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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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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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Breaking Bad: Walter White as Nietzschean Hero

Meet Walter White: once a promising chemist with a PhD from Caltech, at age fifty, he appears to be an unre­markable teacher at a public high school in Albuquerque. When he tries to offer a passionate introduction to chemistry on the first day of class, most of his students stare blankly while a few flirt in the back of the room…

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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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North Korea’s Search for Totality

In early April, I participated in the Pyongyang Marathon, organized for the birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung (1912–1994), founder of the Kim dynasty. He is the father of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il (1941–2011), and the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. Our tour…

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Nicholas II: A Tsar’s Life for the People?

On July 16 and 17, Russia will mark one of the most sensitive centenaries in its recent history: the slaughter of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, his wife (the Anglo-German Empress Alexandra), five children, and four remaining servants at point-blank range by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. Beyond Russia’s borders, the Great War was…

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Baudrillard’s Revenge

The book that shaped the political culture of the 1990s appeared, in 1992, fast on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Almost simultaneously with The End of History and the Last Man, the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard published a slender reply that never so much as mentioned the name of his target. L’illusion de la…

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