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Losing the Narrative: The Genre Fiction of the Professional Class

Something strange happened to the news over the past four years. The dominant stories all resembled the scripts of bad movies—sequels and reboots. The Kavanaugh hearings were a sequel to the Clarence Thomas hearings, and Russian collusion was rebooted as Ukrainian impeachment. Journalists are supposed to hunt for good scoops, but in January, as the…

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Lenin versus the God-Builders

James D. White’s Red Hamlet: The Life and Ideas of Alexander Bogdanov is the first comprehensive English-language biography of Bogdanov. In it, White alternates chapters of straight biography with dense chapters that rehash Bogdanov’s philosophy and the debates surrounding it. The volume meticulously provides an inside-baseball look at the evolution of the Bolshevik organism and makes clear the degree to which Bolshevism’s path was not predetermined—it could have been different…

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China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign and the Challenges of Political Meritocracy

In China, corruption is the mother of political evils. For Confucians, the best life involves serving the community qua public official, and conversely, the worst life involves misuse of public funds for private purposes. Such ideas influence history. Why did the Ming dynasty collapse? Why did the Qing dynasty collapse? There are many reasons, but…

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America Since the Sixties: A History without Heroes

Reduced to a short abstract, The Age of Entitlement seems artificially and debatably schematic in the manner of a David Brooks op-ed. But the book is more capacious than this would suggest. It is an eccentric work of history that is simultaneously a narrative of the baby boomers and their parents; a revisionist, even patricidal, account of the Reagan administration; and an entry in the crowded genre…

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The Not-So-Strange Death of Israel’s Labor Party

After a year of three elections, it appears that Israel will now finally have a government. Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz, who had run a yearlong campaign to supplant Benjamin Netanyahu, found himself out of options in April 2020. With the coronavirus as pretext, Gantz announced that he would join Netanyahu…

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Overcoming Capitalism without Overcoming Globalism?

Piketty’s earlier thesis, which all but disappears in the new book, was that the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth threatens to undermine not only democracy but capitalism itself. Piketty, however, had little to say about the deeper political-ideological dynamics driving these trends. This latest book is an attempt to fill that gap. Capital and Ideology aims to explain not only what has happened but why. In particular, the book focuses on the relationship between inequality…

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Data-Driven Defeat: Information versus Interests in Afghanistan

In the Spring of 2012, my battalion arrived in western Afghanistan as the Obama troop surge, meant to break the Taliban, drew to a close. The Taliban remained unbroken, but our new mission was training and assisting the Afghan security forces. Like all supposed changes in policy for Afghanistan, this one amounted to less than…

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Science without Validation in a World without Meaning

Physicist Richard Feynman had the following advice for those interested in science: “So I hope you can accept Nature as She is—absurd.”1 Here Feynman captures in stark terms the most basic insight of modern science: nature is not understandable in terms of ordinary physical concepts and is, therefore, absurd. The unintelligibility of nature has huge…

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From Technocracy and Populism to Technopopulism

A new political formation has arrived on the scene: technopopulism, or the synthesis of populism and technocracy. At first blush, such a formulation might seem like a contradiction. Technocracy and populism are typically understood as being deeply antagonistic to each other, perhaps appearing even as polar opposites: the rule of the experts versus the rule…

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