Revue de Presse: August 11
Welcome to Tocqueville 21’s weekly revue de presse, where we recap some of the most thought-provoking articles we’ve seen on democracy and politics in France, the US, and beyond. As always, the articles we relay here do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and interns that put this list together, just what we think is worth reading.
Americans have been seeing the fall of Rome as a mirror for their own anxieties for about as long as the country’s been around. In the NYR Daily, Tom Holland maps the common comparison points between contemporary US politics and Rome’s final era, while making clear that this sort of prophesying is nothing new. Meanwhile, in Mediapart, Fabien Escalona investigates fears about the loss of democracy at a global level. Escalona argues that democracies naturally face “recesses” in collective liberty after major shifts in hegemony, even as he warns that the post-Cold War proliferation of democracy is not as permanent as we might hope.
JHI blog editor Spencer Weinreich reflects on the legacy of Toni Morrison, calling her a “storyteller, and historian—for they amount to the same thing.” Weinreich points to the extensive historical research Morrison poured into Beloved and argues that her celebrated novels about slavery and African American life are nothing short of “a virtuosic historiography of the United States’ past.” Ross Douthat wonders in his New York Times column whether, after Morrison’s passing, there are any Great American Novelists left—and whether the novel can survive our increasingly short attention spans.
In his Foreign Policy post on our global responsibilities to protect against environmental damage, international affairs professor Stephen Walt raises the possibility that other states might defensibly invade Brazil if it meant saving the Amazon. Alonso Gurmendi, however, forcefully objects to Walt in OpinioJuris: Not only would following Walt’s suggestion encourage anti-imperialist sentiment in Brazil, but even the publication of this idea adds weight to Jair Bolsonaro’s nationalist party–dealing damage to the very land Walt wishes to protect.
In Slate, April Glaser takes a look at Telegram, the nonprofit, fully-encrypted messaging app that was explicitly designed for activists to communicate freely in the face of hostile political authorities. But the same message app that has been a boon for the protestors in Hong Kong also serves as a hangout for fascists and white supremacists—a concern Glaser relates to the tragedy in El Paso.
Writing for the August edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, the American sociologist Rick Fantasia denounces what he calls the “cannibal left” for its role on US college campuses. According to Fantasia, the Left’s identity-based politics provide elites an exercise in self-flattery, while frustrating a more universalist effort to organize on class-based lines. Although many on the American Left have sought to complicate this distinction between universalism and identitarianism, the universalist paradigm remains more prevalent among the French.
Andrew Marzoni reviews Foucualt in California for the Baffler. The book, by Simeon Wade, details the philosopher’s famous visit to Death Valley in 1975, where he experienced an acid trip that has become the stuff of legend and a matter of controversy for Foucault scholars. Marzoni recounts not only the storied LSD trip also Wade’s own rise and fall in academia.
Roxanne Panhasi, an historian of post-’45 France, writes in Age of Revolutions about the anxiety—and pleasure—of teaching the French Revolution, a subject she still considers to be outside her official area of expertise. The Revolution is a dauntingly massive subject, and yet she’s learned to embrace the Revolution’s pull on all historians of France.
Photo credit: Anders Nord via Unsplash, “Cafe in Prague” CC BY 4.0