The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 24. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
Letter from the Editors
On Ideal Theories
As I nodded twelve years ago for Obama, I nodded again on January 20th—though more in relief than in expectation. Biden, unlike Obama, did not promise an end to ideology. But perhaps he signaled the end—or the beginning of the end or, even more likely, a brief cessation—of the “ideology,” as some have called it, of “ideal theory.”
“You know better than me the unfortunate fate of this word “normalization.” What is not normalization? I normalize, you normalize, and so on.” —Michel Foucault
No Good Has Come
Marilynne Robinson’s testimony for the white church
In failing their encounters with the other—here the racial other—white Christians, like Ames and Boughton, fail God. It would mortify their souls, if they could really see it. I think Robinson does see it.
Zillow and the murder mystery
To escape at least occasionally into personal happiness is a matter of bare human necessity. But I’ve noticed that hunting for houses I can’t buy on the internet leaves me less prepared to inhabit reality. Thumbing through these pictures feels not unlike flipping to the last page of a mystery novel, reading ahead to find out how it ends.
The Logic of the Like
Bourdieu or Dewey
Whatever its weaknesses, Bourdieu’s highly contestable and partial theory has over time come to describe aspects of our social life with frightening accuracy. This is not because he refined the theory in any notable way; rather, the parts of the social world that best embody it have grown to increasingly structure how we interact.
Sources of Life
Private sentiment and the politics of despair
A false theory of culture is worse than a false theory of the heavens. The planets stick to their orbits no matter what we think, but culture becomes what we believe it is.
Pola Oloixarac is a bitch. I’m certainly not the first to make this observation.
Everything now is so… boring. Don’t you think? It’s like nobody cares about being a personality anymore. As if being a writer were no different from being a professor or a lawyer. It makes going to a writers’ conference feel like attending a dental convention. That’s what was so great about Abdollah: he didn’t remind me of a dentist. Sorry if your parents are dentists!
Searching for Hardwick and Lowell in Maine
There is something mildly shameful about literary pilgrimages.
Hofstadter’s Darker Liberalism
If one is looking to revisit Hofstadter expecting to mock the false confidence of some long-lost golden age of liberalism, they ought to be a little disappointed. For all the nostalgia that terms like the “liberal consensus” evoke today, it is remarkable that one of the shrewdest observers of that moment, the figure often taken as its exemplar, saw clearly how unstable and precarious that strength was.
Popular white narratives, at the time and since, have maintained that there could never be Black unity and that Black power meant anarchy; thus, a mass Black convention that united civil rights leaders and the representatives of Black Power would be impossible. … In that context, the National Black Political Convention—the centerpiece event in the Black Convention Movement—was too controversial to be broadcast.
No One Is Talking About This
At the end of Portrait, Stephen pledges “to go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” But what can “reality” mean to a woman who feels “most alive” in the portal?