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Capitalism’s Character Types

Writing in the Atlantic, in an article titled “How Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration” (July/August 2017), Peter Beinart asks why Democrats moved from evenhandedness on the issue of immigration to a fervent belief in open borders. Why did they move from support for patriotism to contempt for the nation-state? Why do they refuse to…

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From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump—and Beyond

Whoever speaks of “crisis” today risks being dismissed as a bloviator, given the term’s banalization through endless loose talk. But there is a precise sense in which we do face a crisis today. If we characterize it precisely and identify its distinctive dynamics, we can better determine what is needed to resolve it. On that…

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China, America, and “Nationalism”

“Fire and fury” were expected at the annual CLSA conference in Hong Kong in September. Stephen Bannon was to deliver a frontal assault on China—on Chinese soil—and advance the proposition that the United States and China are, or should be, engaged in an epic struggle for world domination in the twenty-first century, according to the…

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The Verge: Reflections on a Second Civil War

“Are We on the Verge of Another Civil War?” So asks The Nation, in a headline for an interview with David Armitage, the Harvard historian and author of the recent book, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (Knopf, 2017).  “Are We Nearing Civil War?” So asks the American Conservative, in a headline for a column…

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Toward an All-American Affairs

We need to find a way forward together. By we I mean Americans, all Americans in our splendid and difficult diversity. We need new ideas, including the kinds of ideas that are being put forward on these pages. But we are no longer in the eighteenth century, when a small group of propertied white men can provide the ideas, doctrines, and laws to guide the nation…

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Make the Left Great Again

The West is currently in the midst of an antiestablishment revolt of historic proportions. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the rejection of Matteo Renzi’s neoliberal constitutional reform in Italy, the European Union’s unprecedented crisis of legitimation—although these interrelated phenomena differ in ideology and goals,…

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Negative Piety

The motif of the postwar era is found in the name itself—post. The 1950s sought to be post-ideological. The 1960s launched post-bourgeois culture, one that sets aside nettlesome constraints. Intellectuals throughout the West adopted postmodernism, an outlook that eases the demands of truth. Before 1989, progressives in the West were already post-Marxist. That meant shifting away from Marx’s rigorous dialectics toward open-ended campaigns for “liberation” that pose no threats to capitalism.

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Rob Ford, Donald Trump, and the New Direction of Political Polarization

You are not a typical American. Not even close. The typical American doesn’t read lengthy articles in policy journals. The typical American gets up far too early in the morning, after too little sleep, works too hard for too long in a job that pays too little, before heading home, feeding the kids, cleaning the…

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Our Policy Agenda

Since the launch of American Affairs three months ago, a favorite topic of commentators has been the inversion of the usual order of policy journals and political movements: this time, a “populist” political movement achieved power before its theoretical contours or specific agenda had been thoroughly defined. Moreover, this journal, although in many ways provoked by the 2016 campaign, arose independently of the new administration. The extent of any affinity between the two remains to be seen. We are as cognizant of these challenges as even our most impatient critics, and we are in fact grateful that there are so many of the latter…

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Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center

Why has the use of the term “populism” been imposed when we already had at our disposal the term “demagogy,” which seems to designate the same thing? Or are we to think that the new term refers to a new phenomenon, and that the new populism is something different from the old demagogy? To broach the issue, and as a provisional hypothesis, I offer the following…

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