The Conflicted Roots of Conservatism
Kimberly Phillips-Fein is an American historian. Her primary areas of research concern the role of business in the development of the modern conservative movement in the second half of the 20th century and the role of economic ideas in the rise of conservatism. She has written for publications including the Nation, London Review of Books, New Labor Forum, Baffler, and In These Times, to which she has contributed articles and reviews. Her first book, "Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan," was published in 2009 by W. W. Norton.
Question: What is modern conservatism?
Kim Phillips-Fein: Well, conservatism -- people who write about conservatism know that the idea is a vexed one in some ways, that conservatism as a political ideology contains within itself several different strands that are in some ways really at odds with each other. So one strand flows from I guess you would say the reaction against the French Revolution and Edmund Burke, and the whole idea that it's impossible for people to consciously make efforts to change society; that doing so is dangerous, that it destroys tradition, it destroys organic social relationships, and that it ultimately will lead to violence and social chaos. So in some ways you really shouldn't try to change anything. You should -- the only way that things can change and should change is slowly, through unconscious processes and the working out of organic relationships.
So I think that's kind of one -- one strain is an attempt to conserve things, to keep them the same, to not allow too rapid or radical change. This in some ways is at odds with the other kind of major stream of modern conservatism, which focuses on the market and allowing the market to do its work without interference from the state. And the thing is that even though there's a lot of continuity between these positions in some ways, where the people who **** are pro-market want to prevent the conscious intervention of the state or of collective groups imposing their will on the market. So in that sense, a certain hostility to the use of reason or to any effort, any belief that people really can shape their own history -- a sense you should stand back and let things happen.
At the same time, the market itself brings about radical social transformation. And economic development and capitalism -- the growth of capitalism really radically transforms all of those older social relationships. It changes family life, it changes community life, it changes religious life. So those kind of bulwarks of society that for Burkeans seem so important to protect are actually really threatened by the market. So in this way these two sides of conservatism intellectually seem at odds with each other. At the same time, I think they do have certain underlying similarities; you know, this hostility to rationality, this sense that inequality is acceptable, okay, the necessary way of the world. It's this certain hostility to the state. So it's a funny thing: on the one hand they're different, on the other they have certain tendencies that maybe are not as different as they might seem.
Question: When did the modern conservative movement begin?
Kim Phillips-Fein: Right. The birth point. Right, right. Well, I think the way people see the modern conservative movement in America has gone through several shifts. One kind of -- oftentimes the way it's been seen is that there a kind of dominance of liberalism in the immediate postwar period after World War II. Liberalism was dominant, and it was really only in the late '60s that it began to break down when the liberal order was attacked by the new left and by radical groups, which in turn were attacked by -- the radicalism of these groups prompted a backlash from the people who had previously made up the backbone of the Democratic Party, white, working-class ethnic voters in cities in the north, and also the support of the white south for the Democratic Party. So frequently the way it's been seen is that there was this backlash in the late '60s and early '70s, and that led to Nixon's election and then later on to Reagan's election at the end of the '70s and the decline of the New Deal order. So that's one way it's been seen. And **** there have always been other ways that historians have seen the rise of American conservatism. Many have linked it back to the immediate postwar period itself, when you see the growth of an intellectual conservatism, the founding of National Review in the mid-'50s, the -- some people go back even further to the New Deal and see the reaction against the New Deal as the real birth point of modern conservatism.
So there's an -- and the suggestion that there's been kind of the growth of a grassroots conservative activism throughout the '50s and '60s and '70s and that that movement, that kind of forward-looking grassroots movement, is really what has given conservatism its staying power; not just the backlash of the late '60s and early '70s, but also this longer underlying trend. I mean, I think there are historians who go further still and say the Ku Klux Klan, the rise of big business in the late 19th century, that you can find the dominance before the New Deal of a laissez faire set of economic ideas, that all of these parts -- kind of racial conservatism, religious fundamentalism, market ideology -- all of those things go back before the New Deal. And so in some ways they were there waiting to be reawakened. So that's yet another view.
Recorded on October 22, 2009
Some factions of the right wing wanted drastic change, while others fought for the status quo.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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