Posts Tagged ‘Graham Allison’

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. (more…)

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What more is there to say about the Thucydides Trap? The issues with this as a reading of Thucydides and as a model for current US-China relations have been quite extensively discussed (see e.g. T. Greer’s excellent contribution to the current zenpundit.com Thucydides roundtable, or Seth Jaffe’s National Interest piece last year, if you’re sick of my frequent comments on this issue). And yet it keeps coming; as I’ve remarked before, any mention of tensions in the South China Seas prompts a flurry of re-tweeting of Graham Allison’s original article in The Atlantic, while this week the concept has been given a big push in another Atlantic article, this time by James Fallows on China’s ‘great leap backwards’ and the threat this poses to the USA, followed up by a blog post by Fallows in response to Trump’s cack-handed and provocative tweeting about the situation: “But if historians and citizens look back on our era as the transition point, at which 40 years of relatively successful management of U.S.-China relations gave way to a reckless focus on grievances and differences,tweets like the one today will be part of their sad record.”

What’s most striking about this latest intervention, (more…)

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Misquotations of Thucydides on Twitter, Nos.73 and 74… Nestled in among the continuing deluge of mis-spelt variations on ‘The sacred of hippiness is freedox…’ quotes – most of these are bots, I assume, changing the spelling slightly for copyright reasons – the discerning observer may occasionally spot a few new variants; yes, I’m starting to feel like one of those obsessive bird-watchers, improbably excited by the possible sighting of something that’s distinguishable from a common-or-garden variety of misquotation only by a slightly different pattern of wing stripe. But this is one of the few occasions I get to be a properly scholarly pedant, or pedantic scholar…

First up is something I’ve spotted a couple of times before without getting round to looking it up: “The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine.” Perfectly innocuous statement, indeed more or less a staple of introductions to the Mediterranean environment and the rise of classical civilisation – but nagging feeling that I can’t actually recall it in Thucydides’ Archaeology (which is the obvious place to look). (more…)

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