Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inferiority complexes and indigenous inventions

Hobsbawm writes (The Age of Extremes, p.462):
Chinese communism [he uses a small "c"; I'd use a capital C] cannot be regarded simply as a subvariety of Soviet communism.... For one thing, it triumphed in a country with a far larger population than the U.S.S.R.... Moreover, China was not only nationally far more homogeneous than most other countries -- about 94 percent of its population were Han Chinese -- but had formed a single, though intermittently disrupted, political unit probably for a minimum of two thousand years. Even more to the point, for most of these two millennia the Chinese Empire, and probably most of its inhabitants who had a view on these matters, had considered China to be the centre and model of world civilization. With minor exceptions all other countries in which communist regimes triumphed, from the U.S.S.R. on, were and saw themselves as culturally backward and marginal, relative to some more advanced and paradigmatic centre of civilization. The very stridency with which the U.S.S.R. insisted, in the Stalin years, on its lack of intellectual and technological dependence on the West, and on the indigenous source of all the leading inventions from telephones to aircraft, was a telling symptom of this sense of inferiority.
Well, I can think offhand of one Soviet-era invention that really was indigenous and that ended up being exported to much of the world: the AK-47.

16 comments:

Ronan said...

Im going to have to read myself a decent book on Soviet foreign policy during the cold war, i think. Arne Odd Westad wrote a good one (the global cold war) but it was more a general outline of US/Soviet FP.
Leaving aside the ideological battle domestically between US and Soviet Union, the SU really weren't any better in how they conducted themselves internationally it seems.
Perhaps considerably worse ?

Ronan said...

Im sorry, thats kind of tangential to the post ; )

thusbloggedanderson said...

Tangential or not, ya find one, tell us about it please!

... I talk all the time about FX's "The Americans," but the 2d season premiere led with an American cowboy type striking an arms deal w/ some mujahadeen, except the cowboy was a KGB agent who shot them both. So there's some foreign policy for ya!

I'm hoping this season explores any qualms the agents have about their homeland, and that the show hangs on long enough for Gorbachev & glasnost.

LFC said...

Somewhat -- though not completely -- tangential to the post and comments: on Monday I'm going to a talk by the author of this:



which deals w/ US-Soviet rels. from Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to end of the Cold War.

As to who was better or worse during the CW in terms of FP: well, that's a question way too big for a comment box, and i'm probably not the right person to attempt an answer anyway.

LFC said...

Messed up the link. Trying again.


here

LFC said...

There are various takes on US/USSR during the CW of course, but one perspective holds that they basically struck a tacit agreement, at least after the '61 Berlin crisis, to more or less freeze the status quo in Europe, and the rivalry was mostly conducted by proxy wars in the TW and supporting different sides in civil wars (eg Angola), all of which is prob well covered by Westad.

I'm sure studies in English specifically focused on Soviet foreign policy during the breadth of the CW do exist, but w/o a little bit of rudimentary research I don't know the titles offhand. I'm thinking maybe Adam Ulam, though his bks I think were more US-Soviet than just the USSR. (Plus wdn't cover the most recent period.)

Ronan said...

There are a few books out recently (clogging up my amazon wishlist) that look at the cold war in the third world, (when it was called the third world), from a domestic perspective ie how local independence movements manipulated the superpowers to their own ends. Ive not really got around to any of them but ill throw up a few names in due course

LFC said...

There's Margot Light, The Soviet Theory of International Relations 1917-1982. Haven't read it. Prob not quite what you're looking for.

Meanwhile new bks on US foreign policy 1945-present continue to roll of the presses. E.g., Stephen Sestanovich, Maximalist; Hal Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy?

LFC said...

roll off the presses

Ronan said...

Thanks LFC.
All of this talk reminds me that Niall Ferguson has a Kissinger bio coming out soon..
I'm actually warily thinking it might be alright. His reputation is resting on it (well, kind of. I guess his rep is ruined) and he could pull off another House of Rotschild moment ie unlimited access to personal archives and a *groundbreaking piece of work*, (that apparently no one has read but is still a classic)
It could be worth reading, all going well.

LFC said...

Ronan,
Thanks for telling me that about Ferguson. Not sure why anyone wd do another bk on Kissinger, personal archives or no, authorized bio or no. I wd think there's no way Ferguson's politics will not intrude -- i.e., they will intrude -- even if the bk is v. serious/scholarly.

thusbloggedanderson said...

"All of this talk reminds me that Niall Ferguson has a Kissinger bio coming out soon."

Thanks for the warning.

Ronan said...

Anderson - I'm sending a copy to Mississippi. Obviously I dont have your adress or name etc, but Itll find you, god willing

LFC said...

You cd address it to:

"Lawyer Who Blogs Somewhere in the Vicinity of Jackson MS and Whose Real Name May or May Not Be Anderson"

That should challenge the relevant postal services.

;)


More seriously, I didn't mean to prejudge *completely* the Ferguson bk. As it happens, a while back I noticed that he was teaching an undergrad seminar on Kissinger and I wrote a short, prob. snarky (don't really remember) post about that. So I shdn't have been surprised by the news of the book. (I still haven't Googled to get the details.)

thusbloggedanderson said...

Ronan - I think there's a federal law against sending terror threats like that. The NSA is watching!

LFC said...

All I can say at this point is thank goodness this blog is so (relatively) obscure. (On second thought, never mind "relatively": obscure, period.)

[Btw, there will be non-humorous (albeit abbreviated) linkage here tomorrow, in case anyone thinks that the grim news in the world is entirely escaping me...]