Jackson Lears

  • The Round World Made Flat

    IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTURE, intellectual celebrity requires the ability to hear the ideological background music of the historical moment, and to play effortlessly in tune with it. Some people have a special knack for this: One thinks of Francis Fukuyama announcing “the end of history” when the Soviet Union fell, or Malcolm Gladwell celebrating the value of snap judgments (in Blink) to the leaders of recently downsized corporations. The key move is to avoid any discussion of power or class relations, of political or social conflict, in favor of apparently neutral and impersonal forces.

  • culture January 02, 2012

    A History of Disappointment

    To those of us who hoped that Barack Obama’s election marked a departure from right-wing rule, the president’s failure of leadership has been stunning. Seldom have insurgent expectations – even sceptical, guarded ones – been deflated so swiftly. From the moment he announced his staff and cabinet appointments (Rahm Emanuel, Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates et al) it was clear that Obama meant to play by the same Washington rules that created the policy disasters he inherited from George W. Bush. Obama had retreated into politics as usual. He never looked back.

  • Grave Doubts

    The Civil War was by far the bloodiest war in American history. The Union and Confederate armies suffered more than 620,000 fatalities— roughly equivalent to the American dead of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War put together. Among all combatants, the death rate was six times that of World War II; among Southerners, three times that of Northerners. Noncombatants, too, were swept up in this first modern, total war: An estimated fifty thousand civilians died. The numbers can be fleshed out with images