Some perennial, some contemporary, all relevant. It's just after the end of classes here, so we're still dealing with the craziness, but the possibility of summer beckons...
“80 Years Ago the Nazis Planned the ‘Final Solution.’ It Took 90 Minutes.” A good glimpse into the banality of evil.
“Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s current president and a former foreign minister who has spent decades working with the German civil service, expressed his profound unease and horror after he read the protocol during a visit to the villa this week: The style and language of the document was utterly familiar to him.
“What we see is a smoothly functioning administrative machine, departments coordinating, templates and procedures which — apart from the content of the meeting — are indistinguishable from those that we still have in ministries and administrations,” he said in a speech later. “It is the ordinary, the familiar, that jumps out at us, horrifies us and unsettles us.””
Good review of a book by David Runciman, a Cambridge political thinker (sometime podcaster) whose thinking I find very helpful:
“The logic articulated in what Runciman calls “the most rational book ever written about politics” is that government and people become interlocked. And the state is bound to have two faces: it is authorised to coerce citizens, but it also has to perform its task of protecting them. It deploys fear so as to release us from the fears experienced in a state of nature that is, in Hobbes’s haunting signature phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”.
This is Runciman’s main point: modern politics is characterised by an ineliminable “doubleness”. The governed and the government are separate, but also inseparable; it is because of the state that they are stuck in a permanent “co-dependent relationship”.”
Edsall on the implications of changing gender norms across the past few decades, domestically and in terms of international politics, as well.
“Lincoln’s writing skills in his mature years were primarily influenced by his youthful reading habits. His early reading tended to be intensive rather than extensive. Since books were scarce on the frontier, he would have read a few books more than once, memorizing much of what he read.”
Good piece on the young Abraham Lincoln’s reading habits.
Good on the future of naval warfare after the sinking of the Moskva.
On Ukraine and the information war; this has been one of the most revealing dimensions of this war.
It’s wild to find a somewhat sane—at least recognizably playing in the same ballpark as I am—conservative. David French is one. Consider this:
“In more culturally conservative areas of the country, the percentage who identify themselves as very religious far outstrips the percentage even in countries that the most panicked far-right-wingers embrace, like Hungary. Even the least religious American state is more religious than Hungary.”
Next up, on the other side:
“I think it’s time to talk about the very serious right-wing effort to use free speech and freedom more generally as a flag for a political, social and moral project. On campus, for example, the constant harangues about cancel culture and wokeness on the left that you get from the right keep us from seeing enormous amounts of foundation money and use of the state to try to control what is taught, to build institutes and curriculums that comport with a right-wing engine.”
A good interview with Wendy Brown about campus politics these days.
Also, I think I’m with Brown on this: “I do think that in order to feel effective in a world that makes many politically progressive or socially conscious kids feel extremely impotent, that there may be a little upsurge of righteousness; you try to control the tiny world that you’ve got. There’s probably some of that, but I agree with you not just that this is a kind of moral panic but also that it’s basically a right-wing mobilizing trope.”
(NB I do think the word “little” is a tell, there.) This is good, too:
“if we just focus on this generation’s political style — and we have to remember youth style always aggravates the elders — we ignore their rage at the world they’ve inherited, and their desperation for a more livable and just one, and their critique of our complacency. That is part of what is going on in the streets and on our campuses. But that remains different from educating that rage and helping young people learn not just the deep histories but even the contemporary practices that will make them more powerful thinkers and actors in this world. If they’re right about our complacency, what we still have to offer is knowledge and instruction and some space in a classroom to think.”
Finally: A neat little article about an image of a scholar’s library that has taken on its own life on social media. It’s so interesting that people stuck on social media center desire this library, and perhaps the kind of life it suggests, but they continue to stay on social media. I wonder what we find alluring about this, and also what keeps us away. Certainly the idea of the little island of light from the small lamps is a good. What else? Perhaps the vision of tranquility, and an escape from the immediate. It certainly calls to me.