Tag Archives: Wilfred McClay

Introducing the Fall Issue: The End of the End of History?

illustration by Jesse Lenz

Although Francis Fukuyama never said the triumph of liberal democracy was inevitable, his qualified declaration of the “the end of history” captured the optimistic, sometimes naive tenor of the early post-Cold War era. But how quickly that confidence faded! Unmistakable signs of history’s resumption began to appear less than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In its 2008 annual report on political rights and civil liberties around the world, the democracy watchdog Freedom House took troubled note of the reversal of progress in a number of key countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the former Soviet space.

This “profoundly disturbing deterioration,” as Freedom House put it, has continued, and not only in countries with fragile democratic institutions. The most recent survey found that “in 2016 it was established democracies—countries rated Free in the report’s ranking system—that dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks.” The report’s authors went on glumly to note that the US election of 2016 “raised fears of a foreign policy divorced from America’s traditional strategic commitments to democracy, human rights, and the rules-based international order that it helped to construct beginning in 1945.” And if this were not enough, they pointed to a growing “nexus” of mutual support between authoritarian regimes and populist movements in both weak and strong liberal democracies.

It would be somewhat reassuring to think the United States is the “exceptional nation” resisting the tide. But President Donald J. Trump’s casual, sometimes caustic, disdain for democratic norms and his inexplicable coziness with Vladimir Putin and lesser authoritarians have raised concerns in America and abroad, particularly among traditional allies.

Disturbing as the behavior of the forty-fifth president is, honesty compels us to recognize that Trump’s presidency is less the cause of America’s democracy woes than the product of them. Surveys and studies, including The Vanishing Center of American Democracy, published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture last year, reveal a steady decline in Americans’ confidence in their political institutions as well as various other bulwarks of a liberal and civil society. A declining faith in democratic norms has only exacerbated the culture war divisions of the last four decades, divisions that have in turn been intensified by what some call a new class war between “credentialed” elites and (mostly) white lower-income earners who see their fortunes declining. And as many have noted, democratic norms are bound to suffer when there are no shared conceptions of truth or objectivity, and when all products of journalism are dismissed, from one partisan angle or another, as “fake news.”

Is it time to declare the end of the end of history, as we tentatively suggest in the title to this issue’s theme? More fundamentally, is there something deeply flawed in what many people have long believed was the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment: not merely the idea of governments of, for, and by the people but states undergirded by commitments to personal and civil liberties. Are we witnessing the exhaustion of the once-vital liberal tradition that supported our politics, both its progressive and conservative strands, and which made politics a (relatively) civil enterprise, and compromise a desirable outcome of that enterprise?

The contributors to this issue propose widely differing answers to these questions. But all agree that the questions are urgent and the stakes are high, not only for America and other liberal democracies but also for the relatively stable global order that emerged after World War II, an order built on faith in the universal worth of liberal principles.

We will be releasing a select number of essays and reviews from this issue on a rolling basis during the coming weeks, starting with the following two:

Here’s what subscribers can already read: “The Tragedy of Liberalism,” Patrick J. Deneen; “Not Melting into Air,” John M. Owen IV; “Why Nations Matter,” Wilfred M. McClay; “Technocratic Vistas,” Jackson Lears; and “What Is to Be Done?,” by William A. Galston.

Other contributions include essays by Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon and Phil Christman.

Not yet a subscriber? Click here and subscribe today.

. . . . . . . .

Like The Hedgehog Review on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our posts via RSS.

FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+Share

Introducing the Spring Issue:
The Post-Modern Self

Untitled

Untitled by Didier Gaillard; private collection, Bridgeman images.

“The past is a foreign country,” wrote the British author L.P. Hartley in his 1953 novel, The Go-Between. But almost before Hartley’s words acquired the status of proverb, something curious happened. Thanks largely to the dizzying pace of change that technology has made almost routine, the present itself became a foreign country—alien, but in the most deceptive of ways. In this curious present, we discern only with difficulty how things that seem familiar and fixed are actually, upon closer investigation, strange and unsettled. One day, for example, we think the reality of “reality TV” is anything but real; the next day we discover that it most shockingly is—and maybe has been for much longer than we realized. If we have not quite arrived at Orwellian Newspeak, in which war is peace and love is hate, then we are somewhere not far off. In this here and now, where meanings and norms shift shapes right before our eyes, we are strangers in, and to, our own time.

That strangeness is in no respect more unsettling than in relation to the very selves we are becoming. Every individual self is unique, of course, but all selves are also inescapably shaped by beliefs, norms, ideals, and meanings that make up the totality of a specific culture at a specific time. Until now at least, those underlying and defining elements of a culture benefited from a certain stability—or at least the appearance of such amid what might be described, more precisely, as gradually changing continuity. In the increasingly alien present, however, the very character of our culture (some would even say our anti-culture) is the absence of such stability and continuity, both having been displaced by the discontinuous, disruptive, and destabilizing force of change, a force that is now celebrated, and even idolized, for its own sake.

So, then, what sort of selves are we becoming in this age that we call, for lack of a better word, post-modern? That is the question our contributors explore in  The Post-Modern Self, the theme of our spring issue.

We will be releasing a select number of essays and reviews from this issue on a rolling basis during the coming weeks, starting with the following two:

For subscribers, the complete issue is available now, whether in print or ePub form. In our thematic section, the essays include David Bosworth’s “Knowing Together: The Emergence of the Hive Mind,” Wilfred M. McClay’s “The Strange Persistence of Guilt,” Mary Townsend’s “The Walking Wounded,” and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn’s “The New Old Ways of Self-Help.” Our non-thematic essays range from Nadav Samin on jihadist fiction and Regina Mara Schwartz on love and justice to Chad Wellmon on the fate of general education. We also review a series of key recent titles in our book review section.

Not yet a subscriber? Click here and subscribe today.

. . . . . . . .

Like The Hedgehog Review on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our posts via RSS.

Work in the Precarious Economy: Introducing the Spring Issue

Facebook Inc. employees work at the company's new campus in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. Facebook hopes to accommodate over 6,000 employees on the new campus, which will spread out over a million square feet of office space when completed in mid-December 2011. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One instance of the flexible office space is the hotel desk used by employees at Facebook’s Menlo Park campus; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

The importance of work to Americans is hard to overstate. More than half say they derive their sense of identity from their jobs, and that percentage jumps to two-thirds among those who have annual household incomes of $50,000 or more.

Work’s importance to the American pursuit of happiness is just one reason we might be concerned about tectonic shifts occurring in today’s workplace, including ones that are putting the very notion of workplace in question.  By some scholarly estimates, roughly one-fifth of today’s global workforce belongs to the “precariat,” a vast, growing, and class-transcending assortment of part-time, short-term, contract, migrant, or undocumented workers, managers, and professionals who often toil alone at home, take on various gigs, or start new businesses with little or no hope of longevity, steady incomes, or benefits.

What are some of the forces that gave rise to the precarious economy? What is the meaning and reality of vocation under these new conditions? How are people and communities responding to the challenges with new networks and institutions? In short, what are the multiple cultural transformations accompanying a major economic transformation? These questions and more are asked by the essays in our spring issue, Work in the Precarious Economy.

As always, we’ve put a mix of thematic and stand-alone pieces up in full for you to sample:

For subscribers, we have contributions from Benjamin H. Snyder, Charles Heying, Howard Gardner, and Mike Rose. In addition, we have an essay from Steven G. Kellman, along with reviews of new books by Samuel MoynFrancis O’GormanMichael Crow, and Mario Vargas Llosa. If you aren’t a subscriber, it’s an easy problem to fix: click here and subscribe today.

. . . . . . . .

Like The Hedgehog Review on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our posts via RSS.

A Preview of Parenthood

pregnant lady

Questions of parenting are compelling even before the child has arrived. (Credit: Karpati Gabor / Morgue File)

“It is not hard to imagine why parents have come to approach child rearing with so much trepidation and so little self-confidence.”

—   Wilfred McClay, “The Family That Shoulds Together”

“Expectations are set so high it is little wonder that parents are uneasy.”

— Carl Desportes Bowman, “Holding Them Closer”

As the new managing editor of The Hedgehog Review, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the essays that make up our fall issue. As a mother-to-be—with the due date of our first child falling bracingly near the due date of my first issue—the delight has been tempered by a certain admonitory note running through every piece of our Parenting in America  thematic cluster. … Read full post >>

. . . . . . . .

Like The Hedgehog Review on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our posts via RSS.