David Graeber’s books have become an increasingly important part of my intellectual life. His searching and restless exploration of what it means to live in freedom is at the forefront of his last and posthumously published book The Dawn of Everything, co-written with David Wengrow. Review by William Deresiewicz.
On Hannah Arendt’s 115th birthday on October 14th, the Hannah Arendt Center convened its Annual Fall Conference, Revitalizing Democracy: Sortition, Citizen Power, and Spaces of Freedom. The effort was to explore the movement for citizen assemblies from a wide plurality of perspectives from activists, artists, public intellectuals, business persons, and students. Watch a recording of the webcast here.
Recent years have not been kind to experts, technocrats, and specialists in government. Amidst our hyper-partisan politics, there is a desire for policy to be made by experts who are thought to be neutral, objective, and informed. But experts have continually proven mistaken in their response to Covid-19, leading to the politicization of expert-driven policies. The experts in the U.S. military bungled the pullout from Afghanistan.
One feature of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes is their use of informants and every-day citizens to enforce ideological conformity. Unlike the police that must follow rules and regulations, neighbors can simply let their fantasies run wild and report on those they dislike, find suspicious, or want to discipline.
The locution “Amor Mundi” was Hannah Arendt’s shorthand for the effort and at times the failure—but above all the ambition—to learn to love the world as a gift of fortune in spite of the evil and tragedy that inform that world. In Arendt’s writing, the question of how and whether to love the world goes by the title reconciliation.
James Kirchick writes about Matthias Döpfner, the CEO of the German publisher Axel Springer, who recently ordered that the Israeli flag be flown for a week at corporate headquarters in solidarity with both Israel and European Jews after a spate of anti-semitic attacks in Germany. When some Springer employees complained and accused Döpfner of taking sides in a geopolitical conflict, Dopfner responded sternly...
William Deresiewicz asks after the boom in Masters programs--“From 1991 to 2019, the number of master’s degrees awarded rose by 143 percent. That’s 70 percent faster than bachelor’s degrees and 84 percent faster than doctorates.” These programs are cash cows for universities and are frequently financed by huge amounts of debt by students seeking to invest in their futures.
David Brooks revisits what he got right and wrong about the rise of the creative class. Above all, he admits that he was wrong when he wrote in 2000, “The educated class is in no danger of becoming a self-contained caste. Anybody with the right degree, job, and cultural competencies can join.” That view that the creative elite was benign and open to all was, he writes, “one of the most naive sentences I have ever written.”