Recovering at (almost) end of semester

May 11, 2021

We're almost there.  It's been quite an academic year.  Hopefully this summer will be good.  For now, there's a few links:


Interview with Charles Mills, author of The Racial Contract and Black Rights, White Wrongs and other great books, a good thick conversation, including this:

If liberalism has never lived up to its ostensible principles and values, that goes no way in proving that the principles and values are themselves unattractive ones. The illuminating way to understand these violations of (ideal) liberal norms, I suggest in the book, is not as the consequence of an intrinsically self-undermining “illiberalizing” dynamic within liberalism but rather as a manifestation of the corrupting results of group power…Particularly at the present time of authoritarian ethnonationalism’s attack on liberal norms, it is all the more reason to affirm them.

Highly recommended.


A nice piece about Philip Roth, very rich with detail. As expected, he sounds like a piece of work.


Hmm, “more education does not make you happier” is the headline in this piece, but what it really says is that being at others' beck and call makes you miserable.


Asking the hard questions here.


This is a rich account of Habermas that implies that he and liberalism are both over.  I'm unconvinced, and it’s got weird moments like when it says Carl Schmitt argued that “liberal democracy must itself be a kind of collective faith if it is to survive.”  But it's got a bunch of good explanatory bits, particularly on how Habermas’s theories have repeatedly come to grief on the problem of non-rational energies, such as ethnic identity, nationalism, and the like—which his account may need more than he admits, and which his account seems also unable directly to confront.

It also seems to me mistaken about this: “behind his liberal veneer is an emotional and ultimately irrational heart.”  First of all, the whole point of liberalism, if you believe people like Trilling and Berlin and Camus, is that the irrational is inextirpable, and must be acknowledged; but it can be managed, better or worse; and second, it’s just possible, just barely possible, that the “heart” is not so necessarily irrational, and that reason and emotion may be more complicatedly related than this piece imputes to Habermas, and maybe affirms for itself?


Found this piece via Jamelle Bouie’s newsletter, it’s very good, Jamelle’s newsletter and this piece, you should read both.  From the piece:  “Misinterpretation is when people incorrectly understand meaning. Disinterpretation is when they don’t have the intention of understanding it.”


A very good piece from 2020, evincing a mild skepticism of the ambitious claims of so-called “political psychology” to be able to route political differences of belief and even behavior in different peoples’ “natural” propensities towards one side or the other. As Klein points out here, different partisan responses to the pandemic revealed the limitations and flaws of such claims.


Be well everyone!