Monday Morning Links

May 23, 2022

Again, nothing exciting, just some stuff I've read that seems interesting.


Jan-Werner Müller on Germany's predicament after Putin's invasion of Ukraine.  Good:

“This should be the hour of structural adjustment for Germany, and what has been called its ideology of Exportismus. It should also be the hour of some humility. Instead, a group of intellectuals – writers, comedians, professors – have published an ‘open letter’ to Scholz imploring him not to provide tanks to Ukraine. Their argument rests on what they call ‘moral norms with universal application’; they claim that the number of civilian casualties might be so high that it would be unethical for Kyiv to continue fighting. Driven in part by fear of nuclear confrontation, they are asking Ukrainians to capitulate at what a group of intellectuals – 1200 kilometres away – deems the morally appropriate point in time. Neither the right to self-defence nor the dangers of letting an autocrat get away with blackmail figure in the calculations of those seeking to hold on to what they call a seventy-year ‘European peace narrative’ that conveniently forgets about Srebrenica. They believe that a leader bent on annihilating a neighbour must be given the opportunity to save face and sell a compromise at home – which hardly squares with Moscow’s complete crackdown on opposition. In the end, they give no reason to think that Putin’s balalaika would play what their guitar wants to say.”


Sunil Khilnani on Caroline Elkins’s theory of liberal empire: mostly true, but too Manichaean. “The ungainly truth is that liberal thought has been a resource for repression and resistance alike, and theories of imperial power impatient with this ambiguity may not withstand the scrutiny they deserve.”  If Khilnani says it's too Manichean, that's saying something.


A portrait of the young philosopher Olúfemi Táíwò, and a glimpse of his new book, Elite Capture. Come to think of it, here's another piece on Táíwò. I read him as urging us all to get beyond generalities and evasions and to engage in real political labor, which is working together for common, if limited, aims, despite perduring differences and even disagreements.


A nice summary of lessons that might be learned from reflecting on the habits of Tyler Cowen, well known economist and polymath.


Hoo boy: “No one could have imagined this sale going badly,” said no one ever.


The challenges of being a Canadian artist or writer, and a larger lesson about what nationalism might be, perhaps (for this author) should be:

“In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud writes of the “narcissism of minor differences,” his term for the tiny antagonisms that simmer between bordering nations. Such rivalries, he says, are both petty release valves for aggression and the glue that enables social cohesion. When it comes to Canada and the United States, this checks out—even as one wishes that Canada, faced with an invitation to be narcissistic, had chosen a better hill to die on. I’m grateful to have been born here and to have called it home for so long. I don’t expect leaving to be easy. But this accident of birth has never seemed synonymous, or even logically correlated, with believing in a set of principles that separate us from them. I was raised to pin a little maple leaf to my backpack when I travelled, to preemptively correct the assumption that I was from the Bad Place and make other people be the ones to say sorry. This, and no more, feels like the appropriate role for nationalism—a line edit, a correction, but never substantive enough to be elevated into thesis or theme.”


Jeremy Waldron remembers the philosopher Joseph Raz.


Cool piece about why large cities may be useful antidepressants:

“With regard to depression, the most important insight is that larger cities facilitate more social interactions. And yes, this too follows the 12 per cent rule. To ground this in some hypothetical numbers, if residents of a city of 1 million people averaged 43 social contacts within the same city, then residents of a city of 10 million people would be expected to average 63 social contacts. Why is this important for depression? For about 10 years, we have known that the number of social contacts people have is strongly associated with the risk for depression: the more people you interact with, the lower your risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. Given this, it makes sense that we have found that depression rates are lower in larger cities, and that this reduction in depression rates follows the 12 per cent rule.”


Be well, everyone.  For me, just after my university's graduation weekend, and returning from a fairly busy conference trip (three conferences in 11 days!), this Monday feels like the beginning of summer.  That is a good thing for me.  May you too have a good thing begin today.