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December 22, 2021

Good stuff below:


“In April 1864, as the Senate moved to approve the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Baltimore about this question of freedom, liberty and democracy. “We all declare for liberty,” he said, “but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”” Jamelle Bouie on the late Taylor Stovall’s book White Freedom, and the need to reconceive freedom from (my words) autarky, which inevitably becomes domination, to something more like interconnected care.  As I said on twitter, it feels like a big struggle over the next century will be to resituate the notion of human freedom within the web of dependencies and enablings that human community allows individual agents.  Conservatives who value tradition, and progressives who highlight the asymmetries and invisibilities of care relations, both have something to say on this.


Good piece on how the government should use its understanding of higher ed to make the higher ed market not just more transparent, but more productive of actual education and good outcomes:

“The federal government not only has more information on college performance, but also has more experience in interpreting this information than does the typical college applicant. While it is not the government’s role to tell students where they should go, it has an obligation to identify, sanction, and possibly close institutions where students should definitely not go.”


A review of a biography about Tom Stoppard, by a critic in The Nation, which unsurprisingly finds his career insufficiently engagé.  I, equally unsurprisingly, find this review insufficiently able to appreciate Stoppard’s broadly liberal genius.  I agree that the biography sounds drearily chronicle-ish and hagiographic, though.


This is a good, if (somewhat) covertly dyspeptic, review of a good, if overtly glib book; Forrester’s book is exemplary of contemporary anti-liberalism (not just anti-Rawlsianism), and this review is exemplary of responses to those criticisms. Good for background on both. (The Forrester book is very worth your while to read, btw—an enormous amount of information delivered, interesting exegesis too, even if I dissent from many of her judgments.)


Crisp review by one of my favorite contemporary poets, A.E. Stallings, of a new biography of Milman Perry, Homeric scholar of legendary insight.  Good, but if I were to review this book, I'd play up the way in which it is also a story of academia, and how the struggles of scholarship can outlive those who began them.  Kanigel--the bio author--partly gets that right, which is good.


Not something you see every day: A smart essay on Foucault.


Interesting story about what DNA suggests regarding the early history of Japan: “We now know that the ancestors derived from each of the foraging, agrarian, and state-formation phases made a significant contribution to the formation of Japanese populations today. In short, we have an entirely new tripartite model of Japanese genomic origins -- instead of the dual-ancestry model that has been held for a significant time."


Interesting piece on Reinhart Koselleck, essayistic scholar of historiography.  Not sure what to make of this essay as a whole; it partakes in Koselleck’s rather notorious resistance to having a point, I think.


Stay safe!   Hope you're resting a bit this week, and next too.