Polycrisis Man: a superb historian tackles the Middle East War.

Adam Tooze, an economic historian, is less well known today than he will be in the future. Never mind this first-rate cover story by Molly Fischer in New York magazine from last year, which explains all the background in detail. Now, Tooze has tackled the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Born in 1967, into a family whose background was already complicated by ambition, Tooze studied at Kings College, Cambridge, obtained a PhD in economics at the London School of Economics, then returned to Cambridge in 1996 to begin teaching.

He published two well-received books of history – Statistics and the German State: 1900-1945 and The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy – before moving from Cambridge to Yale,  in 2009, where he then wrote a third: The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order.

After six years, Tooze left New Haven for Manhattan, and Columbia University’s history department. There he established a second life as a public intellectual, starting a newsletter and a podcast, and writing two topical books Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World  and Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World’s Economy – a level of hyperactivity rivalled in EP’s world only by economist Tyler Cowen (who last month announced his latest book, GOAT: Who Is the Greatest Economist of All Time and Why Does It Matter?)

Evidence of Tooze’s latest project can be found in two recent newsletter pieces.  The first, from last August – “Israel’s national security neoliberalism at breaking point?” – sketches the development of Israel’s  political economy and  national security strategy since the 1940s.

The second, written weeks after the October war began,  “Israel’s national security neoliberalism put to the test” – describes in greater detail policies since the collapse of the Oslo accord with Rabin’s assassination in 1995.

A third item, a column in the Financial Times earlier this month – “There will be no peace in the Middle East without politics” – telegraphs the eventual conclusion to the presumed book.

Like any scholar, Tooze relies on the work of others who have identified key turning points: Arie Krampf on Israel’s Regime Change after the Second Intifada, for example; or Israel’s plans to indefinitely maintain Gaza under Hamas on the verge of total collapse, spelled out in cables from US diplomats made public by Wikileaks in 2008.

True, this is a lot to read on a Sunday. But if you are as tormented as is EP by the wars in Gaza and the West Bank, better to read Tooze now than to wait for the book. Nobody is going match the man any time soon.

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