"Seeing America in the Spirit of Tocqueville: A Conversation on Democracy in America with Harvey Mansfield," By Harvey Mansfield, Chris Barker, and Tao Wang
This interview was conducted with Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University by Tao Wang, who teaches modern Chinese history at Fudan University, and Chris Barker, who teaches political science at Southwestern College.[1] Through a series of questions about Alexis de Tocqueville’s interpretation of American formal institutions and American public and private life, the interviewers intended to capture Professor Mansfield’s understanding of what it is like to see democracy and America from the perspective of Tocqueville–to “see by doing,” which is to see democracy “in” America, and therefore to see America conservatively, in light of the existing facts of democratic life. Below, Professor Mansfield calls what is seen “the fact of freedom.” Tocqueville’s understanding of this fact is explored and compared with the understanding of other liberal thinkers.
"The Paradoxes of the Body in Everyman, Nemesis, and The Humbling," By Lee Trepanier
In a period of less than five years, Philip Roth has published four short novels in rapid succession: Everyman (2006), Indignation (2008), The Humbling (2009), and Nemesis (2010).[1] Roth himself claims that these are his last novels – “To tell you the truth, I’m done” – and plans to spend his remaining years rereading “all of my books beginning with the last, ‘Nemesis.’”[2] For Roth, “What the stories all have in common . . . is the cataclysm. Here are four men of different ages, brought down.”[3] The protagonists in Roth’s four novels are confronted with death in their lives whether it is by aging, war, polio, or suicide. According to Victoria Aarons, these novels “show the consequences of the thwarted desire to live out counterlives, wishful yearning of characters who imagine themselves living other lives, other selves.”[4] Fearing death, these characters attempt to reinvent their lives but fail and therefore judge their lives severely as one marked by past mistakes and missed opportunities. . . . In this essay I explore the body as a site of how Roth’s characters encounter the world as one of disappointment, decay, and death.
"‘Can the Future Be Perfect?’ A Review of Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect," By Coyle Neal
Steven Johnson believes in progress— not the “progress” promised by shallow politicians offering quick fixes through “hope and change,” military surges, or fast-tracked powerful new legislation, but rather progress in the sense that human existence has been getting better bit-by-bit in slow, steady increments “since at least the dawn of industrialization.” (xxii) Progress defined, that is, to some extent as Burke, Hegel, and others have used it. His book Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age makes the case for his belief, arguing that the future of this progress—and indeed of all human progress of any kind whatsoever—is bound up in personal connections (facilitated by technology) rather than in the traditional categories that have locked us in stagnant and moribund patterns.
"Commentaries on the Work of Eric Voegelin," By Michael Franz
During the past four decades, Eric Voegelin has received ever wider acknowledgement as one of the greatest political thinkers of the twentieth century. . . . Access to Voegelin’s oeuvre is also complicated by two remarkable “breaks” in his program and a number of less dramatic shifts in emphasis over the course of his career. The first of the breaks occurred in the early 1950s when Voegelin abandoned the 4,000 page manuscript for his History of Political Ideas after “it dawned on [him] that a conception of a history of ideas was an ideological deformation of reality.”8 A new program, outlined in The New Science of Politics and carried halfway to completion in the first three volumes of Order and History, was in turn abandoned.9 . . . Thus we are left with a body of work that is not only intrinsically difficult but also internally divided. Since Voegelin was more inclined to drive his explorations forward than to detail precisely what could or could not be salvaged from earlier works, those who wish to invoke his authority are, in my view, obliged to do this themselves. . . . This situation has served as a stimulus for secondary interpretations, as most of Voegelin’s admirers recognize, if only implicitly, that they cannot legitimately attribute views to him while treating his writings as an undifferentiated, seamless whole.
"A Violent Recovery: Allen Tate and the Religious Foundations of Community," By Virginia Arbery
Allen Tate’s contribution to I’ll Take My Stand poses a challenge. He concludes his “Remarks on Southern Religion” by stating that the way the Southerner can “take hold of his tradition” is by violence. In a group of essays that has eschewed a direct, political solution to the damaging cultural effects of industrialism, Tate challenges his confederates to be activists. He writes at the end of his essay: “Since he cannot bore from within, he has left the sole alternative of boring from without. This method is political, active, and, in the nature of the case, violent and revolutionary.”1 How are we to interpret Tate’s surprising conclusion?