Tuesday, September 26, 2017

From Trotsky to Buckley

A view from the far Left. From The Jacobin:
When James Burnham published his best-selling The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World in 1941, he had already ditched the far left but was still generally regarded as a radical, even a neo-Marxist. By the time he wrote The Struggle for the World six years later, he was flirting with obsessive anticommunism.

Too often, however, people rush to apply a version of black swan theory to Burnham’s shocking political conversion. With the benefit of hindsight, a complex evolution appears as an easily explicable U-turn.

For the Left, Burnham epitomized the petit-bourgeois weakling who cravenly succumbed to the pressures of alien class forces — a Marxist version of “filthy lucre.” For the Right, he heroically completed a pilgrim’s progress from the darkness of totalitarianism to the enlightenment of tradition. The center’s view has been most influential: Burnham proves the batty affinity between far left and far right.

Twinning these so-called extremes has become especially popular today among centrist pundits like Michael Bloomberg, who argue that the symmetrical “populisms” — Sanders and Corbyn on the left, Trump and Le Pen on the right — are destabilizing the West. Similarly, in his lively 1975 book Up From Communism: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History, John P. Diggins concludes that Burnham went “from the revolutionary Left to the militant Right without so much as pausing in the ‘Vital Center.’”

A more patient reading of the record shows that Burnham inhabited — albeit uncomfortably — the anticommunist center-left for a bit longer than he was a Communist and Trotskyist. Streamlining Burnham’s life to bolster an argument for the ideological kinship between revolution and reaction — including New Republic editor Jeet Heer’s claim that “Burnham took Trotsky’s idea of a world revolution and inverted it” — obscures more than it reveals. (Read more.)
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Cultivating Curiosity in Your Children

From Walking By the Way:
If your child is bored or in the doldrums, tempt him with miscellaneous items — a tub of magnets & metal pieces, a math balance, an owl pellet, watercolor pencils & paper, a new game, an insect display box, or a blank notebook & fancy pen. Simply leave items for your student in a familiar place. You might be surprised how much he enjoys finding, examining, and exploring! Occasionally, I will even give one of these items as an unexpected gift making it a little more mysterious and fun. (Read more.)
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Monday, September 25, 2017

The Return of Mules

Or perhaps they never really went out of style. From Oye! Times:
Those who disagree might be surprised that modern-day mules actually find their origins in the boudoir. In fact, before Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour wore them in the French court, the slipper-inspired style was associated with prostitution. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hollywood pinups like Marilyn Monroe brought the mule renewed glamour, with voluptuous, spike-heeled versions, before a chunkier version emerged in the ‘90s, alongside its ugly step-sister, the slide.

Now, the style is so pervasive that it seems quaint that in 2015, Maryam Nassir Zadeh — who can be credited with turning monochrome peep-toed mules into a fashion-girl favorite — accused Mansur Gavriel of ripping off the design. That same year, Alessandro Michele introduced his signature fur-lined loafer slide in his first collection for Gucci, sparking a wave of what are basically soled slippers. (Read more.)
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The Tyranny of Immorality

From Matt Walsh:
This particular case, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, will be decided by the Supreme Court soon enough. I’m not optimistic. Justice Kennedy will be the deciding vote, and there’s no telling if he’ll discover a Right to Pastries just as he discovered a Right to Gay Marriage and just as his forebears discovered a Right to Abortion. Maybe they’re all in the same mysterious amendment, written in invisible ink that can only be seen through a special decoder lens that liberal judges pass down through the generations like a family heirloom.

Some issues are so complex and nuanced that reasonable people can make intelligent arguments on either side of them. This is not one of those issues. In a free country, if we are to be a free country, you cannot compel someone to play any kind of role whatsoever in a private event that he objects to as a matter of conscience or religion. If you can, then I guess white supremacists can conscript Jewish caterers to serve them lunch at their next meeting. You may take exception to that analogy and point out that a white supremacist meeting is repugnant while a gay wedding is a wonderful celebration of love and happiness. That’s your opinion, yes. But it’s only your opinion. You cannot force me to agree with it or act upon it.

Speaking of force, it strikes me that those who desire only to raise their families and run their businesses according to their personal belief systems are the ones so often accused of “forcing their morality” on the world. When I was discussing this case on Twitter (an admittedly terrible forum to discuss this subject or any other subject known to man), I was admonished numerous times for committing the crime of morality-forcing. And that was just for saying that I think businesses should be allowed to refrain from serving gay weddings. (Read more.)
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Silence About Sin

From ChurchPop:
There’s a whole lot of sin all around us in our world today. As Christians, we are certainly called to refuse to participate in sin and instead to pursue holiness. But is that enough? Is a private pursuit of holiness with the grace of God all that Christians are called to do? Of course not. The primary mission of the Church is evangelical. That is to say, we are all called to share with others the Gospel of grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Included in that by necessity is the truth about sin, because that’s what Jesus saves us from. Sin, the transgression of God’s laws, is deadly serious. It’s exactly the thing that sends a person to hell for eternity. Which means that if we love other people, we have to warn them about sin. In fact, this responsibility is enshrined as one of the 7 spiritual works of mercy: admonish sinners. (Read more.)
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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Most Influential Female Artists of All Time

From Arts and Collections:
Vigée Le Brun is credited with painting approximately 660 portraits and 200 landscapes. She broke boundaries with her success; despite being initially denied a formal education in art, King Louis XVI ensured her acceptance into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and she went on to become a portraitist of the French court. She produced dozens of works of Marie Antoinette and royal family.

She shocked the art world when she exhibited a self-portrait in which she is smiling open-mouthed. Her portrait of Marie Antoinette was withdrawn because people didn’t like how informal it was. It depicted the queen in a simple white dress and straw hat. Although the artist was exiled during the French Revolution for her association with the monarchy, some 30 of her paintings of the queen still survive today, giving her the title of Marie Antoinette’s official painter. (Read more.)
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The American Burke

From Chronicles:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) was the most substantial intellectual to reach high political office in the United States since Woodrow Wilson.  Thus his life, writings, policy deliberations, and political efforts, and the effects of these, deserve the most careful and respectful attention.  If the apocalyptic era of European history began with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, it is arguable that the American time of troubles reached critical mass in 1965—just 50 years ago—when Moynihan’s report to President Lyndon Johnson on the precipitous decline of the African-American family became public knowledge.  Moynihan’s worries about the decline of the American family—white, black, and otherwise—have proved to be prophetic.  As the sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia put it in 2010, “Non-marital child-bearing among [all] women with high-school degrees more than tripled in the last three decades—from 13 percent in 1982 to 44 percent in 2006-8.”

Greg Weiner, a political scientist, has written an excellent short book on Moynihan, rightly comparing his thought and career with those of Edmund Burke.  Weiner’s book joins several other important volumes on Moynihan, including Godfrey Hodgson’s excellent The Gentleman From New York: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A Biography (2000), and the indispensable recent anthology edited by Steven R. Weisman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of An American Visionary (2010).  Moynihan’s service to presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon and his ambassadorships to the United Nations and India predated his long and distinguished service as U.S. senator from New York from 1977 until 2001, not long before his death in 2003.  It is true, though not the highest of compliments that Moynihan deserves, to say that his honor, honesty, intelligence, articulateness, and devotion to the common good make most of our presidents and legislators since World War II look like pathetically small figures indeed: the Kennedys, Nixon, and the Clintons hardly commend the quality of modern American political leadership.  Opposing the radical wing of the Democratic Party in 1980, Moynihan charged it with holding that “government should be strong and America should be weak.”

Weiner’s comparison of Moynihan with Burke is particularly apt, since Burke came at the beginning of a sociopolitical tradition on which Moynihan clearly drew and helped to develop and apply—the tradition of Tocqueville, Catholic social thought, and sociology as practiced by Robert Nisbet and Peter L. Berger.  This way of approaching politics enjoins respect for family, church, neighborhood, voluntary associations, tradition, federalism, decentralization—even for ethnicity and class.  Its great spokesmen dreaded two extremes to which modern history has been prone since the French Revolution: atomistic individualism and statism.  Atomistic individualism gives us radical, rootless, anxious or transgressive self-obsession, the Nietzschean consciousness, now so widespread, with its underlying belief, implicit or explicit, that there exists nothing authoritative that is anterior, exterior, or superior to the self.  This atheistic, anomic, alienated, “liberated” condition entails what Nisbet called “the twilight of authority,” and the “emancipated” individual drawn to the competing claims of the omnicompetent state.  European history since 1914 is that of the oscillations between these extremes, while American history since about 1965 displays a similar pattern, with no promising end in sight.  Like Reinhold Niebuhr, Moynihan wrote, Nisbet “holds that the civilization that begins by creating this autonomous individual ends by destroying him” through statist conformity or collectivism.  “A society suffused with the alienation of many of its members is a society that courts—if not totalitarianism, at least statism,” he continued.  “The state thrives, prospers and grows in an atmosphere of alienation, for it is the only alternative to the purposeful, private, communal activity that decays in the presence of alienation.” (Read more.)
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The Stafford Shoe Trade and the Irish

From Divergent Paths:
Andrew Brew was one of many Irish shoemakers who came to Stafford during the nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1901 almost one in ten of the town’s adult Irish workforce was in the footwear industry, and many of the children of Irish families entered the trade when they grew up.[iii] This body of workers was a classic example of how emigration and settlement were fuelled by the shift in economic power between Irish and British capitalism. Ireland suffered ‘deindustrialisation’ in the nineteenth century, and Stafford’s shoe trade illustrates how industrialisation and deindustrialisation were complementary forces.[iv]

Traditionally shoes were bespoke products made by cobblers selling directly to their customers, but in Britain the growth of London and the industrial cities created a profitable market for mass-produced ‘ready-mades’. This was exploited most profitably when entrepreneurs could use economies of scale, division of labour and cheaper road and rail transport. The trade increasingly concentrated in specialised shoe towns and villages of which Stafford was one.[v] Here the development was mainly due to William Horton (1750-1832), the first ‘manufacturer’ to orchestrate production on a large-scale, although most of the work was still done in workers’ houses. (Read more.)
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