Sunday, January 1, 2012

A bit of nonsense from Mark Lilla

Reviewing Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind in the New York Review of Books, Mark Lilla prefaces his critical remarks with a swipe at political scientists:
Though it sounds dull, we actually need taxonomy. It is what renders the political present legible to us. Getting it right, though, requires a certain art, a kind of dispassionate alertness and historical perspective, a sense of the moment, and a sense that this, too, shall pass. Political scientists, intent on aping the methods of the hard sciences, stopped cultivating this art half a century ago, just as things started getting interesting, as new kinds of political movements and coalitions were developing in democratic societies.
Mark Lilla must know that Corey Robin is a political theorist and that, whatever else they can be accused of, most political theorists cannot plausibly be accused of aping the hard sciences. So this passage, in the context of this review, is irrelevant rhetoric. I have no opinion on Robin's book, which I haven't read [update: I've now read it; see below], but I think it fair to say that someone whose CV reveals that he is advising a dissertation entitled "Civilization of the Living Dead: The Zombie as Mirror of U.S. Self-Destruction" is probably not too "intent on aping the methods of the hard sciences."

Added later (10/1/15): For the record, I have now read The Reactionary Mind (well, around 80 percent of it, anyway), and in general found it enjoyable and provocative (though not necessarily agreeing with everything in it).  

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