What We Are Reading Today: When All Else Fail by Jason Brennan

Updated 24 November 2018

What We Are Reading Today: When All Else Fail by Jason Brennan

  • Jason Brennan argues that citizens of democracies have a fouurth possible option to injustice or wrongdoing by their governments

The economist Albert O. Hirschman famously argued that citizens of democracies have only three possible responses to injustice or wrongdoing by their governments: We may leave, complain, or comply. But in When All Else Fails, Jason Brennan argues that there is a fourth option. When governments violate our rights, we may resist. We may even have a moral duty to do so.

For centuries, almost everyone has believed that we must allow the government and its representatives to act without interference, no matter how they behave. 

We may complain, protest, sue, or vote officials out, but we can’t fight back. But Brennan makes the case that we have no duty to allow the state or its agents to commit injustice. 

We have every right to react with acts of “uncivil disobedience.” We may resist arrest for violation of unjust laws. We may disobey orders, sabotage government property, or reveal classified information. We may deceive ignorant, irrational, or malicious voters. We may even use force in self-defense or to defend others. The result is a provocative challenge to long-held beliefs about how citizens may respond when government officials behave unjustly or abuse their power.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Good Form by Jesse Rosenthal

Updated 14 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Good Form by Jesse Rosenthal

  • For most, Victorian moralizing is one of the period’s least attractive and interesting qualities

What do we mean when we say that a novel’s conclusion “feels right”? How did feeling, form, and the sense of right and wrong get mixed up, during the 19th century, in the experience of reading a novel? 

Good Form argues that Victorian readers associated the feeling of narrative form — of being pulled forward to a satisfying conclusion —with inner moral experience, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Reclaiming the work of a generation of Victorian ‘intuitionist’ philosophers who insisted that true morality consisted in being able to feel or intuit the morally good, Jesse Rosenthal shows that when Victorians discussed the moral dimensions of reading novels, they were also subtly discussing the genre’s formal properties.

For most, Victorian moralizing is one of the period’s least attractive and interesting qualities. But Good Form argues that the moral interpretation of novel experience was essential in the development of the novel form — and that this moral approach is still a fundamental, if unrecognized, part of how we understand novels.