What Is to Be Done? by Tolstoy

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Show Notes

This week, Matt and Cameron continue their series on “What Is To Be Done,” with Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 response to the question, tackling matters of his experience with the poor in Moscow, his views on money, and the existence of an “idle class” in Russian society. Join us as we read what is ostensibly Tolstoy telling you a story about his experiences but then very suddenly becomes 100 pages of straight political theory—it’s fun, we promise.

Major themes: Idiosyncratic Religious Beliefs, Rage Against the Landed Gentry, and Fiji

33:40 - “Not a neutral,” I meant to say.

37:14 - It goes without saying that this explanation is an incredibly bare-bones version of what Anderson also argued. I also want to note that Anderson himself does not think that the outlined shared features of religion and nationalism means that nationalism is any sort of derivative of religious thinking.

41:00 - Here’s a good article from the Washington Post covering many of the details of the British complicity and exploitation of the potato famine in Ireland. Here are more particulars about food exports from Ireland in the period.

41:19 Here is an article about the usage of Malthusian logics related to the famine. If you’re looking for something a bit more technical, here’s an analysis of Malthusian logics (and whether they’re actually applicable to the real world) in relation to the famine.

42:24 - The peak of this the so-called “frontier thesis” or “Turner thesis,” which posited that the American “organism” was unique because of its westward expansionism. Assuming that things like cities are in an inevitable state of decay, Turner asserted that the US was continually revitalized by its west-ward expansions, thus creating a stronger civilization. He gets technical about how that happens, but the particulars matter not a whit because it’s pseudo-scientific drivel which exists only to justify expansionist behaviors.

The music used in this episode was “soviet march,” by Toasted Tomatoes. You can find more of their work on Bandcamp and Youtube.