What are the “dimensions” of power to which Lukes refers? He begins his account with the treatment of power provided by the pluralist tradition of American democratic theory, including especially Robert Dahl in 1957 in “The Concept of Power” (link). This is the one-dimensional view: power is a behavioral attribute that applies to individuals to the extent that they are able to modify the behavior of other individuals within a decision-making process. The person with the power in a situation is the person who prevails in the decision-making process (18).
4. Leave an impression: pay extra attention to the last line of a scene, chapter, or paragraph.
“I play with those last lines of paragraphs a lot. You can take the reader on a journey—then just when they think they can see where you’re going, you jerk them out of that reality. If you end a paragraph with dissonance it can color what’s come before in an interesting way.”
Wilde made his own life into a tragic, exquisite, grotesquely gorgeous work of art. That was his legacy to the 21st century. Nowadays Wilde’s queerness is being embraced with open arms. In 2017, he was among 50,000 gay men posthumously pardoned by the Ministry of Justice for sexual acts that are no longer illegal. Everywhere you turn these days, there seems to be another shrine to Oscar going up somewhere, whether it’s the Oscar Wilde Barand Oscar Wilde Temple in New York, or the Irish hotels set to open in London and Edinburgh. Wilde’s works, once considered to have a corrupting influence, are now taught in schools around the globe. He has become gay history’s Christ figure. The relics of his martyrdom have become attractions, sites of pilgrimage.
Piketty presents himself as politically engagé, so it would be natural to cut to the chase and announce my view of whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, a comrade or an enemy. That impulse is all the stronger because his title is a deliberate allusion to Marx’s great work, Das Kapital. The title, after all, is CAPITAL in the Twenty-First Century, not Capital in the Twenty-First Century. But I shall resist the temptation, because it would be a mistake. There is a great deal to learn from this book whether or not one situates oneself where Piketty does on the ideological spectrum [as I do not], and that must be the focus of my attention in the first part of this discussion.
In The Wedding, West offers a more nuanced and succinct take on the same themes. In the late summer 1953, the prosperous Coles family is gathered on the Vineyard for the nuptials of their lovely scion Shelby Coles to a white jazz musician. The impending wedding brings to a head the foundational illusion of their lives: that skin color is “a direct barometer of virtue,” as Shelby’s sister, Liz, sarcastically puts it. West tracks the idea’s evolution and its fallout by telling the stories of the family’s ancestors, black and white, from back when “cars hadn’t yet been invented, cocktails hadn’t yet been invented, and the idea of colored people taking vacations had not yet been invented either.” In a more recent flashback, a young Shelby gets lost, and the islanders are on the lookout for a “little colored girl.” But blonde Shelby isn’t recognizable as such, and when she tells her name to a white mother, the woman is at first confused and then reluctant to ask if she’s “colored.” “I couldn’t do anything as awful,” the woman says to her friends. “Supposing she isn’t? It might leave a scar.”
What’s your view?
“Antisocial Media” is not a hopeful book. Vaidhyanathan doesn’t think Facebook can be reformed from within, however many times CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologizes and promises to do better. “The problem with Facebook is Facebook,” he writes. It’s not just that the company makes its money by pimping its members to advertisers. It’s that the network is now so immense that it has become impossible to weed out the scoundrels and creeps until after they’ve done their damage. “Facebook,” Vaidhyanathan concludes, “is too big to tame.” The company will always be cleaning up messes, begging our forgiveness.
Joanna Walsh’s recent novel, Break.up, is motivated by a recently ended—or is it still current?—relationship. In order to forget about her on-again-off-again lover, the narrator, also named Joanna, decides to embark on a solo journey across Europe. Traveling by train, bus, and on foot, she makes her way from London’s St. Pancras Station through France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Holland, Germany, and back again. Joanna seems intent on tiring herself out, hoping to banish the thoughts that keep her up at night. In the meantime, she houses these thoughts in a book, a tactic that also alleviates her self-imposed loneliness. “You’re never alone with a book,” she says, “particularly when you’re writing one.”