Actual Images of the Russian Revolution of 1917: Dynamics and Perspectives

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

It is important not only to analyze the legacy of the Russian Revolution of 1917 from the point of view of historical science, but also to bear in mind its impact on the modern information and ideological processes. Discussing the Russian Revolution has become a way to think and talk about today, and different approaches to the discussion correspond to different views on modernity and different political ethics. There are five approaches to the evaluation of the Russian Revolution in the ideological space of today: the classic liberal, the neoliberal, the Western left, the Russian left, and the traditionalist approach.

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Between Localism and Cosmopolitanism: A Look at Zhou Zuoren’s Early Construction of the Individual

Lisa Chu Shen’s “Between Localism and Cosmopolitanism: A Look at Zhou Zuoren’s Early Construction of the Individual” appears in Telos 180 (Fall 2017), a special issue on Cosmopolitanism and China. Read the full article at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our online store. Individual subscriptions to Telos are now available in both print and online formats.

This essay examines the modern Chinese intellectual Zhou Zuoren’s imaginations of the modern individual along the lines of the nation, the locality, and the world in the tumultuous historical period of the early twentieth century. It is argued that his oscillations between these geographical categories constitute one of his most complex and intriguing intellectual struggles. They reflect an intellectual’s critical capacities to think and reflect as he responded to the vicissitudes of the times. The article looks at Zhou’s essays, both analytical and critical, which form the basis for the three stages into which his thoughts are divided, representing the gradual transitions from one set of tendencies to another—from nationalism to cosmopolitanism to (cosmopolitan) localism.

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A View of the Future and the Social Tradition

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

Today is the time when we get to discuss our future together. This is a rare occasion that may or may not occur every hundred years. For once, we now have Russians, Americans, and Europeans sitting in one boat and considering together how to pass the rapids without capsizing. Steering out of the impasse where we have been driven by the global crisis requires clear thinking and direct, candid dialogue, i.e., the return to the “direct statement” culture. And this is exactly the way in which I will take the liberty to speak. I term the manner of speaking plainly in scientific discussions as “intellectual diplomacy.” And there are times when it is capable of achieving greater results than the combined efforts of the foreign ministries of a number of countries of the world.

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Cosmopolitanism and Alternative Modernity in Twentieth-Century China

Sheldon Lu’s “Cosmopolitanism and Alternative Modernity in Twentieth-Century China” appears in Telos 180 (Fall 2017), a special issue on Cosmopolitanism and China. Read the full article at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our online store. Individual subscriptions to Telos are now available in both print and online formats.

My essay joins the revisionist project of rewriting modern Chinese intellectual history. The historiography of modern China usually foregrounds the theme of nationalism in the grand narrative of China’s arduous struggles for liberation, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, and anti-capitalism. Radical breaks from the Chinese tradition or from the outside world have occurred in the form of a series of earth-shaking revolutions throughout the twentieth century: the Republican Revolution that overthrows the Qing Dynasty in 1911; the Communist Revolution that leads to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949; the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976); and so forth. Amidst the fiery rhetoric of revolution, the voice of a conciliatory, non-revolutionary, mild cosmopolitanism could be easily muffled. This essay attempts to re-examine the discourse and practice of cosmopolitanism in twentieth-century China.

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The Sarah Halimi Affair and the Taboo on the “New” Anti-Semitism

The following essay was originally published in French at Le Figaro Vox on July 14, 2017, and is published here by permission. Translated by Russell A. Berman.

In the night of April 4, 2017, in Paris, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was savagely killed. Her murderer, Kobili Traoré, a radicalized Muslim with a Malian background and a long police record, assaulted her for forty minutes, first in her living room and then on her balcony. He shouted “Allah Akbar,” while degrading his victim, called her a “fat whore” and a “shaitan” (a demon in Arabic). From their windows and later from the courtyard, several neighbors heard and then witnessed, in disgust, the massacre. In Noémie Halioua’s excellent article in Causeur, she reports the testimony of one of them: “First I was woken by the moans of a creature in suffering. It was torture. First, I thought it was an animal or a baby. But then, lifting the blinds and opening the window, I recognized that it was a woman moaning as she was being beaten. With each blow, I heard a moan; she did not even have the strength to cry out anymore.” Kobili Traoré strikes her so hard that his fist is swollen. When he sees the light of the police flashlights in the courtyard, he yells, “watch out, there is a woman here about to commit suicide,” as he seizes his victim, still alive, by her wrists and throws her over the banister of her balcony. Sarah Halimi lays in the courtyard, dead, covered in blood.

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Courage as an Intellectual Virtue and the Puzzle of President Trump

American academics have much to lament about President Trump: his break with civility, his vilification of Mexicans and Muslims, his indifference to truth and to conflicts of interest, his hostility to science, his devaluation of diplomacy. Directly on campuses we recognize the vulnerability of undocumented students and dwindling numbers of international students. As a result, many faculty members and administrators have responded harshly to his presidency.

Yet President Trump retains the enthusiastic support of his base. This support stems to some degree from his courage, which contrasts so prominently with normal party politicians. Trump is a fighter who speaks his mind without constraint, mocking political correctness, challenging the Washington establishment, threatening North Korea, and pulling no punches even against allies. Trump himself has elevated this virtue. His campaign posters announced: “It’s easy to stand with the crowd; it takes courage to stand alone!”

But Trump is the opposite of courageous if one has any meaningful concept of this intellectual virtue.

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