Harper’s Notes (2/5)

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: Spanish socialism, legal legitimacy, cultural critique, and more.

The editors

February 5, 2024

Madness without method: From the film Parasite to the series White Lotus, contemporary art increasingly seeks to critique the ultrarich. But while the films, shows, and plays that make up the emerging “Eat the Rich” genre may be able to make their wealthy audiences reflect on their socioeconomic status “comfortably over brunch,” they fail to provoke anyone to take concrete steps to bring about economic justice. So Elena Eisenstadt argues in The Harper Review’s latest essay. Considering her experience viewing another recent addition to the “Eat the Rich” genre, Steven Sondheim’s musical Here We Are, Eisenstadt draws from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to argue that critical art must not only make its audience aware of its own shortcomings but act as a catalyst for real change.

On the people’s terms: When is the law legitimate? According to the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero—and a number of other important figures in the history of political thought—it is only so “when it is authorized by the citizen body; law from any other source amounts to slavery.” On Tuesday, February 6, Cliff Ando, a professor of history and classics at the University of Chicago, will discuss this and other views of what makes law legitimate in a lecture entitled “Law Is a Command of the People: Legal Legitimacy and the Form of the State.” Drawing from legal theory and political treatises from antiquity to the nineteenth century, Ando will attempt to make sense of how such claims that the people are the source of legal legitimacy could coexist with objectively undemocratic distributions of power. The event, which is organized by the Democracy Curriculum, the Chicago Center on Democracy, and the Classics of Social and Political Thought Core sequence, will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Kent Chemical Laboratory, Room 120.

Revolution at a crossroads: If you’re interested in Spanish history, radical politics, or attempts to implement real-life utopian schemes, head over to The Point’s website to read Clement Gelly’s new essay “Another World.” Gelly details the history of the village of Marinaleda, a “self-described leftist utopia,” from its activism during the last years of Francisco Franco’s reign to a successful campaign to expropriate 1,200 hectares from a local nobleman in the 1990s. Through it all, Marinaleda was guided by Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, its longtime mayor. Under Gordillo, the town built swaths of affordable housing, exercised direct democracy through town meetings, and used the expropriated land to establish a communal farm to secure work and unemployment benefits for any inhabitant of Marinaleda who asks. Due to his failing health, however, Gordillo recently stepped out of office. As he interviews inhabitants of the village ahead of the upcoming mayoral election, Gelly raises questions about the future of Marinaleda’s “utopian experiment.”

Battle of the sexes: A global gender divide is emerging within Generation Z. A recent Financial Times article reports that young women around the world are significantly more politically liberal than their male peers. In the United States, women ages 18–29 are thirty percentage points more progressive than young men—a gap that took just six years to open. And a similar split exists in countries around the world, from South Korea to Tunisia. According to Alice Evans, a visiting fellow at Stanford University, Gen Z is undergoing a “Great Gender Divergence.” How did we get here? Some experts point to the #MeToo movement as a catalyst for young women’s leftward shift while others claim the rise of “manosphere” podcasters like Andrew Tate is to blame. Whatever the cause, if young men and women cannot see eye to eye, the social repercussions will surely be profound.