Why the Western Remains ‘One of Our Most Powerful Cinematic Inventions’

From The Searchers to The Power of the Dog, Troubled Protagonists Offer an American Vision of Death and Defeat

Robert Warshow, a tall, wry, chain-smoking New Yorker and an editor at Commentary magazine in the early 1950s, was obsessed with movies, comic books, and other forms of popular culture and treated them as serious subjects for intellectual discourse. He dropped dead of a heart attack in 1955 at age 37, but before he did, he wrote “The Westerner,” a groundbreaking essay that forever changed the way we think about cowboy movies.

Warshow’s core insight: the Western hero was not a solitary yet indomitable figure but rather a tainted and failed …

Can the American Republic Survive the Stubbornness of San Francisco? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Can the American Republic Survive the Stubbornness of San Francisco?

The City by the Bay Keeps Producing Leaders Who Won't Quit—Even When They Should

San Francisco stubbornness is holding the republic hostage.

The hostage takers are two of California’s oldest and most powerful mules. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer …

How ‘Automation’ Made America Work Harder | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How ‘Automation’ Made America Work Harder

Computers Were Supposed to Reduce Office Labor. They Accomplished the Opposite

The world confronts “an epochal transition.” Or so the consulting firm McKinsey and Company crowed in 2018, in an article accompanying a glossy 141-page report on the automation revolution. Over …

Is America Ready to See Itself as an Orchestra? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Is America Ready to See Itself as an Orchestra?

Cultural Pluralism Offers a Better Concept of the Nation Than the Melting Pot Ever Did

More than a century after Jewish American philosopher Horace Kallen developed the concept of cultural pluralism in 1915, it has never been more important. In the simplest terms, cultural pluralism …

America Isn’t Awkward Enough | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

America Isn’t Awkward Enough

Our Anti-Social Social Norms Keep Us From Engaging in the Uncomfortable Moments That Lead to Real Change

Ever since vaccines became available, people have been joking that the return to normal life would be awkward. After more than a year of relative isolation, so the half-earnest predictions …

Is Independence Still Worth Celebrating? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Is Independence Still Worth Celebrating?

Contemplating Dependence and Interdependence on the Nation’s Birthday in Remote Independence, California

Why do Californians celebrate Independence Day when we’ve given up on our independence?

That question occurred to me on a recent visit to Independence, California, a settlement of 600 people on …