Reads
The Downfall of American Democracy

The Downfall of American Democracy

Verso has recently published a collection of Lewis Lapham’s essays under the title Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy. If a book more apposite to our current situation has been published in the last 18 months I am unaware of it. More»

Ignoring the Noise

Ignoring the Noise

At the end of September, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump spent an evening on an all-out Twitter war against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. The liberal press widely assailed Trump’s late-night fixation as proof of his absurdities and inherent misogyny. More»

David Brooks Journeys to His Happy Place

David Brooks Journeys to His Happy Place

There are moments when I am tempted to start a sub-blog that would comprise commentaries on op-eds David Brooks publishes in the New York Times. Partly this stems from the delicious Schadenfreude that one experiences while watching this leading journalistic light of moderate conservatism try to cope with Donald Trump burning the Republican Party to the ground. More»

‘Burn it to the Ground’

‘Burn it to the Ground’

It is well-known that there are currently 2.4 million people in US prisons and jails. What is less-known is that they write and are producing a new wave of American literature. More»

Konsumterror

Konsumterror

I’ve been reading Alexander Sedlmaier’s Consumption and Violence: Radical Protest in Cold War West Germany. I picked it up after seeing it in the Cambridge University Press catalog, and only subsequently did I realize that I’d seen Sedlmaier give quite an interesting presentation at a German Studies Association conference in New Orleans long ago. More»

Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall

As a practical matter, it seems to be very difficult to write a book about the Frankfurt School (or any of its related figures) which is not hagiographical, impenetrable, interminable, or some combination of the three. I can count on one hand the number of titles on this topic that did not prompt me to the immediate consumption of alcohol or some sort of stimulant. More»

Asian Caricatures

Asian Caricatures

In his magisterial War Without Mercy, John Dower convincingly describes how prewar anti-Japanese feelings were driven by populist American fears of Japanese immigration and actual military contingency planning, though military planners consistently underestimated the Japanese in racist terms. More»

Civilization Versus Ideology

Civilization Versus Ideology

The United States has always approached political Islam in a contradictory manner. Since the 1950s, when Washington first made common cause with anti-Communist religious leaders, US policy towards the Mideast has been characterized by a disconnect between rhetoric and politics, particularly in matters concerning Islamist mobilization. More»

The Fifth or Sixth Human

The Fifth or Sixth Human

Der dritte oder der vierte Mensch, by the German sociologist Alfred Weber, hardly qualifies as a classic of the literature. It was published in 1953 as the first phase of the Cold War was winding down and much of the value that it retains is due to the way that it reflects the mindset of a particular moment in history. More»

White Room, Black Curtains

White Room, Black Curtains

Once you’ve seen the original photograph, this exercise in “Photoshopping” is understandable. But my first-year university students, trying to make sense of Claudia Rankine’s brilliant book Citizen have not. To them, it’s just a perplexing image of white people from long ago, turning around to look at the camera in front of the dark shape of a tree looming against an even darker sky. More»

Framing the Foreign

Framing the Foreign

In his first edition of Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy, Yale’s Michael H. Hunt hoped that in describing the primacy of ideological assumptions in foreign policymaking, he could contribute to the post-Vietnam critique of American overreach in world affairs More»

Origins of American Globalisation

Origins of American Globalisation

Spreading the American Dream is about the folklore of capitalism on a global stage. Or as an article in The National Interest once pithily described the mentality: “the multilingual, globe-trotting, advanced-degree holding, CNN-watching, Hilton Hotel-staying, international organization-employed cadres who go from trouble spot to trouble spot imposing the neoliberal state- and nation-building agenda on recalcitrant and often ungrateful natives.” More»