EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

The Tunisian Moving Seminar

Today, January 14th, exactly five years ago, Tunisian president Zin El-Abidine Ben Ali was the first Arab dictator to be removed by the will and strength of an Arab nation, ushering in a wave of Arab rebellions. Because of the negative and destructive course taken by these revolts in Egypt, Syria and Yemen, many deem it pointless, futile or indecent to try to speak of their achievements. Nonetheless, having …


The Anniversary Gift: Texas opens public universities to firearms

The most striking architectural feature of the University of Texas at Austin is the tower that sits atop a hill at the center of campus. It is a twenty-seven story limestone monolith; a “toothpick” according to one detractor, more suited to the New Jersey cityscapes that inspired its architect, than to the landscaped grounds and rows of squat Italianate villas that radiate out from it. The tower is, in many respects, the focal …

CapitalismEssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

All Quiet on the Eastern Front: Part 2

Notes from a Pegida counter-demonstration in Dresden

“Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

There is something exhilarating and powerful about walking through the dark, empty streets of Dresden’s old town chanting this slogan. A solitary message of support in a continent that is in a race to rebuild the old borders and impose new mobility restrictions with as much fanfare as it sought to dismantle them only twenty-five years earlier. Yet the message is also unnerving…

CapitalismEssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Notes from a Pegida counter-demonstration in Dresden

It is 5.30 on a cold and rainy Monday evening in Dresden. To the casual tourist, there might be nothing extraordinary about the time or day of the week. The eerie tranquility of warmly flashing Christmas decorations, the ubiquitous smell of Glühwein, and the ingeniously crafted stands of the world famous Dresden Stiezelmarkt – all suggest that the city is ready to settle into a beloved holiday tradition…

EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

Of Honor and Despair in Dark Times

Hannah Arendt on Stefan Zweig

In 1943, with confirmation of the Nazis’ implementation of what the ossified bureaucratic language called Endlösung (the final solution) — the extermination of all European Jews — Hannah Arendt published an essay in the émigré journal Aufbau (printed in New York) on Stefan Zweig and the bygone world of yesterday, namely the world of dreams and illusions of German culture’s bourgeois cosmopolitanism. As one of its most influential and admired voices …


Happy New Year? A Public Seminar Year in Review

Looking back on a tumultuous but productive 2015

How can we wish each other a Happy New Year when the year ending, on the global stage, has been such an unhappy one? Of course, as individuals in our private lives, many of us may have had a good year and may look forward to a better one. But on the public stage, the year has been an extremely troubling, with few hopeful prospects. These are dark times. …

EssaysFeatureTheory & Practice

Refugee Resettlement Is a Church-State Enterprise

If Rand Paul supports church efforts to aid refugees, then he should support government efforts, too.

During the last Republican debate, Senator Rand Paul expressed opposition to resettling Syrian refugees because of his concern about government spending. “Charity is about giving your own money,” Paul declared. “Charity isn’t giving someone else’s money.” Paul lavished praise on private efforts to aid refugees, …


How Not to Remember 9/11

There are two memorials for 9/11 at the site of the World Trade Center (“Ground Zero”). The first, the Memorial proper, is a park of around eight acres, consisting of paved space, rows of trees (swamp oaks) and grass, and concrete benches. Within this space are two large square pits (“pools,” “voids”), each of which has water cascading down its walls, disappearing into a smaller square hole in the center. Surrounding …

EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionTheory & Practice

Ecology, Security, and the Death of Liberal Democracy

In a recent episode of the FX series Fargo, Minnesota Sheriff Lou Solverson answers a key witness’s refusal to accept police protection from a local crime syndicate by recounting his experience in Vietnam: “There’s a look a boy gets when he’s been shot, or a landmine takes off his legs, …

CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

The Paris Climate Deal: Just Words?

Or just enough to move the earth?

As the world leaders read through endless scripted statements about making history and saving the planet for our children, environmental critics were already denouncing the Paris climate deal as a fraud. It is not difficult to see why. First, the deal contains no legal obligations for countries to cut emissions, and there …