A selection of thought-provoking reads from the month that was…
At fifty-nine, [Elizabeth] Anderson is the chair of the University of Michigan’s department of philosophy and a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent, enmeshed in changing conditions through time. Working at the intersection of moral and political philosophy, social science, and economics, she has become a leading theorist of democracy and social justice. She has built a case, elaborated across decades, that equality is the basis for a free society. Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. Because she brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality, Anderson may be the philosopher best suited to this awkward moment in American life. She builds a democratic frame for a society in which people come from different places and are predisposed to disagree.
The Trump administration has provided a new example of an old concept: the “imperial presidency.” That term, famously used by the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in 1973 to describe the excesses and abuses of the Nixon White House, fell out of use almost as soon as President Richard Nixon fell from grace. The reckoning of Watergate and the first-ever resignation of a president seemed to show that the executive branch was not as uncontrollable as it had once seemed. . . . [But] four decades later, the “imperial presidency” still seems to be alive and well. What went wrong?
Over hours of testimony, my fellow members of Congress struggled to grapple with technologies used daily by most Americans and with the functions of the Internet itself. Given an opportunity to expose the most powerful businesses on Earth to sunlight and scrutiny, the hearings did little to answer tough questions about the tech titans’ monopolies or the impact of their platforms. It’s not because lawmakers are too stupid to understand Facebook. It’s because our available resources and our policy staffs, the brains of Congress, have been so depleted that we can’t do our jobs properly. Americans who bemoan a broken Congress rightly focus on ethical questions and electoral partisanship. But the tech hearings demonstrated that our greatest deficiency may be knowledge, not cooperation.
Was Hobsbawm really the dangerous communist, the Stalinist apologist, the unrepentantly hardline Marxist that so many have assumed him to be? A careful reading of his autobiography, Interesting Times, published in 2002, as well of his other published work, will do a lot to dispel this simplistic view. But it is in the vast mass of private papers, including diaries, letters and unpublished personal reminiscences that the real answers are to be found. They can be supplemented by other sources, including the many files MI5 kept on him for several decades. What is the story this material tells?
As unlikely as it may seem, the 1920s Klan and its demise merit just such a reconsideration in the wake of #MeToo. The Klan is infamous for the promotion of white supremacy and violence against African Americans; however, the Klan’s extensive networks of patriarchal power also enabled abusive men to prey on women. The 1925 rape of Madge Oberholtzer by Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson of Indianapolis is one such example.