So Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian. In recent years, he became something of a hero to liberals for a series of books particularly “On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century,” which became something like a Bible for worried liberals early in the Trump era. These are books about what it feels like and what you do when your society is beginning to creep down or trip down the road to authoritarianism. But that perspective for Snyder, those learnings, they don’t come from his immersion in American politics. They come from his immersion in Ukrainian politics and history. Snyder’s core academic subject is Ukraine.
TIM SNYDER: Yeah, thanks for asking about that. I think time is a really essential component of politics. But it has the feature, like many important ideas, that it seems self-evident or natural to the point of invisibility. [NOTE: you can check out my blog posting from yesterday to see that I, also, think that "time" is a really essential component of politics]. So time is a kind of parameter for everything else. The way we think about time just becomes as natural as breathing. But actually the way we think about time is an idea.
So by the politics of inevitability, I mean the notion that sometimes goes under the heading of progress. I mean the idea that some kind of outside force is going to guarantee that the things that we desire and wish for are actually going to come about. And if that seems abstract, then what I mean in particular with reference to the United States after the end of communism in 1989 is the notion that there are no alternatives left in the world.
To quote Margaret Thatcher or to quote Frances Fukuyama, history is over. And it’s inevitable that a larger force, namely capitalism, is going to bring about the thing that we desire, namely, democracy and freedom. And that idea was in the air. That idea shaped everything else. And I think that idea has a lot to do with the crisis of democracy and freedom that we’re in right now....
What the politics of inevitability does is that it teaches you to narrate in such a way that the facts which seem to trouble the story of progress are disregarded. So in the politics of inevitability, if there is huge wealth inequality as a result of unbridled capitalism, we teach ourselves to say that that’s kind of a necessary cost of this overall progress. We learn this dialectical way of thinking by which what seems to be bad is actually good.