Jul 162012

To understand history clearly we have to see our own political opinions for what they are. Although we like to think of them as ‘ours’, they are not really our thoughts at all, in the sense that property is ours. We share them; they are communal.

Political opinions that are not shared are not very useful. They put us at odds with our neighbours. Nor can they ever be implemented; a political party of one would be a sorry and impotent thing.

Our politiical opinions, therefore, are not like revelations, and they are not very original. But they come from somewhere and they are about something.

That somewhere and that something is to be found in history, is about history, and in time will make and shape history.

 Posted by at 10:23 am
Jul 152012

Hello everybody!

Or, as I write – hello nobody!

As yet. Here’s hoping.

I have been meaning to set up something like this site for a long time. I have finally done so to coincide roughly with the publication by Hachette of my second book, Jinnah vs. Gandhi,  shortly to become available in good (Indian) bookshops and on Amazon, I hope.

This site is not really an attempt to promote the book. Trying to promote anything on a small personal website is like trying to be noticed by lighting a match in a blizzard, so this site is a place for me to set down some wider thoughts about history on two main levels – 1.) how to view what was really happening, and 2.) how it has been written up. These two strands are, of course, related, and unpicking them has been very enlightening, and a great deal of fun.

As a preview of what is to come I propose to explain, inter alia:

-  how the left-right struggle can be viewed firstly as a measure of sensitivity to difference, and only then as being about class, wealth or the size and purposes of the state

-  that although the left identities capitalism as its enemy, capitalism is only coincidentally a friend of the right

-  that what is distinctive about modernity is not technology but individualism

-  why and how politics and religion don’t mix well

- that religion doesn’t actually start wars

- that there are grand themes discernible within history, but that they are not the ones usually touted by conventional schools of thought

-  that self-government is the great driver of historical development, not any single collective human category, such as class

-  that although categorical thinking (about class, race, faith, nation) helps organise and direct human actions, it is all contingent and it changes constantly, despite the earnest contention of its users/prisoners that it doesn’t

- that human political motivation is not about one single element, such as economic gain, but is a complex, composite thing that can helpfully be broken up into three layers – interests, opinions and identities.

… and much more.

All this is very ambitious, I realise, but my excuse is my purpose, wbich is to set out a less poisonous and contentious account of humanity’s affairs, in the idealistic hope that those affairs might become less likely to continue at the fevered pitch that brings death and destruction. To do that I also realise that what I write must be not only clear but convincing. Over to you.


 Posted by at 2:30 pm