Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Language

4 Questions about the Charleston Shooting and the Confederate Flag

Last week, 21-year old Dylann Roof murdered nine people with a handgun in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Over the course of the last week, much has been said about this in the American press, and I want to discuss some of the moral and political questions at stake here. Read the rest of this entry »

The Benedict Cumberbatch Fake Controversy

In a display of just how spectacularly indifferent the contemporary social justice movement is to issues of inequality, there is now a backlash against British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (from The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, and the Imitation Game) for using the word “colored” when making an argument in favor of racial equality. Yes, you read that right. We now care more about which words people use to make their arguments than we do about what is being argued. Activists now care more about making sure everyone uses the approved vernacular than they do about achieving justice for the victims of inequality. This preoccupation with going after individuals (especially famous celebrities) for using the wrong words to say the right things is indicative of everything that is wrong with the left today. Here’s why.

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What is Society?

In political theory, there is some disagreement about what precisely society is. Liberal theorists believe that society is just an amalgamation of individual interests. Libertarians often argue that there is no society at all, that the individual interests are all there are. Both views contrast with the collectivist view, that there are irreducible social goods that cannot be located in individuals at all, because these goods require a society to exist in the first place. Today I’d like to weigh in on the topic by arguing that there are indeed goods that typically require society, but that this nonetheless does not make them irreducible. Society is more than the sum of various individual interests, but it is not separate from its component people either. Let’s dive in.

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English Lingua Franca

The belief that everyone in the world should learn English is generally associated with xenophobic elements in Anglophone societies. As a result, it’s frequently dismissed out of hand as a serious idea–it sounds too much like something out of UKIP or Arizona. It makes it all the more interesting that a political theorist–a Belgian political theorist, from the heart of the multilingual EU–has taken the view that English should be the new global lingua franca. His name is Philippe Van Parijs. He’s most famous for his advocacy for a universal basic income (UBI), a kind of permanent income everyone receives purely for being a person. His argument for English lingua franca (which also possesses a convenient acronym, ELF) is compelling, in no small part because its focus is not on the convenience of native English speakers, but on the potential benefits available to non-native speakers in countries outside the Anglosphere.

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The Culture Fetish

Many people on the left believe that all cultures are of equal value and that, above all other things, a people’s culture should be preserved and prevented from any kind of assimilation or westernisation. Today I would like to challenge this line of thinking–not, as is commonly done, with an appeal to western nationalism and decaying imperialist sentiment, but by accusing this line of thinking of being reactionary and logically unsuitable for the political left.

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