, stifled entrepreneurship, public debt and a loss of private initiative?was too high. Most of these criticisms are demonstrably false.

Whether capitalist economies thrive best under conditions of freedom is perhaps more of an open question than we like to think.

As recently as the 1970s, the idea that the point of life was to get rich and that governments existed to facilitate this would have been ridiculed: not only by capitalism's traditional critics but also by many of its staunchest defenders.

By the early ?70s it would have appeared unthinkable to contemplate unraveling the social services, welfare provisions, state-funded cultural and educational resources and much else that people had come to take for granted.

Europe is not re-entering its troubled wartime past?on the contrary, it is leaving it. Germany today, like the rest of Europe, is more conscious of its twentieth-century history than at any time in the past fifty years. But this does not mean that it is being drawn back into it. For that history never went away.

For three decades following the war, economists, politicians, commentators and citizens all agreed that high public expenditure, administered by local or national authorities with considerable latitude to regulate economic life at many levels, was good policy.

Author Picture
First Name
Tony
Last Name
Judt, fully Tony Robert Judt
Birth Date
1948
Death Date
2010
Bio

British Historian, Essayist and University Professor Who Specialized In European History