Big Ideas Glossary

*This will be continuously updated*

Bothsidesism – “the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.” [Krugman, 2016] Aka – the CNN effect.

Clintonism. “Personal crookery on the one hand, and cowardice and conservatism on the other.” [Hitchens, 1999]

Conflicting imperatives. “Liberal democracies tend to be particularly vulnerable because they find themselves trapped between conflicting imperatives. On the one hand, such states generally have made normative and legal commitments to protect those fleeing violence and persecution. On the other, as recent events in Europe and the United States make clear, some segments of democratic polities are strenuously opposed to accepting displaced people, whether for rational economic, political, or cultural reasons or for irrational, xenophobic ones. Because targets cannot simultaneously embrace a given group of migrants and reject them, the incentives to concede to coercers’ demands and make the problem disappear can be compelling.” [Greenhill, 2015]

Cooperative spirals – This occurs when “trust and confidence are built over time through incremental and reciprocal steps that gradually lead to larger and more significant compromises.” [Goldstein, 2016]

Darwin’s Golden Rule. Robert Wright points out in his book The Moral Animal, that Darwin highlighted the fact he would immediately right down information that were opposed to his theories since he speculated that we had a tendency to forget stuff that we disagree with. I think this is good advice: scrupulously check your biases with intent. [Wright, 1994]

Meme. A package of information passed from one mind to another. [Dawkins, 1976]

Politics. The process by which society determines who gets what, when they get it, and how they get it. [Birkland, 2016]

Political Islam. “A form of instrumentalization of Islam by individuals, groups and organizations that pursue political objectives and provide political responses to today’s societal challenges by imagining a future, the foundations for which rest on reappropriated, reinvented concepts borrowed from the Islamic tradition.” [Ayoob, 2008]

Pop-quant; or popular quantitative. “An entertainer who produces something digestible for a broad audience, all while giving them the impression that they’re learning unimpeachable truths. Pop quants are like celebrity intellectuals that never make you feel stupid.” [Frost, 2014]

Repressive tolerance. This “describe[s] the government practice of allowing certain freedoms as a way of repressing real opposition. Regimes that engage in this practice, he argued, tolerate only those forms of resistance that pose no structural challenge to the system, thereby cynically consolidating despotism rather than accepting genuine pluralism.” [coined by Herbert Marcuse; pulled from Milani, 2015]

Semantic collapse. “A dissociation of words and things, beliefs and action, in which ethics are unmoored from their foundation and abstractions are transmuted into their opposite.” [Grandin, 2015]

Sovereign state. The idea and reality of the sovereign state is, per Joseph S. Nye, the “most important concept used in the study of world politics.” A state is a particular type of political unit based on 2 concepts: territoriality and sovereignty. Territoriality is simple; it refers to a “specific, identifiable portion of Earth.” Sovereignty is is the state’s absolute right to govern (pass laws, enforce order, and the ability to defend the people who live within its borders) a particular territory.  There are now 195 sovereign states in the world. [ Nye Jr. and Welch, 2017]