“We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance,” Martha Nussbaum begins.[1] No, the danger is not imminent economic collapse or looming environmental disaster. At least we discern such crises, but the worst of all “goes largely unnoticed, like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government.” Nussbaum’s crisis—I am not making this up—is declining enrollment in university humanities courses. Somewhere, I suppose, a shoemaker envisions the collapse of civilization brought about by the rising price of leather.

Unless we solve Nussbaum’s crisis, democracy, decency, and critical thinking—words she leaves undefined and repeats like a mantra—will all disappear. But to solve a crisis one must identify its cause. ...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now