The Commodification of Self

Joseph E. Davis

The shaping and conditioning of our self-understanding by consumption is one form of the commodification of self. 

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.

From the Editors

Joseph E. Davis and Jennifer L. Geddes

Thinking more deeply about how we can inhabit the public sphere with others.

Beyond Tocqueville’s Telescope

Arlie Hochschild and Sarah B. Garrett

To what degree have we turned away from the public sphere and the obligations it lays upon us? Has this happened across all realms of life, or more in some realms and less in others?

From the Editors

Joseph E. Davis and Jennifer L. Geddes

The rate of change, the kinds of change, and the scope of change taking place today are impossible to understand without also looking at the ways they are affecting societies and how we understand and experience ourselves and others.

Moodiness

Harvie Ferguson

We no longer experience a world, or sense ourselves as the subject of that experience; we are, rather, shrouded and carried along in the moodiness of the present.

From Inwardness to Intravidualism

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn

The available terms for making better sense of the human predicament are plentiful, but most are currently buried beneath layers of exhausted soil.

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.

The Language Deficit

From the Editors

An Modern Language Association (MLA) study calling for curricular reform that addresses the need for increased language instruction and incorporates cultural and historical reflection. 

The Ghost of Kinsey Past

From the Editors

The Kinsey agenda remains alive as key justifications for counting up sexual acts.

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.

The Social Meanings of Dignity at Work

Allison J. Pugh

Economies of dignity shape what people talk about and how people talk about others.

The Nagel Flap: Mind and Cosmos

John H. Zammito

The exasperated tone with which evolutionary scientists, philosophers of science, and others on the side of science and philosophy received Nagel’s book was struck early.

Recovering the Vernacular

Thomas Fitzgerald

Venues now available for many more competing voices, together with the multiplying perspectives of our times—hailed as liberating diversity—serve as dispensation to believe in anything, everything, or nothing.

Profiles in Humility

James K.A. Smith

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

Uneasy in Digital Zion

Chad Wellmon and Julia Ticona

Confusion about our digital technologies and their use is not limited to the masters of Silicon Valley.

The Witness of Literature

Alan Jacobs

To the arguments of Huxley and Tyndall against traditional religion, Yeats had no answer until literature and the other arts came to the rescue.

When Science Went Modern

Lorraine Daston

This was the nightmare of scientific progress: The truths of today would become the falsehoods—or at least the errors—of tomorrow.

Invisible Science

Steven Shapin

The invisibility of embedded science is an apparently paradoxical, but reliable, index of the significance of science for everyday life—for government, for commerce, and, not least, for our sense of self.

The Self-Assembled Career

Carrie M. Lane

The solution to the unraveling of the social contract of employment may not be to prop up the ailing traditional job but, instead, to imagine what other forms work lives might take. 

On Frank Speech

Matthew B. Crawford

The role of frank speech in democratic culture is something worth considering, especially in light of the renewed ferment over political correctness.

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.

Monumental Woes

B.D. McClay

Symbols, like events, never float free from their context.

The Jefferson Brand

Timothy C. Jacobson

Between Jefferson’s profession of faith in the virtues of republican simplicity and the style of his own life the contradiction could hardly be greater.

Not Melting into Air

John M. Owen

Today the threat against liberalism is one of atrophy rather than violent death.

Southern Discomfort

James McWilliams

Resolved to reconcile the simultaneous horror and beauty of home, William Christenberry began the annual pilgrimages back south.

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.

Cosmopolitanism vs. Provincialism

Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein

American politics thrives on exploiting confusion about real and perceived interests, whether those interests are tied to region or class, or both.

The Ideology of Anti-Ideology

Donald Dewey

We have harbored an ideology expressive of all-inclusiveness—one referred to with deceptive informality as the “American way of life.”

From the Editors

Jay Tolson

Great as they are, the challenges of the digital age are not only profoundly intellectual and conceptual.

Digital Metaphysics

Leif Weatherby

At the beginning of the digital revolution, there existed a speculative energy that we could use now. It was put at the service not of innovation or disruption but of maintenance and politics, of establishing categories to put our digital world on a better course.

The Inner Life of a Sinking Ship

Greg Jackson

I am concerned with the quality of our choices as choices, and I am interested in excavating from our behaviors and artifacts an archaeology of our emotional life in the hope that naming these feelings can help us begin to reclaim our choices as our own.

When Work and Meaning Part Ways

Jonathan Malesic

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

After the Vernissage

Greg Jackson

The principal experience of the art I encountered, I found, was not the art itself, but the uncertainty and complexity of my own subjective response.

Seeing and Being Seen

Russell C. Bogue

Our political moment demands to see who we are—a beautiful and terrifying ordeal.

Good on Paper

Nan Z. Da

Books, reading, and literature cultivate “a way of being in time.”

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.”

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.

Work and Dignity

Joseph E. Davis

Work is not just an economic matter. Beyond survival, a range of other human values and ideals are at stake.

Science and Moral Life

Joseph E. Davis

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

The American Dream

Joseph E. Davis

How the American Dream—hope in the future—competes in these times with a pervasive pessimism.

Reality Made Me Do It

Martha Bayles

Is the whole world slouching toward a Panopticon of digitally enabled surveillance and control?

Trajectory of a Dream

S.D. Chrostowska

Why do dreams, aside from those that prove uncannily prophetic, not befit our biography?

Technology and Modern Friendship

Richard Hughes Gibson

The interplay of friendship and technology has been far longer-running than we think.

Hipster Elegies

Greg Jackson

The death and life of the great American hipster offers an alternative history of culture over the last quarter century.

Do Something!

Charlie Tyson

When it comes to doing nothing, style is everything

Homo Saecularis

Jay Tolson

Who is secular man, and why is he so unhappy?

Toward a Culinary Ethos for the Twenty-first Century

Rachel Laudan

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

You Are What You (Don’t) Eat

James McWilliams

The personal diet has become not only a cult; it has become a political statement.

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 Art of Not Concluding

Becca Rothfeld

Can philosophy be worth doing?

Getting to the Root

Martyn Wendell Jones

Baring introduces a community of thinkers whose contributions have been obscured.

On Winter

Matt Dinan

It is hard to sustain the illusion that there is anything good about winter after the hundredth day or so.

The Soul in Itself

Nicholas Cannariato

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

Monstering

Vanessa Place

If we really wanted to kill the monster, we would give it what it wants.

Inviting Evil In

Paul A. Cantor

We have met the monsters, and they are us.

Season of the Witch

Becca Rothfeld

Today’s witches are no longer experts in the “occult.” Instead, they rush to aid the downtrodden—and to publish their potion recipes in best-selling how-to guides.

Richard Nixon, Modular Man

Phil Christman

What to make of Richard Nixon?

Unbecoming American

Johann N. Neem

As a child, I thought that to be American was to believe in individuality, to support pluralism and equality, and to celebrate common holidays and eat common foods.

Je Regrette Tout

Jonathan Malesic

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

What Freud Got Right

Wilfred M. McClay

We might do a better job of living together if we believed that we are meant to do so.

After Cosmopolitanism

Stuart Whatley

Like globalist, cosmopolitan has become a freighted term.

Blood Sports

B.D. McClay

True crime is not quite about watching people die, but it does require an interest in the subject.

Unveiling Our New Modernity

Jonathan D. Teubner

We are coming to see our world as increasingly discontinuous with the twentieth century.

Quantifying Vitality

Jackson Lears

Statistics in the Progressive Era were more than mere signs of a managerial government’s early efforts to sort and categorize its citizens.

Schooling in the Age of Human Capital

Daniel Markovits

Metrics do not and, in fact, cannot measure any intelligible conception of excellence at all

To Have and To Hold

Becca Rothfeld

In the end, your collection always ends up collecting you.

Closing Time

Clare Coffey

We’re all counting bodies.

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?

Sensible

Vincent Ercolano

If being sensible was no virtue to my father, being fantastic was just as bad.

Dissent and Solidarity

James Davison Hunter

King’s arguments for freedom and justice were not only constitutional but also profoundly ethical.

America, the Exceptional?

Steve Lagerfeld

Once attacked for rejecting American exceptionalism, liberals now are in almost sole possession of it.

Why I Am a Socialist

Sam Adler-Bell

It is the irreducibly human dimensions of the radical life that are to be most cherished, and most feared.

Whose Humanities?

Edward Tenner

The humanities may have suddenly mattered more than ever, but their support was also as fragile as it had been for decades.

Another Betrayal of the Intellectuals

Jonathan D. Teubner

A historian charts the evolution of her own center-right liberalism.

Demystifying Tech

Megan Marz

By suggesting that the constant resetting is all there is, disruption becomes “a theodicy of hypercapitalism,” a kind of “newness for people who are scared of genuine newness.”

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.

Puritans’ Progress

Peter Skerry

What do we mean by culture? Don’t ask me, I’m a political scientist.

“Peace” and the Organization Kid

Mike St. Thomas

Have we exchanged our desire for its objects?

The Strange Undeath of Middlebrow

Phil Christman

Everything that was once considered lowbrow is now triumphant.

Paul Valéry and the Mechanisms of Modern Tyranny

Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody

All modern forms of government presume an objectification of their citizens.

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”?

There’s Nothing Normal about Normal

Noah J. Toly

On the surface, “normal” might seem harmless, charmingly self-deprecating, maybe even endearing.

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.

Winter Storm Pax and the Power of Names

Claire Maiers

As Winter Storm Pax pushes across the eastern United States this week, I find myself pondering the power of names.

Wear It Proudly!

Leann Davis Alspaugh

What began as one of the most popular forms of menswear has now morphed into the kindler, gentler uniform. First, there was blue collar. Then white collar. Now there’s soft collar.

Collage Envy

Leann Davis Alspaugh

The wonder of Tom Wesselmann's 1962 collage, Still Life No. 1

Law, Religion, and Confident Pluralism in the University

John 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.

Introducing the Fall Issue: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Science

Jay Tolson

As the power of science grows, its dominion extends even into areas of our culture where its proclaimed authority is questionable.

Mom, Apple Pie—and Lady Gaga

Leann Davis Alspaugh

Lady Gaga keeps it classy at Super Bowl LI.

Faulkner as Futurist

Carl Rollyson

Faulkner’s treatment of the past means much for the nature of our future.

Cousin Starfish

David Egan

Mother Nature sees you not as a soul shimmering with intelligence but as one solution to the problem of metabolism. 

More Than Their Crimes

Diane Gottlieb

Meeting a murderer and finding a friend.

Toward a New Universalism

Shahrzad Sabet

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

Dare We Call It Charisma?

Mark Edmundson

A trick that only the most gifted demagogues can bring off.