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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

After Mosul, are borders and state sovereignty still an issue in the Middle East?

After three years of ISIS occupation, the Iraqi army reconquered most of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in July. As the self-declared caliphate—the world’s richest terrorist organization—has been losing considerable territory over the last two years, and with the international borders of most states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) still intact, is the survival of the state system in the region still an issue of concern?

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Aesthetics and politics: Donald Trump’s idea of art and beauty

President Donald Trump’s description of Confederate statues as “beautiful” merely mirrors his previously-mentioned objects of aesthetic preference. Before the statues, there was the “beautiful wall,” an oddly-conceived barrier prospectively bedecked with a “beautiful door.” But it’s not just about walls and buildings. Mr. Trump’s most frequent references to beauty have had to do with women.

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How to fight climate change (and save the world)

The ice caps are melting. Within a few years the North Pole will likely be ice-free for the first time in 10,000 years, causing what some call the “Arctic death spiral.” In the following excerpt from A Farewell to Ice, Peter Wadhams explains what we can do today to fight climate change. What can we do, both individually and collectively, to try to save the world? There is a massive list, of course, but I will pick out a few actions that might make a real difference.

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The three principles of democracy [excerpt]

Whether or not true democracy can ever be achieved remains uncertain. Historian James T. Kloppenberg argues that while democracy can be defined as an ethical ideal, the practical definition of democracy is too contentious to be adopted as a political system. The following shortened excerpt from Toward Democracy analyzes three contested principles of democracy: popular sovereignty, autonomy, and equality.

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Rebuilding New York City

In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City’s position as the center of the financial world came into question. Now, 16-years after the day that could have permanently changed the course of New York’s history, downtown Manhattan rebuilt both its buildings and status of importance. Lynne B. Sagalyn examines the economic impact of the World Trade Center’s fall and rise in the following excerpt from Power at Ground Zero.

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Allen Ginsberg and Ann Coulter walk into an auditorium…

Ann Coulter, a controversial right-wing author and commentator, was tentatively scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on April 27 until pre-speech protests turned into violent clashes, and her speech was canceled. In response, Coulter tweeted, “It’s sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech.”

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A new view of authoritarianism and partisan polarization

Democrats and Republicans are increasingly polarized. Partisan strength is up, feelings toward the two parties are more extreme, and partisans are more intolerant of the other side. What gives rise to the partisan divide in American politics? One prominent theory is that Democrats and Republicans are polarized today because they differ psychologically. Republicans have become more authoritarian and Democrats less so.

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Don’t play politics with the debt ceiling

It must be frustrating to be a Congressional Democrat these days. The minority party in both the House and Senate and having lost the White House, the only thing keeping the Democrats relevant is a dysfunctional White House and a disunited Republican majority in Congress. There is, however, one area in which they should drop any obstructionism and play ball with the Republicans—raising the debt ceiling.

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What drives displacement and refuge?

Global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the end of World War II, but the system in place to deal with them, based upon a humanitarian list of imagined “basic needs,” has changed little. In this excerpt from Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, authors Paul Collier and Alexander Betts explain the cause and effect of mass violence, a far too common pre-cursor to refugee crises and global displacement.

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The steeples of Essex and Tyrone: Irish historians and Brexit

One of the glib accusations levelled against Irish history is that it never changes–that its fundamental themes are immutable. Equally, one of the common accusations against Irish historians is that (despite decades of learned endeavour) they have utterly failed to shift popular readings of the island’s past. Yes, the Good Friday Agreement and its St […]

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Margaret Fuller and the coming democracy

Since the 30th April, I go almost daily to the hospitals,” Margaret Fuller told her friend Ralph Waldo Emerson in a 10 June 1849 letter. “Though I have suffered,–for I had no idea before how terrible gun-shot wounds and wound-fever are, I have taken pleasure, and great pleasure, in being with the men; there is scarcely one who is not moved by a noble spirit.”

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It’s education, stupid: how globalisation has made education the new political cleavage in Europe

Commentators argue that a globalisation cleavage is appearing in western Europe, with the issues of migration and European integration core bones of contention. We argue that at a deeper level it is not just globalisation or the EU that drives this contestation. The new political divide is also rooted in demographic changes, it is a manifestation of the rise of a more structural, educational cleavage.

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Is science being taken out of environmental protection?

In 1963, dying of breast cancer and wearing a wig to cover the effects of radiation treatments, Rachel Carson appeared before a congressional committee to defend her indictment of pesticides. She had rattled the chemical industry with Silent Spring, which urged caution at a time when Americans were buying dangerous products that the scientific community had itself made possible.

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A very British realignment

Over the first two years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, several commentators noted fascinating parallels with an iconic fictional account of a Labour leadership. First written as a novel by journalist and future Labour MP Chris Mullin in 1982, A Very British Coup depicts the surprise election of a radical left-wing Labour Party led by staunch socialist Harry Perkins in an imagined near future.

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What Mubarak’s acquittal means for Egypt

On 13 March 2017, the legal saga of the trial of Hosni Mubarak ended. The deposed autocrat, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators and embezzlement on a grander scale, was acquitted by Egypt’s Court of Cassation and freed from his detention. “The trial of the century”, as Egyptians have dubbed Mubarak’s prosecution.

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