This review of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now is one of the most sustained demolitions of a book I’ve read in a very long time. And a nice reminder that technocracy-as-politics is rarely a good idea – even if it is being advocated by a famous Harvard professor.
From McMurdo and Hocking in War on the Rocks:
“Citizens cannot be expected to hold institutions and leaders accountable for issues on which they have not been properly educated.
Even at America’s most elite institutions of learning, there is work to be done. In an international security course that one of us attended at Yale last spring, approximately 40 undergraduates were asked what event led to America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. The most common answers were: to unseat Saddam Hussein; to dismantle Afghanistan’s weapons of mass destruction; and “oil.” Eventually, the only student who could correctly name the 9/11 attacks as the impetus was a student born and raised in another country.”
One of my favorite articles is Sheri Berman’s “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic” because it pushed past the blandly positive celebrations of civil society that have been very prominent in political science.
UChicago Ph.D student Sana Jaffrey has a fascinating preview of ongoing dissertation research in New Mandala. It explores how civil society in Indonesia has become an increasingly illiberal force:
“Yet instead of advancing progressive reforms that guarantee civic equality, these energies are being deployed to articulate illiberal demands that emphasise communitarian differences. . . .
Unlike the New Order, however, there is considerable slippage in the way that local leaders interpreted and executed their reinstated social control functions, far beyond just reporting suspected terrorist activity. They have, in fact, expanded to regulate a host of activities that allegedly “agitate” residents.
Most frequently, these efforts target individuals belonging to religious and social minorities. These include rejection of “deviant” sects, prohibition of worship by minority religions, punishment of alleged fornication and even the forced eviction of homosexuals, transgender people, and families of suspected terrorists. Troublingly, most of these interventions are made in consultation with local law enforcement officials, who acknowledge RT/RW chiefs as representatives of their residents’ demands and facilitate their requests as part of community policing.. . . .
recent events indicate that the RT/RWs may also be resuming their political control functions amid contests over the allocation of state funds by rival candidates”
This is a thoughtful piece by Shoaib Daniyal; I’ve long thought that the particular fusion of violence and party politics West Bengal (and Kerala) is among the most under-studied topics in Indian politics:
“What makes politics in West Bengal express itself with such blood and fury? The answer might lie in the structure of rural politics in West Bengal and the existence of the “party-society”: a system where political parties dominate every strand of rural life”
The vast majority of research on civil war and political violence focuses on the “developing world.” Which makes sense, since that there is where we find most contemporary conflict.
But it’s worth remembering how widespread violence has been in what we now consider the relatively calm, stable, non-violent developed world as well. And often very recently. Here are a few works I’m familiar with – staggeringly far from complete, of course – that provide insights into this history and its implications for the present. I’ll be adding new items as I remember them, come across them, or get recommendations.
Mobrand, “The Street Leaders of Seoul and the Foundations of the South Korean Political Order,” Modern Asian Studies.
Bloom and Martin, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party.
Balcells, Rivalry and Revenge: the Politics of Violence During Civil War (about Spain)
Gerwarth and Horne, War in Peace: Paramilitary Politics in Europe after the Great War.
Kopstein and Wittenberg, Intimate Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms on the Eve of the Holocaust.
Acharya, Blackwell, and Sen, Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics.
Soss and Weaver, “Police are our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race-Class Subjugated Communities,” Annual Review of Political Science.
Wachsmann, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps.
Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (chapters on Greece).