Kenan Malik is a London-based writer, lecturer, and broadcaster. His most recent book is The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics (2014). (January 2018)

Follow Kenan Malik on Twitter: @kenanmalik.

NYR DAILY

When Monuments Fall

There is nothing wrong in principle in removing statues: icons are created, icons are torn down—this has happened throughout history. Moral complexity may be an argument against unthinking iconoclasm. It is not, however, an argument for never taking down statues. Statues are rarely about history as such; they are about memory. That is, they are part of the process of shaping perceptions of history. That is why they have long been sites of contestation, and not just in the present.

The Great British Empire Debate

George William Joy: General Gordon's Last Stand, circa 1893

Foreign intervention and technocratic governance: these are very contemporary issues, and ones with which liberals wrestle as much as reactionaries. Liberals may despise empire nostalgia, but many promote arguments about intervention and governance that have their roots in an imperial worldview. We should not imagine that apologists for empire are simply living in the past. They seek, rather, to rewrite the past as a way of shaping current debates. That makes it even more important that their ideas and arguments are challenged openly and robustly.