In lieu of an extended post, I’d like to call your attention to a few essays and articles touching upon themes and topics that may be of interest to our readers, from Ferguson, Missouri to the mechanisms if not the mindset(s) of the ruling class to the vintage pages of The New Republic.
At the Huffington Post, historian Martha S. Jones reflects on the long history and fraught memory behind her journey to Ferguson, Missouri this past October. Her very moving essay – “From Michael Stewart to Michael Brown: A Reflection on #Ferguson October“ — exemplifies the complicated, often heartbreaking, but perhaps ultimately hopeful intertwining of memory and history underwriting and energizing the work of many African-American scholars. “I’d hoped to spare the next generation,” Jones writes. Instead, she spoke – and speaks – unsparingly of her own memories, in hopes of breaking a brutal cycle of history.
Yesterday, friend of the blog Michael Kramer tweeted a link to our own Andy Seal’s piece in N+1 magazine from last year, “How Does the Ruling Class Feel When It Rules?” In this review essay, Seal assesses the insights and inadequacies of Chris Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites and Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. “We need better rhetorical, analytic, and imaginative tools for figuring the ruling class as a class,” Andy writes, “for conceptualizing not how a member feels but how the group acts. Hierarchies, and the preference for psychologizing that travels with them (what an older generation might have called bourgeois humanism), draw us toward character. We need to be thinking about plot.”
And, from the way-wayback machine, I offer you an essay by the inimitable Irving Howe weighing in on that urgent (and now quaintly dated) question, “Should students read the Western canon in college?” Howe spills a lot of ink arguing that, yes, they most certainly should. His argument – first made in the pages of The New Republic in 1991, and more recently republished this fall in celebration of the magazine’s 100th anniversary – is one exemplar of a whole genre of canon-anxious works appearing in the wake of the Bloom boom and the Stanford kerfuffle (so, a primary source for my purposes). However, unlike most of the polemics in that genre from that time, Howe does some fairly handy splitting on the issue, distinguishing between his own brand of canon advocacy from that of “the conservatives,” and distinguishing conservatives from one another. At the very end of the essay, he imagines an interlocutor offering this worried critique: “What you have been saying is pretty much the same as what conservatives say. Doesn’t that make you uncomfortable?” Howe’s answer draws (too nice?) distinctions among conservatives in a way that might not fly with the author of The Reactionary Mind.
Please feel free to discuss any of these articles, or add your own links in the comments below for other readings of interest.