Know Your Enemy

What's Wrong With Men?

Episode Summary

Matt and Sam explore the "crisis of masculinity" in America — reading books on the subject by Senator Josh Hawley and Harvard political theorist Harvey Mansfield.

Episode Notes

"Many men in this country are in crisis, and their ranks are swelling," Missouri Senator Josh Hawley said at the National Conservatism conference in 2021. "And that's not just a crisis for men. It's a crisis for the republic." 

Some version of this sentiment — that men are in trouble, adrift, or falling behind — is shared by writers and thinkers across the political spectrum. It's nearly impossible to open a magazine without finding an article about the state of manhood in America. Brookings Institution scholar Richard Reeves' 2022 book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It is a best-seller. Figures like Jordan Peterson and Andrew Tate attract huge audiences, serving as reactionary self-help gurus for young people eager to be told what a man is and how he should behave. One doesn't have to accept the right's framing of the problem — nor any kind of gender essentialism — to acknowledge the statistics: boys and men are falling behind in education, in work-force participation, and succumbing to drugs, alcoholism, and suicide. 

Hawley — apparently having stewed on the topic for two years — has just released a book on "manhood," which advises a revival of biblical virtues to guide the aimless young men of 21st century America. To pair with Hawley, we  read Harvey Mansfield's 2006 book on "manliness." Putting Hawley's evangelical Christian preaching in conversation with Mansfield's Straussian philosophical playfulness proved very constructive. Along the way, we talk about our own relationship to manhood and try to decide which (if any) of the virtues associated with maleness are worth preserving, defending, or even advising young men to embrace. 

Further reading: 

Harvey C. Mansfield, Manliness, Yale University Press, 2006.

Joshua Hawley, Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, Regnery, 2023. 

Joshua Hawley, "America's Epicurean Liberalism," National Affairs, Fall 2010.

Becca Rothfeld, "How to be a man? Josh Hawley has the (incoherent) answers," The Washington Post, May 18, 2023.  

Phil Christman, "What Is It Like to Be a Man?" Hedgehog Review, Summer 2018.

Martin Amis, "Return of the Male," London Review of Books, Dec 5, 1991. 

Martha Nussbaum, "Man Overboard," New Republic, June 22, 2006. 

Idrees Kahloon, "What's the Matter With Men?" The New Yorker, Jan 23, 2023.

Zoë Heller, "How Toxic Is Masculinity?" The New Yorker, Aug 1, 2022. 

Lisa Miller, "Tate-Pilled What a generation of boys have found in Andrew Tate’s extreme male gospel." New York Magazine, Mar 14, 2023. 

...and don't forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!