Our Favorite Essays of 2021

At a Moment Where There Are No Easy Answers, Zócalo Contributors Asked Unexpected, Tough—and Sometimes Quixotic—Questions

It felt like 2021 was a year of firsts—the first rollout of new vaccine technology; the first insurrection in Washington, D.C.; the first female U.S. vice president; and the first time many of us returned to public life after many months at home. But if we learned anything from the approximately 200 essays we published at Zócalo over these past 12 months, it’s that almost everything has a precedent, for better and for worse.

From a world leader retreating from an unwinnable foreign war (Emperor Hadrian, circa 117 A.D.) to the …

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 …

California, Where Whatever You Do, You Will Be Wrong | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

California, Where Whatever You Do, You Will Be Wrong

We're All in This Together—But Please, Keep Your Distance

Our politics may be paranoid, our society may be paralyzed, our police may be irredeemable, and our skies may be on fire, but don’t fear! At least we Californians can …

Is Forgiveness the Basis of a Healthy Democracy?

An Iranian Philosopher Posits That Only Absolving Others of Blame Can Open Dialogue and Rebuild Decency

Why do we have such difficulty thinking about forgiveness? Read the news on any day and you’ll find stories of war, injustices present and past, and attacks on democracy. It’s …

The Austrian Philosopher Who Showed That Words Can Spark Humanism—or Barbarism

Ludwig Wittgenstein Saw Language as a "Game," and Whoever Makes the Rules Holds the Power

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian-British philosopher and logician, famously coined the term “language-game”—a term meant, as he writes in his Philosophical Investigations (1953), “to bring into prominence the fact that the …

Why America Should Be Bullish About Wall Street

A Dynamic Stock Market Fuels a More Open Society

You should be celebrating the fact that the stock market is soaring.

Yes, I’m talking to you, even if you are not a trust fund baby—make that especially if you are …