Harper’s Notes

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: clothing, the Cold War, constitutions, and more.

The editors

October 20, 2023

Barbie girl in a Barbie world: For The Harper Review’s second essay of the quarter, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Stephen P. Hinshaw discusses his 2009 book with Rachel Kranz, The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today’s Pressures and Conflicting Expectations. Hinshaw argues that the latest Barbie movie serves as yet another perpetuation of “the triple bind” young women face in today’s America. The book highlights three types of social pressure—towards compassion, competition, and sexualization—and elucidates the relation of each to the deterioration of teenage girls’ mental health. It would take nothing short of a miracle to remove these expectations from women’s lives, Hinshaw says, but we can begin to ease the burden by encouraging girls to spend less time on screens and more time on honest social engagement.

Constitution and genocide: Take a political science class at a university like Chicago, and you’ll end up reading constitutions. The American Constitution, the old Haitian Constitution, the Athenaion Politeia—a nation’s founding laws and principles are said to provide a unique insight into the practical operation of the nation on a materialist, day-to-day basis. So why not take the same approach to Hamas, the Islamist extremists whose massacre of over 1,000 Israeli Jews has been widely condemned in the Western world—but has nonetheless been declared resistance and decolonization by facets of the American left? In The Atlantic, Bruce Hoffman breaks down the 1988 Hamas Covenant, which “spells out clearly Hamas’s genocidal intentions.” Hoffman writes that for Hamas, nothing short of the complete annihilation of Jews in the Middle East is necessary to secure the “Islamic Waqf,” or Islamic state, that the Palestinian people are said by Hamas to deserve.

The power of fashion: Join the Forum on Law and Legalities this Tuesday, October 17, to learn what dresses, waistcoats, pantaloons, and kerchiefs can tell us about the legal and economic history of the United States. Princeton University legal historian Laura Edwards has just come out with a new book Only the Clothes on Her Back: Clothing and the Hidden History of Power in the Nineteenth-Century United States. Now, the lecture and workshop series run by the Law, Letters and Society Department will give many more the chance to consider an overlooked aspect of American history. Edwards’ talk will begin at 5 p.m. in the John Hope Franklin Room in the Social Science Research Building and will include a roundtable discussion with UChicago history professors Rashauna Johnson and Jon Levy and law professor Alison LaCroix. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

Owning the neo-libs: Something wacky is going on in the world of political theory. Opposition to liberalism, once the bread and butter of the Marxian left, has now also found an unlikely home in an emerging corner of the political right. What are we to make of such a strange development? According to Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and history at Yale, we ought to have seen it coming. In his recently published Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times, Moyn argues that our present ideological disarray is the inevitable consequence of a bargain that the stewards of the liberal order made during the Cold War. Liberalism, he writes, doesn’t lend itself to wartime compromise and ought never to have taken on a defensive crouch. The task now, one that Moyn himself takes up, is to figure out how to get back to a true liberalism. As everyone and their mother begins to take up the cause of anti-liberalism, Moyn’s new book marks an intriguing departure.