Category Archives: politics

american democracy

My new book on American Democracy is out (hooray!). I tried to write it as an accessible argument for understanding democracy as essentially a social and cultural achievement: the back-and-forth interactions among citizens and institutions of government, structured through rules, ideas, and technologies that foster the formation of publics. Below the break are a few […]

some thoughts on the american studies israel boycott

I do not agree with the American Studies Association (hereafter oASA, for “other ASA”) boycott of Israel, nor with the broader BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement of which it is a part. I say this recognizing that Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and especially Gaza is appalling; I believe the Israeli rejection of Palestinians’ […]

free speech, kansas, and duck dynasty

Two big free-speech matters are making headlines today. First, Phil Roberts of the show Duck Dynasty made some truly ugly comments in an interview with GQ, which prompted A&E to suspend him from the show. Predictably enough, the right-wing meme has become “the left is tolerant of everything as long as you agree with them.” […]

some thoughts on mandela and apartheid

I don’t have anything as eloquent as Tim Burke to say about Mandela and the discourse around his death. Like many politically-active people of my generation, I found great inspiration not just from Mandela in particular but from the grand struggle against apartheid. Apartheid was the great moral struggle of the late 20th century. In […]

elysium and the fact/value distinction

I saw the new Matt Damon movie, Elysium, this summer. I loved the prior movie by the same director (Neill Bloemkamp), District 9, which is a dystopian alien-visitation movie wrapped up in an extended allegory for apartheid.  Like District 9, Elysium has an explicit political message along with plenty of violence, action, and gore (all of […]

don’t tread on my statehood dreams

In case you’ve missed the news of of rural Northern Colorado, a number of counties there wish to secede from the state because those darn city slickers in Denver just don’t listen to their concerns. Although the chances are nearly impossible since it would require an amendment to the Colorado constitution and approval of Congress, […]

anarchism in the academy

I’ve always liked Marx but hated Marxism. Growing up, I identified mostly with anarchism, and was moved particularly by its critique of power and hierarchy, and the violence that undergirds them. And where Marxism was severe and joyless, anarchism to me seemed playful and creative. In critical sociology, of course, Marxist and Marxian perspectives — I […]

counterfactuals and historical logic

One of my favorite articles to teach in graduate theory is Richard Ned Lebow’s “If Mozart Had Died at Your Age,” (paywall, sorry) which very cleverly lays out a counterfactual theory in which Mozart not dying at 36 changes the aesthetic, thereby the philosophical, thereby the political, history of Germany and therefore the world. Now […]

the nas’s hundred great ideas

A couple of months ago, the right-wing National Association of Scholars pulled together and published a list of “100 Ideas for Reforming Higher Education.” The ideas are presented, one per contributor (with a few exceptions), organized alphabetically by the last name of the contributor, which makes the compilation seem even more haphazard than it is […]

will $500 billion make america feel secure?

I am reposting an important analysis by my colleague, Charlie Kurzman. Original here. On the subject of national security, two unexpected calms lie hidden amid the headlines of conflict. One calm is in Washington, where Republicans and Democrats pretend to debate the national security budget. Republicans in Congress released a plan last month that insists […]

too much sociology…?

The magazine n+1 recently published an article about the rise and inefficacy of critical sociology. It’s a strange piece which, i think, accords sociology way too much influence. but it does have some salient points, particularly relating to the balance between structure and agency in sociological writing. The editors write:  “In spite of the strenuous […]

dog bites person; right winger endorses ignorance

North Carolina is “blessed” with a statewide center dedicated to right-wing attacks on higher education, the John W Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. One of their more prolific commentators is Jay Schalin, a small-time journalist with no credentials, experience, or expertise in education, research, or scholarship, but who apparently feels entirely qualified to present […]

preparation for shared governance

Some of the most rewarding things I’ve done since leaving graduate school are under the umbrella of shared governance: faculty input on the direction and operation of the university. UNC is fortunate to have a generally well-operating, open, and respected faculty governance system and an administration that is relatively respectful of that system. I’ve been […]

no austrians near fiscal cliffs

The commonplace saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” — while probably technically false — seems apt to describe the so-called “fiscal cliff” situation the United States government finds itself in. Deficit hawks and Austrian economics purists ought to be happy, as the automatic cuts produce the first significant deficit reduction in 12 years and […]

kid’s view of the election

When I woke Kid up this morning, his first words to me were “Did Obama get 270?” Then, questions about the popular vote, Ohio, and Florida. I hadn’t really gotten the sense that he was such a political nerd, but now I see the signs were there all along. Four years ago, I tried to […]

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