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claymisher 03-14-2010 02:39 PM

a post both sincere and sarcastic
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 154288)
Keillor had no qualifications to review the book. I suppose the NYT editors thought that his folksy humor and reputation for being a sage about all things American made him an ideal reviewer. That was my only point. I have nothing against folksy humor about human foibles. Corniness is something else. As ledocs pointed out, Keillor is an insipid imitation of Mark Twain.

I think Keillor was the ideal reviewer for BHL. That review was a hoot. But I'm curious, who do you think would be qualified to review a book like that? Charles Kuralt? A fellow graduate of the École Normale Supérieure? Someone who, like BHL, has his philosophical output panned but is a superior journalist, a superior journalist that sometimes can't tell an unconcealed satire from the real thing?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 154288)
Actually, contemporary Europeans are much less nationalistic than contemporay Americans (or patriotic if you prefer). French nationalism, like other European nationalisms, is more rooted in history---in time and place and memory. That's why is very difficult for outsiders born in another country to feel wholly French or German or English, even if they speak the language. BHL's somewhat obscure reflections on the subject try to account for this difference. When he says that Americans' attachment to their country is "strong but indeterminate," that their "bond is solid but minimal", he is drawing attention to the fact that American nationalism is about ideas and abstractions more than identification with a tradition and a past.

The series of contradictions bit is the overgeneralizer's best friend. It means you're never wrong, especially if you've got creative defenders to render it concrete.

ledocs 03-14-2010 03:27 PM

Re: a post both sincere and sarcastic
 
The thing about the Keillor review, which I did read when it appeared, but since forgot, is that it does not make an attempt to say what the purpose of the book was, assuming that there was a serious purpose, apart from selling books (and I'm not sure that there was a serious purpose). But there is no attempt by Keillor to assess the book as a rethinking of Tocqueville. If there was such an attempt by BHL, and if BHL had some interesting things to say along those lines, then the person to review the book would be someone who knows something about Tocqueville, the European Enlightenment, and about the contemporary USA. So maybe florian would have been a good choice to review the book, and I'm not being flip there. That book was an expanded magazine piece. BHL was originally commissioned by "The Atlantic" to write a 5,000-word piece or something. It probably has to be understood in that light.

I just listened for the second time (this time in an iPod while taking a walk, so I was listening pretty carefully) to a really good radio program on France Culture about the financial crisis, it features "economist" Alain Minc and Jacques Juillard, editor of "Le Nouvel Observateur." It's on "Repliques," hosted by Alain Finkielkraut, but it's from ten days ago and will soon disappear from the site as an audio file.

http://sites.radiofrance.fr/chaines/...usion_id=81654

Florian 03-15-2010 05:19 AM

Re: a post both sincere and sarcastic
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 154319)
But there is no attempt by Keillor to assess the book as a rethinking of Tocqueville. If there was such an attempt by BHL, and if BHL had some interesting things to say along those lines, then the person to review the book would be someone who knows something about Tocqueville, the European Enlightenment, and about the contemporary USA. So maybe florian would have been a good choice to review the book, and I'm not being flip there.

Thanks ledocs, but if the editors of the NYT can't find some American with those qualifications, they must be morons. BHL is no Tocqueville, but he deserved better.

And thanks for reminding me of Répliques. I forgot to download it.

look 03-16-2010 04:10 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PreppyMcPrepperson (Post 154306)
I had a similar impression when I lived in Britain, but I'd add to it that American nationalism is obsessed by anti-history, by the "newness" of the frontier.

Preppy, thanks for your interesting take on the American mindset being obsessed with anti-history, but I can't agree with some of your conclusions. Having been founded by revolution from the Mother Country, and speaking the same language, and having been allied with her in the World Wars, I think most Americans understand and appreciate our parentage. And also take some of pride that some of our tenets date back to Rome.

Being the children of revolution, we do value individualism, but I think the generational thesis, antithesis, sythesis cycles are present in many cultures. The values of independence, individualism, personal freedoms, patriotism, are still strong in much of the nation.

Quote:

But there is a restlessness in what it means to be American, and it defines the way we look at history. Other cultures look to the past for models to fulfill in the present. We look to the past to reject its values.
I agree that there's a restlessness to being American, but it all harkens back to the origingal founding revolution. We may keep having revolutions, the Civil War, black suffrage, women's suffrage, etc., but they are based on the founding values.

Do you still believe this? I find it a stange thing for a citizen to say:
Quote:

We, Generation Y, are both skeptical of authority and cynical about any grassroots efforts to make change. Our apathy, our claim that the right not to care is a citizen's privilege, is a double rejection of our parents' value systems and the world they grew up in. It is also a re-definition of citizenship, of Americaness, in generational terms.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-16-2010 05:19 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 154584)
Do you still believe this? I find it a stange thing for a citizen to say:

I don't believe it myself. But the column I wrote was about Gen Y and I DO still think this is the malaise of the generation, this marshaling of the language of individual liberty to explain what is actually a kind of selfish apathy.

And yes, I know Americans take a lot of pride in the Revolutionary period, but I think we focus on the RUPTURE from the Old World, not on the continuity. At least that is how our popular mythology works. And I think the British, as I experienced them, focus on and privilege continuity in a way that we don't.

osmium 03-16-2010 07:09 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by conncarroll (Post 153053)
I'm admittedly pretty far down on the bheads FrontPage food chain, but I'd be down to diavlog with an Apollonian.

Oh wow, how did I miss this? Awesome, Conn. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

kezboard 03-16-2010 08:54 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
If Preppy won't defend the apathy comment, I will. The politicization of everything, public and private, is characteristic of totalitarianism. So the right not to give a damn about politics seems to me to be an important one in a democratic society. I think it's wrong to valorize disengagement from politics, and I really don't like it when politicians talk about "moving beyond politics", but in my opinion it's a bit absurd, and creepy to boot, to wish that everyone were going around being an engaged citizen all the time.

look 03-16-2010 10:29 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PreppyMcPrepperson (Post 154592)
I don't believe it myself. But the column I wrote was about Gen Y and I DO still think this is the malaise of the generation, this marshaling of the language of individual liberty to explain what is actually a kind of selfish apathy.

Okay, I hadn't caught this thought of yours previously, but reminds me of something I read earlier today that contained 'the tyranny of nihilism.' Here, first comment:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2010/03...n-america.html

Quote:

And yes, I know Americans take a lot of pride in the Revolutionary period, but I think we focus on the RUPTURE from the Old World, not on the continuity. At least that is how our popular mythology works. And I think the British, as I experienced them, focus on and privilege continuity in a way that we don't.
While of course the Fourth of July and the National Anthem before sports events evokes the Revolutuion, the WWII generation and Baby Boomer/Cold War generation, though slipping away, knew Britain to be our greatest ally. But I appreciate your perspective that it's a much stronger trait with the Brits. And of course it would be for them, having suffered through the Blitz, etc., as you mentioned.

Again, thanks for the thought-provoking article.

look 03-16-2010 10:36 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 154607)
If Preppy won't defend the apathy comment, I will. The politicization of everything, public and private, is characteristic of totalitarianism. So the right not to give a damn about politics seems to me to be an important one in a democratic society. I think it's wrong to valorize disengagement from politics, and I really don't like it when politicians talk about "moving beyond politics", but in my opinion it's a bit absurd, and creepy to boot, to wish that everyone were going around being an engaged citizen all the time.

Yes, the politicization of everything is just one more complication in the modern world we must endure, but I was speaking of the traditional concept of being an informed citizen, although what good that does any more, I'm not sure.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-17-2010 12:00 AM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 154607)
If Preppy won't defend the apathy comment, I will. The politicization of everything, public and private, is characteristic of totalitarianism. So the right not to give a damn about politics seems to me to be an important one in a democratic society. I think it's wrong to valorize disengagement from politics, and I really don't like it when politicians talk about "moving beyond politics", but in my opinion it's a bit absurd, and creepy to boot, to wish that everyone were going around being an engaged citizen all the time.

Agreed. And while I value my generation for emphasizing that right, I don't agree with the sentiment in the sense that I think it's now been taken to an absurd degree of valorizing disengagement.

kezboard 03-17-2010 01:33 AM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

And while I value my generation for emphasizing that right, I don't agree with the sentiment in the sense that I think it's now been taken to an absurd degree of valorizing disengagement.
But I thought we were supposed to be earnest overachievers, not slackers. That's more characteristic of the generation before us, right? At least that's what I thought was the sort of cliched generational typology.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-17-2010 02:32 AM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kezboard (Post 154634)
But I thought we were supposed to be earnest overachievers, not slackers. That's more characteristic of the generation before us, right? At least that's what I thought was the sort of cliched generational typology.

Earnest overachievers in our professional lives and even when it comes to social causes, but not when it comes to politics. The column one or two columns after the one I linked to dealt with that, if I recall correctly. It's way cool in Gen Y to start your own social enterprise that leverages social media to do...something. it's totally lame to go work for the government or for Amnesty or for your church. Activism through institutions/communities seems not to be part of our ethic. That's kind of where I break from the generation. I'm all for the projects that radical individualists take up; I can't condone those projects as replacements for collective institutions.

No, Gen Y did not invent this tendency to reject the collective, but I think it is way more pronounced among us than it has been among our predecessors.

Don Zeko 03-17-2010 10:49 AM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
This is somewhat off-topic, but I find this tendency particularly maddening in the way that our society deals with Environmentalism. practically every college campus in the country is touting some kind of Green initiative, and individuals have no problem stigmatizing the use of plastic grocery bags or incandescent light bulbs, but barely any of this energy translates into political activism. It's all about lifestyle at the expense of policy - not to mention at the expense of actually dealing with the problems people purport to care about.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-17-2010 12:01 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 154669)
This is somewhat off-topic, but I find this tendency particularly maddening in the way that our society deals with Environmentalism. practically every college campus in the country is touting some kind of Green initiative, and individuals have no problem stigmatizing the use of plastic grocery bags or incandescent light bulbs, but barely any of this energy translates into political activism. It's all about lifestyle at the expense of policy - not to mention at the expense of actually dealing with the problems people purport to care about.

EXACTLY.

bjkeefe 03-17-2010 06:25 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PreppyMcPrepperson (Post 154673)
EXACTLY.

This sounds like it may be of interest to you and some others in this subthread.

Quote:

... he is persuasive about the disillusionment that smart, idealistic young people feel today. They do need a talking-to. “The last time a cohort of young people expressed comparable frustration at the emptiness of their lives and the dispiriting purposelessness of their world was in the 1920s,” he writes. “It is not by chance that historians speak of a ‘lost generation.’ ” Mr. Judt does not talk down to these imagined young people; he talks up to them, and the effect is bracing.

PreppyMcPrepperson 03-17-2010 06:46 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 154708)
This sounds like it may be of interest to you and some others in this subthread.

Thanks. What is funny is that I've been reading some of Judt's work in the NY Review, but there, he seems to be actually endorsing the anti-institutionalism, and I think I wrote some uncritical things about that, but now, in the context of the book, I have decided that his true views are more circumspect and that's a good thing. Again, thanks for sharing the review.

kezboard 03-17-2010 08:17 PM

Re: Commenter Court: The Return (Robert Wright & Aryeh Cohen-Wade)
 
Quote:

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West missed an opportunity to reshape the world. “Instead,” Mr. Judt writes, “we sat back and congratulated ourselves upon having won the cold war: a sure way to lose the peace.” Here is his historical judgment: “The years from 1989 to 2009 were consumed by locusts.”
There's nothing like feeling personally vindicated by a prominent public intellectual!


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