Leaders shape history less than they think—with some exceptionsby Archie Brown / February 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Mistaken though he was in elevating his own hopes and expectations into inexorable laws of history, Karl Marx aptly wrote: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”
Getting the balance right in historical and political analysis between the limiting conditions imposed by political, economic and social context and the part played in effecting change by particular individuals is never easy. Even to speak of getting it “right” is a simplification, for the relationship between context and personality will continue to be debated for as long as historians and social scientists thrive.