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Sam Haselby

Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Sam is a historian of early America with a particular interest in religion and politics. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and has been a faculty member at the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo and at Columbia University in New York City. He was a Senior Executive Producer at Al Jazeera America and is the author of The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (paperback, 2016). @samhaselby

Written by Sam Haselby

Edited by Sam Haselby

Philosopher of the apocalypse | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

Philosopher of the apocalypse

From the ashes of the Second World War, Günther Anders forecast a new catastrophe: technology would overwhelm its creators

Audrey Borowski

Breakfast with the Panthers | Aeon
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Human rights and justice

Breakfast with the Panthers

It wasn’t all young men and guns: the Black Panther Party’s programs fed more hungry kids than the state of California

Suzanne Cope

Energised crowding | Aeon
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Cities

Energised crowding

To understand why early cities thrived, look not to the temples of kings but to their subjects’ bustling neighbourhoods

Michael E Smith

Beyond Eurocentrism | Aeon
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Economics

Beyond Eurocentrism

If you really want decolonisation, go beyond cultural criticism to the deep structural insights of economist Samir Amin

Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven

Cowboy progressives | Aeon
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History

Cowboy progressives

You likely think of the American West as deeply conservative and rural. Yet history shows this politics is very new indeed

Daniel J Herman

Is virtue signalling a vice? | Aeon
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Virtues and vices

Is virtue signalling a vice?

Proclaiming one’s own goodness is deeply annoying. Yet signalling theory explains why it’s a peculiarly powerful manoeuvre

Tadeg Quillien

The Midas Disease | Aeon
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Ethics

The Midas Disease

Corruption is a truly global crisis and the wealth addiction that feeds it is hiding in plain sight

Sarah Chayes

Scepticism as a way of life | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

Scepticism as a way of life

The desire for certainty is often foolish and sometimes dangerous. Scepticism undermines it, both in oneself and in others

Nicholas Tampio

The way of dharma | Aeon
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Stories and literature

The way of dharma

How do ancient stories of talking elephants and singing birds encourage a life of truth, nonviolence and compassion?

Keerthik Sasidharan

Tales of two jackals | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Tales of two jackals

Kalila and Dimna’s ancient parables on power delight as much as they instruct. But their moral maxims are ethically murky

Kevin Blankinship

The love story story | Aeon
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History of ideas

The love story story

Neither psychology nor anthropology fully understand love: only history sees that it’s all about the time and the telling

Barbara H Rosenwein

Fringe theories stack | Aeon
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History of science

Fringe theories stack

Believe in the Loch Ness monster and you’re more likely to believe the Apollo missions were fake. How do weird beliefs work?

Michael D Gordin



Recent Comments

Master of many trades

Sam Haselby

The best description I have read of the relationship between specialization and knowledge, in terms of how the two function in academic or scholarly research, came from a late nineteenth century philosopher of science.

He was explaining a seeming contradiction. How is it possible that a broad field of inquiry, say physics or modern literature, or even more broadly humanity as a whole, knows more and more while at the same time most of the people who have enlarged these bodies of knowledge seem from one perspective to know less and less?

There is no contradiction, he argued, and compared the scholarly or research-based accumulation of knowledge to a spotlight expanding on a w...

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Beyond true and false

Sam Haselby

There are two kinds of people in the world- those who are foolish enough to believe there are only two kinds of people in the world, and the rest of us.

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Future reading

Sam Haselby

A friend, a productive scholar and an eager, effective user of digital media in many forms, recently posted a photo on his Facebook page. It was a picture of his seven year old daughter curled up in an armchair at night, under a light, paper book in hands, reading and absorbed entirely. “Maybe the paper book has a future after all,” he commented.

Electronic books have some irreplaceable advantages including but probably not limited to portability, search and share advantages, storage and more. My suspicion that the paper book is not obsolete however has, I think, less to do with sentimental visions of childhood, such as might be suggested by the anecdote described above, and more t...

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The US is a failed state thanks to its system of government

Sam Haselby

Where to begin? I’d follow University of Texas law professor Sanford Levine’s plan to scrap the whole thing and have a new constitutional convention, one that draws broadly from the citizenry by lottery. There are some anti-democratic features of the present US Constitution, such as two senators from every state, that are so plainly anti-democratic as to have become sacred. California has nearly 40 million people. Wyoming has under 600,000. They each get two senators. Huh? Then there are the sclerotic internal division of powers and reform requirements Gerstle has focused on that just involve massive wastes of energy and effort, and sometimes a component of absurdity. The example Gerstle ...

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On the run

Sam Haselby

There is a lot of discussion today about political Islam. Much of it presumes that the reason for its role as the bearer of a certain kind of radical politics lies in some quality of the religion. In the US at least, that presumption often narrows even further to some quality of the Quran. One thing I like about Raza Rumi’s essay is how it has no time for that approach. His experience as a banker and development advocate, then journalist, in Pakistan, Rumi saw the matter as clearly political. In a casual, off-hand way, his essay identifies two drivers of political Islam in Pakistan. First, the partition from India. With Islam embroidered into its very reason for existence, Pakistan has be...

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The new history of slavery and capitalism

Sam Haselby

Joshua Rothman takes note of an important step in the historical understanding of slavery in the US. In the first decades of the 20th century, Americans were taught that slavery was a benevolent, civilizing institution, and not the primary cause of the nation’s Civil War. In 1956, the publication of Kenneth Stamp’s book The Peculiar Institution, brought a big change. WWII’s concentration camps had brought racism into disrepute, and Stamp, for this and other reasons, argued that American slavery was in fact a brutal and oppressive system, that it was the cause of the American Civil War. But Stamp also more or less portrayed American slavery as a peculiarly Southern thing. The Civil Rights ...

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Do conservative think tanks help to balance policy debates?

Sam Haselby

This question obviously raises some deeply felt views about how an implicit politics of academics and the media express themselves in society. When posing the question, I didn’t anticipate such fervor. I can’t help but notice that those on both sides find their position so blindingly obvious that the question itself seems to them ideological. As a result, barely anyone has provided any actual examples of how academia and the media might be overwhelmingly liberal or, as a couple writers implied, neoliberal, which is right-wing if not conservative in the proper sense of the word. The answer to the question is to me not at all so simple or self-evident. While most professional academics are ...

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Should we rename institutions that honour dead racists?

Sam Haselby

Renaming things is a blunt instrument by which to address the legacy and consequences of slavery and apartheid in the US. What effect will changing the name on building in Princeton, NJ have on the impunity with which police visit violence on African-Americans, or on mass incarceration, or on poverty? How is one to explain the discrimination and violence after one has removed references to its causes?

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Are coders worth it?

Sam Haselby

One could argue those 18th and 19th century Brits, with their useless Greek and Latin educations, nonetheless did rather well, if not good, on the world stage.

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Men at work

Sam Haselby

Allison Pugh’s work on masculinity helps explain some of the deep developments currently roiling US politics, in particular in the Republican presidential primary. As a group, men without advanced degrees basically no longer have a realistic chance of fulfilling the normative expectations of what it means to be a man, of providing stable long term support for their families. The consequences are profound, for their lives, that of their families, and I think increasingly for the country’s politics. Look too at the READ MORE→ See comment

Paradigms lost

Sam Haselby

Why did the Iraq War happen? Why did the Russian Revolution happen? Why did Canada and the United States, contiguous and basically simultaneous, largely Anglo settler colonial societies, have in some important ways notably different courses of historical development? Why was there a Cold War? Why did the Protestant Reformation happen? Why has Islam thrived in the past couple generations? Why did Europe in the nineteenth century rise to a level of military and political power that allowed it to dominate the world? From where does jazz come? Science is unlikely to tell us much of anything in way of answers to these and other questions about human society.

It is also fair to wonder if...

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