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Category: Liberalism

Ending the Interregnum: A Way through the Culture War

Politics is fundamentally agonistic. Not all interests and desires can be harmonized. Periods of cultural and economic hegemony sup­plant one another through material and ideational conflict. Within these periods there are winners and losers. Competing political parties quibble at the margins, but it is rare that an election gives rise to more than superficial change.…

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Liberalism and the National Question

Three recent books provoked by the Trump presidency grapple with identity and nationalism, drawing radically different conclu­sions. Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian and staff writer at the New Yorker, wishes that “nation-states didn’t already exist.” She finds them abhor­rent. Nevertheless, she allows that as long as the world is organized into nations, it is probably necessary for the United States to be one, with the caveat that ours must be a dry, creedal affair, based on a commitment to democracy and the Constitution with no ethnicity involved. Except, that is…

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Will Shifting Party Coalitions Change Policy Priorities?

America’s two major political parties appear to be in the process of swapping their historic coalition constituents. With that shift, many of our assumptions about what it means to be a Democrat or a Republican are coming apart at the seams. The most significant development seen in recent polling data is the exodus of college-educated…

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The Characterless Opportunism of the Managerial Class

My first reaction to the work of Barbara Ehrenreich was one of complete indignation and contempt. A professor had assigned Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed (2001) for an English prerequisite at my commuter college—the urban satellite campus for two major universities intended to cater to low-income and nontraditional students. (Go Jaguars!) The book was a…

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The Socialist Revival

As the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, so too, it seemed, did the dream of socialism. The German sociologist Rolf Dahrendorf declared, “The point has to be made unequivocally that socialism is dead and that none of its variants can be revived for a world awakening from the double nightmare…

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The Cubicle Archipelago

“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.” Our current moment of corporate wokeness and “extremely online” pearl-clutching has made this phrase something of a cliché. In its most sympathetic rendering, it means that a free exchange of ideas allows everyone to decide who they wish to associate with…

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America’s Drift toward Feudalism

America’s emergence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represented a dramatic break from the past. The United States came on the scene with only vestiges of the old European feudal order—mostly in the plantation economy of the Deep South. There was no hereditary nobility, no national church, and, thanks to George Washington’s modesty, no royal…

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China and the Rule of Law

If any political concept could be said to have universal appeal, it would have to be the rule of law. Virtually no government rejects the idea of the rule of law. On the contrary, most, if not all, governments claim to seek its realization. In 1992, the World Bank official­ly deemed the rule of law…

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Indispensable Nation Nostalgia

What might be called “Indispensable Nation Nostalgia” represents a misty remembrance of things past by a certain stratum of elite Americans. These pangs tend to afflict a fairly narrow group of people who run, or used to run, foreign pol­icy, along with the coterie of folks that think and write about foreign policy at think tanks and ideas-oriented publications…

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The New Brazilian Right

Ten years ago, Brazil was a left-wing success story. The Workers’ Party’s generous cash-transfer programs for poor families, bank­rolled by buoyant commodity prices and constructed on a preexisting foundation of fiscal discipline, helped to lift millions out of pov­erty. Constitutional order was maintained. The economy grew, and arrangements were reached between the reigning patronage party…

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