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Category: Political Thought

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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Missionaries of Humanity: Popular Confucianism in China

In a state where one may not criticize the regime, one learns the art of the unsaid. In China, as in the premodern West, a citizen can complain freely about bad roads or corrupt officials, but it is considered seditious to criticize the form of government. If a citizen does criticize…

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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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New China and the End of American “International Law”

The question plaguing contemporary analysis of China is what its emergence, or reemergence, as a great power means. To answer this question, we must confront the fact that we have turned, even in China, away from the concept of “great powers”—or even states—in writing the history of modern politics and international relations. Over the past…

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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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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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Literature as Flattery

In 1934, the Saturday Review of Literature published an ad on how to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. The ad is remarkable for its relationship to reading, democracy, and elitism. On the one hand, the ad dismisses critics who fret over the difficulty of the novel and presents it as a challenge that is rewarding to every…

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