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Restraining Populism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote Donald Trump a public letter the day after his election. “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political . . . . Continue Reading »

The New Status Signaling

For those of upper-middle class sensibilities, the neoliberal order predicted by the 1990s remains inevitable. It’s as dreamy and poetic as it ever was, separated from practical reality only by the thin veil of a populist interregnum. Continue Reading »

​The Loss of Peace

The title of New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s post-election column was an anguished cry: “America Elects a Bigot.” David Leonhart, another New York Times regular, expressed horror: “We’ve just finished an election that included unprecedented violations of America’s long-held . . . . Continue Reading »

Lasch, Populism, and Conservatism

The recent issue of Modern Age contains a commemorative essay by Susan McWilliams marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Christopher Lasch’s The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics. McWilliams reminds readers that Lasch offers a positive analysis of populism that speaks to the current political malaise. As part of his critique of the cult of progress, Lasch attempted to ground politics in the intuitions of the petty bourgeoisie and the populist tradition that gave life to those intuitions. He saw in petty-bourgeois culture a moral realism that recognized the cost and limits of human existence, reinforcing a healthy skepticism of progress. The “small proprietors, artisans, tradesmen, and farmers” of the petty-bourgeois world were the least likely “to mistake the promised land of progress for the true and only heaven.” Continue Reading »

Politics of Vulnerability

I don’t think we’ve fully realized how acute feelings of vulnerability have become in twenty-first-century America. At prestigious universities, young people with every reason to believe they’ll land on the top end of society nevertheless feel threatened, so much so that some call for . . . . Continue Reading »

The Elephant in the Room

The global system—which is committed to the free flow of labor, goods, and capital—works well for the leadership class in Europe and North America, as it does for striving workers in China, India, and elsewhere. It doesn’t work so well for the middle class in the West. Thus, in the West, the led no longer share the economic interests of their leaders. Continue Reading »

Homeless

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump together are likely to end this primary season with a majority of all votes cast. Add the votes for Republican bad boy Ted Cruz, and the vote total for anti-establishment candidates may reach 60 percent. This represents a stunning repudiation of the existing political . . . . Continue Reading »

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