Arts & DesignEssaysFeature

Hostile Architecture — Electronic Monitoring

In urban planning, there’s a strategy known as “hostile” or “defensive” architecture, such as the metal spikes built into public ledges to keep people (particularly those who are homeless) from sitting on them. Similarly, a 2013 article in the New York Times described what it called “pocket parks.” After becoming alarmed at the presence of men walking around with GPS monitors around their ankles, residents and city officials of a Los Angeles neighborhood found that the easiest way to drive away sex offenders was to build tiny playgrounds — or rather, plots of land with often no more than a swing set — just enough to invoke a state law that forbids registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or a park. 

EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/PublicsThe Left

Populism, Representation, and Sanders

A Reply to Mueller

In a recent article published on Public Seminar, Jan-Werner Mueller affirmed that populism is by its very nature not only anti-elitist, but also anti-pluralist: “Populists claim that they, and only they, represent the people.” He then attacked the undemocratic tendency populist politicians show when they lose the elections: they “begin to question the existing political institutions, which are obviously producing the wrong outcome, or even accuse the winners of fraud, as Donald Trump just did.” Of course, Mueller admitted, unsatisfactory electoral results will not prevent populists from speaking in the name of “real Americans,” but at that point, …


Pragmatism’s Promise

One of the many definitions of “dialectic” is “a method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to discover the truth”; another is “discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation.”  On either definition, Richard J. Bernstein is indisputably the most proficient and prolific dialectician working in philosophy today. His style has centered on the close reading of important figures who at first glance have little to do with  …

EssaysFeaturePsycheSex & Gender

Sick Bodies, Hysterical Pregnancies, ISIS Wives

Conversion Disorder

I wonder if “conversion disorder” — a classical psychiatric term for the conversion of psyche into soma in the form of psychosomatic issues — could be one way of thinking about the present. Especially with so many patients complaining of bodily symptoms, armed at times with cadres of healers; with so many seeking recourse to pharmacological treatments or bodily modification of various sorts, plastic and otherwise; with young men and women seemingly willing to direct violence at any-body, including themselves, in the name of powerful religious ideals.  Something increasingly insists on the level of the …

CapitalismEssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

Occupy the Party: The Sanders’ Campaign as a Site of Struggle

Bernie Sanders’ campaign to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2016 US presidential election presents the left in the United States with some hard questions. Is this the revolution we’ve been hoping for? Or is it just more of the same, another effort to generate and mobilize enthusiasm that is destined to break our hearts?

Those convinced that the electoral process is a vehicle through which the capitalist class enlists the rest of us in consenting to our own subjection doubt that there is anything different about the Sanders’ campaign. …

EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

The Sanders Campaign and ‘Political Revolution’

Support yes, credulity no

The Bernie Sanders campaign for President is one of the most exciting and hopeful developments in US politics in decades. Sanders is, and long has been, a man of principle — democratic socialist principle. He articulates a clear message — that a more genuine democratic politics in the United States needs to mobilize millions of people on behalf of an egalitarian political economic agenda — and he does so in a way that is both consistent and intelligent. He is always “on message,” because he has expressed this message for decades and he knows and believes in it, not because he is properly “handled.” His campaign has thus far succeeded beyond …