Where I’m going and why: progress report
Here is an update since my New Year’s “Shazam!” lightning bolt. My proximate aims are to complete my novel on the Paris Commune of 1871 and to produce more essays on the multiple crises of our time. In fact these are all parts of the same project, because my novel is intended to help me, and possibly you, understand our current crises. Through the novel I’ll describe the beginnings of tensions that still reverberate today: rapid technological change, disruption of established social patterns, creation of new modes of inequality and widening gaps, and the new strategies of revolt. Whether or not they take the Paris Commune as a conscious model, today’s insurgents are necessarily repeating some of the same arguments and tactics pioneered there—though with much more deadly weapons.
Now the progress report. On the novel, I now have a map of where it is going and the stages to pass through to get there. I plan to begin with a display of the power and glory of the Second French Empire just before its disaster, with the Exposition Universelle of 1867. I hope to complete the draft before the end of this summer.
As for the essays, I have notes to develop as soon as I complete the draft of the novel. Meantime, I’ll have to limit my observations to very brief comments on such issues as: the political confusion in Spain; the reconfiguration of Chavismo, Peronism, the P.R.I., and other “populisms” in Latin America; the resurgent nationalist and parochial interests tearing apart the European Union; and a new subject for me, but an unavoidable one, the appeal of Jihadi terrorism and how not to confront it.
Why do I think it is my job to understand the world? Not mine alone, obviously; I frequently name at least a dozen colleagues—journalists, sociologists, political scientists—who are contributing to this effort. (See my earlier blog posts on Zygmunt Bauman, the late Ulrich Beck, the also now-departed Tony Judt and many others; you can find them through the search box on this page.) It is my duty to be part of this team because that’s what I’ve trained to do. My education and experience, and my good will toward this planet and our human race, oblige me.