Tag Archives: Daniel Larison

Another prize! And other news of the blog and the book

5 Jan

Clio Awards 2011 - writerThe blog has won another award!  Cliopatra, the history blog at the History News Network, has awarded me its “Best Writer” award.  Here’s what the judges said:

Corey Robin’s new blog, CoreyRobin.com, has rapidly become a *tour de force*. Robin joins battle with contemporary issues by way of a deep engagement with the history of political thought. Although he is a passionate partisan of the left, he takes conservative thinkers seriously. Several of them have returned the favor, including Andrew Sullivan, who regularly uses Robin’s provocative posts as a launching pad for his own blogging, and Bruce Bartlett, who recently debated Robin at CoreyRobin.com. All that, and Robin’s words sparkle with a crafty combination of intelligence and wit. He is the quintessential public intellectual for the digital age.

Having majored in history as an undergraduate—my teachers included John Murrin, Lawrence Stone, Arno Mayer, Robert Darnton, James McPherson, and Reid Mitchell—and having always envied the ironic humanism of the historian’s craft (and wished we had more of it in political science, along with a greater sensitivity to time and historical context), I’m especially grateful to have won this recognition from the top blog in the historical profession.

This is the second prize this blog has won; the first was the 3 Quarks Daily 3rd prize (“Charm Quark”) for “best writing in politics and social science.”

More blog stuff

That Ron Paul post I wrote is getting a lot of attention and generating lots of discussion. Not only on the comments thread, which you should definitely check out, but on a Daily Kos post by David Mizner, the progressive writer and activist; in this Glenn Greenwald post; this Digby post; this rethink from Elias Isquith; and this acidulous—I’ve always wanted to use that word!—squib from Freddie DeBoer, whose blog you should also check out.  It’s also just been reposted at Al Jazeera English, where I suspect it will generate even more discussion.  And on Twitter, well, all hell has broken loose.  This is just one of the many tweets I received in response to the post: “your article is wrong on all accounts your a shill just regurgitating what the lame stream media keep feeding the Americ. public”.  There you go.


In addition to that appearance on “Up With Chris Hayes“—someone just alerted me to the eye roll, caught on tape at 16:20, that I did in response to the foolish claim of one of the conservative guests that Prussian aristocrats opposed Hitler—there’s a really good, if I do say so myself, two-part interview that Philip Pilkington did with me over at nakedcapitalism.com.  Part I is here, Part II is here. Thanks to Phil’s excellent questions, I manage to talk about some thing that aren’t in the book or that I haven’t discussed much in public: how I came to write the book, Burke’s thoughts on theater and costumes, the future of the GOP, and more.


Back in November, there was a mixed but generally positive review of the book in Times Higher Education. The reviewer—Joanna Bourke, a cultural historian (whose book on fear, in fact, I negatively reviewed in the New Statesman a long time ago)—said, “This little book will continue to spark controversy, but that is not the reason to read it: it is a witty, erudite and opinionated account of one of the most significant movements of our times.”

John Quiggin, an Australian economist who actually knows something about political theory, did a nice post on the book, on his blog and at Crooked Timber. Lots of comments on both.

There’s also Mark Lilla’s review in the New York Review of Books. As I said in a previous post, I’ll be responding in due course, so I won’t say anything here. But in the meantime, as one young intellectual historian put it on a blog, “Bashing Lilla’s review of Robin’s book seems to be the newest internet meme.” He’s not kidding. Political theorist Alex Gourevitch weighed in at Jacobin; Henry Farrell, a political scientist with a strong interest in theory, at Crooked Timber; and intellectual historian Andrew Hartman at U.S. Intellectual History. There’s also been some further commentary on—or inspired—by the review, positive and negative, from Ben Alpers, Andrew Sullivan, Daniel Larison, Matt Yglesias, 3 Quarks Daily, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose interesting post prompted this response from me.  According to intellectual historian Tim Lacy, “I’m wondering if Robin’s book won’t also become something of an instant classic. I say this because you don’t attract high-profile ire from the likes of Mark Lilla unless you hit a nerve.” Here’s hoping.

And last, some further mentions of the book, in passing, from Andrew Sullivan, and, more substantively, from Paul Rosenberg.

In Which I Talk to a Conservative about His Reactionary Mind

3 Nov

Daniel Larison is just about one of the smartest conservatives around. He’s a writer and editor at The American Conservative*, has got a PhD from the University of Chicago and a sensibility that hearkens back to Peter Vierick and the Southern Agrarians: anti-imperial, leery of corporate capitalism, regionalist, and fiercely independent. He’s one of the most scathing critics of the Republican Party and contemporary conservatism around, and he’s not afraid to call people out on their foolishness, even when they’re (putatively) on his side. Yet he still manages to get high praise from his peers on the right.

So, naturally, when The New Inquiry—an online venture described by Jonathan Lethem as “evidence of book culture’s lastingly bright futureoffered to put me in dialogue with Daniel about my book, I leaped at the chance. What ensued was a free-wheeling and substantive—very substantive—exchange over the course of several weeks: about conservatism, counterrevolution, fascism, imperialism, and more.

That dialogue has now been posted.  Here’s a taste:

Larison: We agree that conservatives seek restoration of an earlier order from which they believe they and those like them benefited, or from those parts that might still be restored. Something that also links most political counterrevolutionaries is an insistence on defending what they consider legitimate authorities from usurpers, and in the Anglo-American experience that has most often taken the form of appeals to constitutional tradition. I don’t think there’s any question that conservatives react against revolutions to protect privileges and interests. (Are they any political actors who are not acting, at some level, out of self-interest?) But there is also a concern to preserve lawful rule to provide for the common good.

Robin: You say that you agree that conservatives seek to restore an order of privilege from which they benefit but which also benefits the common good by providing a system of “lawful rule.” Here, I am actually more generous — if that’s the word — to conservatives as theoreticians than perhaps you are. Because, as I take great pains to stress throughout my book, the leading lights of conservatism are often themselves not implicated in the systems of rule that they are defending. Often they are outsiders and/or newcomers to established modes of privilege and rule….While I agree that the conservative’s argument is on behalf of a common order that is supposed to benefit the whole, I don’t think it’s lawfulness per se that is seen as the keystone benefit. What conservatives value about the order they defend is that it is one in which excellence rules. The rule of the better over the worse is critical, I think, to the conservative imagination. That is the law conservatives value above all else, and indeed, they have proven themselves to be quite hostile to laws that undermine that rule… The law that conservatives value is a kind of natural law in which the best rise to the top, through struggle and adversity, and prove their mettle.

Keep reading here. To my mind, the whole exchange is a model of how two writers of opposite persuasions can talk seriously and substantively about matters of vital—and partisan—interest to both of them.

* That’s the quirky  publication that reviewed my book and, in the highest praise I could ever hope for from the right, said of me: “I feel sure that if trapped on a desert island with the man, I should soon commit suicide.” Which prompted a good friend of mine to write: “If that’s all it takes to make the Right go lemming-like off a cliff into the sea, then by god Corey, you are the secret weapon the Left’s been waiting for. To the island!” Relax, it was just a joke.


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