Author: John Foster
John Foster is a librarian, writer, and musician based in Cleveland, Ohio. When not writing or attending shows, he can usually be found cursing at his television during Arsenal matches.

The late historian Detlev Peukert once wrote of the literature on Max Weber that the annual volume of new publications was such that not even specialists could keep fully current. This statement could equally apply to the literature on Marx and Marxism which, even without “actually existing socialism” to act as motivator or bête noire, continues to appear in its accustomed profusion. (More…)

The eminent jurist Learned Hand once wrote that “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right”. This particular shade, always a rather anaemic presence in American public life is now well and truly dead. The question that one is tempted to ask in our current circumstances is how long will it be until the republic joins it in the grave. (More…)

On July 23-24, 1968, African American radicals engaged in a wild shootout with police in the Glenville section of Cleveland. When it was over, six people were dead and the raw racial tension that had simmered below the surface in the city since the Hough Riots two years earlier again flashed into the open. (More…)

Baudrillard says somewhere that the (or one) reason that schizophrenics are persistently agitated is that they lack a capacity for differentiation, such that all the dangers of the universe seem proximate and threatening. Perhaps this does not comport with modern psychology’s understanding of schizophrenia, but as a back-of-the-envelope diagnosis of our current circumstance, one could really do a lot worse. The entire American political spectrum is saturated with suspicions, some more valid and some less, that the centre cannot hold and the blood-dimmed tide is fast approaching. (More…)

Umberto Eco, who spent his early years in fascist Italy, once wrote, “Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.” This is, perhaps, the most fundamentally apposite statement of the politics of Donald Trump. He has no philosophy beyond the grumpy natterings common to superannuated white men: raging against the dying of the light with the noontide of white privilege only barely receding. He has only bluster and threats and the lugubrious schmooze of the inveterate speculator. (More…)

The SCOTUS has now affirmed the legality of Mr. Trump’s travel ban.  The ban itself is odious. It is unapologetically racist and erodes the standing of the United States in the world without, it must be said, standing the slightest chance of preventing actual acts of terrorism. (More…)

It is a sad fact of our current situation that great literature no longer carries the weight that it used to. This is no simply a matter of postmodernism knocking the wind out of linear novelistic narratives. In some cases, it is a matter of what was barely thinkable becoming commonplace. (More…)

We have reached such a pass in the modern world that political truths can only be spoken by comedians. The attacks by the political right on fact-oriented journalism, and on the reality-based community more generally, have created a situation in which political truths can only be spoken with kidding (not kidding) appended to them. (More…)

As an American with numerous friends in foreign countries, it often falls to one to be the interpreter (not to say justifier) of what goes on in American public life. In part, this is simply the normal interplay of people seeking to understand cultures and mores foreign to their own, and it is the subject of a literature has a long provenance, from Xenophon and Julius Caesar to Tocqueville and Twain, to Alastair Cooke (to name only a few). (More…)

I finally found time to read through Ross Douthat’s bizarre piece in Wednesday’s New York Times. The consequence of doing so was a sort of malaise resulting from recognition of the bankrupt state of intellectual culture and the realisation that those life minutes simply aren’t coming back. (More…)

No problem is so central to everyday life in the modern world as that of work, although its manifestations vary widely depending on one’s location in the global topography of production and consumption. If the central issue of David Graeber’s latest book, Bullshit Jobs, is a phenomenon specific to postindustrial society, it is nonetheless true that the broader implications of his argument spiral outwards, making contact with the broader reaches the productive processes in late capitalism. (More…)

Congressional Republicans have a Trump problem. Mr. Trump has made himself so toxic, conventional wisdom has it, that the losses normally suffered by the party that holds the White House in an off-year election will be so catastrophic as to rock the foundations of Republican hegemony. (More…)