This new collection by Walter Laqueur, one of the most distinguished historians and political commentators of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, vividly brings to life his perspective on fifty years of political life. The essays in this volume deal with events ranging from more than seventy years ago to some that have not yet happened, but may in years to come. Laqueur divides his writings into five main areas: optimism in politics, the topic that unites this volume; Europe; the Arab Spring; Israel and Jewish affairs; and recollections of the past.
This volume addresses an increasingly important question: How much optimism do we need in politics? Some neuroscientists believe that many of our assessments rest on an excess of optimism amounting to a dangerous bias. Another school of cognitive scientists sees the main danger in being influenced too much by negative conclusions. Although these competing perspectives have been only rarely investigated, Laqueur argues that such psychological factors play a decisive role in the assessment of political trends, and they should.
Laqueur also reminds readers that there is a connection between writing history and commenting on current affairs, but it is not remotely as close and simple as often thought. The idea that the historian is somehow better qualified than others to interpret the present, let alone predict the future, is certainly not borne out by the evidence. Some great historians have been good and reliable political commentators, others have been miserable failures. Laqueur definitely falls in the former camp, as these reflections attest.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Optimism in Politics
Optimism in Politics
The Marxism Renaissance
Reflections on the Next Revolution
On Youth Movements (1970)
Part 2: Europe
Night Thoughts on Europe
Europe United: An Essay in Counterfactual History (April 1, 2012)
Part 3: Middle East: The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring
Revolution in the Middle East?
Cassandra in Cairo
Part 4: Israel and Jewish Affairs
The New Million
The Kibbutz at 100
Recollections of Jerusalem
Bloodlands The Snyder Version
George Mosse: Berlin to Madison
Guttentag: Breslau to Cochabamba
The Kaiser's Spy, Jihad, and the Jewish Nazis
Part 5: Departure and Arrival