en Monday Morning Links <span>Monday Morning Links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Again, nothing exciting, just some stuff I've read that seems interesting.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Jan-Werner Müller</a> on Germany's predicament after Putin's invasion of Ukraine.  Good:</p> <blockquote> <p>“This should be the hour of structural adjustment for Germany, and what has been called its ideology of <em>Exportismus</em>. 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.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Sunil Khilnani</a> 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.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">A portrait</a> of the young philosopher Olúfemi Táíwò, and a glimpse of his new book, <i>Elite Capture</i>. Come to think of it, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">here's</a> another piece on Táíwò. I read him as urging us all to get beyond generalities and evasions and to engage in <em>real</em> political labor, which is working together for common, if limited, aims, despite perduring differences and even disagreements.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">nice summary</a> of lessons that might be learned from reflecting on the habits of Tyler Cowen, well known economist and polymath.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Hoo boy</a>: “No one could have imagined this sale going badly,” said no one ever.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">The challenges</a> of being a Canadian artist or writer, and a larger lesson about what nationalism might be, perhaps (for this author) should be:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Jeremy Waldron <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">remembers</a> the philosopher Joseph Raz.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Cool piece</a> about why large cities may be useful antidepressants:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>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.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Mon, 05/23/2022 - 06:48</span> Mon, 23 May 2022 10:48:04 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14684 at After a trip, some links! <span>After a trip, some links!</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>I'm back!  I've been on a twelve-day trip across two continents and three countries--the UK, Germany, and Texas.  Now I'm in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, waiting for a flight home.  It feels like the summer starts tomorrow for me.  I'm hoping to keep posting stuff here every once in a while, at least once a week, maybe more...we'll see.  For now, anyway, just some links.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">David Bell reviews</a> Joan Wallach Scott’s new book <i>On the Judgment of History</i>—which sounds terrific—and also reflects himself on the crisis of the historical (not simply the historiographical) imagination in contemporary thinking.</p> <blockquote> <p>“In this new and despairing state of affairs, it is perhaps also no surprise that many people have turned so harshly judgmental about so much of the past itself. If you believe that each successive historical age becomes more enlightened, then it is easier to attribute misdeeds in the past to their authors’ unfortunate lack of enlightenment relative to us. If you believe in progress as an inevitable force, it may not seem worth the trouble to develop elaborate condemnations of these misdeeds, since you can rest assured that the bright and happy future will see and judge them with ever-greater clarity. But if history appears to have no necessary direction to it, then there is less reason for charity toward a supposedly benighted past and no reason at all to have confidence in the way the future will judge it.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>“The center remains valuable ground to hold in France, but challenges from the periphery are mounting.” <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Troubling news</a> about what Macron’s reelection in France tells us for the future of politics there.</p> <p> </p> <p>An <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">edifying portrait</a> of Russia’s top central banker, Elvira Nabiullina.  She seems super-competent, immune from corruption, and smart.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> is indeed a great explainer, from April, regarding why so many economists were surprised by inflation. </p> <p> </p> <p>Such a cool <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">piece</a> on early urbanism, current debates in archaeology, and much more!!</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Serious</a>. “Not since the days of Jim Crow—when some states segregated African Americans in public places and others didn’t—have the rights of Americans been so clearly differentiated by state as they will be if, as expected, the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Really good <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">piece</a> puncturing one bit of recent hype about AI.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ok: having read <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> I am as suspicious as ever, esp about the individual-centered focus of the piece (what about reforming institutions?), but I think this is actually thoughtful and I will think about it and if you’re an academic I think you should maybe read it too.</p> <p> </p> <p>Take care, everyone!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sat, 05/21/2022 - 17:54</span> Sat, 21 May 2022 21:54:54 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14683 at Just the links, ma'am <span>Just the links, ma&#039;am</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>It's been a few days...classes finished, exams ahoy, and about to go on a big international trip (!!) for the first time since the pandemic began.  (Well, we came back home to the US during the pandemic, in July of 2020, so maybe that's not technically accurate.  But still.)  Looking forward to the conferencing ahead (no, really), but it's meant that I've been bearing down on getting a lot of work done here, clearing the decks before I take off.  So I've been silent--sorry.</p> <p>Maybe during the trip I'll post more?  Who knows??  For now, there's this.</p> <p> </p> <p>A thick <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">profile</a> of Adam Tooze. This seems right: “What Tooze gives a reader like Williams is not a piercing, singular insight but a sense of rigorous mastery.…Tooze’s great intellectual power is a gift for synthesis.”  Also the phenomenon of “Tooze boys,” which seems to me terrifying—I appreciate Tooze’s work, but it itself begs to be, well, <i>related </i>to other approaches, other methodologies. People looking for a person to tell them what to think are precisely not what we need more of. Also, I didn’t know that Tooze’s grandfather is Arthur Wynn, noted KGB agent and thus traitor to the UK. (People in Western Europe—the part that the KGB didn’t oversee for forty years—don’t like the analogy, but imagine if your grandpa was a Nazi spy; it’s akin to that.)  Nonetheless, despite the questionable family history, despite the apparently endless psychodrama of his life (multiple therapists a week! my friend, I would say, balance that with some yoga, or even go to church or something like that)—every time I hear the guy I really enjoy his clear enthusiasm and the way the thoughts and ideas come tumbling out of his brain, through his mouth. He’s very much worth your while. Just don’t become a Tooze boy.</p> <p> </p> <p>Vaclav Havel is always worth reading, and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this piece</a>, from 1994, is no exception, not least for its prescience.  “To make my point briefly and simply: it seems to me that the fate of the so-called West is today being decided in the so-called East.”</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">fascinating look</a> at some new quantitative and archaeologically-based approaches to understanding premodern cities.  Sounds to me like there’s some resonances with Georg Simmel on things here. </p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Fun little thing</a> (by a parent and child, both astute) on Glenn Gould, whose recordings I’ve been in love with for almost thirty years, now.</p> <p> </p> <p>Don’t ignore the fact that the Ukraine war is <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">tied up with a larger religious dispute</a> about the Eastern Orthodox world.  “Moscow’s push for control in recent years has taken on aspects of a religious Cold War. The Russian and Eastern Orthodox prelates have battled for dominion over churches in Africa, Korea, Singapore and elsewhere.” </p> <p> </p> <p>Is the Ukrainian war going to be a catalyst like the Korean War was?  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This piece</a> asks that question.  I don’t like what the author anticipates as conseqences, but he may well be right.  Highly recommended.</p> <p> </p> <p>Take good care, everybody.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sun, 05/08/2022 - 21:30</span> Mon, 09 May 2022 01:30:08 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14638 at Links up-to-dated <span>Links up-to-dated</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>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...</p> <p> </p> <p>“80 Years Ago the Nazis Planned the ‘Final Solution.’ It Took 90 Minutes.”  A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">good glimpse</a> into the banality of evil.</p> <blockquote> <p>“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.</p> <p>“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.””</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good review</a> of a book by David Runciman, a Cambridge political thinker (sometime podcaster) whose thinking I find very helpful:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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”.</p> <p>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”.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Edsall</a> on the implications of changing gender norms across the past few decades, domestically and in terms of international politics, as well.</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p>“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.”</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good piece</a> on the young Abraham Lincoln’s reading habits.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good on</a> the future of naval warfare after the sinking of the Moskva.</p> <p> </p> <p>On <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Ukraine and the information war</a>; this has been one of the most revealing dimensions of this war.</p> <p> </p> <p>It’s wild to find a somewhat sane—at least recognizably playing in the same ballpark as I am—conservative.  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">David French is one</a>.  Consider this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Next up, on the other side:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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.” </p> </blockquote> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">good interview</a> with Wendy Brown about campus politics these days.</p> <blockquote> <p>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.”</p> </blockquote> <p>(NB I do think the word “little” is a tell, there.)  This is good, too:</p> <blockquote> <p>“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 <i>educatin</i>g 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 <i>think</i>.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Finally: A neat little <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">article</a> 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.</p> <p> </p> <p>Serenity now!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Wed, 05/04/2022 - 11:37</span> Wed, 04 May 2022 15:37:02 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14594 at Just some more links <span>Just some more links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>More recent stuff, some of it.  All of it good though!  US FDA approved.</p> <p> </p> <p>“It is ironic that books about innovation are so imitative. But that is how ideas become ideology.” <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good review</a> by my friend Johann Neem of three of the most recent books on higher education.  (Is there any other "industry" that provokes so many attacks and defenses? Policing?)</p> <p> </p> <p>Flatlining population? Hard not to locate the cause of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> in a collapse of hope and optimism, about the future and about the American project in general.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting piece</a> on the history of poverty: “Even after two centuries of the global fight against poverty we are still in the early stages. The history of global poverty reduction has only just begun.”</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>An <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">informative post</a> on music in Hell.  Personally, I think kazoos will be involved.</p> <p> </p> <p>Pretty OK <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">backgrounder piece</a> on Talking Heads (not <i>the</i> Talking Heads, thank you).  I still think “Life During Wartime” is the visionary song of our era.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Cool story</a> about the digitization of the Vatican’s Oriental Institute library, focusing on Eastern Christianities.</p> <p> </p> <p>Interesting, if slightly defensive (and preemptively dismissive), <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">analysis</a> of negative book reviews.</p> <p> </p> <p>Is the liberal world order experiencing a reboot with the successful Ukrainian resistance to Russia, and the West’s rallying around Ukraine?  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting article</a> to ponder.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ponder on.  And please don't get in any twitter spats.  They're totally not worth it, almost every time.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Mon, 05/02/2022 - 14:02</span> Mon, 02 May 2022 18:02:13 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14535 at The Linky Month of May <span>The Linky Month of May</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Hello all!  Hope all are well.  It's May first!  A new month!  A happy month!!  Classes end for us this coming week.  All are ready for the summer to begin, or at least the spring semester to end.  Wherever you are, I hope you are looking forward to coming months as well.</p> <p> </p> <p>Here's <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Appiah's review</a> of Graeber and Wengrow from this January.  “Graeber and Wengrow appear to cherish their thesis a little too much and, like overprotective parents, tend to keep it away from the chilly drafts of adverse evidence."  Exactly: my worry is precisely about the truthiness of books like this, and the ease with which they confirm the leaders prior biases, and become a matter of wish fulfillment.  (And <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">here</a>, by the way, is a recent collection of responses to the book from some more quantitatively-minded scholars.  Some are cranky, sure (upset esp about the modes of argument the book employs), but I found esp the Archaeologist Michael Smith on cities very good.  All are worth checking out, anyway.)</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Great collection</a> of philosophical pieces on Steven Sondheim, who died last fall.  Worth reading, and watching the clips they use to illustrate their points, whether you like philosophy, or are just a Sondheim fan.  And <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">also great</a> on Sondheim:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sondheim’s songs — including the ones that have become standards, like “Send in the Clowns” and “Losing My Mind” — have this fundamental complexity, but they have another shared quality on top of that, too. When you listen to a Sondheim number, you feel that the singer is totally embodying whatever is going on with them but also standing slightly outside of it. They are distanced from themselves, don’t quite know their desires, and are often caught between some expression of the idealized past and the more compromised present.</p> <p>…In their worst cases, Sondheim’s characters can risk becoming ghosts in their own lives, obsessed with their inability to connect, preoccupied with failure. But Sondheim’s insight partly is that we’re all haunting our own lives, both in the mark our real choices leave and in the possibilities our lives have contained. If we didn’t contain this internal conflict, this multiplicity, we would be something less than human. Saying that the things in life that make us suffer are also the things that bring us joy feels a little trite, but the reason that it feels that way is because it is difficult to really believe. When I listen to Sondheim, I do believe it, at least as long as the song runs.</p> <p>Sondheim’s ability to observe these qualities in his characters comes from paying sustained and loving attention to others. There’s nothing cold or cruel about it, even when what the characters are saying or doing is degrading or wrong.“</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>TS Eliot, archetypal modernist poet of impersonality, perhaps a-personality, even anti-personality, and some of the revelations afforded by his finally opened correspondence with Emily Hale. <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This piece</a> is on Elliot‘s relationship with Virginia Woolf.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Eliot is the famous poet of modernist impersonality, the father of the New Critical maxim that we don’t need to know about a poet’s life to appreciate his poetry. And yet Eliot himself becomes immensely personal as we read these letters — as he explains sources, struggles with drafts, and longs for Hale’s understanding.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting</a> on <em>Confessions of the Flesh</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Foucault’s detractors are not wrong about the extent of his influence—even if they tend to mischaracterize it. Over the past fifty years, he has exercised a broader impact on the academic humanities and social sciences than almost any other thinker. By some measures, he is the most cited author across those fields. In late 2020, however, some began to observe that Foucault’s citations, as reported by Google Scholar, had dropped precipitously over the course of that year, even as the global pandemic and the unprecedented political responses it generated would seem to make his account of biopolitics more relevant than ever.</p> <p>Given long academic publication timelines and the likely role of random fluctuation, we probably shouldn’t read too much into Fou­cault’s 2020 citation slump. Nevertheless, it is emblematic of a curious absence. Even though the elite university graduates who shape media narratives and policy discussions are highly likely to have encountered his ideas, his critical account of the politics of public health has had essentially no impact on debates around Covid-19 policy. The simplest explanation of this omission is that while he is largely embraced on the political left, his account of biopolitics is at odds with many views now prevalent on that side of the spectrum.</p> </blockquote> <p>More:</p> <blockquote> <p>The irony of Foucault’s current status, therefore, is that the implications of his work are at odds with many of the views of the degree-holding professional class among whom his influence is puta­tively the strongest. Conversely, despite the widespread derision of Foucault that has long prevailed on the right, his skeptical perspective on the politics of expertise resonates with the attacks on liberal-dominated expert institutions and the propagandistic weaponization of “science” lately heard in conservative precincts. This unacknowledged realignment is newly evident in the Covid era. But even before last year, the peculiarities of Foucault’s U.S. reception obscured certain valences of his work that might have troubled many of his erstwhile admirers.</p> <p>In 1977, the philosopher Jean Baudrillard exhorted the public to Forget Foucault in a polemic published under that title. Judging by his far larger impact in academia in subsequent decades, Foucault seemed to get the better of his rival. Nevertheless, his almost total absence from public debates around the Covid pandemic, and the political responses to it, suggests that, in spite of his massive influence, we did forget Foucault—or at least the parts of his work most challenging to our guiding political assumptions. The Left, which has spent decades poring over his oeuvre in its academic redoubts, has in the past year largely acquiesced to a dictatorship of expertise that might as well be using the Foucauldian account of biopower as an instruction manual. Its abandonment of the tools of critique offered by his work has been sudden and almost total.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Are academically trained humanists <i>experts</i>?  Do aesthetic judgments have value beyond opinion?  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This is a thoughtful review</a> of Michael Clune’s argument in the affirmative.  I think this is roughly correct.</p> <p> </p> <p>Yes:</p> <blockquote> <p>If music is to have a bright future, as well as a storied history, today’s composers — impressive voices like Andrew Norman, Kate Soper and Daniel Bernard Roumain — will take us there. It’s dismaying that, of some 100 pieces that the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will perform on its main series this season, just two are by living composers, and neither was written in the 21st century.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Anthony Tommasini said farewell last December</a>, and that Classical music must conserve some things, but definitely be open to the new.  Also good on the struggle to retain the ambience of the actual performance of music with “natural acoustics” in an age of digital reproduction and enjoyment—how <i>listening</i> and <i>performance </i>have pulled apart in modernity.  A quasi-Benjaminian moment, for sure.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Neat story</a> of a man who had an almost 40-year career in the Vatican library. For some of us, this would be an amazing career. For him, I bet it was.</p> <p> </p> <p>Very thoughtful <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">brief piece</a> on the question of the US Dollar’s role in geopolitics, and the recurring debates about whether the dollar-based system is going away.  And another, larger-picture piece on the economics of the war.</p> <p> </p> <p>Yeah, the New Yorker <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">seems to be a bit cowardly</a> on this one.  Or evasive?  And which one is worse?  Is there a difference?  Serious questions.</p> <p> </p> <p>So many things to learn!  Or at least to read.</p> <p> </p> <p>Take care!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sun, 05/01/2022 - 12:02</span> Sun, 01 May 2022 16:02:34 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14521 at Some links <span>Some links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>The thing about academic time is, it's lumpy.  Our calendars are clotted with various events and periods where life is crazy.  For me the craziest are the times from just before Thanksgiving until the middle of December, and then the second half of April till early May.  But even then, if we can see the far side of the chaos, there is hope.  This morning I am feeling hope.  And so I give you some links:</p> <p> </p> <p>First of all, a pretty <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">great list</a> of some good restaurants in &amp; around Cville.  This really only scratches the surface, but it is still pretty good.  If you're not from here, come visit!</p> <p> </p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">interesting backstory</a> to the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby”</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Helpful review</a> of a recent bio of Edward Said.</p> <p> </p> <p>John Ganz, one of my recent favorites on the web, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">on Sam Moyn</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Moyn sometimes seems above all engaged in a great rolling of his eyes at the language of his peers, a gesture that he wants to give the appurtenances of moral outrage.” </p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good interview</a> by Julia Ioffe with Serhiy Leshchenko, one of Zelensky’s close aids.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">good review</a> of a collection of pieces by Paul Krugman.</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p>“Few accounts of neoliberalism treat the fall of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 or the collapse of communism as capitalism’s chief global antagonist as seminal events. But they were.”</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good interview</a> with Gary Gerstle, whose new book on the history of neoliberalism is out.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Remember</a>: TikTok is a political actor, owned by the PRC. Even if others intermediate between the central government and the corporation.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good piece</a> on Putin’s current situation. “The political scientist Adam Przeworski once <a href="">wrote</a> that authoritarian equilibrium rests on economic prosperity, lies or fear.”</p> <p>  </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> is a very interesting, and historically rich, analysis of what the Ukraine war, and the Nagorno Karabakh war of 2019, can tell us about the future of combat, and the future of the tank.</p> <p> </p> <p>Last but not least: Jon Malesic <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">in the NYT</a> on less work.</p> <p> </p> <p>Be well, all!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Fri, 04/29/2022 - 07:15</span> Fri, 29 Apr 2022 11:15:35 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14504 at Ambitions in writing <span>Ambitions in writing</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>This <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">piece</a>, B.D.McClay, is an interesting one about ambition.</p> <p>Surely most people have ambition, yes?  But <i>for what</i>, I guess, is the question.  By “having ambition” here, I mean only that people do things for hopes that are large, if perhaps a little inchoate—aspirational, as it were.  We act for aims that are vast but perhaps only loosely associated to our everyday practices; they are not modular attachments, like lego pieces, snapping firmly and securely onto our quotidian behaviors, but neither are they wholly detached from them; instead, the tether is more like an astronaut’s life line, or a fetus’s umbilical cord, loose and maybe a bit elastic, but still connected and vital.</p> <p>People’s ambitions are, in my own experience, manifold.  Some write for themselves; some teach for an imagined student; others work for their family, or their parents, or for some image of themselves.  Everyone is in one way or another teleological, in this loose sense.</p> <p>But McClay—the author of the piece—is right about the kind of ideal that many (not all) of us aspire to:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I suppose another way of putting this position is that excellence requires a mix of arrogance and humility; arrogance as to your capabilities, humility toward the work. Arrogance says that you can and will accomplish your desires; humility understands that a greatness that transcends excellence, let alone survives, is not actually in your hands. You have to submit: to the truth, to the real, toward the bends and knots of what is coming to be through you. This is hardly less grandiose and mockable than Stanley’s original statement — I just think that it’s more true. I want something that is real to come to be through me.”</p> </blockquote> <p>But I also think she spoils this thought by stepping back into a kind of lame and chaste modesty, which she tries to anchor in the fact that she writes non-fiction:</p> <blockquote> <p>It is also true that while the best writing I’ve done corresponds to this description, I do not think any of the type of writing I do is likely to last longer than my lifespan, if even that long. Non-fiction writing, in its popular and scholarly varieties, is largely parasitic on the real thing — the real thing being art. Art wrestles with problems of obscurity and immortality; art testifies to the transcendent horizon. Little essays, no matter how clever, fade as soon as they are born; big books, even before.</p> </blockquote> <p>To this I simply disagree.  Whose essays aren’t transcendent?  You don’t think Hazlitt is worthy? DuBois?  Trilling?  Arendt?  And all of those not just for the thoughts they say, but <em>as writing</em>--Arendt's discussion of Sgt Anton Schmidt in <em>Eichmann</em>, the beginning of DuBois's <em>Souls of Black Folk,</em> Trilling on "Wordsworth and the Rabbis," everything of Hazlitt (but maybe, for starters, his stuff on comedy?).  I work with many old books, most of them at least aspirationally non-fictional, and I find them often powerful.  Maybe it's hubris to admit it? </p> <p>Then again, it would be fake humility to deny it.</p> <p>Anyway, a good piece--read for yourself!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Wed, 04/27/2022 - 10:12</span> Wed, 27 Apr 2022 14:12:12 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14501 at Back with another set of those thought-rocking links <span>Back with another set of those thought-rocking links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Sorry/not sorry for being away--I've been traveling to Do Scholarship and see friends (happily the two perfectly intersected) and so I've been distracted by things.  But don't worry the piles keep suggesting they've become heaps.  So I must expel the trivia, and dump it all on you.  Some of it at least is interesting.</p> <p> </p> <p>There’s <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">a bookstore in Mosul</a>, Iraq, that is helping the city’s recovery from its occupation by ISIS and the Iraqi campaign to drive ISIS out, which resulted in much of the city being flattened.  Mosul, by the way, has another, ancient name: Nineveh.  (If you haven't read <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">They Will Have to Die Now</a>, or seen the Netflix movie <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Mosul</a>, I highly recommend both, btw.  But they are bleak.)</p> <p> </p> <p>Not at all a bad <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">review</a>, by Daniel Dennett, who most definitely had it within him to write a bad review, in several senses, so we should all be grateful, of Richard Rorty’s latest posthumous book.  One wonders when Rorty will slow down his publishing mania, and learn to stop and smell the roses, from below.</p> <p> </p> <p>There is good advice in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this piece</a> about how to develop a body of secondary sources to interact with in your research and writing.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">great story</a> about a very different time in Hollywood--the 1990s.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Good</a> on French laïcité: “Everyone knows about “Liberté, egalité, fraternité.” But it is laïcité that defines the most ferociously contested battle lines in contemporary France. The term has come to express a uniquely French insistence that religion, along with religious symbols and dress, should be absent from the public sphere.“</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a>, from last year, is clever. “Biden’s strategy of boringness is a fascinating counterpoint to a career spent trying desperately to be interesting.” As we notice the way the US's campaign to support Ukraine is going--and how disciplined it mostly is, <em>except</em> for occasional chest-beating verbal gaffes--it's interesting to reflect on this "strategy of boringness" <em>as</em> a strategy.  Reminds me of some of what <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">John Padgett</a> has been doing on the early Medicis in Florence, how often vacuuous their formal messages were to underlings and partners.</p> <p> </p> <p>Interesting <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">fight being waged</a> on the future of the US Marine Corps. And <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">more</a> on this fight.</p> <p> </p> <p>Cities got hammered in the pandemic, speaking demographically, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this piece</a> explains some of that and more.</p> <p> </p> <p>“The Tennessee outcomes shined a light on the ways in which we are failing our youngest children by trying to hurry their childhood.” A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">sobering look</a> that suggests that what needs to be in place for a successful pre-K program is not simply getting a lot of kids in one room—there needs to be engagement and discovery and play.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Nice piece</a> on one of my favorite podcasts, “Know Your Enemy,” a left guide to right wing thought.  ““Our premise is not some, like, liberal fantasy of bipartisanship, but I do think that just rejecting the conflation of a deep understanding with cooperation as the goal is a feature of the podcast,” Adler-Bell said. “Once you give up on the idea that taking your political opponents seriously means that you sympathize with what they want to do, it opens up your intellectual horizons quite a lot.””</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This tweet-storm</a> by Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer (@jeangene_vilmer) is good: "Report on “Chinese Influence Operations: A Machiavellian moment” by @PaulCharon and myself is now available in English! Download the full version (more than 650 pages, 3000 footnotes) on <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a> "</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> is a good review of a really thought-provoking book: “What <i>The Right to Sex</i> does make clear, however, is that we rarely talk about sex when we talk about sex. We talk about rape, we talk about pornography, we talk (perhaps) about desirability, about entitlements and obligations, but sex itself is not under discussion. It is, itself, completely absent.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Take care, everyone!</p> <p> </p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Tue, 04/26/2022 - 07:18</span> Tue, 26 Apr 2022 11:18:00 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14500 at Saturday evening links <span>Saturday evening links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Link fever, link fever.  You don't have to show it.</p> <p> </p> <p>I am not sure Douglas Coupland’s <i>Generation X</i> “is a literary classic,” but <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this piece</a> helps unpack some of the surface dynamics of those of us who grew to semi-adulthood at a certain time, let’s call it the ‘90s.</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p>“How we treat farm animals today will be seen, I believe, as a defining moral failing of our age. Humans have always eaten animals. We’ve hunted them, bred them, raised them and consumed them. What’s changed over the past century is that we’ve developed the technology to produce meat in industrialized conditions, and that has opened vast new vistas for both production and suffering.”</p> </blockquote> <p>I think Ezra Klein might be right in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this piece</a>.  It has seemed to me, repeatedly over the past years, as we have struggled with many previous humans’ comfort with slavery and overt white supremacy, that one vivid possible analogue (not equivalence, just analogue) is factory farming, and in fact the sheer reality of humans predating on other animals.  Klein’s piece offers an account of why this may be a horror for which future generations condemn us all.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">beautiful piece</a> about the final years of jazz great Bill Evans. Just like his music, in fact: beautiful and sad.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> seems to me to miss the point: “Even when we’re dealing with objects far less complex than literary texts, attention is a top-down process that depends on cognition and judgment, not a condition of passive receptivity. ”  But these are better:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Like the discussion in the law and humanities workshop, in other words, the cognitive-science reviews I read focused on the shared world that the reviewer and main author were both attempting to describe. Methods, theories, concepts succeed or fail insofar as they prove to be useful tools to explain the features of that world.</p> <p>...critique thus understood has a profound limitation that emerges when we apply it, not to art objects or texts by (literally or figuratively) dead authors, but to the critical productions of our peers: It is a one-way street. When I bring the methods of critique to bear on your criticism, you can certainly do the same to mine, but we aren’t having a conversation when we do so: We’re trading performances, probably for the benefit of a third party. Perhaps appropriately for a method that came into its own in the study of fictions, critique can produce truth claims but is not particularly good at evaluating them. That’s not a weakness of the method; it’s just not what it’s there for.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Moral outrage is attractive for people looking for long-term relationships!  Not sure what to make of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this study</a>. But it's Science!</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> is good, by Leon Wieseltier:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Liberalism, soulless? I know the soul, and I am a liberal. I believe in truth, and I am a liberal. I reject materialism, and I am a liberal. I study metaphysics, and I am a liberal. I insist that science cannot account for the entirety of human experience, and I am a liberal. I despise the tyranny of quantification, and I am a liberal.  I uphold the limits of politics, and I am a liberal. I am loyal to my people, and I am a liberal. I revere tradition, and I am a liberal. I seek rapture, and I am a liberal. These are not contradictions, they are complexities. Whether or not they go together in ideology, they go together in reality, which is never seamless.” </p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This whole story</a>, about the fate of nuclear material after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is amazing, but wait for the kicker of the last sentence.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Nice podcast</a> about mathematics and moral improvement, focusing on the 17th century Port-Royal mathematicians.</p> <p> </p> <blockquote> <p>“Together with their love of Walter Benjamin, and inextricable from it, Adorno and Scholem shared a preoccupation with the fate of the sacred in secular society, with what Adorno calls in a letter to Scholem its “unflinching migration into the profane,” and with the questions raised by that migration. Can Judaism still flourish under conditions of secular modernity? How urgently do secular societies still need living religious traditions? How can we negotiate the startling swerves between religious past and secularized present?”</p> </blockquote> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">good review</a> of the Adorno-Scholem correspondence.</p> <p> </p> <p>Happy weekend, everyone!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sat, 04/09/2022 - 14:35</span> Sat, 09 Apr 2022 18:35:53 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14390 at