In the Nation, Jedediah Purdy reviews two new books about populism—The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis and What is Populism? by Jan-Werner Müller. Purdy warns the left not to oversimplify the issue of immigration:

When...populist insurrections take the form of National Front xenophobia and Trumpist intolerance, opposing them is essential. It is also politically and morally easy, especially for those of us who have done pretty well under a regime of neoliberal openness. It’s far more difficult to think through what kind of political openness a progressive alternative should pursue and, perhaps more discomfortingly, what kind of economic boundaries might also be necessary to create a more egalitarian society in a global economy.

No politics can be defined only by openness, no matter how appealing that might sound. Politics needs boundaries and lines; it needs a specific community. The reasons for this are not sentimental or cultural; they have nothing to do with “real Americans” or la France profonde. They are practical requirements for institutions of self-government, in particular when it comes to the economy.

The difficult and unpleasant fact is that to be for social-democratic policies today means also being for borders, for a line demarcating who is in and who is out, and for limits on the mobility of labor. Economic policies are partly the product of a peace pact between classes and between capital and labor, especially over questions such as mobility and borders. Any egalitarian economy will come under stress when capital is free to leave and labor is free to enter.

In the Atlantic, Thomas Frank asks, "What can we learn from reviewing one newspaper’s lopsided editorial treatment of a left-wing presidential candidate [Bernie Sanders]?"

For one thing, we learn that the Washington Post, that gallant defender of a free press, that bold bringer-down of presidents, has a real problem with some types of political advocacy. Certain ideas, when voiced by certain people, are not merely debatable or incorrect or misguided, in the paper’s view: they are inadmissible. The ideas themselves might seem healthy, they might have a long and distinguished history, they might be commonplace in other lands. Nevertheless, when voiced by the people in question, they become damaging.

We hear a lot these days about the dangers to speech posed by political correctness, about those insane left-wing college students who demand to be shielded from uncomfortable ideas. What I am describing here is something similar, but far more consequential. It is the machinery by which the boundaries of the Washington consensus are enforced.

In First Things, Eamon Duffy praises Carlos Eire's Reformations, but concludes his review with a warning against the idea, suggested by Eire and advanced elsewhere by Brad Gregory, that Protestantism alone is responsible for undoing "the religious coherence of Christendom." Duffy writes:

The principle of sola scriptura and Protestantism’s consequent inability to arrive at workable criteria to determine Christian orthodoxy certainly contributed to the breakdown of Christendom and the emergence of a secular society. But so too did the repressive authoritarianism of post-Tridentine Catholicism, the emergence of a Catholic ecclesiology inimical to true communitas by its overemphasis on clerical power and centralized authority, and the acceptance into Catholic theology, philosophy, and anthropology of a dualistic Cartesianism every bit as inimical to the medieval intellectual and moral synthesis (if such a thing can be said to have existed) as anything that emerged from Wittenberg or Geneva.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

Also by this author
From the archives: John Berryman

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads