Author: Oliver Traldi

The Case for Contrarianism

Another semester, another academic publishing scandal, complete with calls for penitence and punishment. This time the catalyst is “The Case for Colonialism,” a “Viewpoint” editorial in Third World Quarterly. In this essay, Bruce Gilley argued that “it is high time to question [the anti-colonial] orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.” Gilley’s article has since been withdrawn due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” made against the journal’s editor. This obviously troubling development should make us wonder: just what evil would this article have brought about if not withdrawn? The Streisand effect is in full display here. The article – detailed, abstruse, and not always beautifully written – has no doubt been far more widely read than it would have been without the controversy. The publication of “The Case for Colonialism” faced criticism on several grounds: it was offensive; it was unscholarly; the journal did not follow its normal procedures in publishing it …

Review—The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

A review of The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, by Mark Lilla. HarperCollins, (August 15, 2017) 160 pages.   Like Hillary Clinton, many commentators of all stripes are still looking back at the 2016 presidential election and asking: “What happened?” Mark Lilla’s short book builds on a New York Times editorial claiming liberal identity politics drove voters toward Donald Trump. The problem, Lilla tells us, isn’t just Trump’s victory. Liberals have failed to provide “an image of what our shared way of life might be”, leading to electoral failure across the board: local, state, national. So what is “identity politics”, and who are these “liberals” who have been lost in it? It’s never made clear. “Liberal” seems to mean just “Democrat”, without any explication of what political liberalism should entail. “Identity politics”, Lilla says, is “a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition that is now cultivated in our colleges and universities.” Even those of us who aren’t fans of college students’ shenanigans might want to hear more about why or how the concerns …

“Kill All Normies” Online Culture Wars and the Rise of the Alt-Right—A Review

A Review of Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt- Right, by Angela Nagle. Zero Books, $9.99 (Kindle edition).   An Irish literary critic and academic as well as a “dirtbag leftist” with bylines in Jacobin, The Baffler, and Current Affairs, Angela Nagle documents here the background and breakthroughs of the online politics which helped shape the 2016 election. It is an important topic and a fascinating one, and Nagle demonstrates the requisite impartiality: her conclusions do end up fitting her new-old-left politics nicely (as demonstrated by approving book-jacket quotes from Connor Kilpatrick of Jacobin and Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House and Current Affairs), but they’ve garnered approval across the political spectrum, from Nagle’s neck of the woods all the way to the stodgy Never-Trumpism of the National Review. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that Nagle and Zero were both quite aware of how urgently this analysis was needed; the product seems rushed, even unfinished. Kill All Normies is merely a good start in need of deeper research, …

A Line in the Sand for Academic Philosophy

Academic philosophers have finally found a line they’re willing to hold against the discipline’s social justice contingent. They hadn’t reached the line yet when bloggers started brigading against conferences where only male invitees had accepted invitations. They hadn’t reached the line yet when critical theorists derided top programs as “hostile to women” while making excuses for covering up sexual harassment in purportedly more progressive departments. They hadn’t reached the line yet when the American Philosophical Association advised professors at the University of Colorado not to criticize feminist philosophy on campus or at off-campus department events. They hadn’t reached the line yet when academic “advocates” cowed prominent philosophers into writing struggle-session apologies or including phrases like “I think I am a good ally” – in papers about fundamental metaphysics. But now Hypatia, a journal of feminist philosophy with explicitly activist goals, has seemingly disavowed a paper comparing claims about racial identity to claims about gender identity, and philosophers seem to have had enough. *** Rebecca Tuvel is an assistant professor at Rhodes College; she received a bachelor’s …