Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meaning is an Individualist Problem

Bradley Wright has a nifty post on how "Meaning is, truly, a first-world problem." In general, people in rich countries have more stuff, but are less certain that their lives are meaningful.

My "Macrosociological Theory" class finished with Charles Taylor's excellent Modern Social Imaginaries.  One of Taylor's more surprising points about modernity is that is has created a new form of social malaise.  Modern people can feel alienated, or anomic, or can even develop a nihilism (I added that last one) that pre-modern people would have found hard to understand.  Taylor's argument is that by disembedding people from their organic social settings and re-embedding them in rationalized institutions, modernity thereby created 'individuals'. 

And having become individuals, it is now possible to attempt to judge our lives as meaningful in isolation from social connections and social purposes.  But what makes most people think their lives and efforts are meaningful comes from the very work they must do to take care of the people they are connected to.

Meaning is, truly, an individualist problem.  Not solely, but in a distinctive way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hurrah for the Republican Establishment

Yesterday I wished Sen. McConnell well in his primary fight against a Tea Party challenger.  McConnell won easily. 

Indeed, it was a big day for the Republican Establishment:

Mr. McConnell’s victory came on a day when five other states — Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Oregon — held primaries. And in many of those high-profile contests, it was establishment Republicans coming out on top over Tea Party challengers, as in the McConnell-Bevin race.

I have maintained from their first appearance in reaction to Pres. Obama's election that the Tea Party, like other know-nothing movements before them, would last through three election cycles, then fade. 2012 was their third cycle.  Yesterday, in Kentucky and several other states, the Republican Establishment turned back the invaders.

I am hopeful that these victories will encourage career politicians, such as Sen. McConnell, to feel confident that they can get back to governing without fear of successful attack on their right flank from an anti-government movement.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I hope Mitch McConnell Wins Today

This is not a sentiment I have ever expressed before, and am not likely to again.

Today, though, my senior senator, the core the of Republican establishment, the purest politician in the U.S. Senate, is facing a challenge in the Republican primary from a prevent-government Tea Party candidate.

I hope all the establishment Republicans fend off the Tea Party this primary season, and win their civil war.

Then, perhaps, the two pro-government parties can get back to the business of compromise and trade-offs that is the actual business of governing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hindu Nationalist Success in India Can Ultimately Strengthen a Democratic, Secular State

I am hopeful about the election of the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, by a landslide in India.
Some worry that the Modi government will be anti-Muslim.  This a legitimate concern.

Nonetheless, I believe that democratically elected power is good for religious parties, in the medium run.  It makes them moderate their more extreme 'us vs. them' positions.  I had the same hopes for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, and lament that they were overthrown in a military coup before they could begin to feel the real effects of democracy.

I also think the Congress Party has been harmed by becoming a family dynasty, and that it has gotten away with deep and wide corruption for decades.  It is time for the Gandhis to retire from politics, and for a chastened new generation of Congress leaders to rise up and make Congress a truly competitive, and more honest, democratic party.  I would particularly like to see Congress make 'India for all' their central theme, which will moderate the majority-tyranny impulses within the BJP.