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Martin Jay

Karl Jaspers

Martin Jay, 8 June 2006

Who now still reads Karl Jaspers? Compared to the other still influential giants of 20th-century German philosophy – Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Adorno, Habermas, Arendt, Cassirer and Wittgenstein (I’m including Austrians) – he has faded from the canon. At least in the English-speaking world, Jaspers is now remembered more for his writings on other thinkers, such as...

Where are you coming from?

Martin Jay, 28 November 2002

How can we know . . . whether it is more important that a person is a woman, a baby boomer, a heterosexual, Asian-American, a Catholic, a breast cancer survivor, upper-middle-class, a college drop-out, twice divorced, a fashion victim or second in birth order in her family in understanding why she campaigned for Ralph Nader in the last Presidential election?

The Trouble with Nowhere

Martin Jay, 1 June 2000

In 1967, Herbert Marcuse published a little essay entitled ‘The End of Utopia’, which now reads like a document of a long lost civilisation. Arguing against the pejorative use of the word as a synonym for the absurdly unrealisable, he held that ‘there is one valid criterion for possible realisation, namely, when the material and intellectual forces for the transformation are...

Clinton Baiting

Martin Jay, 29 July 1999

The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man who, according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George Washington and the cherry tree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature.’ It is safe to assume that the Oscar Wilde of ‘The Decay of Lying’ would feel far more at home in the America of William Jefferson Clinton than in that of its most esteemed founding father. For whatever else may be accused of falling into decay these days, public mendacity has surely enjoyed a robust revival. The most memorable quotations from our national leaders are no longer the inspirational homilies of a Roosevelt or a Kennedy – ‘You have nothing to fear, but fear itself’ or ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’ – but the exposed whoppers of Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon, George ‘Read my lips: no new taxes’ Bush, and Bill ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’ Clinton.’‘

Boundaries

Martin Jay, 10 June 1993

Adorno once called his writings Flaschenpost, messages in bottles tossed into the ‘flood of barbarism bursting on Europe’ for the benefit of unknown future readers. The floodwaters have now mercifully receded, and the bottles sporadically wash up on foreign shores, thanks to intrepid translators taking on the challenge of Adorno’s idiosyncratic prose. The first to make him accessible to an English-speaking audience was Shierry Weber, who, along with Samuel Weber, translated Prisms in 1967. A quarter of a century later, she has applied her considerable skills to Notes to Literature, which first appeared in German in three volumes (1958, 1961 and 1965) and, along with the material for a planned fourth volume, is now available in English.

Hypocrisy and Mendacity

Jeremy Waldron, 6 January 2011

When American politicians are caught having illicit sex – like Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as governor of New York in 2008 after it was revealed that he was using a call-girl when he went...

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The grand narrative of experience

Terry Eagleton, 23 June 2005

Oscar Wilde called experience the name one gives to one’s mistakes, while for Samuel Johnson it was what hope triumphed over for those who married a second time. Emerson thought all...

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