Essays

Israel and the Jewish Diaspora

In 1990 the scholar David Vital wrote how Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel were heading in different directions. For better or for worse, this observation is proving to be increasingly accurate. For many Diaspora Jews, however, this direction of travel is undesirable. There exists a strong bond between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, and should this bond fray there are serious concerns that it may do irreparable harm to the Jewish people. As such, Diaspora Jews spend considerable effort to retain ties with Israel, including sending their children to Israel as part of youth group programs. The major Diaspora Jewish organizations also devote considerable resources to keeping up ties with Israel through a variety of sponsorships and public discourse. Yet, all this activity may well be for naught if Israel does not start to pay greater attention to Diaspora concerns about Israeli security policy. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

9/11: A Most Restless Event

The video below was produced between the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2002. It was first screened as a final project for the class Semiotics for Digital Producers, taught by professor Paul Ryan, as part of the graduate program in Media Studies of the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. Twelve years later, I revisited it editing and showing it for a second screening on the occasion of the memorial for Ryan in the Orozco room of the New School in April 2014.

I have returned to the video while reading the article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events” by Professor Robin Wagner-Pacifici, thinking about issues of temporality, event, perception, performance and meaning. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

How to Deal with Extremists? Post European Election Reflections

Considering the dilemmas of dealing with parties suspected of wanting to undermine core elements of liberal democracy

In the wake of this past spring’s European elections, in which far-right parties did very well, an old conundrum for liberal democrats is posed with renewed urgency: how to deal with extremists? Should one talk with them? Or should one only talk about them? Or not even that — in other words, should they just be ignored, or perhaps be contained with a cordon sanitaire that all other political parties agree on? The answer cannot be given in a vacuum — much depends on the nature of the party in question and on the political system in which it operates. Intellectuals and scholars who pretend that political philosophy or history provide easy answers are likely to do more harm than good here. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Obama Channels Reagan in Estonia

In the days leading up to President Obama’s state visit to Estonia on September 3rd, the eve before the NATO summit meeting in Wales, details of his schedule, travel plans and meetings were meticulously scrutinized. As streets closed and helicopters circled, the contrast between the heavy security surrounding the Commander in Chief and his message of freedom couldn’t have been starker. Obama’s visit dramatically underscored the complex relationship between freedom and security in a post-9/11 world. …

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Essays

Israel’s Culture of Violence

In contrast to the old image of the Jew who was led to his death in Europe without fighting back, the Israeli military has played a vital role in creating a new model, in which the Jewish soldier is a strong man who fights and kills for survival. From a practical point of view, the Army was important for the Zionist project for settling the land of Palestine because it was through the force, protection, and support of the military that the settlers were and are still able to settle Palestinian land.

For the Army to function properly — especially in the case of Israel, where military service is compulsory, meaning the Army is made up of the majority of the Israeli citizenship — there is a need to rally as much support as possible behind them. This is accomplished through state rhetoric that provides reasons for the necessity of partaking in a military offensive. …

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EducationEssays

Graduate Education and Health Insurance

A fundamental challenge at the New School for Social Research

Last year, NSSR and the University Administration announced a new fellowship initiative for NSSR students. The plan consisted on full scholarships for Ph.D. students that included full tuition and a $20,000 yearly stipend for up to three to five years of study. Dean’s Fellowships were also maintained. The scholarships were rolled out this year: 23 students were recipient of the Prize Fellowship (tuition + stipend) and 12 students received the Dean’s Fellowship (tuition only). The new plan was funded by $1,000,000 given to NSSR by the University. According to my notes taken from various Dean’s Advisory Councils that I attended as a sociology student representative, by 2022, Ph.D. students will be reduced from 510 to 350. As of spring 2014, only 7% of Ph.D. students had full tuition

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CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

The Capitalism of Affects

In her groundbreaking book about emotional labor, The Managed Heart, Arlie Russell Hochshild suggests that emotions are not simply stored in us waiting to be expressed: they are also produced and managed. The notion and practice of affects management, both privately and socially, are not specific to capitalism. Hellenistic philosophers made up a new word to convey this very idea: metriopatheia, from pathos, affect, and metrios, a word that conveys both the notion of measure and that of moderation. As Foucault correctly noted, the management or negotiation of pathē in Greek and Roman philosophers, and in particular in the Stoics, is constitutive part of a process of subject formation, utilizing what Foucault calls techniques of the self, through which a specific and historically determined subject constitutes himself as capable of self-determination and self-mastery through a process that was social and individual at the same time. …

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EssaysPsyche

Are We Really Such Beasts?

There is a relentless barrage of narratives about our supposed beastly nature and conduct. Since childhood, we have all watched animals routinely tear off each others’ limbs in countless nature documentaries meant to show us that survival at any cost is the natural order of life. We are fascinated by House of Cards, from which we infer that only suckers play by the book and uphold standards of decency. Many of us stumbled across the political theory of Thomas Hobbes in school; he told us that man is a wolf to other men and that the only way to reign in the beast is to resign to a larger beast — the Leviathan. We also recall that Adam Smith advised us not to rely on the charity of the butcher and the grocer for our meal, but on their self interest. We watched Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or Costa-Gavras’s Le Capital, and they confirmed that self interest knows no bounds. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Ferguson and Fatherhood: My Turn to Give The Talk

Recently, I took my son to the doctor for his 13-year old checkup. “He’s 5’8”, she told me, “and he hasn’t even begun his growth spurt yet.” I was also a late bloomer. 6’1” now, at his age, I was 5’2”. Looking at the chart, I could see there was an even chance he’d hit 6’4” in the next few years.

I knew it was time for The Talk.

My son doesn’t get out so much. Like most middle-class kids his age, the problem isn’t getting him off the corner, it is getting him off the computer. My son, however, is African-American. …

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Essays

Proportionality and the Diaspora in Operation Protective Edge

A response to Piki Ish-Shalom

As far as military euphemisms go, Operation Protective Edge is not the worst offender. As any reliable voice will point out, Israel faces significant danger from Hamas and its various factions. The threat posed by missile attacks or deadly incursions courtesy of a significant tunneling network out of Gaza and into Israel are real and they are serious. It is unreasonable to expect Israel to do nothing about them indefinitely. Yet, self-defense does not mean that anything goes. Therein lies the problem. The population density of Gaza is high, and so the risk of harming civilians in any military attack is great. Any military strike, no matter how precise, will almost certainly hit civilians. Assuming, for a moment, that this war has been taken as a last resort, one of the remaining moral questions about this war becomes one of proportionality. …

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