What Money Shouldn’t Buy

Michael J. Sandel

Is it true that there's nothing wrong with commodification that fair terms of social cooperation cannot cure?

Get a Life

Wendy Kaminer

Let’s identify the potential horror lurking in the proprietary relationships that some fans imagine they enjoy with celebrities.

At the Gates of the Labyrinth

Paul A. Komesaroff

Pain and grief are among our most private, isolating experiences.

The Universe in a Grain of Sand?

Johann N. Neem

Those committed to human rights at the global level should seek not to universalize the particular but rather to particularize the universal.

The Meaning of Secularism

Charles Taylor

For the people to be sovereign, they need to form an entity and have a personality.

Justice: Thick and Thin

Daniel Philpott

Rare are intellectuals who both achieve a leading status in their field and relentlessly pursue knowledge that seeks to better the lives of ordinary people. Amartya Sen is one.

An Exemplary Social Scientist

Charles Kromkowski

Elster’s analysis is not another interpretative rereading or even a systematic dissection.

The Shifting Experience of Self

Joseph E. Davis

We know very little about what we are doing, why we do it, or how we feel about it.

Ghost Marketing

From the Editors

Analyses of ghostwritten articles shows them to both exaggerate effectiveness and downplay adverse effects. 

Watching and Worrying

Jeffrey S. Dill

The author’s interpretive framework truncates the narrative by forcing her to see thick cultural issues only through the lens of social class.

Reflections on the Crisis in the Humanities

Richard Wolin

The civic and practical goals of humanistic learning are necessarily related to the project of human autonomy, for there can be no autonomy apart from the provisos and attributes of self-knowledge.

Humanism

Richard Sennett

In a world filled with mobile people—economic immigrants and political exiles in particular—an old humanist ideal might help us to give shape to our lives.

Last Man or Overman?

Michael E. Zimmerman

If the clever human life form were to project its power in the form of technologically advanced, artificial offspring, would Nietzsche offer a principled objection, and if so, what would be its basis?

On Technology and Humanity

Daniel Doneson

The unscientific foundation of science and technology is in need of wisdom, practical and theoretical, about human ends.

Does Money Undermine Social Relations?

Eva Illouz

The ideology of the pure gift is not foreign or extraneous to the monetization of relationships.

We Have Never Been Disenchanted

Eugene McCarraher

Capitalism has been a form of enchantment, a metamorphosis of the sacred in the raiment of secularity. With money as its ontological marrow, it represents a moral and metaphysical imagination as well as a sublimation of our desire for the presence of divinity in the everyday world.

AA Envy

Helen Andrews

We are all alcoholic personalities now.

Profiles in Humility

James K.A. Smith

Our moral educations should happen at dinner tables, in classrooms, on football fields, in synagogues and churches.

Science Anxiety

Ari N. Schulman

There is a long series of instances in which public health agencies have responded to disease outbreaks with dangerous Pollyannaism, seemingly violating their core mission.

Trivial Pursuits

Paul Scherz

The decline of scientific research.

Pink Pills and Economic Man

Joseph E. Davis

Mysteriously, biologically, men and women want, or want to want, “the same thing.”

A Distant Elite

Wilfred M. McClay

Rule by merit is, after all, no respecter of persons.

The Murderer’s Mother

John J. Lennon

Because of me, Alex will never realize his potential, never discover the man he might’ve been. I’m deeply sorry for that. And that’s the sort of existential shame I grapple with: Here I am, years later, sober and learning and writing and finding out who I can be, and yet Alex can never do any of those things. Because of me.

The Devil We Know

Elizabeth Bruenig

The devil was understood to be present and industrious, and America’s earliest forebears were quick to suss him out by his evil works.

Saving the Soul of the Smart City

Joshua J. Yates

Taking a hard look at the smart city requires that we ask not only where it might fail to live up to the promises of its boosters, but also where it is successful and how it might nonetheless still fail us as citizens and as human beings.

The New Urban Agenda and the Limits of Cities

Noah J. Toly

Many have suggested that cities should be the vanguard of global governance on issues such as climate, immigration, and terrorism.

Next-Door Strangers

Marc J. Dunkelman

Within cities themselves, new wealth has been greeted with great fanfare—except by those who see gentrification as a threat to the communities that remained during the decades of white flight.

For the Love of Goats

Matthew Denton-Edmundson

Goats, like cats, are closer to nature than most domesticated animals, both species going feral more easily than domesticated dogs, which are rarely able to acclimate to life in the wild.

Tending the Digital Commons

Alan Jacobs

The complexities of social media ought to prompt deep reflection on what we all owe to the future, and how we might discharge this debt.

When Work and Meaning Part Ways

Jonathan Malesic

The fact is, work as we know it isn’t worth saving anyway.

Forgiving Heidegger

Nathan Goldman

Uncomfortable though it might be to admit, Heidegger’s thinking is part of the Jewish textual tradition.

Don’t Be Evil

Kyle Edward Williams

Is Whole Foods a kind of morality tale, a story of what happens when a company that started with good intentions gets too big too fast?

From the Editor

Jay Tolson

Reconsidering the complex relationship between humans and the wider animal kingdom.

Mary Midgley, 1919–2018

Phil Christman

Mary Midgley’s writing was profound but rarely technical; she trained her sights on general problems.

Who Pays for the Buy?

Karen Corinne Herceg

In the long run, we all pay dearly for the carefully crafted commercial illusion that we can hold people to standards on a selective basis.

Biotech Cockaigne of the Vegan Hopeful

Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft

If we succeed in growing meat, we will do more than change human subsistence strategies forever.

Wayward Leviathans

David Ciepley

How America's corporations lost their public purpose.

A Gallery of Poems by Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski

Zagajewski’s poems call us to live more deeply, with both the ugliness and beauty of life, saying “but, just wait…there is more.”

Does Religious Pluralism Require Secularism?

Jennifer L. Geddes

What emerges in the essays in this issue is actually not one secularism, but rather a range of secularisms—French, American, Indian, and other—that can be compared, evaluated, and improved upon.

The Shifting Experience of Self

Joseph E. Davis

Social and cultural change, from the rise of the “information economy” to changes in family life to the technological mediation of our relationships, is happening all around us.

The Corporate Professor

Jennifer L. Geddes

Exploring the bureaucratization of the life of the mind.

Sustain-ability?

Joshua J. Yates

There seems to be little agreement on what it is that needs sustaining, let alone how we should go about it in practice.

Science and Moral Life

Joseph E. Davis

The successful marketing of the “new science of morality” suggests its considerable allure for the popular imagination.

Truth and Consequences

Sophia Rosenfeld

Untruth—information that could be described as unverified, misleading, or an out-and-out lie—has been spreading with new ease and abandon, and often to undemocratic effect.

Toward a Culinary Ethos for the Twenty-first Century

Rachel Laudan

Never has food been delivered in such abundance, so far, or so safely.

The Distance from Our Food

Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft

Distance can breed ignorance of the ecosystems and individual animal lives that feed us.

Body and Soul at Table

Wilfred M. McClay

Food is a strong proof of our animality; it is equally strong evidence of how we transcend it.

The King’s Two Bodies and the Crisis of Liberal Modernity

Isaac Ariail Reed

We are living through a vertigo in political culture.

The Cinema of Inadvertence, or Why I Like Bad Movies

Phil Christman

We bad-movie watchers have our own anticriteria, the sorts of badness we prefer.

Solving for André, Subtracting Simone

Robert Minto

A grotesque and caricatured version of Simone Weil undermines an otherwise good book.

Mere

Wilfred M. McClay

Like a lover of endangered species, the lover of endangered words jumps for joy when he sees a word being rescued.

The Soul in Itself

Nicholas Cannariato

Gustav Theodor Fechner’s soul neither defies naturalism nor depends on revelation.

Je Regrette Tout

Jonathan Malesic

Moral growth doesn’t just mean looking to the future but reconciling past and present selfhood. It demands regret.

The Calculus of Ought

James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky

Quantification is more than merely a means of communication and persuasion in a fragmented culture.

Into the Whirlpool

Rebecca Lemov

How predictive data put brainwashing on the spin cycle.

Cannabis as a Cultural Question

James Mumford

How are we ethically to evaluate the practice of getting stoned?

Mind the Gap

Matt Dinan

Modernity needs to be revealed to us, because it so successfully hides its true character, insulating itself against revision and correction.

O imitators, you slavish herd!

Christopher Sandford

In the event you needed any further bad news in this year of the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll find it in this piercing, distressing, and shaming account of our tendency to follow the herd.

Expletive Defeated

Wilfred M. McClay

We need more profanity? Aren’t we already being inundated with it?

Taming the Furies

Martha Bayles

Every society in history has limited speech in some way, yet some have remained freer than others.

The Wagner Effect

Charlie Tyson

Far beyond the opera house and the concert hall, we are living in a world Wagner helped make.

Heavenly Geometries

Nathan Goldman

Given the gorgeousness of George Eliot’s own prose, her translation’s eloquence comes as no surprise.

To Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

Nancy Isenberg

In the words of retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy,  “a people confident in its laws and institutions should not be ashamed of mercy.”

A Divine Comedy

Eugene McCarraher

Like the “radical orthodoxy” associated with John Milbank, Stanley Hauerwas, and an array of other British and American theologians, Hart’s project of rejuvenation has been no narrowly theological or academic exercise.

Cancel

B.D. McClay

Cancel ’s murkiness has made it a very useful word for pushing already contentious or delicate matters into the realm of total confusion.

Thinking the Worst of Ourselves

Jackson Arn

We might be murderers, and we might not, but isn’t it safer to assume we are and be proven wrong? Maybe not.

Creation: Pro(-) and Con

Kieran Setiya

When you bring children into being, you give them the gift of life, but you also impose on them these terrible costs.

Toward an Incarnational Aesthetic

Ashley C. Barnes

On locating the sublimity of art within the world and within history.

The Brass Ring

Jonathan B. Imber

Is credentialism “the last acceptable prejudice”?

The Dehumanization Debate

Oliver Traldi

Why do people commit acts of cruelty?

Art and the Art of Living

Matthew Mutter

The disagreement between modernism and the contemporary discourse of “self-help” is not about whether literature has “therapeutic” capacities.

A Different Sense of Privilege

Steve Lagerfeld

Privilege today still comes with strings attached, but they are different now.

Opinion Fetishism

Alexander Stern

In any case, trying to use Twitter as a public square is like hiking the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Like the Matterhorn, Twitter is an amusement, not a place for exploration.

Is There a Place for Utopia?

S.D. Chrostowska

Consider embracing utopia at once as indeterminate speculation about a qualitatively better future and as a hypothesis, by assuming it to be possible.

You’re Not the Boss of Me

Rita Koganzon

The liberty of the adult citizen depends on the subordination of the prepolitical child.

Sisyphus Gets a Prescription

Carl Elliott

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the health of the community is essential to the health of the individual.

Power in the Blood

Brad East

Blood as discourse in the Christian imagination.

Governing for the Common Good

Stephen Assink

Charlottesville city councilor Kathy Galvin on the challenges of city governance

Why the New Flows of Capital Matter for Cities

Stephen Assink

Cities are increasingly being eyed by tech companies for their social dynamism and ability to generate innovation. This will have tremendous consequences for the future of society.

Virtual Assembly and the Legal Limits of Digital Dualism

John D. Inazu

The virtual dimensions of assembly may yield insights for how we understand more traditional assemblies and the legal protections that we assign to them.

Is Nothing Truly Alive?

Paul Nedelisky

What's the real-world significance of arguing in a New York Times op-ed that life doesn't exist? More than we might initially think.

Brother Rat?

Paul Nedelisky

Empirical verifiability is great when you can get it. But the worry here is what might happen to our self-understanding as human beings if we become willing to trade in an understanding of a rich and meaning-laden feature of our nature for, well, something we can share with a rat.

Monkey Takes Selfie, Lawsuits Ensue

Leann Davis Alspaugh

A monkey's selfie has done more than just raise awareness about an endangered species.

Cozy Up to Whole Foods

Leann Davis Alspaugh

Whole Foods Market is tired of your “whole paycheck” jokes. Recently, “America’s healthiest grocery store” launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign titled Values Matter.

Color Commentary

Leann Davis Alspaugh

Pantone's Marsala is no mauve, but it does reflect our present cultural mood.

Art for Data’s Sake

Leann Davis Alspaugh

To reduce a museum experience to the laws of supply and demand devalues not only the art itself but also the curators’ years of education and expertise—connoisseurship on which we rely in institutions that position themselves as cultural arbiters.

The Incomprehensible Witness of Forgiveness

John D. Inazu

Meaningful social change requires the kind of social reconciliation that can only emerge through aggregated instances of both forgiveness and repentance.

Cheering for Thanatos

James Mumford

For the editors of The Economist, euthanasia is "an idea whose time has come."

Pope Francis and Humane Ecology

Steven Knepper

Francis’s integral ecology challenges some tendencies on both the right and the left.

The Quandary of Internet Openness

Joseph Kreiter

If we want the Internet to remain free and open for everyone, is it right to exclude bullies and jerks? Lessons from the Ellen Pao incident.

In Defense of Scientific Asteroids

Jeffrey Guhin

Is the science in social science worth defending? The short answer is yes, and the long answer is that it depends on how you define science.

Sluttery and Shakespeare

B.D. McClay

A translation of English to English presumes that ambiguity of language is always a flaw—but it’s not.

Law, Religion, and Confident Pluralism in the University

John D. Inazu

With our colleagues, and with our students, we have the space not only to express disagreement in more than tweets and sound bites, but also to probe the reasons underlying our disagreement.

Running the Country Like a Business

Guest Blogger

Is it enough for a business to turn a profit? Or should a business cultivate human flourishing and shared prosperity to be considered a success?

The Art of the Possible

B.D. McClay

A zero sum reality, in which every win is someone else’s loss, exists in a constant state of crisis.

Firmness

Alan Jacobs

Time to adopt a new hero: Lew Archer, private detective.

Covidien and the Failure of Corporate Social Responsibility

Kyle Edward Williams

We can’t take CEOs’ high-flown gestures at face value.

Moral Imagination Holds the Key

James Mumford

How do we more lastingly move beyond the impasses we have reached on a host of ethical issues at the heart of our highly politicized culture wars?

No Longer an Extraordinary Event

Joseph E. Davis

Our exploitive relationship to the natural order is greatly magnifying the possibility of spillover and increasing virus virulence.

Our Once and Future Citizens

Richard Hughes Gibson

How might the pandemic alter civic engagement?

Crisis and Beholding

Benjamin Chan

The importance of learning to see beyond our preoccupations.

Against Projection; For Promise

Alan Jacobs

To make promises, to stand by one words, to be answerable for them, is to open oneself to blame.

Healthy, Wealthy, or Wise?

Mark Hoipkemier

Aristotle and the pandemic debates we aren’t having.

The Price of Freedom

Eric B. Schnurer

The point of reopening is not to free voluntary workers but to place more into the category of “mandatory worker.”

You liberal you!

Mark Edmundson

A human spirit of community and kindness can be learned. But it can also be forgotten.

More Than Their Crimes

Diane Gottlieb

Meeting a murderer and finding a friend.

When Disaster Is an Invaluable Lesson

Jay Tolson

Donald Trump’s manner was a declaration of indifference toward the values that make democracy possible.

Toward a New Universalism

Shahrzad Sabet

The gap between our concepts of love and justice has served us poorly.

The Fantasy of Self-Forgiveness

Gordon Marino

We need to preserve a distinction between recognizing our transgressions and resolving to change, on one hand, and imagining that we can forgive ourselves, on the other.

More Than Just a Word

Richard Hughes Gibson

Americans have been making arguments about the nature of their unity from the beginning.

Trump Isn’t Lear. But Maybe Edmund?

Cassandra Nelson

What haunted Edmund was a fear of being second best.

An Appeal for Friction Writing

Richard Hughes Gibson

Our writing process lacks sufficient resistance, hesitation, reconsideration.

Do We Absolutely Disagree?

Alan Jacobs

Well known free speech advocates may not always be free speech absolutists.

More than a Matter of Taste

Joshua Hren

Henry James’s fiction shows how aesthetic misjudgments can be connected to moral vice.

Writing a Life

Alan Jacobs

The question I want to ask is simply this: Is the writing of a Life a game that, in our current moment, can be played?

The Problem with Productivity and the Good Work of Love

Alan Jacobs

That means, first, that I have to love my neighbor—my colleague—above my own productivity.