Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Over the years, I've had substantive differences with political journalist Jim Sleeper. I won't outline them here because I'm way, way late with a book review. But Sleeper deserves props for his eloquent take on Obama and the possibility that his candidacy offers a third way between racial particularism and false universalism, via Habermas from Turkey.

Here in Istanbul, as Habermas held forth against two perils facing Europe -- the Scylla of a radically racialized multiculturalism that assumes that merely having a color means having a culture, and the Charybd─▒s of an absolutist, secularistic universalism that arrogantly rejects the ineluctable lure of ethno-racial belonging and the allure of religion -- I couldn't help but think of Obama as an American Odysseus, steering a wise and crafty course between those extremes.

Obama will have other rocks and hard places to navigate, especially the treacherous Scylla of globalization and the Charybdis of economic isolationism. To mix my Homeric metaphors, let's hope that he resists the Siren song of neoliberalism.