United States
True Americanism

True Americanism

Patriotism was once defined as “the last refuge of a scoundrel”; and somebody has recently remarked that when Dr. Johnson gave this definition he was ignorant of the infinite possibilities contained in the word “reform.” Of course both gibes were quite justifiable, in so far as they were aimed at people who use noble names to cloak base purposes.  More»

Small World

Small World

Sometimes, when you get distracted from your distraction, it can all seem like a cruel joke. You have paid a lot of money and will no doubt be paying more, once you factor in souvenirs and sustenance, to pass most of your time standing in line. And you are supposed to be celebrating this purgatory, because this is Disneyland, the self-proclaimed “happiest place on Earth.” More»

The Cult of Personality

The Cult of Personality

Politics in the world of industrialized neoliberal states is subject to a sort of compression. Neoliberalism, as a mode of thought and organization, is characterized by the shifting of ever greater regions of the social order out of the realm of political deliberation and into the ostensibly more “objective” realm of economic competition. More»

Holiday in Cambodia

Holiday in Cambodia

Sometimes hardship leads to serendipity. Since I came down with a bad respiratory infection a few weeks ago, my voice has been reduced to a scraping sound. This has forced me to modify my teaching, finding as many ways as I can to avoid talking. It’s why, instead of explaining the rise of the Khmer Rouge to my freshman seminar, I showed them a video instead. More»

Bernie Sanders: Socialist Superhero?

Bernie Sanders: Socialist Superhero?

It seems fair to say that most observers of politics in the United States have been surprised by the ascent of Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency. I put myself in a special category, though, with respect to that feeling of surprise. As a political scientist, I purport to have at least better than average observational skills and analytic tools focused on the world of politics. More»

Politics in a New Key

Politics in a New Key

Politics in the United States is no more corrupt or crazy than anywhere else. Certainly there has been no shortage of scandals (from Teapot Dome to Watergate) and systemic corruption (Tammany Hall, Chicago up to and including the present day), but one needn’t be an avid student of history to find similar sorts of things in any the major industrialized states one cares to study. More»

Something in the Water

Something in the Water

Even amid the incessant coverage of the Republican and Democratic campaigns for President, the crisis surrounding the water supply in Flint, Michigan has stayed in the news. While the sheer it-should-not-happen-HERE horror is the primary reason, the story’s staying power also attests to the fact that so many people can use it as evidence of what is wrong with the American political landscape. More»

Religion of Paranoia

Religion of Paranoia

The object of most conspiratorial fantasies in America is the federal government. This is no coincidence. Ever since the New Deal, and the Civil Rights Movement, the executive has been the most prominent guarantor of democratic change. In growing federal power, racists, evangelicals, and the business class found a common enemy to unite against. More»

Silver Linings

Silver Linings

It wasn’t the best of times. And the news frequently made it feel like the worst. I spent all but a few days in a fog of exhaustion. I had little time for movies and even less for books. I attended fewer concerts than in any year since 1988. Even sporting events I always used to watch live were experienced through my DVR. But I’ll still remember 2015 fondly. More»

The Poor Rich

The Poor Rich

Liberalism has always retained its own authoritarian option, the right to defend itself, if necessary with violence, both against outside enemies and the enemy within. It has also always been tinged with fear of instability and paranoia. As soon as the strict boundaries protecting the “sphere of property” from government intrusion are understood to have been transgressed, property owners have become victims of oppression. More»

Fearful Fantasies

Fearful Fantasies

After the latest spate of mass shootings in the United States, I tried to engage NRA supporters in reasonable debate. But I struggled to comprehend their way of thinking about risk. Defending easy access to assault weapons, one of them argued that, “If I put one in front of you when your family is under attack by a mob, you wouldn’t blink an eye.” I wasn’t so sure. More»

Vigilante Liberalism

Vigilante Liberalism

If there’s there’s one thing about Donald Trump that everybody agrees on, it’s that he’s gone too far. After all, even taboo breaking has its limits. But to what end? A recent article in Jacobin contends that the billionaire made the jump from liberalism to fascism. It’s an interesting hypothesis, but oversimplifies the problem. More»