Some interesting links I’ve encountered over the last few days, along with a few links to things I’ve written elsewhere.
Carl Raschke on why The New Global Populism May Not Be What Everyone Seems to Imagine:
Populism, which has become a swear word for privileged professionals of all stripes in many different cultural contexts, actually signifies a many-faceted and multi-pronged revolt in a truly “multicultural” context against the planetary hegemony of transnational neoliberalism, what I have elsewhere termed the new planetary “corporate-university-financial-information complex,” inexorably liquidating the utility of material labor while reducing what Marx termed an “immiserated” former middle class to sheer demographic or statistical tokens that can be alternately seduced or demonized to preserve a new cosmopolitan order of symbolic justice masking economic exploitation.
The familiar narrative of the new populism as equivalent to fascism constitutes a polemical sleight of hand that amounts to the pot calling the kettle black, as social theorists Raphaële Chappe and Ajay Singh Chaudhary brilliantly demonstrate in a searing piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books. One does not need to worry about the advent of fascism, the authors argue, because it is already upon us in the guise of the “progressive” neoliberal status quo.
Rejecting what they term a cartoonish pop cultural image of Nazism in the 1930s, they draw eerie parallels between “the supermanagerial Reich” of that era and the way in which neoliberalism today holds sway over divergent populations. If, as Lenin argued during the Bolshevik coup that Communism is simply the power of the soviets plus electrification, then neoliberalism in this day and age is historical fascism minus racism.
Make sure you read the blistering Chappe and Chaudhary article he links.
In Praise of Ignorance, another great piece from Quillette, which is currently looking for patrons:
The problem is, we have little tolerance for agnosticism. A politician who admitted that she held no opinion on the TPP might expect mockery, even though it is as unreasonable to expect the average politician to know about the difficult empirical questions raised by such agreements as it is to expect the average doctor or nurse. And we should all be alive to the possibility that most politicians would not do much better than the rest of us if they had to pass Econ 101 tomorrow. It is even worse that we ordinary people suffer disapprobation when we express agnosticism towards issues about which we know nothing. This intolerance of ignorance threatens to sever both policy makers and ordinary people from reality, harming our best chance at improving our world — scientific knowledge combined with careful, open-minded moral thinking.
Is Male Androphilia a Context-Dependent Cultural Universal? Argues that it is and shows it is more common than has been previously supposed by some. However, it includes details that may point in the other direction:
Our new tabulations reveal that male same sex behavior is absent in 9.7% of all societies or present in 89.6% of all societies (Table 3). If we restrict male same sex behavior to male androphilia by including sex-gender congruent and transgendered androphilia, we find that male androphilia is present in at least 57.5% (Table 3) of societies in our sample.
That 9.7% has long intrigued me, especially in cases such as the Aka (Atlantic article on them here). It is also fascinating that there may be some correlation between rate of male androphilia and social form. Rebecca Kyle observes of her own research:
These results strongly support the idea that homosexuality is increasingly likely to be present as population pressure increases. The percentages demonstrating the presence of homosexuality: 0 (Low, hunting and gathering), 33 (Low, hunting, gathering, and fishing), 44 (Medium, Horticulture, etc.), 57 (High, Intensive agriculture) demonstrate a marked correlation between the presence of homosexuality and the intensity of a society’s adaptation to the environment. That none of the exclusively hunter-gatherer societies had any significant manifestations of homosexuality is particularly noteworthy, especially considering that over half of high population pressure societies have significant expressions of homosexuality in their culture.
Lots of reasons to be cautious about such research (in both directions), but important grist for the mill in an important debate.
Income inequality doesn’t have the negative effect that people think, in fact, in some contexts, it may have a positive effect. Very surprising finding to me. Definitely worth honing questions.
Familial factors, victimization, and psychological health among sexual minority adolescents in Sweden:
Sexual minority adolescents were more likely than were unrelated nonminority adolescents to report victimization experiences, including emotional abuse, physical abuse or neglect, and sexual abuse. Sexual minority adolescents also reported significantly more symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, disordered eating, and substance misuse in addition to increased parent-reported behavior problems. Victimization experience partially mediated these associations. However, when controlling for unmeasured familial confounding factors by comparing sexual minority adolescents to their same-sex, nonminority co-twins, the effect of sexual minority status on psychological health was almost entirely attenuated.
Emphasis added. Again, this should be handled with great care, but potentially an important finding.
Kay Hymowitz on how women in media missed the women’s vote:
Soon enough, an ailing mainstream media, trying to diversify staff and desperate to grab the attention of younger readers and viewers, came calling. The bloggers moved into cubicles at the New York Times, Slate, MSNBC, the Guardian, and The New Republic. There they learned to search Google for articles from the expanding oeuvre of gender research to support the positions that they were already convinced were true. They made a formidable sorority: stylish, full of sexy bravado, and, unlike their baby boomer mothers, wholly at ease with technology. Under the auspices of the media and cultural establishment, they quoted one another’s bon mots about the patriarchy and sat on the same gender panels at the 92nd Street Y or at Yale “sex weeks,” where they mocked the Michele Bachmanns of the world. In the past few years, their influence has only grown, as mass-market fashion magazines like Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire have given them column space, effectively crowning them the new elite experts on women’s issues.
They weren’t. They had heads full of academic theory and millennial angst but little life experience with—and virtually no interest in—military wives from South Carolina or Walmart managers from Staten Island, who also happen to fall into the category “women.” Nor did the new luminaries or their bosses seem to notice that the latter group far outnumbered their own rarefied crowd.
A critical review of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce by Scott Alexander, of SlateStarCodex fame:
So I guess my problem with Great Divorce is that it talks about a very personal morality. But its personal morality doesn’t translate very well into a political morality, unless maybe you’re an extreme conservative, which for all I know Lewis might very well be (I think writing about the Great Divorce as a critique of liberal politics would be an interesting essay on its own). Yet I worry that personal morality and political morality are not so easily separated: that people just don’t think finely-grained enough to understand that if you’re in Heaven, you should stop annoying the angels with your self-absorbed victim-spiel about your abusive nursing home, but if you’re on Earth then when someone complains about an abusive nursing home you take it frickin’ seriously and if you’re in an abusive nursing home you complain as loud as you humanly can to anyone who will listen.
This may be a special case of my worry that what is beautiful is not always true, and that the things that actually improve the world may give us an icky feeling inside when we do them. Lewis presents a compelling vision of morality and redemption, and in some ways the vision is enough, in that it solidifies some things we know are good and gets us to start questioning our pride and ego-defensiveness. In other ways, it suffers from exactly the problem that I would expect: that a moral system designed for dead souls in Heaven might not be strong enough for living people in a flawed world where there is very likely not a God.
Always interesting to hear the thoughts of a smart non-Christian on a Christian book.
Matthew Loftus: If our enemy is modernity, aren’t immigrants and Muslims on our side?
Refugees and immigrants overwhelmingly hail from cultures that prioritize communal values over individual expression, understand the preeminent value of marriage and family, and see religious devotion as a key process that helps to form virtuous and capable citizens. There are some legitimate differences in politics, theology, or culture, but those values tend to be more superficial when considered in light of the overwhelming overlap in social vision they have with religious conservatives. The conflicts that we might encounter in dealing with Islamic political theology and other foreign ideas might even help sharpen our particular viewpoints and force us to actually describe how we imagine religion informing politics doing rather than shrieking about Supreme Court justices ad nauseum.
I write a lengthy response in the comments. Rod Dreher comments here and here.
Dreher on what Wendell Berry gets wrong. Important.
Also Dreher on the other guy from Wham!
Wonderful piece on Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation
Ten Commandments of Good Thinking. A few significant reservations about these, but worth reading.
Dr. Thomas Sowell says farewell. We’re poorer off without him.
Bringing back the aurochs
Are we celebrating Jesus’ birth at the wrong time?
Reverend Fraser and the Cult of Giles. Spot on.
Amazon files patent for flying warehouse
King William’s College Quiz 2016 (some guesses at answers here)
Tom Owolade has a great list of interesting articles from 2016. Well worth a gander.
Hrishikesh Joshi argues that there’s no moral difference between a wall and a migrant visa. I’m not entirely convinced he gives enough weight to the concept of the neighbour in his account, but worth engaging with.
Sad yet interesting piece on the feminist Susan Faludi’s relationship with her trans father.
An iPhone’s Journey from the Factory Floor to the Retail Store
Problems with the world’s favourite lab animal
Why Sex is Binary but Gender is a Spectrum. The discussion of the science here is very helpful in many respects, although I have reservations about dimensions of the framing.
How the scientist who founded the science of mistakes ended up mistaken
Christ and Pop Culture produce some great stuff. Here is one such superb article by Gina Dalfonzo: “An Odd Sort of Mercy”: Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle Melton, and The End of the Affair
Tim Keller talks with Nicholas Kristof over on the NYT
Hauerwas on the Politics of Sex
Kevin Bywater recommends 10 presentations you must see
Alissa Wilkinson on the forthcoming Silence, which I am really looking forward to watching
Justin Taylor invited me to share my thoughts on Ronda Rousey’s forthcoming UFC bout with Amanda Nunes over on his blog
What different cultural forms of greetings and leave-takings reveal about our values
Jacobin skewers the Victorian values of the twenty-first century elites
Democrats have a religion problem
Stop saying 2016 was the ‘worst year’. In a great many respects, things are only getting better. The vaccine for ebola received surprisingly little coverage relative to other stories, for instance.
2016 was the year solar panels finally became cheaper than fossil fuels. Just wait for 2017.
Lots of news about the celebrities who died in 2016. However, we also lost some incredible scientists, not least D.A. Henderson and Vera Rubin.
11-year-old British girl, Alma Deutscher composes her own opera, Cinderella, which is performed in Vienna. She sounds like quite a character from the interview!
My wonderful brother and comrade, Peter, has uploaded a tape of Chinese propaganda songs in English to Soundcloud. We Always Remember chairman Mao’s Kindness is probably my favourite. Classic for the ages.
Daryl Davis, an African-American man, converts white supremacists through friendship
Carrie Fisher Interview. It’s a hoot and a half.
Do you have any thoughts on any of the issues raised above?
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