Reading for Saturday, June 20

Okay, I’m starting to get on Tolstoy’s wavelength here, and starting to be intrigued by his argument.

So we read in the last chapter about power and whether that’s a good explanation for things. Now Tolstoy expands on his argument.

I feel a bit sheepish having to basically repeat his argument, because you can read it for yourself – but in case you couldn’t follow it – the idea is quite simply this:

Okay, let’s assume that history can be explained by a dozen guys at the top ordering everyone else around. Why do the millions of other people do what the guys at the top say?

You can either go down a path where the guy at the top somehow represents the will of all the people under him – but to what extent? (Tolstoy elaborates on this a lot more, but I’ve got to leave some things for you to read . . .) Does he really represent all people? Of course not. Some of the people? What percentage?

Once you get down that path – well, then, what huge impact does the leader at the top have? If history is made up of the millions of movements of the masses, and the guy at the top really doesn’t represent the masses, then to focus on the great man is not really to explain history. You can look back in hindsight and say, “So and so caused this to happen.” But that’s only because the masses chose to follow that person.

If they’d rebelled against the guy at the top (something Russians are fond of), well, then, it would be a completely different story.

The argument continues tomorrow . . .

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace E2.4 – The Source of Power

  1. Yes, this is once again Tolstoy getting into the real crux of his disagreement with traditional views and analyses of history – he shows how simplistic it is, and how little it accounts for rebellion and conflict. But, as always when I read these passages of Tolstoy, I am struck not only by the force and cinviction of his argument, but also by the essential humanity of it. I can’t help but feel that Tolstoy’s real motivation for being so dismissive of traditional “top-down” analyses of history, is not so much an academic one, but a moral one – the traditional view devalues the very thing that Tolstoy valued and loved so much: the universal greatness of all humanity.

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