Marx on history

Found this in the introduction to Oliver Tambo speaks, a book containing letters, speeches, etc. from the leader of the African National Congress during much of the Apartheid era who died from a stroke shortly before the '94 elections (whose name might now be most frequently heard internationally perhaps due to having the primary airport in Johannesburg named after him).

The quote is from Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

The quote in the book included one sentence more, but I'd like to include a different chunk of that paragraph in Marx's original:

... just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95.

The anti-library

From Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You'll Ever Have Time to Read :

Taleb kicks off his musings with an anecdote about the legendary library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a jaw-dropping 30,000 volumes.

Did Eco actually read all those books? Of course not, but that wasn't the point of surrounding himself with so much potential but as-yet-unrealized knowledge. By providing a constant reminder of all the things he didn't know, Eco's library kept him intellectually hungry and perpetually curious.

... An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations - the vast quantity of things you don't know, half know, or will one day realize you're wrong about.

A few of the books I've currently got on order: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, A Culinary Journey of South African Indigenous Foods (inspired by reading this history of African cuisine), Lysenko's Ghost: Epigenetics and Russia, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia, and Finite and Infinite Games. That said I do intend to read these ... something of course said of any book I acquire but which unfortunately the scarcity of time sometimes forbids.

Random links

The boy who cried crisis
A 2011 post on what leads to negative stereotypes of Africa: "Kenny portrays this as a classic tragedy of the commons situation: optimism is kind of a global commons, one that is depleted every time an NGO focuses on the horror, the horror of it all. The aid/charity community would probably be better off if everyone stopped doing this, but the private incentives to continue are just too great."
Does Work Make Mothers Happy?
"Analyzing multiple measures of subjective well-being, the paper shows that homemakers are generally happier than full-time workers. No significant differences between homemakers and part-time workers were found. Contrary to our expectations, homemaking was positively associated with happiness particularly among mothers who left higher quality employment for childcare. Though some variation across countries exists, it is not linked to the provision of formal childcare, duration of parental leave, or tax system."
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and A Short History of Drunkenness - Reviews
"Apparently 43% of British women and 84% of British men want to drink less ... Only 3% of millennials say that drinking is “an essential part of socialising”, and there has been a “40% rise in millennials choosing to be teetotal”."

Studying history


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