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…)
Posts Tagged ‘zombies’
[Note: the following report was recovered from the hard drive of a computer found in a burnt-out office in the Arts Faculty of the University of Bristol. Earlier, clearly incomplete versions were found on the university’s servers, but this dates from a fortnight later and includes substantial material not found elsewhere. There are some significant gaps in the text, and the data files it refers to are substantially corrupted; whether the report was completed but some passages have been lost, or whether it was still a work in progress, is unclear. The lack of entries on the author’s blog from mid-November suggest an approximate terminus post quem for the completion of this draft. Efforts to contact the main author and other individuals mentioned in the text or associated with the project have so far proved unsuccessful.]
Over the last 25 years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of references to the ancient Greek historian Thucydides in numerous different contexts and media; above all in discussions of global politics (focusing, successively, on the expansion of US power, the invasion of Iraq, relations with Iran and the rise of China), and war, including commemoration of the war dead and celebrations of the service of veterans. This echoes earlier periods of Thukydidismus, including his dominance in nineteenth-century debates about the nature of modern historiography, his presence in both British and German propaganda in World War I, and the widespread citation of his ideas on bipolar systems and deterrence in the Cold War era. However, there is evidence that the present phenomenon is more widespread, both in terms of the number of different fields in which Thucydides may now appear (not only international relations and military education but school literature classes and computer games) and in the sheer weight of reference, undoubtedly aided by the development of the internet and other technologies of mass communication.