History of ideas

Heads of section: Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, Wesleyan University and Ferenc Laczó, Maastricht University

This section covers new research in intellectual history and discusses the history of ideas that shape contemporary debates on democracy. Recent and ongoing focal points within the section include global intellectual history; the relationship between democracy, liberalism, and populism; memory and inclusivity, and contemporary European history.

Fantasy and Trauma: Dan Stone on Writing the History of the Holocaust

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Dan Stone – author of the new book The Holocaust: An Unfinished History – discusses various ways the history of the Holocaust has been misunderstood; addresses the challenges of narrating the Holocaust and clarifies his own interpretative framework; sketches the European dimension of the genocide and how…

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Taming the Anthropocene: Zoltán Boldizsár Simon and Lars Deile on a New Era of Historical Understanding

In this conversation, our guest contributor Alexandra Medzibrodszky talks with Zoltán Boldizsár Simon and Lars Deile, the co-editors of the recently published volume “Historical Understanding: Past, Present, and Future” (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022). The conversation focuses on the theory of history, reflecting on our changing perceptions of historical time; the relationship between the past, present, and future; the…

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Dictionary of Received Ideas (About Fascism)

Engaging with the difficult task of deconstructing firmly rooted myths, Corner’s main goal is to answer two questions: (1) How far does the affirmation of “many good things” done by Fascism corresponds to the historical reality?; and (2) Why do so many people today share a “permissive memory” of Fascism?

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Beverly Gage on J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Beverly Gage – author of the new biography “G-Man. J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century” – discusses how Hoover built and shaped the FBI and what made him enjoy such an exceptional and long-lasting career; dissects his contradictions, reflecting on the sources of…

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How the Necessary Cold War Ended – and Why an Unnecessary One Followed It: Archie Brown on the Political and the Personal in the Relationship Between the West and the Soviet Union/Russia

In this conversation with RevDem assistant editor Iker Itoiz Ciáurriz, Archie Brown – author of the recently released book “The Human Factor. Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War” – explains why he approaches the end of the Cold War through the study of political leaders; explores the different personal formations…

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Emancipating Jews from Narratives of Victimhood and Redemption: Susan Neiman Discusses Germany’s Current Memory Culture

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Susan Neiman dissects what has made the articulation of universalistic Jewish commitments increasingly difficult in the German public sphere; explores why debates concerning global colonialism and the Nazi-colonial connection tend to be so fraught in the country; explains what post-colonial criticisms misunderstand about the intellectual heritage of…

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How 2000 people made an impact at a time when society was silent: András Bozóki on the rolling transition of Hungary

In this discussion, RevDem Managing Editor Michał Matlak discusses with András Bozóki about his last book, “Rolling Transition and the Role of Intellectuals: Case of Hungary”, published this year by Central European University Press, which tells a compelling story of the role of intellectuals in political and social change that took place in Hungary between…

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Liberalism Hasn’t Provided Adequate Answers to Today’s Major Crises: Luke Savage on Contemporary Liberalism and Its Democratic Socialist Critique

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Luke Savage – author of “The Dead Center. Reflections on Liberalism and Democracy After the End of History” – discusses key aspects of his critique of contemporary liberalism; reflects on the role of generational experiences in shaping the search for a political alternative; offers a detailed assessment…

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Why film matters: Oksana Sarkisova on the importance of documenting society

In this conversation with RevDem assistant editor Lucie Hunter, Oksana Sarkisova – Blinken OSA Research Fellow and the Director of Verzió International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival – discusses the role of filmmaking in today’s society; how festivals are reacting to contemporary global conflicts and challenges; the importance of safekeeping visual archives; and how micro-histories…

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Why Do Autocracies Last? Lucan Way on the Longevity of Revolutionary Regimes

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Lucan Way – co-author, with Steven Levitsky, of the new book “Revolution and Dictatorship: The Violent Origins of Durable Authoritarianism” – introduces what revolutionary autocracies are; explains why they tend to prove much more durable than other kinds of authoritarian regimes; discusses how the revolutionary sequences so crucial for…

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The Trouble with Fortune: Zsuzsanna Szelényi on Hungary’s Tainted Democracy

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Zsuzsanna Szelényi – author of the new book “Tainted Democracy. Viktor Orbán and the Subversion of Hungary” – analyzes the main characteristics of the Orbán regime and the techniques Hungary’s current rulers have employed to establish their dominance over the country’s economy; reflects on the dilemmas and strategies…

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Democracy as a Way of Facing Obstacles: Lilia Moritz Schwarcz on Brazilian Authoritarianism and the Unfinished Project of Full Citizenship

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz – author of the book “Brazilian Authoritarianism” – contrasts mythological and critical-realistic versions of Brazilian history; discusses the main facets of authoritarianism in the country; compares the Bolsonaro phenomenon with the Trump one; and elaborates on her vision of democracy and full citizenship.

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A Path to Democracy Without Destabilization: Joseph Wong Explains the Types of Development and the Patterns of Uneven Democratization in Modern Asia

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Joseph Wong – co-author with Dan Slater of the new monograph “From Development to Democracy. The Transformations of Modern Asia” – discusses when and why regimes have chosen to democratize in modern Asia; how come types rather than levels of development have shaped countries’ democratic prospects; why Singapore and China remain…

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A Global History of Hungary: In Conversation with Ferenc Laczó, Bálint Varga, and Dóra Vargha

In this conversation with Bence Bari and Orsolya Sudár, editors Ferenc Laczó and Bálint Varga and contributor Dóra Vargha discuss the new volume “Magyarország globális története, 1869-2022 (A Global History of Hungary, 1869-2022)”. The conversation focuses on some of the innovative questions posed by trying to reconceptualize the history of a Central and Eastern European…

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Davide Rodogno on the Troubled History of Western Humanitarianism

In this conversation with guest contributor Nikola Pantić, Davide Rodogno discusses his new book Night on Earth: A History of International Humanitarianism in the Near East, 1918-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2021). The conversation focuses on the reasons why the Middle East became a popular destination for Western humanitarian agencies in the first decades of the…

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The ‘New Europe’ Campaign: The Failure of Liberal Internationalism and the Resilience of Imperialism

Historians of the Habsburg Empire and the First World War analyze the fascinating story of Robert William Seton-Watson’s propaganda for the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of a ‘New Europe.’ They historicize ideas concerning the ‘balance of power’, European integration, anti-imperialist liberal internationalism, and the making of the post-Habsburg nation-states in Central…

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Interrogating the Fantasy and Impact of Displacement: A Conversation with Lorenzo Veracini on Settler Colonialism as a Political Idea

In this conversation, Lorenzo Veracini reflects on key ideas in his new intellectual history of settler colonialism The World Turned Inside Out. He outlines the transnational coherence of the political sensibilities and rhetorical traditions of settler colonialism and shows how attention to ideas and practices of displacement might help us make sense of the historical…

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What is Christian Democracy? A Book Discussion with Carlo Invernizzi Accetti

In September CEU Democracy Institute and the Review of Democracy held the symposium “The Past and Present of Christian Democracy” where leading scholars discussed the historical significance and contemporary state of Christian Democracy. The first panel was dedicated to Carlo Invernizzi Accetti’s book “What is Christian Democracy? Politics, Religion and Ideology”. The book was discussed…

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Mark R. Beissinger: Revolutions have succeeded more often in our time, but their consequences have become more ambiguous

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Mark R. Beissinger introduces his unique global dataset and probabilistic structural approach to revolution; analyzes the prevalent form of revolution in our age he calls “urban civic”; dissects how the consequences of revolution have shifted over time; and reflects on how revolution may be changing again today.

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Historians and Populism: Regional Perspectives and Entanglements

In light of the recent solidifying of what could be named as ‘populist international’, we are opening a conversation on one of the first areas and people that were targeted: history and historians. Populist regimes and their supporters feed themselves on historical myths, distortions and subversion of the public debate on historical themes.

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5 Books on Putinism

Our editors Kasia Krzyzanowska and Michal Matlak have selected 5 books that encourage a better understanding of the aggressor: Vladimir Putin and the system he has created.

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Maarten Prak: Democracy in medieval and early-modern towns was stronger than democracy post 1789

In this interview with Maarten Prak, hosted by Karen Culver, they discuss Maarten’s book Citizens without Nations: Urban Citizenship in Europe and the World c. 1000-1789. Maarten comments on how citizenship functioned in medieval and early modern Europe; why the term “urban governance” is preferable to “urban democracy”; how accessible guilds were at this time, and more.

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Dunstan: Black thinkers have contested the principles of democracy in ways that are central to the experience of these democracies

Sarah Dunstan in conversation with Ferenc Laczó talks about her new monograph “Race, Rights and Reform”, maps the landscape of Black activist thought across the French Empire and the United States from World War One to the Cold War; shows how gender operated in tandem with the dynamics of race and class; underlines how the end of empire connected…

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Dimitry Kochenov: Why we shall abolish citizenship

Professor Dimitry Kochenov in conversation with Michał Matlak explains why he believes citizenship is a “perpetuation of the ideas of aristocracy,” sexism, and racism; what can be done to fix this issue; and what motivated him to write “Citizenship” (MIT Press, 2019).

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Emily Greble: European History via the Experience of Muslims

Emily Greble in conversation with Ferenc Laczo discusses what foregrounding Muslims’ agency implies for the writing of European history; what were key legacies of the Ottoman Empire and how Muslims became a distinct legal minority; in what ways they related to the major political movements of the twentieth century; and how focusing on their experiences…

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Linking sexual diversity to otherness is an old phenomenon 

Bence Bari interviews Tamás Dombos, the representative of the Hungarian LGBTQI organization ‘Háttér Society’ concerning the recently adopted Hungarian anti-LGBT measures, their transnational and historical background with respect to the global dynamics of acceptance, and homophobia between the Western and Eastern hemisphere.

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What After the Pandemic?

Kasia Krzyżanowska reviews for us “Pandemonium” by Luuk van Middelaar, a book that summarizes the crisis he deems as most important for the EU in decades: the coronavirus pandemic.

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Emily Levine on the Hard Compromises behind Academic Innovation

In conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Emily Levine (Stanford University) discusses key ideas in her new book “Allies and Rivals: German-American Exchange and the Rise of the Modern Research University”, a transatlantic monograph that draws on extensive historical research and applies sociological theory to study how the academic social contract was repeatedly renegotiated in…

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Lea Ypi: Ideas of freedom across a historical rupture

Lea Ypi in conversation with Ferenc Laczo about her new memoir “Free: Coming of Age at the End of History” and how the people who populate its pages help her connect historical experiences with philosophical thought; how she experienced and dealt with the rupture of 1990 that forced her to reassess her childhood; how that…

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Thinking like Hannah Arendt

Our editor Kasia Krzyżanowska (EUI, CEU) talks with Samantha Rose Hill, professor at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, about her recently published biography of Hannah Arendt. 

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