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  • What is poetry and what is it good for? These questions have long haunted practitioners and readers of this “beautiful and pointless” art, to quote the contemporary critic David Orr. But “beautiful and pointless” were not always the terms of the debate. On the contrary, these questions about what poetry is and what it does mean something profoundly different in our contemporary moment than they meant in centuries past.
  • There’s more than a little irony in the fact that Ludwig Wittgenstein—widely considered to be among the most original and influential philosophers of the 20th century—held that his discipline’s “real discovery” was “the one that makes me capable of stopping doing philosophy”. In his posthumously published masterpiece, Philosophical Investigations, he likened proper philosophical method rather to a form of therapy, one which “gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented with questions that bring itself into question.”
  • Sharia is often portrayed as Islamic legal maxims and corporal punishment—a rigid, “medieval” religious law, dating from the 7th century Arabia, that’s allegedly incompatible with modern democracy. But this image bears little resemblance to reality. Not only is Sharia a highly complex legal system, it’s also a metaphysical idea, a way of talking about communal life, and a moral law constantly subject to criticism, debate, discussion, and interpretation within Muslim communities from the classical era to the present day. How can we understand Sharia as a legal system and beyond?
  • Since its first formulation in the early 1960s, the concept of “participatory democracy” has come to take on multiple meanings. Conceptions of participatory democracy range from deepened civic engagement to procedural reform to the wholesale transformation of the liberal-democratic system. For some, participatory democracy is an organizing ethos, a set of values for building community space that sits outside of, or counter to, prevailing institutions; for others, it’s a definite political project, one aimed at radically reconfiguring the state and reallocating institutional power. What is participatory democracy? What connects, and differentiates, its various understandings?

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Recent Posts

Faculty Video: Empire in Crisis: a Teach-In and Symposium on U.S. Imperialism Today

In Empire in Crisis, a two-day teach-in and symposium (October 22-23) organized by the Colombe Foundation and Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, leading scholars, journalists, and activists gathered to explore the scope, function, and possible futures of U.S. imperialism. Across a series of text-based learning sessions and panel discussions, participants asked: Why do we fight […]

Empire in Crisis Teach-In Syllabus

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Podcast for Social Research, Episode 43: A Short Course in Neoliberalism