• print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2023

    Down and Outbreak

    IN THE FALL of 2019, I wrote in these pages: “It remains unlikely that Ebola will spark a global pandemic. But it is almost certain that something else will, and there is every danger that it will exacerbate prevailing social tensions.” The occasion was two books about the 2013–2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Each author, Richard Preston and David Quammen, warned of the “Next Big One,” as Quammen put it, which could well be “an inevitability.” People tend to forget Cassandra was right.

    Quammen’s new study opens a few months after I wrote those sentences, when reports of a “pneumonia of

    Read more
  • review • September 14, 2022

    The Lust Hurrah

    “These days ecstasy is indeed out of fashion,” the late critic Ellen Willis wrote, despairingly, in 1992. The quest for an ecstatic existence had once inspired Willis to seek a new life; to leave her first husband, move to the East Village, and, eventually, form the radical feminist group Redstockings. Her brand of feminism (often called “pro-sex”) bristled against the division of sexual expression into categories of good and bad, and rejected the anti-porn movement’s moralism, which Willis saw as essentially conservative. Willis envisioned a world in which women embraced bolder, trickier

    Read more
  • print • Sep/Oct/Nov 2022

    Jane’s World

    THE PATIENT was a twenty-six-year-old mother of two, and she had just been sterilized. After getting a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer, during her second pregnancy, the young woman had realized that giving birth again would likely kill her. She had harangued a doctor for months, until he finally agreed to schedule a tubal ligation. When the anesthetic lifted, the first voice she heard was the surgeon’s. “The sterilization procedure was a success,” he said. “And congratulations, you’re eight weeks pregnant.” 

    The young woman asked her hospital for an abortion; her doctors

    Read more
  • review • June 10, 2022

    A Radical Leftist in the Midfield

    In the 1920s, an anarcho-syndicalist union in Germany distributed a pamphlet beginning: “May God punish England! Not for nationalistic reasons, but because the English people invented football! Football is a counterrevolutionary phenomenon.” Fifty-five years later, in his recently translated memoir Kicks, Spits & Headers: The Autobiographical Reflections of an Accidental Footballer (1976), Torinese leftist radical and professional footballer Paolo Sollier claps back: “I think that sports are an important field to be active in. One which the left has always avoided because of a question of

    Read more
  • print • June/July/Aug 2022

    Future Perfect

    THE WORLDS CONJURED in analytic philosophy are strange ones, in which abstract persons are trapped in a shifting kaleidoscope of hypotheticals, posited obligations, infinite regressions, near and far possible worlds. Even after the so-called applied turn in the last century of ethics and political philosophy, the tendency by professional thinkers to treat every real-world problem as a logic puzzle persists. 

    This approach has extended to analytic philosophers’ theorizing about reparations for slavery. Some, like political philosopher Bernard Boxill, have urged an approach situated in Lockean

    Read more
  • print • June/July/Aug 2022

    Dirty Laundry

    IN 2004, DAISY PITKIN, a young staff organizer for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), is recounting the union’s history to a group of ironworkers, roofers, painters, and laundry workers assembled for organizing training. She begins with the founding of UNITE’s predecessor, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, in 1900, and continues with the strike by New York City garment workers, nine years later, that came to be known as the Uprising of the 20,000. She tells her audience how Clara Lemlich, a twenty-three-old garment worker, called for the strike

    Read more
  • print • June/July/Aug 2022

    The Crypting Point

    WHAT WAS ELON MUSK PLANNING when he began to quietly buy up Twitter stock in late January of this year? In paperwork filed with the SEC, Musk originally indicated he had no designs on becoming an activist investor, and when his stake—at that point just over 9 percent—was made public in April, Musk accepted an invitation to join the company’s board. A few days later, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced that Musk had changed his mind and would not be joining the board, and less than a week later, Musk announced a takeover offer: he would buy out stockholders at the theoretically humorous price

    Read more
  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Hegemony Changes Everything

    LAST YEAR, during a diversity workshop I was required to take for work, the facilitators asked each of us to share the moment we first became aware of class inequality. One of them gave her example to “get us started” and told us about the time she visited a wealthier classmate’s house and saw a bidet in the bathroom. I think we were meant to laugh, but I kept wondering if this “rich person” was maybe just Japanese. Details aside, I was confused. You would have to live in an absolute cultural vacuum not to realize until that point in life that rich people existed. The class divide was the very

    Read more
  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    The Thin Gray Line

    THE JOURNALIST EYAL PRESS HAS LONG BEEN FASCINATED by the vagaries of conscience. Why do some people speak out against misconduct while others stay silent? What price does such bravery exact? What distinguishes a genuine act of moral courage from a self-interested attempt to keep one’s hands clean?

    In Beautiful Souls, a tour de force of reportage from 2012, Press investigated the stories of “nonconformists” who chose to break rank when faced with grave wrongdoing. His subjects included those who helped Jewish refugees escape from Nazi Germany, rescued Croats from their Serbian tormentors, and

    Read more
  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    The Old Jim Crow

    IN 1947, A YOUNG AUDRE LORDE and her family boarded a train from New York to Washington, DC. Along with their luggage, they carried a box of food, including roast chickens, bread, butter, pickles, peppers, carrots, a spice bun, peaches, iced cakes, rock cakes, iced tea, napkins, and a rosewater-dampened washcloth. “I wanted to eat in the dining car,” Lorde writes in her autobiography, Zami (1982), “but my mother reminded me for the umpteenth time that dining car food always cost too much money.” Her mother was hiding the full truth—that Black families could not eat in southbound dining cars—to

    Read more
  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Law and Border

    “THERE ARE POLICY CHOICES to be made about who should be an immigrant, and that includes removing folks who don’t qualify under the law,” said Cecilia Muñoz, a member of President Joe Biden’s transition team, and previously the face of President Barack Obama’s harsh immigration-enforcement policies, in a recent interview. She added, “That’s, I think, just the reality of being a nation.”

    Muñoz’s comment is true in the same way “all bachelors are unmarried men” is true—analytically, by virtue of the meaning of its constituent terms. When “a nation” is constituted as the nation-state, in the

    Read more
  • review • March 23, 2021

    Gabriel Winant’s chronicle of working-class Pittsburgh

    The past few years have seen the resurgence of the working class as a topic of interest, with pundits passing judgements and Ivy League–educated politicians posturing for proletarian clout, though all too often without any input from the workers themselves.

    If working-class people are present, they often get the Hillbilly Elegy–treatment. Real people are reduced to caricatures or abstractions; “the workers” become a catchall scapegoat for backwardness, racism, unwillingness to change, and, almost always, as a proxy for whiteness. Trump’s rise is blamed on the working class, an act of misrecognition

    Read more