Resistance is useless! The zombies are coming! About eighteen months ago, I suggested that the impact of my research into the modern reception of Thucydides might be measured by how far discussions of world affairs in the British media remained uncontaminated by the ‘Thucydides Trap’ meme that crops up whenever someone in the US talks about China. Well, so much for that. Earlier this month, the phrase turned up at the end of a letter in the London Review of Books – without any explanation, suggesting that not only the author but the Letters Editor were treating it as a sufficiently familiar idea not to need any context – and now Gideon Rachman (who really deserves a lot of the blame for publicising the idea on this side of the Atlantic) has opened a review essay in the Financial Times on US-China relations books with Graham Allison’s new book-length version of his theory, prompting the sub-editor to include it in the headline. Rachman raises some questions about Allison’s argument, in particular the familiar issue of whether nuclear weapons have changed the whole dynamic of such (alleged) great power relationships – but he takes Allison’s reading of Thucydides as read. Sigh.
I don’t actually think I have much to say about the ‘Thucydides Trap’ at the moment, other than “oh, do go away”, but this seems an opportune moment to update the list of blog posts where I’ve ranted more energetically about the wretched thing, for ease of reference…
The Thucydides Trap Once Again (list of blog posts up to February last year)
Starter for Ten (if we’re stuck with ‘The Thucydides Trap’ as a thing, let’s make it a panel game)
Plus, if you haven’t already read it, see T. Greer’s excellent piece as part of the zenpundit.com seminar on Thucydides back in the autumn.