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Episode 153: Thinking Historically About the Surveillance State


My guest today is Christopher Miller. He’s Assistant Professor of International History at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is co-director of the school’s Russia and Eurasia Program. He is author of  the books Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia (2018) and The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy (2016).

He’s also the author of a very recent essay in The American Interest, “The False Promise of the Surveillance State.” In it he argues that while the Chinese Communist Party has “forged a surveillance state without peer…information alone provides no ironclad guarantee of the Communist Party’s future.”  Reviewing numerous historical examples, he argues that “because analysis is hard, and because predictions are vulnerable to falsification, surveillance chiefs prefer to devote resources to collecting rather than predicting.” It’s a conversation that reaches back to several others over the last year, while examining something that’s news behind the news.