Can we define “populism”? Perhaps, but what is gained by this?

What is populism? The most serious mistake in trying to answer this question lies in the (usually unspoken) assumption that where we have a single word or term there must be a single corresponding concept and that the word will therefore refer to a singular definite phenomenon.

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The place of America — in political philosophy

For those living in the United States the conditions of American politics will, for obvious reasons, be of some interest. But given the economic, political, and military power of the US it is not surprising to discover that American politics is scrutinized all over the world. When one looks at the International media one notices how much attention they pay to American affairs.

Does this mean that American politics also has a particular interest for political philosophy?

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A Bad Bargain

Joshua Green, Devil's Bargain. Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising, Penguin Books 2017, republished with a new preface 2018.

Joshua Green's book has been somewhat overshadowed by the publication of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury but it adds significantly to Wolff's account and corrects it at some important points. It tells in fascinating detail the story of bad bargain the American people accepted when they elected Trump.

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Political Philosophy: What to read

Philosophers have written copiously about politics. There is, moreover, no sharp dividing line between “philosophical” writings on politics and other kinds of writing on this topic. So there is no end to what one might read under the heading of “political philosophy”. Here is a list of 15 significant texts, some classical and some modern, some short and some long, some famous and some not so famous, some highly readable and some very demanding. The selection is, of course, mine; others might add to it or subtract from it. I will add some comments on what makes these writings interesting and important.

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Xi Jinping Rule

What's happening in China? On Sunday, February 25, the Xinhua news agency reported: "The Communist Party of China Central Committee proposed to remove the expression that the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China "shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" from the country's Constitution." Some commentators called this a bombshell.

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Who is responsible for our decline? – The Frankfurt School, of course.

Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss. The Lives of the Frankfurt School, Verso, London 2017

Poor Frankfurt School. Turn to the internet these days and you realize that the handful of German professors who go under that name are being held responsible for almost everything bad that has happened to society since … when? !990? 1970? 1945? Or even 1920? All these dates are being tossed around on those feverish websites. Neo-Marxism, cultural Marxism, feminism, multiculturalism, sexual excess, postmodernism, political correctness, and all in all the entire “Western decline” are due to their nefarious doings.

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The Atomization of Knowledge: Does it Mean the End of the Human Mind?

We have learned that the ocean waves pulverize our plastic debris which is then consumed as dust by the fish we eat. The circle is closed and the poisons we have created come back to us in this altered form. The internet pulverizes human knowledge and feeds it back to us as unconnected bits of information. Our minds are bound to be ultimately  overwhelmed by all this new kind of poisonous debris.

Digital technology has had the peculiar effect of atomizing human knowledge and this in two ways. It has favored the creation of small bits of information which are passed around in digital messages. And it has overwhelmed our ability to concentrate on extended lines of reasoning. There is too much information, tempting us to move quickly from one bit to another. We are distracted by all these bits of knowledge that are offered to us so enticingly on all the websites of the world. This is already showing disastrously in our students who find it increasingly difficult to read whole books. We feed them instead with power point slides that contain carefully selected bits of information. Even this blog illustrates what is happening. Blogs are signals of the decreasing attention spans of those who write them and those who consume them.

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Forget Fire and Fury; It’s Confusion and Turmoil in Trump’s White House

Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury. Inside the Trump White House, Henry Holt and Company, New York 2018

On August 8 of last year, Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” His words were meant to cow the North Koreans into abandoning their nuclear and missile arsenal but until now, at least, they appear to have been only idle threats. Michael Wolff has now adopted the phrase as the title of his book on the first nine months of the Trump presidency – surely, a cleverly ironic choice. For since his election Trump has proved to be more a source of combative words than of real achievements.

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Diagnosing Donald Trump

January 21, 2018 - Over the course of the last twelve months, both laymen and experts have sought to diagnose Donald Trump. They have been asking again and again after each one of his many bewildering tweets: What is wrong with the man psychologically? I am interested in another kind of diagnosis. My question is what Trump’s elections means politically...

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The disunity of knowledge

January 19, 2018 - Our sharpest break with the tradition has come with the realization of the disunity of knowledge (of thought, the mind, the world, and pretty much else that concerns philosophy). We are no longer trying to construct “a system;” we are not looking for “the foundations” of a single structure; we have abandoned the belief in completeness and in our capacity to make everything cohere.

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