History is not individuals

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I’ve noticed this too. We’ve come a long way from Braudel:

As I more closely looked at the books displayed, I noticed a peculiarity. Almost all books … on the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions were not only critical of the revolutions, focused on the destruction they wreaked, but were exposés of their leaders, of their murderous natures and sexual perversions. Robespierre is a green-spectacled misanthrope who never had sex; Lenin hated people and loved only his mistress; Stalin was not only a mass murdered but also a serial Georgian (thus, swarthy, dark and hairy) sexual predator; Mao was an obsessive, maniacal murderer who enjoyed deflowering young girls.

It was a weird feeling. The writers who seemed to belong to the tabloid school of journalism rather than to be historians, reacted, I suppose, to the deification of these leaders by their followers, by trying to do the reverse. …

I think it is an unfortunate development which is destructive of serious scholarship and reflects the predominantly tabloid culture of today: all actions ought to be explained or reduced to sex, money; and, among those who “suffer”, explained by fear. No room is left for economic interests of the classes, ideology and beliefs, emulation or self-abnegation.

It could be that these “histories” are not really histories of the past but rather histories of the time when they are written, that is of today. At the time where there are no beliefs and everything is individualized and commercialized, all history needs to be explained as having been the product of crass self-interest of few individuals. …

How these individuals managed to convince millions to follow them, or how, more accurately, the millions found them to make them their champions and leaders, is ignored and left unexplained. Moreover, the explanation is consider superfluous. We go back to a view of history where there are no social forces, no classes, but only individuals: leaders and those being led, the lions and the sheep in Pareto’s terminology.