ColumnsFeatureGray FridayLetters

The View From My Sick Bed

Reflections on an Illness, a Family Photo, the Social Condition and Public Seminar

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ColumnsFeatureGray FridayLetters

Making Room for Democracy

On the beauty of gray, the social condition, and individual and group responsibility

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EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

Hannah Arendt on American “Social Slavery”

A few years after fleeing the fascist tidal wave in Europe and finding refuge in New York City, Hannah Arendt penned a letter to her mentor and confidant Karl Jaspers, commenting briefly on the peculiarities of American politics and society. She remarked, “The fundamental contradiction of the country is political freedom coupled with social slavery.”

This simple sentiment, which she affirmed until the day she died, is striking for three reasons. Most obviously, it suggests civil and political freedoms are not sufficient foundations for what we would consider a “good society.” Secondly, Arendt, a German Jew, obviously had no illusions about how low European society had sunk in its flirtation with fascism, but she apparently and rather damningly found the United States comparatively worse than pre-war Europe in terms of societal health. …

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EssaysFeatureSex & Gender

Social Constructs: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

There was a time, not so long ago, when men were men and women were women, when hetero-normativity prevailed, with the alternatives relegated to the margins, in closets, and in the shadows of lesbian and homosexual hidden locales, which were constantly under attack. Under such conditions, two sociologists explored the constitution of sex and gender: Harold Garfinkel, in his illuminating ethnomethodological study of sexuality, a case study of “Agnes,” and Erving Goffman, in his nuanced analysis of gender advertisements. Neither had a normative or political agenda. Both were careful observers of social life, and came to their specific insights as part of their overall intellectual projects: Garfinkel in his studies of the active way common sense is constituted and sustained, and Goffman in his studies of the drama in social order. …

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CapitalismEssaysFeatureMedia/PublicsTheory & Practice

Theses On The Philosophy Of The FKA-Anthropocene, Feat. Shia LaBeouf, Part II

Something of Shia LaBeouf’s name stands in, perfectly, controversially, for what is now happening to us, across us, as a kind of general FKA-transing of all available terms. Around the time Caitlyn Jenner came out, there was talk of an intersectional “trans-”: a trans for race and class and even for ecographic sub-constituencies. During Occupy Wall Street, the same talk happened, and then nothing happened, and a few people said it was still on, and then nothing happened.

Intersectionality seems to be the least sustainable piece …

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CapitalismEssaysFeatureMedia/PublicsRaceTheory & Practice

Theses On The Philosophy Of The FKA-Anthropocene, Feat. Shia LaBeouf, Part I

Walter Benjamin’s strategy in the Theses on the Philosophy of History was to focus on a non-human moment in human time and to present this instance on blast in his prose style. What I mean by “blast” here is the fact that the message had to be pirated past ideological hangers-on and historical barriers, past both Marxist and theotropic renditions, and also past the Nazi episode that might have been his more obvious target in 1940. His prose is clear but depth-charged, resonates at another frequency, still as if exploded past the imaginary proscriptions of Theodor Adorno, who was already in situ in New York …

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