Sunday, January 14, 2018

Brooks on Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed -- Unreliable classical virtue vs steady selfishness and instant gratification

How Democracies Perish. David Brooks. The New York Times, January 12, 2018, on Page A23 of the New York edition

Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness? Some people emphasize economic issues: The simultaneous concentration of wealth at the top and the stagnation in the middle has delegitimized the system. People like me emphasize cultural issues. If you have 60 years of radical individualism and ruthless meritocracy, you’re going to end up with a society that is atomized, distrustful and divided.

But some emphasize the intellectual. The people who designed our liberal democratic system made fundamental errors, which are now coming home to roost. Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen falls into this camp. His new book, “Why Liberalism Failed,” is a challenge to those of us who want to revive the liberal democratic order. It will attract a cult following among those who are losing faith in the whole project.

Deneen argues that liberal democracy has betrayed its promises. It was supposed to foster equality, but it has led to great inequality and a new aristocracy. It was supposed to give average people control over government, but average people feel alienated from government. It was supposed to foster liberty, but it creates a degraded popular culture in which consumers become slave to their appetites.

Many young people feel trapped in a system they have no faith in. Deneen quotes one of his students: “Because we view humanity — and thus its institutions — as corrupt and selfish, the only person we can rely upon is our self. The only way we can avoid failure, being let down, and ultimately succumbing to the chaotic world around us, therefore, is to have the means (financial security) to rely only upon ourselves.”

The problem, Deneen argues, started at the beginning. Greek and medieval philosophies valued liberty, but they understood that before a person could help govern society, he had to be able to govern himself. People had to be habituated in virtue by institutions they didn’t choose — family, religion, community, social norms.

But under the influence of Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors. First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.

Furthermore, they decided you couldn’t base a system of government on something as unreliable as virtue. But you could base it on something low and steady like selfishness. You could pit interest against interest and create a stable machine. You didn’t have to worry about creating noble citizens; you could get by with rationally self-interested ones.

When communism and fascism failed in the 20th century, this version of liberalism seemed triumphant. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, Deneen argues.

Liberalism claims to be neutral but it’s really anti-culture. It detaches people from nature, community, tradition and place. It detaches people from time. “Gratitude to the past and obligations to the future are replaced by a nearly universal pursuit of immediate gratification.”

Once family and local community erode and social norms dissolve, individuals are left naked and unprotected. They seek solace in the state. They toggle between impersonal systems: globalized capitalism and the distant state. As the social order decays, people grasp for the security of authoritarianism. “A signal feature of modern totalitarianism was that it arose and came to power through the discontents of people’s isolation and loneliness,” he observes. He urges people to dedicate themselves instead to local community — a sort of Wendell Berry agrarianism.

Deneen’s book is valuable because it focuses on today’s central issue. The important debates now are not about policy. They are about the basic values and structures of our social order. Nonetheless, he is wrong. Liberal democracy has had a pretty good run for 300 years. If the problem were really in the roots, wouldn’t it have shown up before now?

The difficulties stem not from anything inherent in liberalism but from the fact that we have neglected the moral order and the vision of human dignity embedded within liberalism itself. As anybody who’s read John Stuart Mill, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Vaclav Havel, Michael Novak and Meir Soloveichik knows, liberal democracy contains a rich and soul-filling version of human flourishing and solidarity, which Deneen airbrushes from history.

Every time Deneen writes about virtue it tastes like castor oil — self-denial and joylessness. But the liberal democratic moral order stands for the idea that souls are formed in freedom and not in servility, in expansiveness, not in stagnation. It stands for the idea that our covenantal institutions — like family, faith, tradition and community — orient us toward higher loves and common dreams that we then pursue in the great gymnasium of liberty.

Yes, liberalism sometimes sits in tension with faith, tradition, family and community, which Deneen rightly cherishes. But liberalism is not their murderer. Right now, there are community healers in towns and cities concretely living out the liberal democratic vision of the good life — deeply embedded in their communities, surrendered to their ideals, reaching out to other communities, growing in their freedom.

We don’t have to settle for smallness.

Pre-industrial societies which base their subsistence on agro-pastoralism have higher rates of internal and external violent conflict, & stronger male-male competition, than hunting+gathering societies

Implications of the Neolithic Revolution for Male-Male Competition and Violent Conflict. Menelaos Apostolou. Mankind Quarterly, Volume 58, No. 2,

Abstract: Ecological differences between societies that base their subsistence on hunting and gathering, as opposed to agriculture and animal husbandry, result in different rates of violent conflict. The aim of the present study is to test the hypothesis that pre-industrial societies which base their subsistence on agro-pastoralism have higher rates of internal and external violent conflict, and consequently experience stronger male-male competition, than societies which base their subsistence on hunting and gathering. Analysis of 19 variables from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample provides strong support for this hypothesis. Based on these findings, it is argued that the agropastoral revolution has resulted in the strengthening of male-male competition. The consequences on mate choice due to the mismatch between ancestral conditions, where violent male-male competition had been generally strong, and contemporary conditions where it is extremely weak, are also explored.

Both sexes demonstrated significant increases in sexual arousal with explicit videos, regardless of film orientation

Assessing differences in physiologic subjective response toward male and female orientated sexually explicit videos in heterosexual individuals. Samantha Landry, Melissa K. Goncalves, Tuuli M. Kukkonen. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 25, No. 3,

Abstract: The goal of the present study was to examine sexual response to male- and female- oriented sexually explicit films in heterosexual men and women. Forty participants (20 men and 20 women; mean age=29.42 years) attended three separate lab sessions. One 15 minute sexually explicit video was shown per session. For session one, all participants viewed a female-oriented film selected by the experimenters. The films used for subsequent sessions were counterbalanced male-oriented or female-oriented clips that had been previously studied. A thermographic camera measured temperature on the penile shaft for men and labia for women. Continuous and discrete self-reported sexual arousal was also obtained. Genital temperature was averaged into 15 one-minute bins and a repeated-measures ANOVA was conducted. Men demonstrated significantly greater increases in temperature over time than women, F (14, 980)=19.27, p=.000, however there were no significant differences between films or sex × film interaction. Women reported significantly higher subjective sexual arousal to the films than men, F (1, 69) range=3.89 to 9.67, p range=.01 to .05, but there were no significant differences between films or a sex × film interaction. Results suggest that film orientation has minimal impact on physiologic sexual responsiveness in men or women. Although both sexes demonstrated significant increases in sexual arousal for these pre-selected films, future laboratory research would benefit from examining whether participant-selected stimuli produces a greater response than experimenter-selected films.

KEY WORDS: thermography, non-preferred and preferred stimuli, sexual arousal, and sexual response, sexually explicit videos

High Heritability of Adolescent Sleep-Wake Behavior on Free, but not School Days: A Long-Term Twin Study

High Heritability of Adolescent Sleep-Wake Behavior on Free, but not School Days: A Long-Term Twin Study. A P Inderkum and L Tarokh. Sleep, zsy004,

Abstract: Adolescence development is characterized by significant changes in sleep biology. Despite an overall decline in sleep duration and a delay in bedtime, significant inter-individual variation in sleep has been reported. The aim of the current study was to examine genetic and environmental influences on sleep in adolescence using long-term (6-month) actigraphy measurements, differentiating between school and free days. Sixteen monozygotic (MZ; n = 32) and 10 dizygotic (DZ; n = 20) twin pairs (mean age 12.8 ± 1.0 years; 25 female) participated in the study. Structural equation modeling was used to compute genetic, shared environmental and unique environmental contributors to sleep behavior. We found significantly more genetic influence on sleep timing (sleep midpoint; school: 14%, free: 90%) and duration (school: 15%; free: 68%) on free as compared to school days. On the other hand, the genetic influence on measures of sleep quality (sleep efficiency and sleep onset latency) was high (> 60%) and less dependent on the day of measurement. Only wake after sleep onset (WASO) exhibited a strong shared environmental influence (> 52%) on both school and free days, suggesting that behavioral/environmental interventions may help reduce WASO. In addition, self-reported chronotype was also highly genetically influenced (75%). Disrupted, ill-timed and insufficient sleep in adolescence is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. Our findings of a strong genetic contribution to sleep in adolescence suggest that sleep may mark a genetic vulnerability to poor outcomes.

Keywords: actigraphy, adolescents, twin, genetic, heritability, sleep

Check also Sleep Duration, Mortality, and Heredity—A Prospective Twin Study. Torbjörn Åkerstedt, Jurgita Narusyte, Kristina Alexanderson, Pia Svedberg. Sleep, Volume 40, Issue 10, October 01 2017, zsx135,