Revue de Presse: March 1

1 March 2020


Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideologyappears in English this month, and the press will no doubt have more to say about Piketty’s call for a 90 percent inheritance tax and his proposals for “participatory socialism.” But for William Davies, Piketty’s book represents “an astonishing experiment in social science.” Writing for the Guardian, Davies insists that Piketty is no Marxist, even if his sweeping historical scope has a certain resemblance to the French Annales School. Instead, Davies reads Piketty as a “liberal reformer,” convinced that statistical knowledge of global inequality will force a democratic reckoning. To read more about Capital and Ideology, check out our Tocqueville 21 interview with Piketty here.


Samantha Power’s 2002 book, A Problem from Hell, received the Pulitzer Prize just a few weeks after the American invasion of Iraq. Power herself opposed the Iraq War but remained a stalwart advocate for humanitarian interventionism. Did such idealism blind Power to the dangers of unilateral action? Yale historian Sam Moyn thinks Power is still failing to grapple with the consequences of a self-righteous foreign policy. Reviewing Power’s memoir, The Education of an Idealist, in American Affairs, Moyn faults Power for not addressing how her role in the Obama administrationespecially her support for the use of force in Libya during the Arab Spring—might belie her humanitarian worldview.


As part of the New Yorker’s “Future of Democracy” series, Nathan Heller profiles the French political theorist Hélène Landemore, who now teaches at Yale. An advocate for what she calls “open democracy,” Landemore wants to incorporate as many citizens into decision-making as possible. She supports experiments such as filling political offices by lottery, much like jury duty. Perhaps we’d fare better under randomized leadership than under our current elected officials elected leaders. Landemore, a graduate of France’s elite grandes écoles, has become a leading voice for the wisdom of the crowd. For Heller, Landemore’s own career represents something of an education in democratic reason.


Mark Lilla argues that readers would be wrong to pass over Ross Douthat’s latest book, The Decadent Society, as just another screed against the 1960s. In a review for the New York Times, Lilla interprets Douthat as writing within the genre of “social prophecy”and he thinks Douthat does a decent job of analyzing a wilderness of current cultural trends.


In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Anne Anlin Cheng contrasts Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019). Exploring themes of psychoanalysis, cultural appropriation, and neoliberalism, she ends by wondering whether the lessons of class have yet to be learned as thoroughly as the lessons of race.


Was Norman Rockwell a kitschy artist for the Silent Generation? Or does his career speak to a more profound transformation? In Vox, Tom Carson discusses Rockwell’s dramatic shift during the 1960s, when the otherwise apolitical Rockwell cast a vote for JFK, quit his job at the Saturday Evening Post, and dedicated himself to some of the most iconic paintings of the Civil Rights Movement.


In the the New York Review of BooksCorey Robin decries the “tyranny of the minority” dominating today’s US. From the Iowa caucuses to the Electoral College to the Senate, anti-majoritarian institutions mean that the the voice of some Americans (often older, white ones) matters significantly more than others… sometimes up to 67 times more. Can our fascination with polling datawhich is constantly measuring the majority’s opinion—coexist with a tolerance for the Electoral College or filibuster? Unnervingly, the answer just might be yes.


In her review for La Vie des idées of Iain Stewart’s new intellectual biography of Raymond Aron, which seeks to problematize the notion that Aron led a “renewal” of French liberal thought in the second half of the twentieth century, Sophie Marcotte-Chénard reminds us that this has largely been a feature of the Anglo-American interpretation of Aron. As she argues, the French reception of Aron has reflected the fact that Aron never actually developed a theory of liberalism or liberty. But though she finds Stewart’s conclusion somewhat indefinite, she ultimately concurs with Stewart that Aron’s “style of intellectual engagement” is one that may prove instructive for wading into debates over the meaning of liberalism today.


Photo Credit: Karl Cohr, via Unsplash.


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