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Index: Politics & Culture

The Utopian Animal.

David Eisenberg: ‘Owing to the failures of the Enlightenment, which were evinced by the barbarities that persistently accompanied reason’s advance, the rational animal was forced to exit the stage. In his place stands the inhabitant of the present age: the utopian animal.’

Duties of care in the study of literature.

Alex Wong: ‘To be able to enter into an emotional and ideological world not one’s own, and then to be moved by it, to come to respect it, to empathize with that mode of thought and feeling—whether aesthetic, sentimental or moral—must be, I take it, one of the most important processes involved in the study of old books. It is especially important when the book in question at first seems particularly alien. What I am talking about (knowing that I am saying nothing new) might be described as an engaged, humane, historical awareness, the goal being an expansion of sensibility in which process those foreign things (the works of art) are assimilated.’

My part in the downfall of everything.

Anthony Howell: ‘Since its heyday in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, satire as a poetic form has fallen out of fashion. Of course, in other fields, there are still plenty of satirists. Private Eye continues to mock the establishment and spill the beans on cheats. Stand-up comics ridicule our politicians and media stars. There are plenty of films, plays and musicals that deal in derision and the criticism of human pretensions, foibles and iniquity. The satirical vein is still very much in circulation. But poetry itself, the principle organ of mockery in Roman times, appears to have lost sight of this cutting tool with the advent of the romantics. Sincerity replaced wit as the yard stick in the nineteenth century, and resonance achieved through depth of feeling became a more urgent concern.’

Popping the larger question.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘In Britain at least revisionism is currently going through on the nod, with barely any of the sort of discussion which has been happening in the USA, and I’m not clear how long resistance can be effective there either in the current political climate. In Britain anyway the homosexual lobby is so powerful in the worlds of politics and entertainment that the campaign is won almost without any effort on the part of that lobby, and they know it. Woe betide anyone who works in the media or local government and dares to appear as ‘homophobic’ (i.e. supporting a privileged position for conjugal marriage). ‘

A pataphysical education.

A Fortnightly Review of ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide Andrew Hugill MIT Press 2012 | 296 pp | £17.95 $24.95 By Paul Cohen. Bien ‘pataphysic à vous! SINCE ‘PATAPHYSICS IS still not a household word after more than a century, at least in the Anglophone world, some background would no doubt be appropriate. ‘Pataphysics is the […]

Republicans mount ‘a rearguard action against the party base’.

‘Amash said he voted against the 2013 Ryan budget—after “voting with our team 95 percent of the time”—because “we did not take a strong enough stance in dealing with our debt.” That was exactly the argument made by Heritage Action, the campaign branch of the conservative think tank, which had launched in the Tea Party year of 2010. Republican leaders can’t punish Heritage, but it can punish back-benchers.’

Nicolas Sarkozy as George H.W. Bush in translation.

Sarkozy seemed to represent a refreshing future for French politics after years dominated by cynical men like Mitterand and Chirac. And he seemed like a man of the moment: Throughout the world there is a growing disgust with the political class — the same gallery of men and women with the same trite ideas and sentimental platitudes, all propped up by media companies that have lost their ability to inform, let alone influence.

Race, writing, and skipping through minefields.

Harry Stein: All thoughtful people want to resolve America’s great historical ailment, racism. But one of the things we’ll have to do if that monumental
 enterprise is to have any chance of success is to address honestly the 
desperate condition of the urban underclass – not only because it is 
the right and moral thing to do, but because as Daniel Patrick
 Moynihan so presciently observed, the pathologies that emerge there
 eventually take root throughout the rest of society.

The selective outrage of American media.

While civil rights leaders have raised their voices to speak out against this [Trayvon Martin] tragedy, few if any will do the same about the larger tragedy of daily carnage that is black-on-black crime in America.

Race, exploitation, and the press in America.

Harry Stein: Quite simply, whether in ignorance, ideological blindness or simple fear, the media, ever fixated on the racism canard, has doggedly refused to face the harder truths of race in America. Indeed, an excellent case can be made that it is in the racial arena, more than in any other, that its distorted worldview has done the most grievous harm.

Affluence, comfort, and ‘the silken web of managerialism’.

Walter Weisskopf: Max Weber talked about the iron cage of industrialism in which the individual is imprisoned. What we are oppressed by today is the silken web of managerialism that does not oppress directly but bribes us into submission by incredible affluence and comforts.

Havel on Russia: ‘There can be no talk of democracy…’

by TOM JONES [Czech Position/Česká pozice] – The morning after Czech President Václav Klaus declined to comment on the post-election situation in Russia during his Russian counterpart’s visit to Prague, an appeal to Russian citizens and the country’s opposition movements by Václav Havel, the first post-communist Czech president, was published in the independent Russian newspaper […]

The Historical Case for the Iowa Caucuses.

Jon Lauck: Iowa’s agrarian heritage and orderly farms and its generally rooted character also help explain Iowa’s political culture.

On ancestor worship and other peculiar beliefs.

Herbert Spencer: The rudimentary form of all religion is the propitiation of dead ancestors, who are supposed to be still existing, and to be capable of working good or evil to their descendants.

• Arendt’s courage: anxieties that ‘did not go over into fear’.

The first thing that I would like to say about Hannah Arendt is that she was not afraid; that her anxieties simply did not go over into fear.