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Excuses, introductions, and the Resistance: a prologue

Sometimes anyone can get off to a false start. That book you want to read but never seem to finish, that big organizing project that managed to make the new year’s resolution list five years running. In a lot of ways this blog is no exception. Not to long ago my self and co-authors had our “all systems go” meeting. But then I got swamped with the usual mid-semester rush and as time went on I felt worried that I had failed in my obligation to my colleagues not to publish as often as I had committed. At least I could take comfort in the two facts of how busy I had been and that no one else has gotten this blog off to the races. Whew.

Except that’s bullshit. I have to recognize that, at least for me, what has really been holding back my writing. The Resistance. For those unfamiliar with the term, I direct you to Steven Pressfield’s masterful The War of Art. Here’s the thing: on far too many occasions than I care to admit, I had good, perhaps great, ideas to write about. In some cases I even began drafting an outline and paragraphs. Collected a few news articles about the issue at hand so that I could produce something worthwhile. Without exception I allowed my schedule of coursework, research, and other such tasks take priority over my daily writing. The end result has been silence.

Needless to say, my inner voice finally called me out. Writing is like any discipline. It thrives on daily practice. Whether the output is good or bad does not matter so much as the regular commitment to the practice. The longer I go without posting my first Popular Tyranny post, the easier it is to never post. So rather than delay a formal introduction, I opted for this short prologue to get started.

Our aims for this blog are ambitious because so many other good blogs from the academy exist that one more may be the last thing anyone needs; so many few philosophy blogs get wide readership because they are too esoteric, technical, and long for even those trained in philosophy to read with any regularity. A group blog from political theorists in the academy must seem like one of the most foolish attempts ever devised by those within the walls of the ivory tower. How can we ever expect anyone to find what we have to say of value? How can we ever expect to gain a wide readership?

And yet this is exactly why we decided to produce such a blog. Political theory, when done right,[1] can often add clarity to an issue where none existed before or raise the questions that had gone unnoticed by others. I do not think this is because political theorists are better equipped to ask and answer the most enduring questions of public life. Rather, I think political theorists have a unique set of skills—like thinking and writing dialectically[2]—that are as equally valuable to public discourse as being able to explain a regression on ethnic conflict or unemployment.

My hopes for this blog are as modest as the aims are ambitious. If political theory has taught me anything over the years, it is that modesty and humility are some of the most invaluable virtues for getting along with the world. If the readership of this blog remains in the low double digits and consists of the writers and their immediate families, that will be a success. The daily practice of writing and defeating resistance is all we can ever really hope for. But even that would a success worth applauding.

Welcome to Popular Tyranny.


Postscript: [1]: ‘done right’ is a loaded phrase, I know. But let’s take it in a very narrow way for now to mean only a certain sense of quality, regardless of approach, school, and priors that helps others grasp and understand the world around us. [2]: Moreover, I vow to keep the technical jargon to a minimum. We could debate endless about what it means to be dialectal. Still, here at least it seemed equally as ‘inside baseball’ as regression analysis can be to social scientists.



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April 2014


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