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When the Future Is Hard to Recall

Episodic Memory and Mnemonic Aids in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski

Puzzle films like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) present challenges not only for viewers, but also for scientists seeking to understand brain functions such as memory formation, because these films deliberately scramble the temporal and spatial contexts that viewers normally rely on to create mental narratives and to form episodic memories. The strategic shuffling of multiple plotlines and chronologies in Arrival ultimately builds to an illusion of clairvoyance in the viewer, the imaged sensation of being able to see into the future, alongside the protagonist, Louise Banks. In order to create this “special effect” within viewers’ memories—a false memory of the narrative’s future—Villeneuve seeds the film with key pieces of information that viewers must hold in memory before ultimately solving the puzzle at the end and enjoying a special form of catharsis in the process.

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War without Citizens

Memorialization, War, and Democracy in the United States

Stephen J. Rosow

Contestation over war memorialization can help democratic theory respond to the current attenuation of citizenship in war in liberal democratic states, especially the United States. As war involves more advanced technologies and fewer soldiers, the relation of citizenship to war changes. In this context war memorialization plays a particular role in refiguring the relation. Current practices of remembering and memorializing war in contemporary neoliberal states respond to a dilemma: the state needs to justify and garner support for continual wars while distancing citizenship from participation. The result is a consumer culture of memorialization that seeks to effect a unity of the political community while it fights wars with few citizens and devalues the public. Neoliberal wars fought with few soldiers and an economic logic reveals the vulnerability to otherness that leads to more active and critical democratic citizenship.

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Social Protest and Its Discontents

A System Justification Perspective

Vivienne Badaan, John T. Jost, Danny Osborne, Chris G. Sibley, Joaquín Ungaretti, Edgardo Etchezahar and Erin P. Hennes

Psychological factors that encourage—as well as discourage— participation in social protest are often overlooked in the social sciences. In this article, we draw together recent contributions to the understanding of the social and psychological bases of political action and inaction from the perspective of system justification theory. This perspective, which builds on theory and research on the “belief in a just world,” contends that—because of underlying epistemic, existential, and relational needs to reduce uncertainty, threat, and social discord—people are motivated (to varying degrees, as a function of personality and context) to defend, bolster, and justify the legitimacy of the social, political, and economic systems on which they depend. We review evidence that, alongside political conservatism and religiosity, system justification helps to explain resistance and acquiescence to the status quo in sociopolitical contexts as diverse as Lebanon, New Zealand, Argentina, and the United States.

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The Silent Spring

Why Pro-democracy Activity Was Avoided in Gulf Nations during the Arab Spring

Charles Mitchell, Juliet Dinkha and Aya Abdulhamid

This article explores the Arab Spring uprisings that started in late 2010, and investigates why pro-democracy movements were circumvented in most Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Our research is qualitative in nature, and looks into the antecedents of the revolts in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen to ascertain why revolutionary activity was precluded in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Through the utilization of academic research, news sources, governmental, intergovernmental organization, and international nongovernmental organization reports and policy papers, we conclude that the generous allocations of public goods and the extant and reactive government policies during the Arab Spring period successfully preempted revolutionary activities in the Gulf. In this article, we also examine the only Gulf country outlier, Bahrain, by investigating what policies and conditions led to outbreaks of large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations in that nation.

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Rogue or Lover

Value-Maximizing Interpretations of Withnail and I

Peter Alward

In this article, I want to consider two interpretations of the film Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987), one according to which the title character is a rogue and the other according to which he is a lover. I argue that both interpretations are supported by the text and note that, insofar as an intentionalist approach to interpretation is adopted, the interpretation according to which Withnail is a rogue is correct. Nevertheless, I argue that it is a better film—both morally and aesthetically—on the latter interpretation and, hence, that if one adopts a value-maximizing approach to interpretation, one ought to accept this interpretation. Finally, I argue that insofar as viewers are interested in getting other people to admire the film, they ought to adopt the value-maximizing approach and, as a result, endorse the interpretation according to which Withnail is a lover.

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Sermin Ildirar and Louise Ewing

Researchers have recently suggested that historically mixed findings in studies of the Kuleshov effect (a classic film editing–related phenomenon whereby meaning is extracted from the interaction of sequential camera shots) might reflect differences in the relative sophistication of early versus modern cinema audiences. Relative to experienced audiences, first-time film viewers might be less predisposed and/or able to forge the required conceptual and perceptual links between the edited shots in order to demonstrate the effect. This article recreates the conditions that traditionally elicit this effect (whereby a neutral face comes to be perceived as expressive after being juxtaposed with independent images: a bowl of soup, a gravestone, a child playing) to directly compare “continuity” perception in first-time and more experienced film viewers. Results confirm the presence of the Kuleshov effect for experienced viewers (explicitly only in the sadness condition) but not the first-time viewers, who failed to perceive continuity between the shots.

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT C

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT B

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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Jean-Paul Gagnon

SUPPLEMENT A

2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

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Interview

Propaganda’s Role in Liberal Democratic Societies

Jason Stanley and John B. Min

Stanley and Min discuss how propaganda works in liberal democratic societies. Stanley observes that the inability to address the crisis of liberal democracies can be partially explained by contemporary political philosophy’s penchant for idealized theorizing about norms of justice over transitions from injustice to justice. Whereas ancient and modern political philosophers took seriously propaganda and demagoguery of the elites and populists, contemporary political philosophers have tended to theorize about the idealized structures of justice. This leads to a lack of theoretical constructs and explanatory tools by which we can theorize about real-life political problems, such as mass incarceration. Starting with this premise, Stanley provides an explanation of how propaganda works and the mechanisms that enable propaganda. Stanley further theorizes the pernicious effects that elitism, populism, authoritarianism, and “post-truth” have on democratic politics.