Thursday 23 June 2016

Links 23/6/16


I have not immersed myself in this for a long time so my brain struggles to wrap itself around some of it, but there have been a few very interesting political theory articles analysing Trump and Sanders and the Presidential race, and the link to European populists. 
Liberal here has more its classical than its American meaning. Both Clinton and Bush stood for the rule of law, private property, limited government (with some concessions to certain interest groups, of course) and a rather abstract idea of what it means to be an American citizen. Democratic also has a quite specific meaning. Both Sanders and Trump emphasize a rather stronger sense of what it means to be included as a citizen in the demos, and a corresponding sense of exclusion. For Sanders, what is excluded is “Wall Street,” for Trump, what is excluded is the foreigner.
These are very different versions of the demos. One comes close to being class based while the other is nationalist and jingoistic. Interestingly, both coupled a strong sense of who the demos is against with a strong sense of what the demos can share. At least in the initial part of his campaign, Trump was careful to support existing social welfare and healthcare benefits for what in narrow and racist terms are perceive to be deserving members of the demos. Sanders, on the other hand, stressed making higher education free. In very different ways, these democratic challengers appealed to a stronger sense of participation in the demos. Citizenship is not just an abstract category, but a felt sense of belonging and sharing. 
Public Seminar: Trump, Sanders, Clinton – and Chantal Mouffe, June 17, 2016
This is a long, but essential read about dysfunction in the American political system - and the destructive effects of "the political class", or political professionals, or intermediaries, becoming powerless in a system that rejects their value. What happens when compromise becomes impossible? 
A second virus was initially identified in 2002, by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln political scientists John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, in their book Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. It’s a shocking book, one whose implications other scholars were understandably reluctant to engage with. The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, however, makes confronting its thesis unavoidable.
Using polls and focus groups, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse found that between 25 and 40 percent of Americans (depending on how one measures) have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work. I think of these people as “politiphobes,” because they see the contentious give-and-take of politics as unnecessary and distasteful. Specifically, they believe that obvious, commonsense solutions to the country’s problems are out there for the plucking. The reason these obvious solutions are not enacted is that politicians are corrupt, or self-interested, or addicted to unnecessary partisan feuding. Not surprisingly, politiphobes think the obvious, commonsense solutions are the sorts of solutions that they themselves prefer. But the more important point is that they do not acknowledge that meaningful policy disagreement even exists. From that premise, they conclude that all the arguing and partisanship and horse-trading that go on in American politics are entirely unnecessary. Politicians could easily solve all our problems if they would only set aside their craven personal agendas.
If politicians won’t do the job, then who will? Politiphobes, according to Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, believe policy should be made not by messy political conflict and negotiations but by ensids: empathetic, non-self-interested decision makers. These are leaders who will step forward, cast aside cowardly politicians and venal special interests, and implement long-overdue solutions. ensids can be politicians, technocrats, or autocrats—whatever works. Whether the process is democratic is not particularly important. 
The Atlantic: How American Politics Went Insane, July 2016
This picture of politics and the future is horrifying but explains a lot about this race and current European politics, and it is based on a profound misunderstanding of politics. 

In the light of Senate rejecting gun control measures, a chapter in Steven Pinker's The Better Angels Of Our Nature - Why Violence Declines has resonated - comprehending the very specific attitude towards gun ownership in the US is very difficult from the outside, and Pinker explains that the North-Eastern states were civilised in a manner resembling Europe - de-arming the populace, with a Leviathan stepping in whose monopoly on violence was respected - whereas the Southern and Western states never followed that pattern, and the "civilising" influnces were institutions like religion, marriage etc. 

Frank Ocean's response to the massacre in Orlando. 

Reading Hannah Arendt and the refugee crisis: 
Arendt was famous for the scorn she heaped on happy pieties that realities hollowed out. Among her choice targets of platitudes: we are all born equal, destined for liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are not. It is only thanks to our institutions that we become equal. Our organizations enable us to live in freedom. Humans, she noted, enjoyed rights only as long as they were members of political communities; the minute they left, or were banished, their rights were gone, and only their frail and perishable humanity remained. It would take a stateless woman to remind the public that these rights are not natural. It took an alien to say it: these rights can be taken away. Worse even: people can find themselves in a world where no one wants them any more, and these rights cannot be regained. 
The Wilson Quarterly: Pariah: Can Hannah Arendt help us rethink our global refugee crisis?, Spring 2016
A new paper looks into the long-term effects (specifically, the loss of trust in the health care system) that the Tuskegee experiment has had on African-American health outcomes.

Pop Culture: 

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was inspired by and written under the impression of a humanitarian climate refugee crisis

Annual comedy actresses round table of excellence. 

On women writing crime fiction (while I patiently await Tana French's new novel). 

I have been spoiled for the fourth season of Orange is the New Black, and this interview will spoil anyone reading it, but in a way, avoiding spoilers seems like the less important policy than being able to make up your mind and debate the content of that spoiler. 2016 has been a harrowing year in terms of pop culture and politics (and Wynonna Earp, the one shining light at the end of the tunnel, has yet to be renewed!)

Person of Interest aired its final episode last night - and it was glorious and eloquent, a beautiful requiem for the show. Here's an interview with the creators, a fantastic AfterEllen recap, and the final image of Sameen Shaw, a straight line, an arrow, fulfilling her purpose with a god in her head and a dog by her side. 

On motherhood in Underground

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