Hannah Arendt is a thinker who insists that we make distinctions. One of Arendt’s most controversial distinctions is that between racism and what she alternatively will call “race thinking” in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and then "prejudice" in many of her later essays. In the wake of the shooting in Buffalo last week, John McWhorter made his own distinctions while trying to understand the place of racism in U.S. society. McWhorter argues that we use the word racism today to mean too many things. He states that we need to distinguish between different aspects of what we call racism in order to think more clearly about the problems and prevent such tragedies as the shooting in Buffalo.
Michael Kruse interviews Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present. Kruse asks Ben-Ghiat, “Is America still a full democracy?”
Thomas Edsall looks at recent academic research on why citizens vote for authoritarian leaders. He finds that in a hyper-partisan environment, voters in democracies privilege the victory of their side over the maintenance of democratic norms.
Moisés Naim writes that a new breed of autocrats “uses populism, capitalizes on polarization, and revels in post-truth politics to undermine democratic norms and amass power, preferably for life.
David King went to fight in Ukraine in part to escape his own descent into conspiracy theories and cynicism. Alexander Clapp looks deeply into the way that King’s experience in Afghanistan led to his loss of faith in the United States cultural, military, and political elites.
What is behind the pro-Putin sentiment on both the far right and the far left? If you get past your revulsion at those who seemingly embrace Putinism for cynical and self-interested reasons, the support for Putin has a real source in the rampant distrust and disdain for political and cultural elites. Ian Buruma explains.
There are all sorts of books written about How Democracies Die. Hannah Arendt argued that the great threats to democracies are bureaucratization and bigness, both of which led to Praxis-Entzug, a feeling of disempowerment and depoliticization. This certainly seems to be happening in France. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solenn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy. Ivanne Trippenbach, Julie Carriat, Laurent Telo, Solemn de Royer and Olivier Faye write in Le Monde that the Presidential election in France has encountered unprecedented apathy.
Michael Bloom writes about the importance of Lessing’s play Nathan the Wise, the first play performed in Germany in 1945 after the fall of the Nazis. In discussing the reception of the play, Bloom focuses on two different reactions by Hannah Arendt, who came to see Lessing as the great thinker of political friendship.
Alexander Beiner interviews N.S. Lyons about the impact of the Russian war in Ukraine on Russia, the West, and China. At one point, Beiner asks, “To what extent is Chinese culture and politics truly collectivist in its outlook?”
Hannah Arendt respected civil servants who brought competence and professionalism to their jobs. At the same time, however, she worried deeply about bureaucracy, which is often associated with civil service. In her early work The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt argues that bureaucracy as it developed in India, Egypt, and Algeria was a new form of government of foreign people that sought to rule and dominate them outside of legal restraints. As a non-legal government based on personal power, bureaucracy was intertwined with racism that justified the brutal colonial rule by European powers.