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The Democrat who could bring down Biden Kyrsten Sinema embodies the end of performative radicalism

Defender of the rule of law (Mario Tama/Getty Images)


October 26, 2021   7 mins

For many liberals, this was the year that Kyrsten Sinema became the most infuriating politician in the United States. The first-term Arizona senator is, along with West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, obstructing the passage of Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion social services and climate change package. The reasons for Manchin’s stubbornness are well known.

But Sinema is more enigmatic. It was said that she demanded $100 billion in cuts to proposed climate programmes, though this was denied by her office. The package was trimmed to $2 trillion, but she still refused to support it. She was accused of being bent on the “destruction” of the Biden Presidency. She had, one commentator wrote, a “death grip” on the Democratic Party.

In public, Sinema was taciturn, even as she was trailed and harried by progressive activists, who followed her into public restrooms, or tried to confront her at a marathon. Nobody on the Left understands her thinking; to the Washington Post she is simply “inscrutable“. So fury, and theorising, is their response. (Hers was to tell them, somewhat cryptically on Instagram, to “fuck off”.)

Biden’s bill has been maimed by Sinema, regardless of what happens in the weeks ahead. Eventually, interest in her may begin to fade, or she might face a primary challenge that ends her career as a senator. But there is another way to look at Sinema, one with wider and much longer-lasting implications for politics and political theory than her obstructionism in the Senate.

In recent years there have been two major shifts in the relationship between politics and political theory. On the one hand, a number of important modern political thinkers, such as Michel Foucault, once perceived in American academic and activists circles as useful, even necessary, for ostensibly radical and critical Leftist politics, have begun to appeal to the Right, which long rejected them. On the other hand, adherence to a capitalism-friendly version of academics and activists’ politics, especially on matters of culture, race and sexuality, became a condition of membership in nearly every important institution in the United States. Ideas that once generated a thrilling frisson of subversion in college seminars among students and teachers, who at the time could see themselves as joined in a common project of Leftist critique, have now become the ever-more explicit moral centre of our regime — or are being taken up by its opponents on the Right.

Such changes can perhaps be traced more easily through the writings of thinkers whose minds, because of their mediocrity, reflect rather than resist larger trends. One such thinker — a former activist and, technically, a scholar — is Sinema, who holds a PhD in “Justice Studies” from Arizona State University. Her 2012 dissertation Who Must Die: the State of Exception in Rwanda’s Genocide, and her 2015 book of almost the same title, are representative moments in the double shift by which Leftists once enamoured of certain strands of radical political theory repurposed it towards the consolidation of a new hegemonic political morality, discarding its subversive dimension — and making it available to the Right.

In her work on Rwanda, Sinema purports, through a handful of incompletely understood concepts drawn chiefly from the writings of Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben, to discover in the genocide committed in 1994 a generalisable lesson about the importance of the rule of law. In its absence, she argues, the worst sorts of barbarities are possible, and indeed likely.

Sinema’s work has no original insights, and hardly any grasp on the theory that supposedly informs it. It is, however, a useful document. It sheds, in the first place, some light on Sinema herself, a former anti-war radical who is now perhaps the most notorious centrist in Congress and who prides herself on upbeat bipartisanship (expounded in her 2009 book, Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions that Win and Last). For those who would rather dim the lights on Sinema, an already highly-visible political personage, her invocation of Schmitt and Agamben offers an opportunity to consider the strange transformation that these theorists’ work has undergone.

Schmitt and Agamben, in principle, should have been uncomfortable reading for Sinema. The former was an early 20th-century German legal theorist who attacked liberal democracy and supplied theoretical justification for the Nazi regime; the latter is a still-living Italian philosopher who used Schmitt’s ideas for his own critique of liberalism, launched from the radical Left rather than the far Right. But, given Sinema’s political and intellectual origins on the anti-war Left of the early 2000s, her choice is less surprising. The two thinkers were critical references for activist and academic critics of American power throughout the War on Terror.

Since the Eighties and Nineties, Schmitt had become first acceptable, and then compulsory reading, for American political theorists, who were taken with what seemed to be his insights into the deficiencies of liberal democracy’s emphasis on the rule of law and the formal aspects of democratic procedure. Some thinkers on the Left, such as Chantal Mouffe, used his ideas to advocate for a reinvigorated form of political democracy that valued frankly acknowledged conflicts over neutral rules and norms. This so-called “agonism” once inspired populist Leftist movements in Europe, but seems to appeal to few American academics after the rise, since the first Trump campaign, of Right-wing populism at home. Norms — such as Nato and Nafta — suddenly appealed to Leftists who had long critiqued them.

While some tried to use Schmitt to attack liberalism from the Left, others, drawing on Agamben’s interpretation of Schmitt, argued that the United States was becoming or had become a dangerously illiberal country. Schmitt had argued, infamously, that states inevitably find themselves confronted with “states of exception” — situations where legal norms can no longer be applied. In such instances, some agent must decide what is to be done so that order can be restored and the normal rules can function again. Schmitt saw this power to make decisions in exceptional circumstances as the essence of sovereignty. He argued that liberal democracies — oriented towards preserving the rule of law, which their leaders and ideologues imagine needs no supplement of sovereign decision-making — ignore this fact to their peril.

Agamben, however, countered that supposedly liberal states are in fact constantly dealing with “states of exception”. Liberals do not, in his view, periodically confront normless states of exception in crises; rather they constantly create these conditions. In a series of works including his 1995 Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Agamben drew on Schmitt and Foucault to warn that what he saw as the paradigmatic instances of the Nazis’ systematic illegality and inhumanity — the concentration camp and the lethal power of doctors over “life unworthy of life” (the disabled, mentally handicapped, etc.) — were also present, at least potentially, in democratic states, which create their own zones in which law and rights are suspended.

After 9/11, these arguments took on great cogency for many thinkers on the American Left. The US Government appeared to them to be suspending fundamental rights of its citizens through the Patriot Act, which suspended long-standing norms about the limits of state surveillance. Meanwhile, in Guantanamo Bay, the Government seemed to consign individuals to a site-specific state of exception in which the norms governing neither the treatment of prisoners of war, nor criminals applied. Agamben’s theories did not offer much clear direction on what critics of the apparently norm-less War on Terror might do to oppose the “sovereign” power of the United States, but they did give a moral and philosophical weight to critics’ sense that the country was on a dangerous slide towards reenacting the worst horrors of the 20th century.

Rather than argue, as Schmitt and Agamben did, that states of exception necessarily appear, or that liberal states continually create them, Sinema insisted that such situations could be avoided by protecting the rule of law. This revealed a basic misunderstanding of her chosen interlocutors’ arguments. Schmitt posited that the rule of law is never adequate, since states of exception requiring the exercise of sovereignty necessarily appear; Agamben likewise argued, following Foucault, that liberal states are inherently unable to live up to their own constitutional norms and in their routine exercise of power, place certain spaces and persons outside them. Sinema, either with naĂŻvetĂ© or the cunning of stupidity, simply wishes the problem away and urges us to follow the rules. But, while her intellectual inadequacies are her own, the lameness of her conclusion reflects a change in the political valence of theory.

By the mid-2010s, as Sinema was writing, Leftist opposition to the imperial and illiberal dimensions of American security policy was melting away — or moving to the Right. In the following years, fears about terrorism targeted the latter, painting American conservatives, and the spectre of white supremacy, as security threats in much the same rhetoric that had been used to describe Islamic terrorist networks.

Since the spring of 2020, as Agamben has repeatedly observed, Covid policy has imitated the War on Terror in its suspensions of rights — and intimated the handing over of political power to medical officials in ways anticipated in Homo Sacer. Thus, if Schmitt and Agamben remain relevant for understanding our politics, it is in ways that are uncomfortable for the cultural Left, which now finds itself increasingly running, rather than critiquing, the machinery of American power.

In our present-day sequels to the War on Terror — the campaigns against racism and Covid — hegemonic institutions pursue enemies and suspend liberal norms in the name of our psychological and physical wellbeing. Now in possession of what we might call the commanding heights of the moral economy, from which it produces elites’ and would-be elites’ worldview, this Left no longer needs to perform radicalness.

It can assume instead the position of a centre ringed about by benighted, ignorant, but nevertheless dangerous enemies: conservatives. The latter are not credited with having specific, comprehensible or legitimate objections to the dominant policies and values. They are instead imagined as hateful, prejudiced enemies of legality, science, and moral decency — that is, they are seen not as political foes, but as cognitive and moral degenerates — in a manner that recalls the way Islamic terrorists during the Bush era were said to hate America “for our freedom” and to be full of irrational “Islamic rage”, rather than recognised as having a comprehensible set of objections to American policies in the Middle East.

We should not be surprised to hear pleas for the rule of law and deference for experts from those who once, drawing on radical theory, revealed the subterfuges and hypocrisies behind liberal norms of legality and objectivity. Critique, like terrorism, is a weapon of the weak. The powerful claim to defend security, reason and morality, while those out of power, grown clever and cynical from their experience of marginality, contest these claims and question whether such things even exist to be defended. With the cultural Left in the ascendancy, the political theory by which it climbed has become a ladder to be thrown away — and available to be taken up by the Right.

Long after the furore around Sinema is forgotten, her academic work will glint as one ironic point of light in this vast change in the way liberals and conservatives in America think about themselves and their country.


Blake Smith is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago. A historian of modern France, he is also a translator of contemporary francophone fiction and a regular contributor to Tablet.

blejksmith

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Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
2 years ago

This essay reads like a chapter from a PhD thesis, rich with impenetrable jargon and references to irrelevant debates among ‘scholarly’ and fashionable theorists like Foucault. It could be summed up in a few words i.e., far left activists don’t like Kristen Simena because she has realised that theoretical politics don’t work. They hit back by describing her as intellectually second rate and lacking in understanding of the political issues.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dr Anne Kelley
Lynwen Brown
Lynwen Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Thanks! I was wondering what the heck he was on about : )

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Bravo!

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

The writing is rather unappealing in style and tone however I think it’s worth persevering with because it reminds us of Schmitt’s insight about the risk of uncritical regard for the rule of law and the necessity for occasional actions outside the rule of law by state actors.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

i think Sinema is standing in her back garden (back-yard), has picked up two handfuls of soil and is looking straight into the eyes of the demigods atop of the Democractic Party as she lets the soil run through her fingers back to the ground.
Shes reminding them who owns that soil, who owns what, where and why in the USA, she is challenging the "rule", their rule. And they dont like it because behind her they also see the forming ranks of a proto “bare lifer ” army that the Democratic Party is creating out of a large constituency of their own citizens due to overly dogmatic policies !

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Love the irony in ‘rich’.

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Thank you. I gave up about a third of the way in. I came to the comments hoping for some clarification.

Konstantinos Stavropoulos
Konstantinos Stavropoulos
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Simpson

indeed..

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

Wish I had read your comment first, much better than the article and more to the point and relevant, for non academics like myself.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

I have to agree with Anne Kelley at least as far as saying that the piece isn’t good at showing the relevance of the ‘scholarly’ debates that it invokes. However it does make some attempt to throw light on the strange and frightening transformation of liberalism into authoritarianism which has been taking place across western societies. It would surely be worthwhile to trace the connection between the political actions this involves and the rather half-baked intellectual context in which several generations have now been brought up. One symptom of this is a sloppy use of language, from which Blake Smith himself is not immune. For example he writes “Norms — such as Nato and Nafta — suddenly appealed to Leftists who had long critiqued them.” Surely Nato and Nafta are institutions, not norms?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

WTF is a ‘notorious centrist’? Oh no, someone who isn’t radical! Someone who might, gulp, have some affinity avd respect for The Other Side. The horror!
I think public servants like Sinema are to be applauded not demonised. This barely disguised hit piece talks with a withering disdain about her lack of intellectualism, as if to undermine her very credibility, simply because she has dared to not step in line. Acting on her conscience against the mob, well I thought such people didn’t exist anymore.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

As my doctoral supervisor said to me, your PhD thesis will probably be the worst thing you ever write. For most academics, we look back and read these with some embarrassment. To me, this is unfair criticism of a young researcher working through their first big project.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Go Cheryl!
‘Blake Smith is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago… a translator of contemporary francophone fiction’.
(No kidding).

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

couldn’t agree more

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago

“Sinema’s work has no original insights, and hardly any grasp on the theory that supposedly informs it.”
Fair enough but Sinema’s thesis is a work of singular genius compared to that of Dr Jill Biden.

aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago

She seems inscrutable to the left because she is doing her job; representing AZ. Imagine that, a politician doing what they are paid to do.

Last edited 2 years ago by aaron david
Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago

The author is obviously a bright, well-studied, professional college student. On the matter of making a cogent, interesting, or even comprehensible freaking point, however, he’s got some work to do. This piece reads like a term paper that is required to be longer than it should be which no one but the author and his academic adviser will ever voluntarily read. If you do a word search I think you’ll find that the three most repeated words are Schmitt, Agamben, and Foucalt with the subject of the piece, Sinema, coming in a distant twentieth. It’s the intellectual equivalent of doing a Zoom call, carefully positioning the camera so it captures the Philosophy section of your bookshelf over your right shoulder.

Agamben likewise argued, following Foucault, that liberal states are inherently unable to live up to their own constitutional norms and in their routine exercise of power, place certain spaces and persons outside them. Sinema, either with naïveté or the cunning of stupidity, simply wishes the problem away and urges us to follow the rules. But, while her intellectual inadequacies are her own, the lameness of her conclusion reflects a change in the political valence of theory.

Imagine having a beer with a dude who talks like that. You wouldn’t. Not twice.

Critique, like terrorism, is a weapon of the weak. [I didn’t just throw up, you did] The powerful claim to defend security, reason and morality, while those out of power, grown clever and cynical from their experience of marginality, contest these claims and question whether such things even exist to be defended.

I really don’t like masturbatory academic jabberwocky. If you do, I apologize. Nevetheless, thanks a ton for the article demonstrably not about Kyrsten Sinema or the current budget debate.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

The comment to which I am responding deserves more upvotes.

L Walker
L Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Done.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
2 years ago

An essay on which Mr Smith shows:

A. Quite how clever he thinks he is in comparison to Senator Sinema.

B. How utterly powerless he is in comparison to Senator Sinema.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas Rynn
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Politishum not do wat me want, me criteek her PhD feesiss.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

LOL

deepsouthdiary
deepsouthdiary
2 years ago

Unusually tedious article.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
2 years ago

Well that’s five minutes of my life I’m not going to get back. What a badly written article

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Jeez you wasted just 5 minutes!

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Quite: just because someone has a couple of needles is no reason to bring along a whole haystack.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

I’m guessing George Orwell didn’t write this.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

This is one of a series of recent Unherd articles which should have won the Judith Butler Award for Opacity.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

It’s a typical PhD thesis!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

No doubt reflecting the authors academic credentials

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
2 years ago

Going by the general tone of this article, the writer probably despised George Orwell for his lack of intellectualism!

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago

It is difficult to decide which parts to submit to Pseud’s Corner. An overlong indulgence nominally about a minor politician with a colourful past and present but really about Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben (who they? ed) and how they interpret each other. It started well with the subject telling critics to ‘f**k off’ but then descended into the sort of turgid guff Unherd is now pioneering. Have I got this right – the ‘generalisable lesson’ is that without the rule of law barbarity is likely to occur?

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

You could make an argument that the security theatre, the racism theatre and the COVID theatre, together with the supply of cheap goods from China are the modern day equivalent of ‘bread and circuses’ – diverting the attention of the plebs from the activities of the elites. It didn’t end well for the Romans.
Perhaps Sinema’s inscrutability is because she is not playing by the ‘bread and circuses’ workbook?

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

“Sinema’s work has no original insights, and hardly any grasp on the theory that supposedly informs it.”
How rude, and of course just Smiths opinion.
I admit to skimming as I read through the piece, because the guy is trying to fit too many ideas into one essay, trying to get a quart into a pint pot...as if he isn
t going to get another chance.
If there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s wishy-washiness, so I watch this senator with great interest. She may not be up to the intelligence level of Mr Blake Smith but she has got some b-lls and for the moment at least I am cheering.. “go on girl stir up the pot!”
Insiders that perform attacks have a distinct advantage over external attackers, well at least for while, which is great as Nancy and co have to keep digging this thorn out of their sides. I also like the elements of commonsense she sheds, like acid rain over her Democratic “colleagues”.
I also like the loyalty to State pushing back at the Democrats manic Federalisation of everything that moves !

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

One of the very few articles I couldn’t bring myself to finish. Sheer drivel.
By the way, isn’t it interesting that some writers use the term “populist” for just about any political candidate they disagree with, as they look down their nose?
I never heard Barack Hussein Obama being called a populist, yet he fit the very definition of one. Even certainly campaigned as one. In fact, formerly liberal democrats in the U.S. usually attempted to appeal to the huddled masses, yet were never called mere “populists”. But when a republican or conservative attempts to do the same, they are termed a “populist” in order to degrade them somehow. Nowadays, of course, the democrats are openly on the side of the elites.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago

I nodded off well before the halfway mark, only to be roused by the sound of the post coming through the letter box.

Nick Bernard
Nick Bernard
2 years ago

“important modern political thinkers, such as Michel Foucault“ LOL

Last edited 2 years ago by Nick Bernard
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 years ago

I dunno but whenever I see the word “hegemonic ” I reckon that the article is not for the likes of me.

I spotted twice here

Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
2 years ago

Yes. I may be with Goering: “When I see the word ‘hegemonic’ I reach for my revolver”.
Or does that make me fall foul of Godwin’s Law?

Last edited 2 years ago by Graeme Cant
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

Interesting article but a little disjointed for my taste. Was it an essay about Sinema’s political rise? Or was it an essay about how the Left has risen to power? Is Sinema a personification of this rise, or is she somehow in opposition to it?
I agree that the Left has risen to power and in so doing has assumed the mantle of authoritarianism, along the lines of “The definition of a Civil Libertarian is an Authoritarian who has been ousted from power.”
But this is not so cunning an insight. The deeper question for me is: what are the conditions by which a political movement / ideology can command the mantle of power in a way that minimises the inherent abuse of that power?
The classical liberal would say: By creating a balance of powers; by bending the power of the State so that its every instrument is designed to support the rights of the individual. Then the power remains diffuse, pluralist, and in this way has the best chance to achieve stability.
In JRR Tolkien terms: We don’t win the war against Sauron by giving the One Ring to Aragorn. We win by creating a million rings of equal power, and giving one to each of the citizens of Middle Earth.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Yes, but in our era we witness a celebration of the individual and their rights that has become obsessive, and has been employed in order to sow division – pitting presumed victims and oppressors in opposition to one another.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

Jeez Blake Smith really needs to be more concise – he could have just stated I don’t agree with Sinema, instead of this long pompous diatribe dressed up as reasoned analysis.

John Pade
John Pade
2 years ago

It’s nice you brought Kyrsten Sinema in this discussion of Agamben and Foucault.  

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“Agamben likewise argued, following Foucault, that liberal states are inherently unable to live up to their own constitutional norms and in their routine exercise of power, place certain spaces and persons outside them. Sinema, either with naĂŻvetĂ© or the cunning of stupidity, simply wishes the problem away and urges us to follow the rules.”

haha-cunning of stupidity….

But this is the best thing on Schmitt I read https://merionwest.com/2018/06/18/carl-schmitt-liberalism-and-post-modern-conservatism/

So the evil Postmodernist, Neo-Marxist, Foucault and the Schmitt PostModernist-Conservatism are both being taken by the right?…

“joined in a common project of Leftist critique, have now become the ever-more explicit moral centre of our regime — or are being taken up by its opponents on the Right.”

“double shift by which Leftists once enamoured of certain strands of radical political theory repurposed it towards the consolidation of a new hegemonic political morality, discarding its subversive dimension — and making it available to the Right.”

(” Liberals and their defendants are increasingly pressed by post-modernist movements from the left. And, as we shall see, they are also pushed by those on the right, who do not hold to traditional liberal values about the importance of free speech and inquiry. Most liberal thinkers blame their opponents for these tendencies.”) (from the link)(post-modern-conservatism) (also it is the Right who hold the Constitution dear, and the Liberals do not, so I do not get the above – I just cannot see Right Post-Modernism, but that is why this article was fun.)

But I do get the left figuring Biden as the Schmittian Sovereign tossing aside Rule of Law during “states of exception” existing now, and using covid as the ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ – only I believe in a Global Elite conspiracy… it all gets so confusing fitting in the pieces – but I am not sure how this all fits in with Sinema and the $3.2 Trillion ‘Human Infrastructure’ bill. I mean the writer even says Sinema misunderstands Schmitt totally…..Is she really a neo-Marxist Post Modernist/Conservative at heart? It seems by her position she must just be a Centrist who will not allow something crazy and destructive to get by on her watch.

Anyway – it was fun wading through it all, but must go to bed – building cabinets for a job tomorrow….

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
2 years ago

My jargon translator app just crashed. Have anther go son.

James Hankins
James Hankins
2 years ago

On the last point, I have always been struck by how little interest there is among Chinese intellectuals in Marcuse and Frankfurt School thinkers – I now think precisely because their thought provides tools of subversion. The CCP is already in charge, hence uninterested in ‘critique’. On Sinema, the obvious explanation for her attitude is Arizona’s relatively conservative electorate. Agamben is now despised on the Italian left as an opponent of the bio-security state. The man still believes in democracy, imagine that!

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
2 years ago

“…hegemonic institutions pursue enemies and suspend liberal norms in the name of our psychological and physical wellbeing..”
Too true.
And there’s no bigger hegemonic institution than the CCP. Have a gander at this: “In response to its growing prominence as the object of international ire, with respect to both domestic statecraft and the conduct of foreign affairs, the Chinese have assumed a resolutely Schmittian posture.”
Why Carl Schmitt Matters to China | THR Web Features | Web Features | The Hedgehog Review
This is turning into a schmitt show!
Oh schmitt. etc…

D Hockley
D Hockley
2 years ago

What a ghastly and pompous fellow the author comes across as being.

John T. Maloney
John T. Maloney
2 years ago

This turgid, half-witted screed is a dubious requiem for pluralism. Radicals scream ‘just one vote,’ (Sinema), is holding up America’s heading flight to the ‘Build Back Better‘ burlesque. The annoying fact is 50+ senate votes are holding back BBB. The dishonest always claim it is about ‘just one votes’ while summarily ignoring 50-senators and 213 house members. It’s a disgrace. Pluralism matters; this pap doesn’t.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

The rule of law, relatively free markets, and government by the consent of the governed, have brought us the richest society in history (herstory?) Only an academic snob would prefer the arguments of a Nazi supporter over John Locke and Adam Smith.
I realize I identify as a redneck, but golly, don’t these boffins read any history at all? When Hitler and Lenin tore down all the laws, then turned on the people, there was no protection and nowhere to hide.
Socialism can be interpreted as objection by academia to the division of wealth in capitalist societies. Academics think they should be paid more for their fantastic intellects, so they want to change the economy to put “experts,” themselves, in power through government edicts unchecked by law.
Sorry, but socialism fails every time. Unfortunately, academic socialist “experts” are immune to experimental results.
I apologize that my comment ain’t very intellectual. I did warn you I identify as a redneck, but I try to communicate in practical terms that even intellectuals can understand.

Fred Bloggs
Fred Bloggs
2 years ago

Oh well. I actually enjoyed reading this. Sucks to be me, I guess.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

Or maybe Sinema understands that she barely beat a weak Repub in a swing state and will have a very hard time being re-elected if tied to the $3.5T and very hard Left Build Back Better bill.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

bright girl then !

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
2 years ago

Crikey! A fog of words, and a definite sense that the article contains less than meets the eye. The only clear thing is that the author really dislikes Sinema.

Tom Elliott
Tom Elliott
2 years ago

I am familiar with the idea of context-free grammars and that they are not sufficient to describe all of language. Could this article have been composed (I almost wrote composted) as an example of a novel theory of content-free grammars?

Jim Cox
Jim Cox
2 years ago

I do not think Sinema is either ignorant or naive. Rather, she has responded to the concerns of her constituents by moving from academic leftism toward a more common sense approach to today’s problems.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

Imagine that the writer is not pondering US academia and European leftist pseudo-philosophy – but real life. For example a childrens’ playground game, business start up or criminal gang. To be effective these enterprises must have enough people following the rules at all times and its not naive to think they will fail if the members or leaders spend too long in a “state of exception”. That’s why western democracies spend less time at war or murdering their own citizens than other systems of government, though obviously they are not immune from such exceptions to natural law, as the scamdemic proves on a frightening scale. To know this is not lameness or a failure of intellect. Its what normal people see and therefore know. I’d love to see the writer join, for example MS13, and test their naive belief that he has to follow their rules. That would be a glinting point of light but like the article above would show us nothing about how engaged US citizens view their country.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago

Well, that was a bit of a slog; reads like a first draft that needs a bit of editing for greater clarity and perhaps drop the ad hominem criticism of Sen. Sinema. But, I thought that, “hegemonic institutions pursue enemies and suspend liberal norms in the name of our psychological and physical wellbeing..” was an interesting way to regard cancel-culture.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

The kind of convoluted stuff I wrote when I was a first year undergrad. Sentences disappearing up their own fundaments.

Don Butler
Don Butler
2 years ago

Read this article if you want to appreciate fully the degradation of higher education in America. This fellow is a “fellow” at the institution that gave us Milton Friedman, Mortimer Adler, David Bevington, and Charles Van Doren, for that matter; all of whom could write with erudite clarity. And he dares accuse someone else of mediocrity?

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago

The writer cannot comprehend how anyone groomed in radical political theory could demonstrate betrayal of her Democrat Party masters – other than to belittle her intellectually. And to suggest that she has betrayed the triumphant new moral economic elite by applying radical theory in service to conservatives – her “cunning of stupidity.”

Fergus Mason
Fergus Mason
2 years ago

Well, I’ve read the entire article and learned absolutely nothing. It’s as clear, concise and explanatory as Judith Butler at her worst.

Alan B
Alan B
2 years ago

Interesting read. Perhaps comments should have been disabled for this one!

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
2 years ago

The article is clear as a bell. The bulk of conments below it are incomprehensible in their bizarre preference for god know what

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

She’s not even going to win re-election let alone bring anyone down.