Welcome to The Interesting Times
As you might have heard, ‘may you live in interesting times’ is an old Chinese curse that as it turns out is neither all that old nor Chinese. In some sense, the oddity of this phrase’s journey from the mind of a rather obscure turn-of-the-century British politician, Austen Chamberlain, to the status of received ancient wisdom embodies the contours of the terrain this newsletter plans to cover.
Regardless of its origins, these are indeed interesting times in the sense of how this ‘curse’ is commonly understood. The plan is to publish essays, podcasts, and eventually some original reporting that bore into the historical, philosophical, economic, and political forces shaping these interesting times and the ways we have come to think about them. Just as rivers and oceans have surface currents and undercurrents, so to, does the social reality we inhabit from day-to-day. The Interesting Times will always aim to walk that delicate line between contemporary affairs and the forces guiding the currents just below the surface.
During a public lecture, the philosopher William James once said:
I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds…Philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.
Our hope is to provide thoughtful reflections, arguments, and analysis that helps us to see the social world in critical and interesting ways. Or, put differently, to humbly engage with the philosopher in all of us that James describes and better grasp the way our own philosophy “determines the perspective in [our] several worlds.”
Now to be sure, I am no ‘official’ philosopher, but more of the everyday sort James describes. I am a political economist by trade and am currently an associate professor of political science and Korean studies at Akita International University in Akita, Japan. I am interested in politics and power and the modes by which various notions of the social or political good are formed, debated, and ultimately adjudicated in the political sphere. For me, a true appreciation of these processes must always engage with a wide range of thought and disciplines. I am particularly interested in discourses that attempt to juxtapose the technical and the ethical realms. I will be producing most of the ‘content’ (I don’t really like the term) for this site, especially at first, but the plan is to feature wide range of voices and perspectives—indeed perhaps some that I don’t fully sign onto myself—from all over the globe. Please join us in “feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos.”
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