Revue de Presse: September 15

Tocqueville 21
15 September 2019

 

Must our political discourse be civil? Is incivility a mark of defiance, or its own form of virtue-signaling? Are rejections of politeness and refusal to debate deliberate moral choices, or just cathartic indulgences? These are the tough questions that Amy Olberding poses in her essay for Aeon, where she responds to our polemic culture of callouts and takedowns with some introspection on the morals of civility itself.

 

It is becoming increasing clear that the European Union it is far from a representative democracy for its member states. In his analysis for AOC, Didier Georgakakis argues that the European Commission (whose new list of commissaries was recently published) resembles something closer to a federation of “insider” and “outsider” powers. Georgakakis notes that as a small number of key players control the direction of European affairs, it is more important than ever to recognize the differences between rule by collective management and rule by representation.

 

Martin Luther King’s supposed radical leanings have been scrutinized by the FBI and hopeful leftists alike, but is “socialism” the best word to describe the Civil Rights leader’s philosophy? And should activists work to revive King’s “radicalism”? In Plough Quarterly, Brandon M. Terry combs through clues to King’s political-economic views to determine if there’s any truth to King’s “red” legacy, even as Terry warns that our own readiness to accept King’s class-critique as an indicator of communism bears residual traces of Cold War blacklisting.

 

Writing for the Chronicle Review, Jon Baskin tracks the latest in intra-conservative culture wars. Baskin reports on the split between conservatism’s old-guard “fusionists,” who think American principles of tolerance remain the best strategy for protecting conservative Christians, and a new generation of Catholic traditionalists, who are increasingly willing to denounce the traditional conservative consensus—and perhaps even the American founding itself.

 

At famous estates like Jefferson’s Monticello and George Washington’s Mount Vernon, tour guides are striking a new tone. In the Washington Post, Hannah Knowles reports that the tours are now more much explicit about the slaves who built these estates—although this emphasis sometimes led to a clash with visitors.

 

In the New York Review of Books, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee sharply criticizes Australia’s current immigration politics, which have led to a byzantine set of policies for asylum-seekers attempting to arrive by boat. Coetzee, who currently resides in Australia, draws his information about Australia’s offshore detention centers and the dismissal conditions inside these facilities from Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, says he cannot leave Manus Island out of fear for his safety; he surreptitiously texted his story from an illicit cell phone inside the prison.

 

Though Michael Kimmage acknowledges that drawing parallels between Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and present-day Russia is “in many ways absurd,” his Foreign Affairs article suggests that post-Soviet Russians confront a tension not unlike that of Tolstoy’s aristocrats. Kimmage recalls Natasha Rostova, one of the novel’s most Europe-facing characters, who, in spite of her pristine French education, could not help but feel the pull of Russian folkways. Kimmage wonders if misunderstandings and miscalculations between Russia and the West is exaggerating this cultural tension of today’s Natashas—and tempting Putin’s break with the liberal order.

 

What factions on the Brazilian right precipitated Jair Bolsonaro’s rise to power? In a Brazil that lacks anything akin to America’s conservative think tanks and legal societies, is there such a thing as bolsonarismo—that is, an intellectual movement propping up President Bolsonaro? In American Affairs, Nick Burns traces the curious cast of economists, military men, conspiracy theorists, poets and self-described philosophers in Bolsonaro’s orbit.

 

And Thomas Piketty is back in Le Monde explaining his approach to the study of anti-egalitarian ideologies. Meanwhile, Médiapart has devoted a series of thought-provoking responses to Piketty’s new Capital et idéologie, and Piketty’s fellow economist Branko Milanovic sings Piketty’s praises as a leader of the discipline on—of all places—the blog of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

 

Tocqueville 21’s weekly revue de presse recaps some of the most thought-provoking articles we’ve seen on democracy and politics in the US, France, 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.

 

Photo Credit: Марьян Блан via Unsplash, “Newstand“, CC BY 4.0

 

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