While you are reading this, I am going through the footnotes and bibliography of what I damn sure hope is the final draft of my dissertation.
There are fabulous digital tools that, when used correctly, automate much of the labor of footnoting. I never managed to learn how to use those tools, correctly or otherwise, and I’m not about to start trudging up that (or ANY) learning curve at this late date. So I am doing what I have always done: formatting every single footnote, every bibliographic entry, from scratch, by hand. I will probably live to regret this digital backwardness, but I expect I’ll live through it.
In any case, even as I make my way slowly through these footnotes, I find myself leaping suddenly backward and forward in time, backward and forward in thought, thanks to a pesky little detail to which attention must be paid: access dates for online sources. (more…)
In a recent Facebook post Ben Park observed caustically and entirely appropriately that the gun functions as a deity in American life. His statement is strong and concise and necessary—you can read it: (more…)
This morning I read a clear-headed piece by Matt Bruenig at the Washington Post arguing for a universal basic income. Although I would certainly quibble with how Bruenig implies that a universal income would somehow instantly create something other than capitalism (grumble grumble who still owns the means of production? asks my inner grumpy Marxist) I certainly agree with the rest of his argument.
But the Post apparently runs these “In Theory” big idea pieces with opposing viewpoints, as well. Originally I was not going to click on the opposing piece by Jonathan Coppage, but the title piqued my curiosity: “The terrible cost of universal basic income.” Terrible, he says! Not economically unfeasible, or culture-of-creativity-killing, but a terrible cost! Alright, what could possibly merit such a title?, I thought. Would a basic minimum income somehow result in a drastic decline of puppies?
So I read the piece. And I found out that this terrible cost is the loss of your deeply meaningful relationship with your boss. This sounds like I am exaggerating, but not really. Without the coercive force of the market to get us all out of the house each morning and out and about interacting with one another, Coppage seems to believe, civil society will wither and decay. He writes:
“When we enter the marketplace, ties are formed between people: between employer and employee, between customer and salesperson, between coworkers and suppliers and the sandwich shop next door. These transactions and interactions are the threads that bind individuals together at the most granular level, weaving them into the multi-layered, tight-knit, resilient fabric of civil society. And it is necessity — our reliance on work to provide for our material concerns — that draws us into that essential weave.”
Judging by the number of alarmist recent articles about the decline of the humanities, it seems apparent that the humanities—history, philosophy, languages—are embattled disciplines in American higher education. But judging by the program of the upcoming Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH) nferencenference, the humanities have never been better.
The 2015 S-USIH Conference, which will be held October 15-18 at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., will feature 59 panels and roundtables with scholars hailing from academic disciplines ranging from history to English to law to sociology to anthropology to philosophy, spanning a diverse set of topics, including democracy, foreign policy, religion, popular culture, wellness, and the environment.
Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center who was featured in this New York Times article, will deliver the keynote address on Friday afternoon (October 16). Robin is the author of Fear: The History of a Political Idea, and The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. He is also a prolific and award-winning blogger at coreyrobin.com. Conference Chair Andrew Hartman recently interviewed Professor Robin here.
The 2015 conference will also feature three exciting plenary sessions. Kicking the conference off on Thursday night is a plenary on the topic of “Little Magazines: Past, Present, Future” that will include Jackson Lears (Raritan), David Marcus (Dissent), Dan McCarthy (The American Conservative), Rachel Rosenfelt (The New Inquiry), and Bhaskar Sunkara (Jacobin).
The Friday night plenary session will be on the topic of “Public Intellectuals since Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals.” In addition to Russell Jacoby (University of California-Los Angeles), this panel will include Jonathan Holloway (Yale University), Claire Potter, (The New School), and Leo Ribuffo (George Washington University).
The final plenary session, which will take place on Saturday night, will be on the topic of “Museums, Archives, and the Idea of the National.” This plenary features Taína Caragol (Curator for Latino Art and History, National Portrait Gallery), David Ferriero (Archivist of the United States), Eleanor Jones Harvey (Senior Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum), and Arthur Molella (Director Emeritus, Lemelson Center, Smithsonian Institution).
The 2015 conference will also feature a number of special sessions, including a panel dedicated to the winner of the S-USIH Book Prize, Ruben Flores’s Backroads Pragmatists: Mexico’s Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States. It will also include panels sponsored by the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History, the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP), and the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Members of the press and everyone else may register for the conference here. We look forward to seeing everyone in DC!
The following are some thoughts I laid down in some haste after preparing for my first discussion section of the year. It occurred to me to add this to the series of two posts I wrote about democracy a while ago (1,2). Please forgive the brevity and the spirit of coffee table polemics.
Historians usually cast the emergence of the notion—or fiction as Edmund Morgan would have it—that sovereignty lies with the people, or that there is such a thing as ‘the people’ in the first place, as a positive liberating development. Originating in corporate notions held by commoners and by way of an ascendant middle class, these novel attitudes lay at the heart of the great transformations which in the western world left archaic and more authoritarian forms of government by the wayside. Thus we tend to view democracy, by and large, as a positive development in the history of ideas and of politics.