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About Jim Sleeper

Jim Sleeper, a writer and teacher on American civic culture and politics and a lecturer in political science at Yale, is the author of The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (W.W. Norton, 1990) and Liberal Racism (Viking, 1997, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). More of his articles and commentary are available at

Articles by Jim Sleeper

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

What 'Citizen Bannon' misremembered and misread on his way to guiding Trump

What 'Citizen Bannon' misremembered and misread on his way to guiding Trump.

The right to have visiting rights

May's not the only one trying to have it both ways. Before Trump’s election, the US, long-heralded (and self-celebrating) “nation of immigrants,” was lowering the lamp beside its golden door.

A word about Trump from the American republic's founders

And a warning to Republicans who claim to revere them.

The die is cast: why Trump can’t help but try dictatorship

America’s founding fathers read intently Gibbon's account of how Augustus eviscerated the Roman republic’s remaining premises even while persuading them that he was restoring their freedoms. Now we know why.

Gazing into the abyss

Both parties are to blame and it has cost all of us a republic.

Not Hitler or Augustus, but a hybrid that shows what the American polity is becoming

“Our national crisis isn’t really about Trump; it’s about what’s happening to the American people.” Long essay.

Blimey, it could be the unconstraining voice

Anthony Barnett’s book on BREXIT prompts the hope that Britain will continue to inspire both the US and Europe to ‘transcend ourselves by finding ourselves.’

Safe spaces – a view from Yale

There are two aspects of the US college protests which we leave out of account at our peril if we are to see them in context, let alone judge them. Interview.

Lee Kuan Yew’s hard truths

Lee’s concoction of “Asian values” was meant partly to deter westerners from criticizing repressive regimes.

On election day, let Texas voters tip their hats to Hong Kong

On November 4, long lines of unarmed Texas voters can salute American democracy’s counterparts and admirers abroad simply by showing up in huge numbers at the polls.

New shots heard 'round the world

A somewhat bleak survey of American democratic prospects for this American Independence Day begins by reminding us what America was meant to be all about. 

Jonathan Schell: in memoriam

The writer who taught courses at Yale on non-violence and nuclear arms through 2012 and who died Tuesday night, at 70, of cancer, in his home in Brooklyn, was a luminous, noble bearer of an American civic-republican tradition inherently cosmopolitan and embracing.

Singapore migrants riot, websites chill, but Yale-in-Singapore keeps warm

The fallout from these abuses of labor and freedom of speech casts a long shadow on Yale-NUS' hopes to become an international hub for liberal education.

Globe-trotting universities serve diplomacy and markets, not democracy

American liberal arts colleges are embracing collaborations with authoritarian regimes worldwide, with implications for US foreign policy. Following up his op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday, Jim Sleeper reports on the issue in greater depth in this openDemocracy essay. 

The significance of the resignation of Yale's President

Yale's President lost the support of his faculty. His preplacement must understand that the University, enshrining the freedoms that thoughtful engagement requires and carrying them for society at large, has no place for the iron law of oligarchy

How Yale becomes more Confucian, rather than Singapore more civic-republican

Yale's Singaporean adventure, continued ... The crucible of civic-republican leadership is compromising its soul for the sake of what? The author is whispered the motive - Yale means business. Unsurprising but not uplifting

Yale's Singaporean adventure - a victory for the ideals of the republic?

Yale's Singaporean adventure may still be going ahead, even after a faculty rebellion over the issue. But the vote really is a moment of institutional awakening against the sinister fusion of American and Asian models of state capitalism. That fusion threatens a civic-republican ideal that conservatives and liberals ought both to be preserving. Maybe the Yale rebellion is the begining of a recognition of all that is at risk

University campuses in the Far East - money, power or democracy?

Yale should have proud independence from the lures of power and money in its bones. That does not mean shunning either, but treating both as servants of a better ideal. But the recent announcement of a campus in Singapore suggests that it has forgotten that stance. More generally, this sort of forgetting is a danger to the fabric of democracy

Ressentiment: how sniping at OWS feeds a dangerous populism

The right criticises OWS because it lacks order ... or surreptitiously injects hierarchy; because it respects private property ... or doesn't ... What drives the rhetorical sniping against OWS is the need for scapegoats. The media that offers them up is playing a dangerous game

Markets, media, the occupiers and the next step

In Occupy Wall Street old forms of protest and new forms of media are bringing in new players and new political pressures asking the American republic to declare its independence from the market forces that are driving the old journalism and governing the government.

Pearl divers still needed, 10 years after 9/11

America still needs to re-discover itself as a Republic rather than a police force with a profit center and the powerless of the world have yet to prove conclusively that they have understood that there is no redemption in terrorism

Tea Party history: it was anti big-business

The Boston Tea Party's history of trying to properly separate government and business holds serious lessons for today's partiers

US neo-cons jump the conservative ship

The predicament of Sam Tanenhaus reminds us that conservatism's original sin lies not in its bombastic and noxious neo-conservative interlopers, but in the tragic nature of conservatism itself

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