Revue de Presse: January 31

31 January 2021


Does militaristic foreign policy give carte blanche to civil strife at home? After the recent Capitol riots, the idea that “you reap what you sow” has circulated in the US and abroad. In Inkstick political scientist Van Jackson associates the repatriation of violence with large military budgets and a culture that venerates force. Addressing these problems, Van Jackson says, will require looking beyond “Trump-centric” arguments and reexamining how Washington has long approached issues of “international security.” Thomas Wright warns in The Atlantic that the “power” of America is inseparable from the quality of its democracy.


“How do you keep the most hateful acts and ideologies out of politics for good?” So inquires Aryeh Neier, co-founder of Human Rights Watch and president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations, in a recent piece penned for The New Republic. The question presumes that civilization is reaching ever upward and forwards. But as many liberal-progressives begrudgingly concede in the most post-Trump era, U.S. history doesn’t always take this arc. Neier notes that the U.S. led the Nuremberg trials in Germany and, more recently, war crimes tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. But America, he says, has never taken this kind of reckoning with its own past. The early weeks of the Biden administration suggest reckoning might not be on the agenda.


As the Associated Press and Haaretz report, GOP politicians who condemned Trump for inciting the deadly January 6 riot at the capital are now fighting for his good graces. Little did we know, Trump actually had them “at hello.” While Biden has maintained relative neutrality on the issue of impeachment, the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser inquires what will become of the former administration’s criminally-negligent response to this pandemic: “I can imagine Trump as the Republican leader of the next few rage-filled years,” writes Glasser. “But I can just as well imagine him stuck at home alone at Mar-a-Lago, roaring about revenge.” Neither of those hypotheticals sound anything like justice.


With justice in the balance, is Joe Biden’s talk of “unity” an empty platitude? A provocation? A promise of genuine healing? Writing for the Hedgehog Review blog, Richard Hughes Gibson connects Biden’s inaugural back to Abraham Lincoln’s call for “charity,” the “sympathy” of George Washington’s Farewell Address, and the “communion of interests” that James Madison describes in the Federalist Papers. Gibson believes appeals to unity have always entailed moments of great political risk. It’s risky to reason, persuade, and sympathize.


“The university has become a conflict zone.” Thus begins the philosopher Barbara Stiegler in an interview with Médiapart‘s Mathieu Magneudeix. Stiegler confesses that teaching in the midst of a pandemic and mass protests throughout France’s educational institutions has left her exhausted. She describes this politics of disorientation in her recent essay De la démocratie en pandémie. Stiegler details how the pandemic has not only exhausted us but also submerged us in a sea of misinformation. She relates this to the Macron government’s messaging on public health and concludes, as Médiapart reporters document, that what people hear and read does not match reality. Tired citizens and students must reclaim their institutions for themselves.


In World Politics Review, Bruno Tertrais explores “The Making of Macron’s Worldview,” with a focus on Macron’s less liberal tendencies. In the French President’s newfound emphasis on “security,” “sovereignty,” and “republican values,” Tertrais detects the influence of fellow ex-Socialist politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement. Known for his authoritarian brand of nationalist republicanism, Chevènement has been credited with inspiring political movements ranging from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, to Marine Le Pen’s Rassembement National. For Tertrais to call Macron Chevènementiste is striking, not least because Macron takes a pro-European stance, while Chevènement’s career was defined by his hostility to European integration. But in light of Macron’s increasing authoritarianism, his recent pronouncements on Islam, and his latest moves on the international stage, Tertrais argument is hard to ignore.


In an essay for Phenomenal World, political scientist Adam Przeworski examines the fortunes of the political tradition that Macron and Chevènement both abandoned: European social democracy. Przeworski argues that when social democrats capitulated to neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s, they began to speak a language that was no longer their own. He calls on social democrats today to recover their own earlier language of transformation, which may sound like a common enough message. But Przeworski is a startling messenger: his books in the 1980s were harsh critiques of social democratic hopes for transformation.


In the New Statesman, Antony Dapiran draws our attention to another democratic threat from January 6: In Hong Kong, police arrested 53 pro-democracy politicians under China’s new National Security Law. Dapiran worries that the response of the US and UK “only seemed to highlight the impotence of the international community in helping the people of Hong Kong.” Meanwhile, in The Guardian Gulbahar Haitiwaji adds fresh concerns for those tracking human rights abuses in Xianjiang. Haitiwaji fled Xinjiang with her family and settled in Paris, but ten years later, she found herself in a “reeducation” camp, like the ones featured in this Le Monde video. The newspaper has also released an interview explaining how its journalists sidestepped censorship to produce their report.


To help us think more about China, James Hankins reviews recent books on Chinese soft-power, the possibility for “democratization,” and sources of traditional meritocracy. Hankins views China not as a Western-style democracy but as a potentially “humane Confucian state.”


Gamestop stock prices are at the heart of a populist movement seizing financial markets and social media platforms. Reactions to the “eye-popping” gains for some participants on the r/wallstreetbets message board have been mixed. In the Atlantic, Derek Thompson derides the movement as a “ludicrous stock mania born of pandemic boredom and FOMO.” Meanwhile at Forbes, John Tamny refers to short-sellers as “heroes” and underlines their role as “price givers” who expose distorted stock values. As of Friday evening, hedge funds losses have totaled 70 billion dollars, a sum greater than the total GDP of Costa Rica. Robinhood blocked users from continuing to purchase Gamestop and AMC stock, prompting further controversy. Politicians as divergent as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz have expressed support for the Reddit activists, while media personalities such as Glenn Greenwald and Ben Shapiro condemn the actions of Robinhood executives. Markets reopen Monday morning.



Photo Credit: Sergey Zolkin via Unsplash.

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