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Clean Rooms and Dirtbags

Conservative Canadian professor Jordan Peterson and socialist Brooklynite podcast Chapo Trap House have a lot in common. They each make around a hundred thousand dollars a month from Patreon donations. They each inspire both adoration and revulsion, while rejecting, in different ways, forms of political correctness…

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Poland at 100 Years of Independence

The hundredth anniversary of the reclamation of Polish independence is cause to celebrate. Poles will celebrate. Yet national and international responses will also be colored by the nation’s recent political controversies, and the tensions of international liberalism. I suspect…

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Christopher Lasch and the Digital Return of Memory

If the headlines are to be believed, the instability and uncertainty of the global situation, especially in the West, is the dangerous result of the politics of nostalgia. From Europe to the United States, from Russia to Latin America, political analysis has been explaining today’s unanticipated resurgence of illiberal, reactionary, and na­tionalist…

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The Eclipse of Catholic Fusionism

The argument that America is at risk of theocratic domination has always been hyperbole—a rallying cry rather than an analysis of our political situation. Even as the nomination of a Supreme Court justice stirs up liberal fantasies of The Handmaid’s Tale, the threat of a genuine “theocracy” seems rather far off. But there was a…

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Reconstruction and the End of History

The years between 1865 and 1877 form the period in American history known as Reconstruction—reconstruction, in this case, meaning the rebuilding of the federal Union which had been dis­rupted by the attempt of eleven Southern states to secede from that Union in order to protect legalized slavery. It might have been a new era of…

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Incarceration as Incapacitation: An Intellectual History

Explaining the dramatic rise of incarceration in the United States has been surprisingly difficult. Theories abound, but they are continually defeated by the vastness and complexity of the American criminal justice system. For a time, the prime suspect was the War on Drugs, which President Obama described as “the real reason our prison population is so high.” Numerically, this never made sense, given that drug offenders are a small fraction of state prisoners. Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws were tangible reforms that attracted a great deal of attention. But as causal explanations they, too, wither under scrutiny. “There’s not a lot of evidence that the amount of time spent in…

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The Three Fusions

Media headlines to the contrary, there is at present no authentic debate between globalists and nationalists in the West. Paradoxical as it may seem, this is because there are no authentic globalists. Worse than any open conflict between the two is the confusion that results from the absence of one. This confusion with respect to…

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Confucianism and Meritocracy: Light from the East

Ex oriente lux. With the spring academic term finished, I am in Japan and China, ostensibly to give papers at several Japanese and Chinese universities, but really to learn more about meritocracy debates in contemporary Asia. There has been a heated debate going on there among political theorists about the forms of governance most consistent with ancient Confucian political thought. The debate tracks the theoretical shadowboxing Confucian scholars have been doing for the last two…

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Ernst Lubitsch, Censorship, and Political Correctness

Theodor Adorno turned around Benedetto Croce’s patronizing historicist question about “What is dead and what is alive in Hegel’s dialectic.” If Hegel is really alive as a thinker, then the question to be raised is the opposite one: “How do we today stand in the eyes of Hegel?” Exactly the same holds for Ernst Lubitsch. The question is not “What does an increasingly forgotten filmmaker have to say to us?” but rather, “How would our comedy of manners appear in the eyes of…

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An Anatomy of Radicalism

What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now? These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning…

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