Revue de Presse: March 8

8 March 2021

As Macron’s government continues its crusade against “Islamo-leftism” in France’s universities—led by ministers Frédérique Vidal and Jean-Michel Blanquer—academics speak out against what they see as an assault against academic freedom (see Art Goldhammer’s English translation of an open letter on this topic at Tocqueville 21). In the online magazine Analyse Opinion Critique, a voice for social scientists in popular discourse, numerous scholars have sought to provide context for this latest controversy, while exploring its dangerous implications. Corinne Torrekens as well as Nicolas Bancel and Pascal Blanchard in their essays have traced the historical development of the term islamo-gauchisme in the reaction to both the British left’s approach to Islam and the rise of post-colonial studies. Sébastien Platon explores the legal repercussions of Vidal’s crusade, fearing a deleterious effect on the status of universities and public research; Bruno Karsenti dismisses the vanity of the ministers’ attempts to purge the social sciences of “ideology”; and Didier Fassin offers a sweeping “critique of the critique” of “Islamo-leftism” as well as the French approach to race and identity more broadly. Meanwhile, in the anglophone press, Cole Stangler offers some worrying predictions of how this affair reflects on Macron’s strategy for the 2022 elections.


René Girard was a surprisingly social scholar. Much of his work was forged in dialogue and debate with others. In Commonweal, Costica Bradatan reviews Cynthia Haven’s new biography of Girard, published alongside Haven’s collection of interviews, Conversations with René Girard. For Bradatan, Girard’s conversational approach brings out his unorthodoxy as an intellectual: He reached the heights of university prestige while encouraging auto-didacticism. He was an avant-garde philosopher who embraced Catholicism. And he was a Frenchman who joked that he spent his first years in American academia thinking about his desire for cars.


In the latest edition of New Left Review, CUNY historian Alexander Zevin reviews Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology. Zevin praises the scope of the book and its wealth of statistics, but argues that it fails to coherently conceptualize the historical relationship between the two terms in the title—“capital” and “ideology”. For Zevin, Piketty is a “Proudhon for postmoderns”: a liberal-socialist whose moral critiques are admirable, but whose theories and solutions are inadequate to contend with the might of capitalism.


On other side of the political spectrum, in American Affairs, Blake Smith reviews the new edition of Carl Schmitt’s postwar text The Tyranny of Values. Smith argues that though Schmitt was writing in patent bad faith, his “liberalism for losers” offers a useful perspective on why and how we might want to curtail the intensity of values-driven political conflict.


HR 1, a new bill that just passed in the House of Representatives, aims to restructure voting rights in the US and covers topics as diverse as mail-in ballots, gerrymandering, and campaign finance. In the press, the bill highlights the ongoing struggle to come to any clear consensus on the actions necessary to ensure a functional voting system in the US. In The Wall Street Journal, the editorial board underlines Republican concerns by arguing that the bill would “federalize election rules” and undermine voter confidence in the security of elections. In The Hill, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) calls the bill a step in “the wrong direction,” ultimately serving to benefit only one party. The Washington Post’s editorial board derides these views, claiming the critiques stem from a fear of democracy. While support for the bill has largely been split down party lines in Congress, the bill is nevertheless generating some controversy on both sides in the media: In The Washington Post, ACLU legislative counselors Kate Rouane and Sonia underline the bill’s flaws in relation to campaign finance, hypothesizing that it could open the door to greater “infringements on political speech.” The partisan nature of the bill means that it is unlikely to pass in the Senate, as it would require Republican support.


Is American diplomacy allergic to multilateralism? On the podcast Altamar, Secretary Madeleine Albright delivers a tour-de-force on the United States and its allies. Through incisive personal anecdotes, Albright calls for a revived engagement at the United Nations: American “representation without taxation” is a missed chance. A tireless advocate of Atlanticism, she offers unyielding, original appraisals of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.


Photo credit: Dan Counsell via unsplash

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