There is abundant evidence that the Trump administration has grossly botched the handling of the Covid pandemic. But, unfortunately, such mismanagement is not limited to the most obvious offenders. Public health expert Michael Fine discusses the mishandling of the coronavirus, from the White House to the World Health Organization to the CDC and to the … Continued


Against the Grain

Walter Benjamin on Violence

Walter Benjamin, a German-Jewish philosopher associated with the Frankfurt School, had a unique take on the origins and manifestations of violence in the world. James Martel discusses how Benjamin thought about the various forms of violence under capitalism, and whether he thought violence and coercion could be eradicated. (Encore presentation.) Brad Evans and Terrell Carver, eds., Histories … Continued


According to Margaret Hunter, growing numbers of white people are “shape shifting into Blackness”: they’re taking on or inhabiting aspects or characteristics of Blackness. Hunter discusses the emergence of three forms of Blackness tried on by whites in the post-civil rights era: cultural Blackness, political Blackness, and intellectual Blackness. Tamai, Dineen-Wimberly, and Spickard, eds., Shape Shifters: Journeys … Continued


Against the Grain

Weasel Words of 21st Century Capitalism

Innovation, grit, creativity, flexibility, choice — these words are ubiquitous in US society and yet, according to John Patrick Leary, they’re not neutral.  Leary weighs in on the language of 21st century capitalism and how certain keywords are a slippery way to avoid calling thing what they are. (Encore presentation.) Resources: John Patrick Leary, Keywords: … Continued


Is life worth living? Can believing in something help make it a reality? Do emotions generate actions, or is it the other way around? John Kaag describes how William James, the nineteenth-century philosopher and psychologist, approached and answered these questions. John Kaag, Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life Princeton University … Continued