Our illustration this week shows philosophers Agnes Heller and Jurgen Habermas in conversation.
This week we begin thinking about the present by contemplating about the past: senior editor Alex Aleinikoff looks to Auschwitz to understand why the Trump Administration deliberately inflicts suffering on migrants to the United States. “I will not enter into the discussion of whether the detention facilities to which children have been confined in the U.S. are or are not similar to concentration camps,” he writes; “nor am I arguing that that the policies of the Trump regime will end with death camps. But at the most general level there are parallels or congruences that I find deeply troubling.” We follow this new essay with two to help you think more deeply about the issues Aleinikoff raises: Siobhan Kattago’s essay on the moral blindness of Trump’s policies; and Michelle Mayhew-Shears and Heather Salazar’s essay about the practical requirements of seeking asylum in the United States.
One of our moral compasses is the late Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller, who died last summer at the age of 90. This week in Democracy 2.0, with the help of senior editor Omri Boehm, we have an interview with Heller, done in the final weeks of her life, paired with an abridged essay from Social Research that reflects on the failure of liberal democracy in Hungary after 1989. “Although it was not written in the stars that this would happen,” she writes, “the possibility of relapse into a kind to tyranny was nevertheless there from the beginning. How did it happen and why?” We end this section with a meditation from Heller’s friend, Jurgen Habermas.
In our Sex and Gender section we have two pieces by McKenzie Wark, an interview and an essay, on Andrea Long Chu’s hot new book, Females, just out from Verso. “The way to have the most fun with the writings of Andrea Long Chu is to read them as satire,” Wark writes. “Their virtue, as texts, is what Chu calls `commitment to the bit.’ She pursues the seemingly mad consequences of a proposition all the way to the end.” Having read the book – and maybe everything Long Chu has ever written? – I can vouch for this. And you will love both of thee pieces. As a third, and unrelated essay Laura Briggs asks the provocative question: why are “white women” always being exhorted to act politically as – well, white women? Does this actually make sense?
This is what you’ve been waiting for since last week: just before 4:00 PM yesterday, the House unveiled its resolution to impeach Donald J. Trump. How clever of Public Seminar editor Charlotte Slivka to have suggested a couple weeks ago that we do an excerpt of Brenda Wineapple’s The Impeachment: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, hot off the presses from Random House. Charlotte did an interview with Wineapple too: enjoy. And if you aren’t done with controversy yet, this week Naomi Wolfe got the news that her book, Outrages, will not be issued in the United States because of disputes over its accuracy. One of our reviewers, Emily Rutherford, examined the book, and we are reprising her essay here; historian Emma Rees defends the book here.
Claire Bond Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research.