Because, hey, this is The Nation, right?
Had this woman (and I’m sorry, but I can’t take an “intellectual” named “Jennifer” quite seriously…) read these two new translations during the Obama administration, what would her review have been like then?
Isn’t voting for a man merely because he is black, or for Clinton merely because she’s female and has a famous last name, no less “tribalist” and “emotional” and “irrational” and even “self-destructive” than others’ (presumed) motives for voting for Trump?
Alas, such impertinent questions flail impotently in the air, no sound purchase in view save this tiny blog, because I do not write for The Nation, and she does…
“Floating in the air” were a set of ideas, imported from Western Europe, that would come to define the tenets of Russian radical thought in the 1860s. Russian students like Crime and Punishment’s antihero, the 23-year-old Raskolnikov, were bombarded with somewhat distorted and jumbled versions of English utilitarianism, French utopian socialism, and Darwinism. Taken together, they created an intellectual climate that, in Dostoyevsky’s estimation, put too much stock in the ability of science and scientific reasoning to explain human behavior. (…)
With this new translation of Crime and Punishment by Michael Katz (who has also translated What Is to Be Done?), today’s readers have renewed cause to reflect on the novel’s resonance with the social problems facing our own society. Some would argue that, with the election of Donald Trump, the American public made the most self-destructive and irrational decision in our nation’s history. And yet, despite this overwhelming evidence that rational choice plays little to no part in political decision-making, those who advocate for liberal causes continue to build arguments around logic, facts, statistics, and science, rather than reckoning with the seemingly impenetrable potency of emotions like hate, shame, and fear that lead people to make unreasonable choices and form baseless opinions about one another. Reading Crime and Punishment in 2018, we are reminded of the need to take irrationality and willful self-destruction seriously. They are not only born out of individual choice; they are social forces that can play a much larger role in our politics than we might care to admit.