Tony Judt, fully Tony Robert Judt

Judt, fully Tony Robert Judt

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

Author Quotes

Broken highways, bankrupt cities, collapsing bridges, failed schools, the unemployed, the underpaid and the uninsured: All suggest a collective failure of will.

Decline, fear of strangers and an unfamiliar world?is corroding the trust and interdependence on which civil societies rest.

Familiarity reduces insecurity, so we feel more comfortable describing and combating the risks we think we understand: terrorists, immigrants, job loss or crime. But the true sources of insecurity in decades to come will be those that most of us cannot define: dramatic climate change and its social and environmental effects; imperial decline and its attendant 'small wars'; collective political impotence in the face of distant upheavals with disruptive local impact. These are the threats that chauvinist politicians will be best placed to exploit, precisely because they lead so readily to anger and humiliation.

Had brought Stalin credibility and influence, in the counsels of governments and on the streets.

I buy a lot of books I've found via the Internet, whose existences I'd otherwise never have known about.

I see what you mean about the tragic vision. But you can?t have a tragic vision in politics?not if you wish to intervene and convince (with the exception of grand turning points, from which one should not generalize). What I am against is false optimism: the notion either that things have to go well, or else that they tend to, or else that the default condition of historical trajectories is characteristically beneficial in the long-run. I think that in order to sustain such irenic visions one has to have been born at very particular historical moments and in fortunate places. Just now I think we have very good grounds for pessimism. And as you noted, I?ve tried to write an intervention that turns pessimism into a political program rather than a despairing sceptical dismissal of all possible programs.

If the era of political irresponsibility in France lasted from 1918 to 1958, the age of moral irresponsibility may be said to have begun in the mid-thirties and endured for the best part of four decades.

In the arena of economic policy, the citizens of today?s democracies have learned altogether too much modesty. We have been advised that these are matters for experts: that economics and its policy implications are far beyond the understanding of the common man or woman?a point of view enforced by the increasingly arcane and mathematical language of the discipline.

I've lost count of the interviews I've done about my illness and its relationship to my ideas and writing.

Margaret Thatcher, like George W. Bush and Tony Blair after her, never hesitated to augment the repressive and information-gathering arms of central government.

Obviously a primary liberal conviction is that we should be tolerant of other peoples' convictions. But if we believe in something, we had better find ways to say so convincingly.

Privatization reverses a centuries-long process whereby the state took on things that individuals could not or would not do.

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose.

The democratic failure transcends national boundaries. The embarrassing fiasco of the Copenhagen climate conference of December 2009 is already translating into cynicism and despair among young people:

The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears ?natural? today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth

The victory of conservatism and the profound transformation brought about over the course of the next three decades was thus far from inevitable: it took an intellectual revolution.

This makes it much easier to institute radical departures in public policy. In complex or divided societies, the chances are that a minority?or even a majority?will be forced to concede, often against its will. This makes collective policymaking contentious and favors a minimalist approach to social reform: better to do nothing than to divide people for and against a controversial project.

We are all children of the Greeks. We intuitively grasp the need for a sense of moral direction: it is not necessary to be familiar with Socrates to feel that the unexamined life is not worth much. Natural Aristotelians, we assume that a just society is one in which justice is habitually practiced; a good society one in which people behave well. But in order for such an implicitly circular account to convince, we need to agree on the meaning of ?just? or ?well?.

We need to rediscover how to talk about change: how to imagine very different arrangements for ourselves, free of the dangerous cant of ?revolution?.

What, then, should we have learned from 1989? Perhaps, above all, that nothing is either necessary or inevitable.

Worse, the language of politics itself has been vacated of substance and meaning.

But at least their provision was universal, and for good and ill they were regarded as a public responsibility.

Democracies in which there are no significant political choices to be made, where economic policy is all that really matters?and where economic policy is now largely determined by nonpolitical actors (central banks, international agencies, or transnational corporations)?must either cease to be functioning democracies or accommodate once again the politics of frustration, of populist resentment.

Far from addressing the Soviet nationalities question, the Afghan adventure had, as was by now all too clear, exacerbated it. If the USSR faced an intractable set of national minorities, this was in part a problem of its own making: it was Lenin and his successors, after all, who invented the various subject ?nations? to whom they duly assigned regions and republics. In an echo of imperial practices elsewhere, Moscow had encouraged the emergence?in places where nationality and nationhood were unheard of fifty years earlier?of institutions and intelligentsias grouped around a national urban center or ?capital.

He [Gorbachev] did initially oppose the absorption of a united Germany into NATO; and even after conceding the point in principle* continued to insist that NATO troops not be allowed to move 300 kilometers east to the Polish border?something US Secretary of State James Baker actually promised to his Soviet counterpart in February 1990. But when that promise was later broken Gorbachev was helpless to intervene.

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