Far be it from me to refuse the resort to context and history: For me it goes without saying that any particular event, to be understood, must be understood concretely: as realization of a process or development, as conditioned rather than random incident. So, we can say that the Soviet Union did not defeat Nazi Germany in Berlin, but over the course of titanic battles fought to and from Moscow and Stalingrad all across Central and Eastern Europe, and, furthermore, we can say that the Red Army would almost certainly have failed without allies. We can go a step further and say that the hopelessness of the Nazi position was itself pre-figured in the hopelessness of the German position in the general European and global conditions of the era, as already understood by German strategists at what seemed the last possible moment to alter them by intervention, on the eve of what became the First World War. Read more ›
The un-clarity or confusion, or confusion of confusions, regarding the meaning of these two terms is typical of this historical moment, which in one sense can be thought to have simply befallen us, having never been willed into existence by anyone, but in another sense can be viewed as the predictable and desired product of choices made over the course of at least two or now three presidential elections, in as self-conscious a manner as a mass democratic system is able to undertake.
I’m inclined to think that the U.S. is fairly interventionist by whatever the proper measuring stick is (even taking into account its perhaps unique role). But I’m not at all sure what the proper measuring stick actually is.
…Jason offered his view of what the critical constituency is, and I offered mine… that, from where I sit, as center-left political establishments go, ours seems quite on-board for interventions. The explanation for it is indeed a fully separate conversation. I’m just saying that it is the critical piece in what actually leads to the actually-more-militaristic policy.
But then Kolohe came along and questioned the whole premise – that the U.S. even is more interventionist than, say Europe (which I think is the proper comparison, though that too can be debated) – and also that the U.S. center-left is more interventionist/militaristic than Europe’s. And while I tend to still think the U.S. is quite interventionist, I’m more interested in assessing that question than insisting I’m right about it.
I mostly agree with Kolohe’s position as I understand it. I am also, like Michael and Jason – and like Tyler Cowen, to whom Jason was originally responding – interested in assessing the underlying question further, or, as Cowen puts it, in examining characteristic American attitudes, customs, or predispositions as an “integrated whole.” However, as I stated earlier in the conversation with Michael and Kolohe, I believe that this project is a more ambitious and difficult one than either Cowen or Jason acknowledges. We could, for example, seek to follow and extend Hegel’s comprehension of the interdependent development of “the gun” and “the state” in world history, specifically in relation to the American idea of the state or American Idea, and in part to define the differences between the American and Hegelian state concepts (see “Inventing the World.”), but any attempt to synthesize or fuse two such large and controversial topics as American foreign policy and American attitudes toward guns risks merely being confusing if the central terms are not more carefully defined and employed. Simply achieving such definition will still require entering into that “fully separate conversation” on explanations for the existence of the “critical constituency” or any merely functional description of it. Read more ›
This post and the two that will follow, God-willing, were mostly composed in December and January of 2015-6, but withheld as, among other things, likely un-discussable during the developing political campaign, even while events potentially critical to the historical argument seemed to be developing. While recently re-reading it, I considered publishing it in the underused “Untimely” category, but I do not find it untimely, and have not found the series in need of more than incidental updating – although I’m also not sure that it’s really any more discussable than it would have been or might have been one year ago. [↩]
“If and when modern Liberalism … crashes and burns …., will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?” Will there be future historians (ones free to explore history and engage in it, speculate, publish) if modern liberalism crashes and burns?
Right and further: A non-humanist and illiberal and anti-modern “historian” would not be an “historian” of the same type as for us, or, to say the same thing, would be an “historian” as we understand the term only to the extent that he or she was “humanist” and “liberal” and “modern.”
So, in that sense, the answer to the blogger’s question must be “no.” History, if not necessarily “historians,” liberal-modern-humanist or other, may instead record that what broke this latest “liberal order” (a typical contradiction in terms), as before and likely again, as inevitably, was this latest liberal order itself.
What Omar Ali seems to be getting at, however, is: Read more ›
The question before us now, the version for us of the question Constable says is now before Trump himself, seems to be whether the election must be taken as an irrevocable decision for Trumpism in principle, the equivalent of a permanent voiding of an American public sphere, and irreversible end of the American experiment as an experiment in liberal democracy or government of reason.
I’ve come up with a provisional solution for a not exactly common, but far from unprecedented problem with the interaction of popular WP caching solutions with cookies, in this case the standard WP comment cookies. My solution also bears on the rarely well-defined “known users” exception to serving cached files. Whether what I stumbled upon is usable or not, I figure that explaining it and possibly learning why it’s a bad idea might be generally instructive. Read more ›
A widely quoted observation of the campaign season, generally taken as a critique of they-just-don’t-get-it left-liberals, held that Trump’s followers knew to take him seriously, but not literally – while the benighted liberals had it backwards. Yet a discourse that can and must be taken both seriously and literally – “by the letter” – is the sine qua non of liberal-democratic or constitutional or lawful self-governance. For the same reason, if law is the spirit of the age in words, but we elect a spirit of lawlessness to preserve, protect, and defend the law, then the spirit of our age is self-annihilation.
We might say that the bases for a functional or meaningful social-political sphere seem to have disappeared. In personal-individual terms, we experience disorientation and insecurity – and at some point the suspicion and fear that the meaning, or possible meaning, of our own lives has been lessened, threatened with erasure.
Marianne Constable’s post-election observations both explain and express this discomfort, indeed the dread, that many of us have felt about the Trump candidacy and about Donald J. Trump as a political figure at all, from the beginning of his political campaign and from before its beginning:
Regardless of what kind of president Trump turns out to be, or of the policies he puts in place, the rhetoric of this election season has shaken our faith in the possibility of meaningful public exchange. This is not because persons are afraid to speak, although some will be. Nor is it because mainstream media has missed or mischaracterized the story, although it has. Our faith is shaken because to deny one’s words is to disregard what is. When this disregard coincides with more talk than ever before, the upshot is a mistrust in the possibility of genuine public exchange. […] Catastrophe comes when lying becomes routine and fact can no longer be distinguished from falsehood. When this happens, what words say no longer matters. Whether or not Trump’s lies are any more responsible for the current catastrophe than are the lies of others, his words leave us at sea.
[S]ocial media as an activity isn’t only about distributing information to one’s peers. It often isn’t about that at all. Generally, we post on social media as a way of establishing an identity in a crowded online environment, and in the hopes of receiving some degree of validation in the form of “engagement” — likes, comments, shares. So not only does “consuming information” (or, you know, “reading”) become less and less often distinguishable from “distributing information,” those two activities become wrapped up in the public shaping of individual identity. The news-media economy, in which a small number of publishers competed to deliver new information to a large number of readers, is in the process of being swallowed into a much larger media economy, in which hundreds of millions of functionally identical publishers compete with each other for attention from each other in an environment whose chief function isn’t the dissemination of information, but socially performed identity formation.
In the next paragraph, the concluding one of the post, Read proceeds from getting the matter rather right to, in my view, getting it entirely wrong: Read more ›
Observers from center right to left, and including recognized security experts as well as pundits or political intellectuals, are now claiming that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin made war upon the United State of America; that the government and people of the United States, under the presidency of Barack Obama, failed to offer a serious defense; and that we in America as well as friends and allies have suffered an historic defeat.
I offer this post to explain and expand upon an argument I have been making on Twitter, and to collect some reference material on a subject, or a set of extraordinary claims, whose potential for lasting significance I find difficult to estimate. Please feel free, as always, to provide further links or your own thoughts in the comments (or by email – let me know if you prefer not to be identified in future discussion).
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The argument is widely being made over Thanksgiving Weekend 2016 that Russian-sponsored interference in the U.S. electoral process, by diverse means, unexpectedly tipped a close decision to Republican candidate Donald J Trump.
Pessimism about one's own nation is an all-encompassing and all-defining condition, because everything any of us positively can be or seek as individuals is affected where not wholly determined by our membership in a national community - the state broadly defined. When we refer to an "unhappy childhood," it will usually matter a great deal whether we're referring to our own childhood, and the same is true when we refer to the unhappy conditions of our national upbringing or to a "broken" national home. Yet national pessimism is still not the same as absolute pessimism. We can imagine the failure of any nation, including our own nation, as we have seen great national disasters, that would not equate with the failure of history itself. We could even come to equate the failure of a national idea as essential to some higher good: It would not be the first time for us, just the first time that we were referring to ourselves.
A national pessimist suffers a kind of exile from his own future, but he can still visit happier outcomes, on a kind of spiritual visa. Over time, he may even be accepted by the natives, and find a new home. Americans are particularly well-prepared to make this transition, because our national identity, paradoxically, is already built on the cancellation of nationality, on immigration and nothing else. Our new citizenship may not be full and authentic, of the blood and soil, but neither is the one with which we are born. The American idea at inception had before it a vast national phase to undergo, but what defined the American nation was that it was not and never could be a nation like the others: The idea of a new world had to take on a purpose-fabricated national costume for us to assume and sustain a place within the world of nations, but the realization of our idea could never have been contained in a merely national destiny. For the same reason, the victory of our "Greatest Generation," at our national apogee, was the victory over ultra-nationalism, in favor of a new international system implying the supersession of nations, justifiable as an American national project strictly on that basis. All of our history since that time has been governed by the same paradox of nationalized internationalism, but from the other, declining side, as accompanied by the conversion of American energy into mere mass - the accumulation of material wealth alongside the decay of national institutions.
We can therefore look forward to the completion of our creative self-destruction with greater hope, or at least with greater equanimity, than others in our approximate position have been able to muster. What we stand to lose is everything we never really thought was worth having. What we stand to gain is what we always sought.
If we agree that we want a world in which nation-states do not use chemical weapons against their peoples, or a world in which chemical and other WMD use does not spread in interstate or other conflict situations, and the only way to ensure that worthy goal is to assert and enforce a transnational imperative, then we are neo-imperialists, and the only reason we do not confess as much is that we have inherited an ideological-terminological allergy.
"...the odd paradox whereby Bakunin, the greatest anarchist of the nineteenth century, had to become in theory the theologian of the anti-theological and in practice the dictator of an anti-dictatorship."
"The reality is, on any public forum there is going to be a peanut gallery, and I’ve never seen a moderation policy that can quite eliminate them, but not eliminate interesting people who I want to hear from. So, culled lists, either individually (as here) or collectively (as was needed in a larger space such as Twitter), are a fine thing. They make a forum far more pleasant to use."[...]
The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.[...]
There are progressive and liberal ideologies or ideological constructs, but the desirability of progress and its attainment via rational and open ("liberal") inquiry remain pre-conditions of any authentic (authentically "discursive") discussion.[...]
Commenter Ignore Button (CIB) lets a user to put one or more commenters "on ignore." To have such an option enabled is a frequent request at blogs and other sites where comment threads are plagued by trolls or other problematic commenters, but where site operators prefer to err on the side of open discussion - or don't want to get involved unless they really have to. Once users become generally aware of the option, people just seeking attention may either be more polite or move somewhere else, while regular commenters - and lurkers - may become more willing to engage.[...]
If you're not able to perfect your theme yourself, or not willing to hire a designer, then being a perfectionist is unrealistic. Yet just getting good enough on first glance results when adding CIB to customized comment templates, even before fine-tuning, may require some more complicated work. For those intimidated by the prospect, here is an example of curing the output on one typically atypical theme.[...]
We would be compelled to conclude that something must have been (and very likely remains) profoundly wrong with a political culture or political media - of which Matthew Yglesias and Vox are, of course, typical parts - that could be dominated by an issue to be judged intrinsically trivial, and dominated to the point of determining eventual collective decisions of undoubted significance.[...]