Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University. He blogs at Crooked Timber and The Monkey Cage.

Recent Articles

Bubble Trouble

In a 2009 book about the social consequences of the Internet, The Age of the Infovore , the economist and blogger Tyler Cowen argues that new technologies enable us to decide what information to consume and, as a result, to remake ourselves. Instead of reading the same newspaper or watching the same television news, we can use new technologies to choose an idiosyncratic mix of sources and create our own unique micro-economy of information that not only reflects our tastes but helps us continually reshape them. In his new book, The Filter Bubble , Eli Pariser looks at the same facts as Cowen but interprets them differently. What Cowen sees as enhancing individual autonomy, Pariser sees as restricting personal development. Instead of constructing personal micro-economies that allow us to make sense of complexity, we are turning media into a mirror that reflects our own prejudices back at us. Even worse, services like Google and Facebook distort the mirror so that it exaggerates our...

Do the Netroots Matter?

The progressive blogs and online networks have changed politics. But did they replace the media or win the 2008 election?

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press by Eric Boehlert, Free Press, 280 pages, $26.00 Netroots: Online Progressives and the Transformation of American Politics by Matthew R. Kerbel, Paradigm Publishers, 192 pages, $22.95 These should be good times for the netroots, the loose coalition of bloggers, MoveOn activists, and online organizers that sees itself as the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. A Democrat is president for the first time in eight years, after using the Internet to organize volunteers and raise vast amounts of money. The Democratic Party now has a genuinely national presence and is targeting states that it had once written off, while the Republicans are in organizational and ideological disarray. So why aren't the netroots happier about Barack Obama's victory and the political transformations accompanying it? Part of the explanation is that they weren't invited to the party. As Eric Boeh-lert observes in the last (and best) chapter...

Can Partisanship Save Citizenship?

In the 1990s, reformers and academics worried about how to improve civic life. They didn't foresee that technology combined with party politics would renew civic engagement.

Public intellectuals don't agree on much. However, in recent years they seemed to nearly unanimously believe that American public life was in terrible shape. Political scientists debated whether voter turnout in national elections was merely stagnant or was actively declining. Sociologists suggested that television, overwork, and a breakdown in communal ties were undermining participation in both public and social life. There was chronic hand-wringing about the state of political debate, with civic activists proposing that America needed more deliberative dialogue among people with different points of view. These worries blossomed in the 1990s and continued to grow in the Bush years but now seem badly off target. Voter turnout in 2004 and 2008 was higher than it has been since the 1960s. The Obama campaign mobilized unprecedented numbers of volunteers. A thriving, if contentious public sphere has emerged on the Internet. Young people who a decade ago were volunteering in direct-...