Revue de Presse: September 22

22 September 2019

The historian and Tocqueville21 contributor Sophia Rosenfeld reflects on conspiracy theories in The Nation.   Rosenfeld reviews a new book by Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum, A Lot of People are Saying, in which Muirhead and Rosenblum claim that our current American political moment suffers a new form of “conspiricism,” defined by its low standards of proof and its lack of motivating ideology. Rosenfeld agrees that conspiracy-mongering can be damaging for democracy, even as she argues that these dangers are not as new as the book suggests.


Why do Texans still love T. R. Fehrenbach’s Lone Star, a thoroughly-debunked popular history of their state? And why have more serious histories—often of a social or revisionist bent—failed to gain traction with Texas’s many amateur historians? In the Texas Monthly, Christopher Hooks discusses not only the state’s recent battle over Confederate monuments but also the gap between academic historians and the wider public. Can historians of a more diverse Texas capture general readers’ imagination with more than a retelling of the Alamo? To find out, the Texas Monthly is running excerpts of Stephen Harrigan’s forthcoming Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas. 


There is no question that John Rawls defined a generation of political philosophy. In the Boston Review, Katrina Forrester discusses the long shadow that Rawl’s Theory of Justice cast over political philosophy and wonders if Rawl’s analytic defense of liberal egalitarianism has outlived its usefulness. Writing for La Vie Des Idées, Rima Hawi chronicles Rawls’ response to utilitarianism, especially economic utilitarianism, and considers Rawl’s engagement with some of the world’s leading economists.


Arthur Rimbaud’s hometown of Charleville (now Charleville-Mézières in northern France) embraces the famous poet as a point of local pride. But Rimbaud himself hated the place while he was alive. In this piece for the New York Times, Norimitsu Omishi explores how the reinvention of Rimbaud as the “Jim Morrison of poets” has coincided with Charleville-Mézières budding tourist industry. Suffice to say that Rimbaud’s hometown hasn’t always seen him as the bold rebel he’s known as today.


Thin, white, and effortlessly fashionable, the myth of “la Parisienne” has long captivated the world’s imagination in photography, film, and more recently, social media. La Parisienne is both the model French woman—trim, independent, and a touch bohemian—and an ideal to which all of womankind can aspire. But even as she romps across screens large and small, la Parisienne fails to accurately capture the lived reality of most, if any, actual Frenchwomen, particularly France’s growing class of non-white and Muslim women. In the New Yorker, Lauren Collins traces the history of la Parisienne into the twenty-first century and how today’s Frenchwomen are trying to resist the stereotype, or at least broaden its scope.


Also writing for the New Yorker, Brooke Jarvis reflects on the long, peculiar history of South Dakota’s monument to Crazy Horse, the famous Lakota warrior who refused to capitulate after the Battle of Little Bighorn. Plans for the monument at Thunderhead Mountain began back in 1939, although the statue—projected to be the largest in the history of the world—is still far from complete. The monument’s construction, plus its accompanying tourist industry, have prompted mixed reactions among the Lakota themselves. Some think a statue that dwarfs the nearby Mount Rushmore is a fitting tribute, while others argue it desecrates Crazy Horse’s beloved Black Hills.


In another reflection on the vexations of modern tourism, Nicola Schulman describes a recent bus trip into the Ukraine’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Shulman’s essay for the New Criterion lingers on the eerie combination of humor and nostalgia she witnessed among tourists at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.


When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, the press erupted. When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, headlines on both sides of the Atlantic cried out in disbelief. But when Narendra Modi took the office of Prime Minister of India, newspapers in the West barely noticed—or worse, praised Modi and ignored his government’s brutal campaign against Indian Muslims. In an oped for The Guardian, Pankaj Mishra argues that India’s current anti-Muslim regime is symptomatic of a larger trend in liberal democracies, where empty rhetoric glosses outrageous political behavior from an ever-shrinking class of rulers.


The failure of liberal democracy goes deeper than the gap between what politicians have promised and what has actually been delivered. As Martin Wolf argues for the Financial Times, the economies of liberal democracies have in fact been making the wrong sorts of promises all along, and experts are only just beginning to realize it. Wolf speaks of a “rentier capitalism”—the idea that products and employees extract more from the economy than they would naturally be worth—to explain the real causes of today’s stagnation, inequality, and increasing instability.



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: Nathan Dumlao, via Unsplash.


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