RecensionsBook Reviews

The Return of History : Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century, Jennifer Welsh, The Return of History : Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century, Toronto / New York, House of Anansi Press, 2016, 347p. (ISBN : 978-1-4870-0130-8)[Notice]

  • James D. Thwaites

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  • James D. Thwaites
    Associate Professor, Département des relations industrielles, Université Laval

There is a certain tendency to relate the field of industrial relations to specific situations and micro-level events, and to concentrate often on a short- or mid-term time-frame. However, it is also important to consider industrial relations with regard to overall social, economic and political developments with impacts on various time frames. Such phenomena can have a broad impact and even become “game changers” for the world of industrial relations. The effects of COVID-19 serve as useful examples and suggest a number of questions for future policy-making. The macro/micro preoccupation is, in fact, less a question of opposition than one of the identification of a continuum : from the global to the specific and vice-versa from the short-term to the mid-term and finally to the long-term. Moreover, this continuum has numerous intermediate points, and it is important to consider these various points with a view to both policy and action. Jennifer Welsh’s book on The Return of History definitely falls into the macro category and the issues she raises are destined to have a variety of impacts by ricochet at various levels of society. At first glance, through the title of her book, the anonymous opening quote and the first chapter, Welsh targets Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History in what appears to be a debunking exercise. A good part of the first chapter is devoted to this subject and underlines the fact that, at many times in the past, socio-economico-political advances have been subsequently reversed in spite of their significance and initial promise. She goes on in the next four chapters to highlight a selection of problems that we might have hoped had been solved but which, she argues, have come back to haunt us. It will be recalled that Fukuyama’s initial piece on this subject appeared in article form in the journal The National Interest in 1989 under that exact title. That was the heyday of reflection inspired by Gorbachev’s policies of Perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost (openness) in the Soviet Union and they would go on to have a definite effect on Russia’s future orientations and those of its satellites. For starters, the Berlin Wall would be breached for the first time during the fall of 1989, followed by the abandonment of the practice of military intervention in satellite countries of Europe and, finally, the putting aside of aspects of the former Soviet state and its apparatus. Belgian scholar Nagels, writing at about the same time as Fukuyama, had his own take on what appeared to be in the works. The old system, he argued, was a distortion of communism. This is an argument with which Gorbachev himself seems to have been in agreement, as expressed in a more recent book, at least as far back as the early years of the Soviet state and the Stalinist era are concerned. Thus, there appeared to be grounds for believing that the conflicts generated by the ongoing East-West crisis were coming to an end. Indeed, Gorbachev discussed this and provided his own hopeful impressions at the time, emphasizing nuclear détente and a host of other favourable considerations. Welsh argues, however, that hopes for an end to the various problems that had dogged the world during the Cold War were, at the very least, premature, and, at worst, dead wrong. They have all come back but with a twist, for, as she pointed out, history never repeats itself exactly. This argument serves as an introduction for the reader to chapters two to five of her book, which appear under the titles : The Return of Barbarism ; The Return of Mass …

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