Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: France

Why the French Take to the Streets

One of the things I’ve noticed about the coverage of the Gilets Jaunes or “Yellow Vests” protests in France is this tendency to think of the French taking to the streets as a cultural phenomenon. People in the Anglosphere think the French protest because that’s the way the French are. So whenever there’s a commotion in France of any variety, everyone wants to make all sorts of callbacks to the French Revolution, and invariably the takes on the new protests will resemble the takes on the old protests. You’ll have some people write pieces asking “why can’t we be like the French”, but the undertone will be that the French are the way they are because they’re French, and that while we might wish we could be like the French we never will. I hate cultural explanations, because they’re lazy. State institutions produce different kinds of incentives in different contexts, and these different incentives give rise to different behaviour. We attach that behaviour to peoples, but it is the product of particular institutional configurations. If the French had different institutions, they wouldn’t do what they do.

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A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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Why Italy is in Trouble

Italy finally has a coalition government–consisting largely of Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement, two Euroskeptic populist parties. The new coalition was elected to take Italy in a new direction, but this will prove difficult to do. Italy is a great example of what’s gone wrong in Europe. Let me tell you its story…

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3 Brexit Futures: Stories from Next Year

In Spring 2019, the UK is meant to leave the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May soldiers on, but many think she can’t get the job done. Former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair gave ruthless speeches again May, and EU’s lead Brexit negotiator accused May of being “vague” and “not credible”. Major–a member of May’s own party–was especially vicious:

It all has me thinking about what comes next. How might these Brexit negotiations conclude? Three possibilities stick out to me.

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National Self-Determination is Overrated

I have a new piece out for Current Affairs about the importance of political unions in the 21st century. Here’s the link:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/11/national-self-determination-is-overrated

The original title was “In Praise of Unionism: What the European Left Can Learn From America,” but we souped it up a bit. It’s a bit longer and more comprehensive than the stuff I usually do here. The folks at CA are delightful to work with. They’re putting out some really terrific long-form pieces that dig into things more deeply than a lot of what we see on the web these days.