Essays

A garden of schizophrenics

How did our ancestors think? The written word provides crucial evidence of how language has shaped human consciousness.

The endless frontier

American state investment in science is returning. But the threats of today – pandemics, climate change, China – will require bold political leadership as well as money.

Fighting in the shadows

The nature of war has changed forever. The West must adapt if it is to ward off threats to global stability.

The triumph of the Motherland

In the cultural vacuum left by the collapse of communism, nostalgia for the Soviet Union defines and sustains the modern Russian nation.

Austria: nation, state or empire?

Studying the evolution of Austria in the 20th century offers deep insight into essential Western political categories.

The dark side to loving a group

Acts of extreme self-sacrifice – such as suicide bombing – are not aberrations. They tell us something about our deepest instincts for group loyalty.

Towards an Arcadian future

Humanity’s relationship with nature is under threat. Rather than abandoning it to the wild, however, we must embrace the age-old idea of Arcadia – and reform our stewardship of the earth.

A little history of the modern Middle East

The current violence and turmoil in the Middle East is expressive of a conflict between rival ideas, between the modern nation state and an old, historical concept of an Islamic caliphate.

The world that saltpetre built

Humberstone in Chile, now a ghost town, was once the centre of the saltpetre industry, a chemical compound useful for gunpowder and fertiliser. Its changing fortunes offer a parable for ever-present themes of abundance, geopolitical overreach and interstate competition.

Why human agency matters

We live in an age that is deeply pessimistic about the human condition. But the retreat from human exceptionalism makes for both bad science and bad politics.

The transformation of Mitteleuropa

In the decade following the fall of the Wall, Vienna went from Cold War staging post to modern European capital and change swept the entire region.

In defence of the city-state

The early modern Italian republics are often portrayed as models of bad government. But the fusion of civic humanism and Christianity they championed endures to this day.

Rethinking the Meiji Restoration

The Japanese once celebrated the Meiji period as an optimistic and outward-looking era. But relative decline has led Japan’s youth to embrace ‘hikikomori’, a philosophy of national isolation.

The geopolitical fight to come over green energy

The struggle for sustainable energy will soon put China, the US and Europe on a geopolitical collision course. But moving away from fossil fuels is a Herculean task, and a greener politics will not transcend tragedy.

Russia and the West – the path not taken

The collapse of the Soviet Union drew back the Iron Curtain, integrating Eastern Europe in the Western order. Although Russia remained out in the cold, this was not inevitable. For a brief moment in the nineties, a very different Europe was imagined.

Finding Garibaldi

Garibaldi’s retreat to his home in Caprera spawned a liberal-nationalist ideal of statesmanship that would live long in the European imagination.

Rewiring the world

Throughout history, technological change has operated within established geopolitical patterns. Today’s tech revolution is tipped to transcend those boundaries and transform international relations – but the reality may turn out to be more nuanced.

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