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African-American Intellectuals, Southern Democrats, and LaCroix Sparkling Water

Past Present Episode 113

In this episode, Natalia, Niki, and Neil discuss a feud between African-American intellectuals Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the electoral prospects for southern Democrats, and why LaCroix Sparkling Water has become an obsession.

Arts & DesignEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Germany’s Awkward Farewell to Günter Grass

Can good poetry also be a good politics? I am paraphrasing a question that I have heard Jeff Goldfarb asking on several occasions. Günter Grass, German novelist, poet, sculptor, and a Nobel Prize laureate, delivered both — the finest literature and daring political insights. With his departure, Germany and the world have lost one of the last novelists who practiced the art of modern novel that Milan Kundera understood as being intrinsic to the existence of modern individual. Grass’ss novels capture depths and intricacies of human experience that he reiterated in epic yet unheroic stories free of pathos and sentimentality. …

EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Bauman Affair: A Clear and Present Danger to Democracy and Academic Freedom in Poland

On June 22nd of this year, in the city of Wroclaw, a lecture by Zygmunt Bauman was aggressively disrupted by a group of neo-fascists. When I first read about this, I was concerned, but not overly so. The extreme right has a persistent, visible, but ultimately, marginal presence on the Polish political scene, I assured myself. As a video of the event reveals, there is the other, apparently more significant, Poland that invited and wanted to listen to the distinguished social theorist speak, and cheered when the motley crew of ultra-nationalists and soccer hooligans were escorted from the lecture hall. While xenophobia and neo-fascism are threats in Eastern and Central Europe, I was pretty confident that in Poland, they were being held at bay.

But, after a recent visit to Wroclaw, I realize that I may have been wrong.