Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze’s books include Crashed, about the financial crisis. Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy will be reviewed in a future issue of the LRB.

Ecological Leninism: Drill, baby, drill

Adam Tooze, 18 November 2021

Given the reality of the underlying conflict, division and strife are not to be regretted, but embraced – an essential Leninist lesson. To adopt an antagonistic stance is to do no more than respond adequately to the situation. As Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective conclude in White Skin, Black Fuel, ‘if nothing else, the anti-climate politics of the far right should shatter any remaining illusion that fossil fuels can be relinquished through some kind of smooth, reasoned transition ... A transition will happen through intense polarisation and confrontation, or it will not happen at all.’ From this point of view, the question isn’t whether liberal activists do or don’t want to engage in sabotage. If we keep to our current course, sabotage is coming. If it isn’t directed from the top, it will bubble up from below. The question is whether the mainstream climate movement can ready itself for the agonising dilemmas to come. Can it sustain its coherence and momentum in the face of crisis, violence, division and, quite likely, defeat?

‘If it were announced that we faced a threat from space aliens and needed to build up to defend ourselves,’ Paul Krugman said in 2012, ‘we’d have full employment in a year and a half.’ If 21st-century America needed an enemy, China was one candidate. On foreign policy, Krugman is perhaps best described as a left patriot. Where he had once downplayed the impact of Chinese imports on the US economy, he now declared that China’s currency policy was America’s enemy: by manipulating its exchange rate Beijing was dumping exports on America. But to Krugman’s frustration Obama never turned the pivot towards Asia into a concerted economic strategy. You might argue that in Covid we have found an enemy of precisely the kind Krugman was imagining. As far as Europe is concerned, an alien space invasion isn’t an implausible model for Covid. This novel threat broke down inhibitions in Berlin, and the Eurozone’s response was far more ambitious than it was after 2008. But America isn’t the Eurozone. For all Krugman’s gloom, it didn’t take a new world war to flip the economic policy switch. 

Whose century? After the Shock

Adam Tooze, 30 July 2020

The mistake in thinking that we are in a ‘new Cold War’ is in thinking of it as new. In putting a full stop after 1989 we prematurely declare a Western victory. From Beijing’s point of view, there was no end of history, but a continuity – not unbroken, needless to say, and requiring constant reinterpretation, as any live political tradition does, but a continuity nevertheless. Although American hawks have only a crude understanding of China’s ideology, on this particular matter they have grasped the right end of the stick. We have to take seriously the CCP’s sense of mission. We should not comfort ourselves with the thought that because nationalism is the main mode of Chinese politics today, Xi’s administration is nothing more than a nationalist regime. China under the control of the CCP is, indeed, involved in a gigantic and novel social and political experiment enrolling one-sixth of humanity, a historic project that dwarfs that of democratic capitalism in the North Atlantic.

Shockwave: Shockwave

Adam Tooze, 16 April 2020

Once you lose control all the options are bad: shut down the economy for an unforeseeable duration, or hundreds of thousands die. Trump hasn’t mastered the challenge; instead, he expresses through his vacillations and erratic utterances the impossibility of doing so by any means that won’t cause a lot of pain. In the guise of Trump the economy appears not so much as a superego laying down the law, but as an irrepressible impulse that insists we satisfy its demands regardless of the cost, a symptom not of realism but of derangement. Trump thus personifies something that is in fact common to Europe and the US: a lack of leadership at the level appropriate to dealing with a pandemic. Instead, the job has devolved to regional governors in the US and national governments in Europe, to desperately overstretched medical services, on the one hand, and the technicians of economic policy and social relief, on the other. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of individuals and their families cope as best they can. As with climate change, we are left praying for a deus ex machina in the form of a scientific breakthrough.

AngelaMerkel had a bad start to 2019. The right-wing AfD was on the rise. The reaction of the German security services to the race riots in the East German town of Chemnitz had raised questions about right-wing infiltration of the state apparatus. And then came a request from the National Gallery in Berlin for the loan of two pictures that hung in Merkel’s chancellery office. Both...

As the Lock Rattles

John Lanchester, 16 December 2021

Much of the poorer part of the world is still susceptible to the disease, and as long as it is, many more people will die, and the risk of new and more dangerous variants will remain. In May 2020, the...

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Bait and Switch: The Global Financial Crisis

Simon Wren-Lewis, 25 October 2018

In​ 2007, Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, was asked by a Swiss newspaper which presidential candidate he was supporting. He said it didn’t matter: ‘We are...

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A Bit of Chaos: The Great War and After

Margaret MacMillan, 5 February 2015

A common​ and still widely accepted story of the origin of the Second World War is that it was the direct result of what happened in 1919 at the end of the Great War. The French were...

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Richard Evans’s history of the Third Reich – it will be completed by a third volume covering the war – is an invaluable work of synthesis. The mass of specialist studies we now...

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