Whether you’re looking for that one-unit wonder or an inspiring humanities class to fill your schedule, the Sphere has you covered this winter quarter. Peruse our course recommendations, arranged from lightest reading to heaviest.
“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’,” wrote George Orwell in a 1946 essay. On campus, the same may be said of many words in leftist political discourse today. Students rally around terms such as “intersectionality” and “empowerment”, while “toxic” and “problematic” figures are fervently attacked. These words may feel comfortable and intellectual, but in reality they are almost entirely hollow. Seventy-two years ago Orwell decried the emptiness of political language. It is now high time that we scrutinized our own use of buzzwords.
On Monday, the Stanford Daily reported that the Stanford College Republicans had submitted a grant application to bring right-wing political commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza to campus sometime in winter quarter. In that article, the Daily quoted sources from within the ASSU that indicated that SCR’s grant request would likely not be approved, though they could very well bring him anyway.
Last week, Berber Jin argued in The Stanford Review that we should be more skeptical about need-blind admissions for international students, a proposal recently accepted by the university administration. He makes this case through falsely framing financial aid as a zero-sum game; he seems to believe that providing more assistance to the international community must come at the expense of helping underprivileged Americans. Like most Review articles, Berber’s piece presents itself as a hard-truth response to the supposedly misguided “feel-good” worldview of the left. But a closer look reveals just how misleading many of his claims really are. If Stanford wants to bring together the world’s brightest young minds and promote global social justice, it has to begin with need-blind admissions for international students.
This is a feminist manifesto for the Kavanaugh era. It calls for a reevaluation of the hysterical woman, an old archetype haunting our national conversation on gender relations. Both the right and the liberal establishment are uncomfortable with the hysterical woman, which is to say that they are uncomfortable with the messy ways that pain and anger get expressed and worked through. They use accusations of hysteria, a debunked nervous disorder connected to femininity, to disqualify women from civilized discourse. But for leftists and feminists, “hysteria” can still be of use. The hysterical woman represents a commitment to respecting and staying with the emotional aftereffects of trauma—a commitment to not only believing survivors, but also turning our shared experiences into a force for change.
This is second part of a two-part essay on “epistocracy,” defined by political philosopher and Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan as a system where the most politically-informed citizens have the most voting power. You can read the first part here.
There’s a lot of evidence that the United States isn’t nearly as democratic as it likes to think it is. Continue reading “Against Epistocracy: Why ‘Rule of the Informed’ Will Not Fix Democracy, Pt. II”
Western democracies haven’t had the best track record as of late. The United Kingdom shot itself in the foot by voting to withdraw from the European Union in 2016, which would’ve gone down as the year’s most egregious self-inflicted wound if the United States hadn’t outdone them three months later with the election of Donald Trump. Alternative für Deutschland, Front national and Partij voor de Vrijheid—right-wing populist parties, all of them—are as popular as they’ve ever been in Germany, France and the Netherlands. The global resurgence of far-right politics is profoundly disturbing, and it suggests that resentment, if not rage, is starting to appeal more to voters than reason. If these movements continue to gain ground, it might mean that democracy’s best days are behind it.
CoHo – Democratic Socialism
You fell in love with this place early on and never left. You enjoy long-winded but hopelessly idealistic political conversations with friends over cups of coffee and you even get some work done once in a while. Last week you started learning Swedish on Duolingo for the third time. Jack Kerouac is your guilty pleasure, and you pretend to appreciate the free-form sound at jazz night. Some people online have written articles criticizing this place, but you don’t pay much attention to that.
In the wake of the political upheaval of 2016, cultural critics predicted that the Trump presidency would, for all of its inevitable calamities, bring about a golden age for political art. They were wrong. Instead of a flowering of genius works of protest art, the past two years have brought a deluge of half-assed attempts at political commentary. We’ve seen enough faux-woke pop songs, prestige TV plots based around “Fake News”, and Oscar-bait that pontificates on “American Culture” over the last couple of years that even the biggest news junkie must be sick of art that tries to be topical — to be important.
I often find myself in the company of utopians. The most common on campus are the social-justice types: history’s on our side, folks, and it’s coming to an end… It’s progressive Stanford, proud home of the pseudo-Hegelian, and while Hegel has no place in the histories they’ll write, they will follow him, misinterpreted, to the end of time. Naturally, this being Silicon Valley, you also meet the transhumanists—true believers not just in our world’s perfectibility, but in the perfectibility of the body, mind, and soul (in a purely scientific sense, of course). Then, near and dear to my heart, we have our communists and communistically-inclined, pinning their hopes on the distant Revolution and a new world order. There are many more such groups at Stanford, but you get the main idea: I’m surrounded by lovely, well-meaning Teleologists. And they’re from all over the ideological map.