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Left is Not Woke with Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman (Courtesy of the Indiana University Patten Foundation)

Susan Neiman is a philosopher. She writes about the Enlightenment, moral philosophy, metaphysics, and politics. Some of that might sound esoteric, but she sees philosophy as a living force for thinking and action, so her books and articles are as much about contemporary politics as philosophy. She came to Indiana University as a Patten Lecturer in early March, and she’d been invited on the basis of her 2019 book Learning from the Germans. That book looks at how the Germans reckoned with the Holocaust as a model for how Americans might address the legacy of slavery. Since then she’s written a new book, Left is Not Woke, where she argues that the left has to return to what she says are its core values: a commitment to universalism over tribalism, a firm distinction between justice and power, and a belief in the possibility of progress.

We talked about how her childhood and adolescence in the American South shaped her politics and philosophy, how she got into philosophy as a way to think about big questions that matter to people, not just obscure abstract concepts, and why she’s such a passionate defender of the Enlightenment.

These questions about the relationship between identity and politics are coming up a lot right now. For another perspective on all this, I want to recommend an article by Maurice Mitchell, executive director of the Working Families Party. It's called Building Resilient Organizations, and he, too, is grappling with the ways - as he puts it - "Identity and position are misused to create a doom loop that can lead to unnecessary ruptures of our political vehicles and the shuttering of vital movement spaces." Along with analyzing how we got here, he offers a number of solutions - solutions, I should say, that do not involve ignoring identity.


Inner States is produced and edited by me, Alex Chambers, with support from Violet Baron, Eoban Binder, Mark Chilla, Avi Forrest, LuAnn Johnson, Jack Lindner, Yané Sanchez Lopez, Sam Schemenauer, Payton Whaley, and Kayte Young. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey.


Our theme song is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music

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