Book Notes: The Great Regression

I had high hopes for this collection of articles on the current political climate but it proved a disappointment. Most of the articles offer nothing but superficial, trite slogans, the likes of which you can easily find on your Facebook wall in great abundance. Here is a small recap of each author’s ideas:

Arjun Appadurai – Germany is the only truly European country and if only it decides to practice its true Europeanness by disregarding the wishes of the not-really-European everybody else in Europe and brings in more immigrants, soon enough golden age will begin.

Zygmunt Bauman – intolerance is bad, Pope Francis is good, and everybody must become cosmopolitan because it’s the only decent thing to be.

Donatella della Porta – Occupy and Indignados achieved great success. Nobody knows what it consists of but it was still a great success. 

Nancy Fraser – this article also has a ton of empty sloganeering but at least it introduces a very useful concept of progressive neoliberalism. So this piece was not a waste of time. 

 Eva Illouz – this was actually a useful read. Illouz traces the history of Israel’s political divide. I knew very little in the subject and enjoyed the article. The conclusions are dumb (the Mizrahim are just like Trump voters because they don’t live in big cities), but the body of the piece is OK.

Ivan Krastev – you can’t have globalization, democracy and self-determination all at once. Something has to go. And it won’t be globalization, that’s for sure. This is an important point, so I’m glad to have read the piece by Mr Krastev.

Bruno Latour – the reason for Brexit is that the UK wants to restore its 19th century empire (huh?) We are all on the Titanic! Oblivious to the approaching demise! It’s all in the same overwrought vein and utterly useless. 

[To be continued. . .]

Dirty Mess

My 18-month-old daughter follows me around the house and points out imperfections in my cleaning strategy. 

“Mess! Dirty!” she says whenever she sees something that isn’t up to her high standards. “Ewww! Wash! Wash water!” She keeps repeating it until I do wash the offending bit of floor or furniture with water. 

Yes, I taught her the words, complete with a disgusted facial expression that accompanies “ewww”. It seemed like a fun thing to do at the time. Little did I know she was going to put this fun skill to use so fast. 

A Reason Not to Do Research

Some academics have found a very inventive excuse for not working on their research: Trump! It feels “unfeeling or uncaring”, they say, to do any work while there are all these delicious Trump scandals happening. Caring, good people are all stuck on Twitter and in front of TVs where the really important stuff occurs.

I wish they used all this inventiveness to produce research and not to feel sorry for themselves on social media. But it’s unfeeling or uncaring to deny people a chance to have all this fun. God forbid Trump doesn’t get reelected for a second term. What will they do then? Go back to boring, staid work after luxuriating daily in the sweet feeling that “the sky is falling”? That will be such a huge letdown.

I’m telling you, folks, whenever I read stuff like that, I get very worried about 2020. These people won’t let Trump go. They are too addicted, too far gone.  

How I Feel About the Eclipse

This is exactly how I feel about the eclipse. I understand that people are excited, and I’m sincerely happy for them. But I fail to find the event anything but very mildly curious. 

As I said, though, I’m very very happy for those who experience the eclipse as a big deal. 

Educational Tourism

What do you, folks, think about tourist trips for college credit? 

For instance, students want to see Spain. A professor takes them on a “visit 11 Spanish cities in 10 days!” tour. Students pay $4,000 to a travel company for the trip + tuition. College pays professor’s salary and trip cost out of tuition. Students get credit for the trip as if it were an actual course. 

I find the whole thing strange because I don’t see why the college needs to get involved at all. This can all be resolved between a student and a tourist agency. But it seems to be an existing practice.