86 Search Results for: postmodernism

Twilight of Democracy—A Review

A review of Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum, Doubleday (July 2020), 224 pages. Historian and journalist Anne Applebaum’s new book The Twilight of Democracy sees a democratic world, as Rupert Brooke saw his world at the onset of World War I, “grown old and cold and weary.” So weary of democracy’s institutions and processes, so coldly contemptuous of the liberals of the Left and Right who administered them, that many of those who previously supported these central pillars have instead embraced one or another form of right-wing fundamentalism. This may manifest as nostalgic yet virulent nationalism, or reactionary Catholicism, or an invocation of Great Leader-ism which is, she writes, “at once serious and unserious.” Illustrative of the last of these types, she says, is Santiago Abascal, the leader of the Spanish anti-immigrant party Vox, who was filmed riding a horse to the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings—unserious, because plundering popular culture for the purposes of rousing self-glorification is so obviously crass; serious, because it is rousing, nonetheless. The title of Applebaum’s book communicates the seriousness …

The Truth According to Social Justice—A Review of ‘Cynical Theories’

A review of Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Pitchstone Publishing (August 25th, 2020), 352 pages. In November 1964, the American historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay in Harper’s Magazine about the paranoid style in American politics, arguing that “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds” ripe for “conspiratorial fantasy.” Arguably, many elites in contemporary mainstream American institutions appear to believe that anybody expressing concern about a so-called cancel culture has been in possession of such a paranoid mindset. Even when 150 artists and writers signed an open letter in none other than Harper’s Magazine, decrying “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity,” the response from many has been to mock these concerns and dismiss them as “paranoid,” or “privileged.” The backlash to the Harper’s Letter comes on the heels of John McWhorter’s thesis that anti-racism …

At Social-Justice Law School, Feelings Trump Facts

On May 27th, Claudette Beals-Clayton called the Toronto police from a high-rise apartment in the city’s High Park North neighbourhood. Her 29-year-old daughter, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, was in a state of crisis and acting violently. Beals-Clayton wanted officers to take Korchinski-Paquet to the city’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Police arrived and coaxed Korchinski-Paquet into the building’s hallway. Then the woman asked if she could go to the bathroom before leaving, and police let her re-enter the apartment. Several officers followed her while family members waited outside. Moments later, the family reportedly heard “Mom, help!” Not long after that, Korchinski-Paquet plunged 24 floors to her death. In the heat of the moment, a devastated Beals-Clayton told reporters that police “came in my apartment and shoved [my daughter] off the balcony.” A man identifying himself as Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin made similar claims on Instagram. Before waiting for any kind of corroboration, reporters from Vice repeated these claims and vaguely linked the death to George Floyd, the Minneapolis man shown on video suffocating to death with a police …

When I Was in Love with a Comparative Literature Student

She said she did not believe there was such a thing as love—not because she was embarrassed by sentimentality, but because Jacques Derrida had convinced her that language did not actually refer to an external reality. I met her during the period she was reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology. Or maybe it was when she was reading Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, which for weeks she kept open and in front of her at the campus coffee shop. At least once, she carried Heidegger into a bubble bath. The first time we hung out, we read together in an empty classroom. I was reading Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral for a literature class. She was reading “The Concept of Irony” by literary theorist Paul de Man for fun. As in every classroom, there was a clock at the front of the room. The sound of the ticking, which I had unthinkingly accepted as an imperfect part of our environment, irritated her. She stood up on the table and flung the clock to the ground. She put …

Conceit and Contagion: How the Virus Shocked Europe

The World Health Organization announced last week that Europe is now the epicentre of the new coronavirus epidemic. As the announcement was made, many countries in Africa and Asia were imposing strict restrictions on the arrival of flights and visitors from Europe. It felt like a great historical reversal, one full of irony. Suddenly Europeans were being kept away, they who for so long fortified their borders against all the dangers—real or imagined—arriving from the developing world. The coronavirus crisis in Europe is, before everything else, a public health crisis, but it also reflects profound changes in the way the continent sees itself. Many of these changes have been taking place for a while. Previous moments such as the debt or refugee crises can be linked with the ongoing epidemic as part of a larger pattern, but the coronavirus has made everything more visible and certainly more tragic. It seems clear to me that the extent of the outbreak in Europe is directly connected to subtle questions of cultural identity, some of which I want …

Don’t Blame Neoliberalism for ‘Postmodern Conservatism’

The last decade has been an age of political tumult. The rise of right-wing populism is ascendant across the West. Liberal democracy and capitalism are in retreat. Fierce divisions erupted between north and south Europe following the imposition of fiscal austerity measures. In America, there was the Tea Party movement, Occupy, and the rise of social justice as a new form of increasingly brittle leftist dogma. Fuelled by online tribalism, everyday politics has become radicalized, with Brexit in the UK and the stunning election of Donald Trump in the United States. Trump’s Democratic opponent in the coming presidential election may well be Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist who is promising to implement a policy revolution on the scale of FDR. What is happening? In his newly published book, The Rise of Postmodern Conservatism: Neoliberalism, Post-Modern Culture, and Reactionary Politics, Tec de Monterrey philosophy professor (and Quillette author) Matt McManus attempts to provide an answer. Drawing on a wide-ranging body of work by leading intellectuals, he argues that the world we knew is unraveling not, as …

Complexity and Understanding

Do humans understand each other? Any honest attempt to answer this question will need to consider some profound and important facts. The question is broad, but worth asking repeatedly. Modern writers and thinkers fail to fully appreciate the merit in marrying science and philosophy, which the great psychotherapists of the 20th century (and many great philosophers before them) did rather admirably. Their writings shed light on the under-explored depths of our humanity. Historically, the inevitable faults of humanness are recurrent; the whims of our finite, imperfect human nature. Mutual misunderstandings run deep and at times prove to be dangerous. It is neither feasible nor especially useful to pass over the various reasons we fail to understand one another. There is also nothing novel or compelling about listing the countless examples of human misunderstanding such as war, tribalism, and political polarization. It is more useful to proceed with a relatively narrow focus, in an attempt to fully articulate one specific reason why humans do not truly understand one another. That reason is complexity. In the face …

The National Book Foundation Defines Diversity Down

Last month the Huffington Post published an essay by Claire Fallon entitled “Was this Decade the Beginning of the End of the Great White Male Writer?” Fallon celebrated the notion that white men are losing their prominence in contemporary American literature and that the best books being published in America today are being written by a wider variety of authors than ever before: “What was once insular is now unifying,” National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas told the crowd at the 2019 National Book Awards Gala, where the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry honors all went to writers of color. “What was once exclusive is now inclusive.” Lucas took over the foundation in 2016, at a time when the high-profile awards had a somewhat checkered record with representation. Though historically the honorees had skewed heavily white and male, that began to change around 2010. (However, there had been some other recent embarrassments, like 2014 host Daniel Handler’s racist jokes following author Jacqueline Woodson’s win for “Brown Girl Dreaming.”) Lucas, the first woman and person of color …

The Dangerous Life of an Anthropologist

Limping in crutches, his broken leg shielded in plaster following a jogging accident, the distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson made his way slowly toward the stage at a convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1978. Climbing the stairs, taking his seat, and shuffling his notes, a sudden burst of activity punctuated the silence as the entire front row of the audience leapt onto the stage hurling insults. They jostled Wilson and then poured iced water over his head. The protesters would turn out to be Marxists, incensed by the publication of Wilson’s book Sociobiology. This story has become a familiar feature of the nature/nurture debate, used to illustrate the vitriolic hostility expressed by ideological groups scrambling to silence what most people already take to be an incontrovertible fact: that humans, just like every other species on earth, have a nature. As crowds abandoned Wilson to evacuate the auditorium that day, one man at the back of the room tried to push his way forward against the multitude heading towards the …

Understanding America’s Cultural and Political Realignment

Understanding American politics has become increasingly confusing as the old party labels have lost much of their meaning. A simplistic Left vs. Right worldview no longer captures the complexity of what’s going on. As the authors of the October 2017 “Pew Survey of American Political Typologies” write, “[I]n a political landscape increasingly fractured by partisanship, the divisions within the Republican and Democratic coalitions may be as important a factor in American politics as the divisions between them.” To understand our politics, we need to understand the cultural values that drive it. The integral cultural map developed by philosopher Ken Wilber identifies nine global cultural value systems including the archaic (survival), tribal (shaman), warrior (warlords and gangs), traditional (fundamentalist faith in God), modern (democracy and capitalism), and postmodern (world-centric pluralism). When combined with Pew’s voter typologies, Wilber’s cultural levels offer a new map of America’s political landscape. Of Wilber’s nine global value systems, the Traditional, Modern, and Postmodern categories are most useful to understanding our moment. Traditional culture values disciplined adherence to assigned gender and social …