Jeremy Friedman is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit of Harvard Business School. After receiving his B.A. in History and Philosophy from Stanford in 2004 and his Ph.D. in History from Princeton in 2011, he went to Yale where he became Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and taught classes on the history of the Soviet Union, Russia, Asia, and the Cold War.
Friedman studies the history of communism, socialism, and revolution in Russia, China, and the developing world. He examines how the project of socialist revolution and leftist thought more broadly evolved over the course of the twentieth century, particularly as revolutionary battle-grounds shifted from the industrialized countries to the developing world in the wake of decolonization. He has published journal articles in Cold War History and Modern China Studies, as well as non-academic pieces in The National Interest, The Diplomat, The Moscow Times, and China’s new foreign policy magazine The Paper. His first book, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015, focuses on the competition between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China for the mantle of leadership of a supposed world revolution, in particular through their efforts to find a viable model of political and economic nation-building for the newly independent states of the Global South. Research for the book involved work in ten countries on five continents, and many of the documents cited are no longer available to historians due to classification issues.
His current project, entitled Revolutionary Dreams: Constructing Third World Socialisms, will shift the story from the policies of the imperial centers in Moscow and Beijing to the efforts of developing nations to find a viable model of socialism during the Cold War. In particular, the book will include chapters on Indonesia, Tanzania, Chile, Angola, and Iran. His research interests include Soviet and Russian history, modern Chinese history, the Cold War, economic and political development in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, decolonization, international relations, modern intellectual history, the history of Marxism, political movements and ideologies, and revolutionary movements.
What do you do best?
I am most interested in seeing the world through others’ eyes. My work is primarily about trying to understand the ideologies, thought processes and value systems that motivate other societies and their policy makers and make these phenomena intelligible to our own scholars and policy makers. Too often we either underestimate the complexity and conviction of other actors on the world stage, or we make the mistake of assuming that they ultimately think as we do.
What makes you the best?
I grew up inhabiting two different cultures, languages, and value systems, growing up as an Orthodox Jew and attending an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva. I was never able to take for granted concepts such as ‘freedom’ or ‘good,’ and I was acutely aware of the tensions between the values I was being taught in school and synagogue and those I encountered in popular culture. Ever since I’ve been fascinated by the value systems by which others live and how they use those value systems to shape the world.
Getting a series of institutions – several universities, the US government – to pay for me to continue learning languages and traveling the world. Hopefully I can make those investments pay off.
What are your aspirations?
Personal: I’ve always been a hopeless romantic and I’d like to build a family. I’m also perpetually trying to be kinder and more patient.
Business: There is a lot of discussion about inequality these days, especially why the country – and the world – is so unequal and what we should do about it. Something that often gets lost is that the struggle against inequality also has a history, and this history shapes both our understanding of the phenomenon and the solutions proposed. One of my ambitions is to resurrect and illuminate this history. I also hope to increase our understanding of our primary foreign policy adversaries – especially Russia, China, and Iran – so that our relationships with them can be more productive.
Most challenging moment?
Every time I am faced with a blank page that I need to fill.
“Don’t say ‘What happened because the earlier days were better than these?’ because it wasn’t out of your wisdom that you asked this.” Ecclesiastes
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Barrel Pickles from the Lower East Side
Pastrami from Katz’s
Persian language/Iranian culture
New York Mets