Symposium on Realism and Legitimacy

I have contributed to the symposium below:

Landmarks: A Journal of International Dialogue

The Simone Weil Center’s Symposium on Realism and Legitimacy asked a slate of distinguished experts for their thoughts on Russia’s apparent loss of legitimacy, and the United States’ apparent loss of both realism and contact with reality.

We are delighted to have received extremely thoughtful responses from Anatol Lieven, James Carden, Nicolai N. Petro, Andrei Tsygankov, Ethan Alexander-Davey, Gordon Hahn, Richard Sakwa, Paul Robinson, Adam Webb, and Paul Grenier.   

Their answers can be found below. Enjoy. 

America’s Crisis of Reality and Realism (Part I)


America’s Crisis of Reality and Realism (Part II) Richard SAKWA

Russia and the Question of Legitimacy (Part III) Anatol LIEVEN, Nicolai N. PETRO, Andrei TSYGANKOV, Ethan ALEXANDER-DAVEY, Gordon HAHN

Russia and the Question of Legitimacy (Part IV)  Paul ROBINSON, Adam WEBB, Paul R. GRENIER

From the Symposium:

“[T]he closure of the political West’s mind is the salient feature of our time. It generates a reality that is largely impervious to the concerns of others. This leaves little scope for empathy, let alone sympathy, for the viewpoints of antagonists. Power and ideas have fused, the hallmark of an ideology.”

— Richard Sakwa

“[O]ne force that may restore some feeling of state legitimacy among at least some westernizing Russian intellectuals … is the West itself.”

  — Anatol Lieven



Counter-disinformation Canadian style: poorly conceived, badly executed

I’m on a roll, publication-wise, this week. You can read my latest piece, in my capacity as a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, here. In this I respond to Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement that the Canadian government will set up a team to counter Russian ‘disinformation and propaganda.’

If you want an example of how this sort of this is done in a horribly bad fashion, I recommend the Government of Canada’s existing webpage ‘Countering Disinformation with Facts’, which I mention in my piece (you can view the webpage here). The intellectual quality of the work is shockingly poor, and leads me to conclude in my article that ‘It is doubtful that [the Canadian government] has the expertise or objectivity to do a decent job. If the new organization’s work is on the same level as previous efforts, it is likely to do more harm than good.’

Happy reading!

Inner Freedom in Russian Philosophy

Every now and again, I decide to write something a little more serious than op-eds and blog posts, in the form of peer-reviewed academic articles. They are, after all, what is expected of professors! My latest such article, entitled ‘Inner Freedom in Russian Philosophy’, has just appeared in the online version of Canadian Slavonic Papers. If you don’t have access to academic journals, the first 50 downloads are free. If you miss out on that, and are still keen to read the article, send me an email.

To read the article, click here.

To give you a flavour, the abstract reads:

This article examines the Russian concept of inner freedom by means of a study of the work of various pre-revolutionary, Soviet, and post-Soviet thinkers, namely Ignatii Brianchaninov, Konstantin Aksakov, Boris Chicherin, Vladimir Solov’ev, Nikolai Berdiaev, Ivan Il′in, Andrei Amal′rik, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Igor′ Evlampiev, and Ol′ga Sedakova. These thinkers have defined inner freedom as obedience to moral imperatives, but an obedience freely chosen, dependent on the elimination of internal and external obstacles that prevent individuals from choosing between right and wrong and acting in accordance with their consciences. The article outlines a conservative liberal tradition within Russian philosophy that has often shown a strong preference for inner freedom over outer freedom. This preference has led some of those within this tradition to be tolerant of authoritarian forms of government, but at the same time to resist totalitarianism on the grounds that the latter intrudes on inner freedom. The result is a political philosophy that to many observers may seem paradoxical, being both liberal and illiberal at the same time.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.