Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Plato as a Theorist of Legitimacy

I have a new journal article out on Plato. It’s really humbling to have my reading of the Republic and the Phaedrus accepted as part of the Platonic tradition. If you have institutional access, you can read it here:

https://doi.org/10.1163/18725473-bja10030

If you don’t have institutional access and you want to read it, you’re very welcome to email me about this at bmstudebaker@gmail.com.

A Class Analysis of the Twitter Crisis

In recent weeks, there have been extensive conflicts between Twitter workers and Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk. One user made an attempt to analyze the conflict in class terms, framing it as a clash between “entrepreneurial capital” and the “professional-managerial class”:

I think this badly misreads the situation. The professionals who work at Twitter are wage-earners who don’t even have a labor union. They don’t dominate anything. But it also made me think–why isn’t there a better class-based reading of the conflict? Let’s give it a go.

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The Midterm Elections Don’t Matter

As the midterm elections approach, the political class is working very hard to increase voter turnout. President Biden has given a big speech accusing the Republicans of posing a grave threat to democracy. We are inundated with political ads in which the Democrats accuse the Republicans of plotting to ban abortion and the Republicans accuse the Democrats of causing inflation. None of the arguments offered by either side have much to do with reality, and it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who will even make a sincere effort to discuss what’s going on without incorporating distorted partisan messaging. If we look at the issues, it’s clear that the composition of Congress is not going to make much difference over the next two years.

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How the War in Ukraine Ends

Russia has moved ahead with annexing the occupied oblasts of Ukraine. This is a point of no return for the Putin regime. It is hard for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to invade a foreign country. The regime looks weak and incompetent, and with no real possibility of replacing the leadership through an election, there is no easy to way to restore confidence on short notice. But as difficult as that situation is, it is much harder for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to defend the territory the regime acknowledges as part of Russia. A Russian president who cannot successfully invade Ukraine is weak. A Russian president who cannot defend Russia is pathetic. The decision to annex the oblasts therefore sends a clear message–the Putin regime will defend the territory it now holds, or it will die trying.

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The Republican Model and the Crisis of National Liberalism

I’ve published a piece in Cosmos + Taxis about some of the tensions between nationalism and liberalism. Cosmos + Taxis‘ readership skews libertarian, and many of its readers are frustrated with the constraints nationalism imposes upon liberalism. There’s a lot of right libertarian interest in republicanism and federalism. I make the case that republicanism can only compete with nationalism insofar as republics offer citizens more extensive sets of rights–including economic rights–than they can have through nationalism. In this way, I pitch the libertarians on adopting more conventionally left-wing economic positions. It’s a sincere effort to make an argument that might be appealing to someone with a rather different set of starting points from my own. You can read the whole thing here.