Tag Archives: Elias Isquith

Reactionary Mindz

24 Mar


“If he can run his household, he can run the country. Amen!”

Haley Harris, Rick Santorum supporter and chanteuse, profiled in today’s New York Times (h/t Elias Isquith)

“In order to keep the state out of the hands of the people, it is necessary to keep the family out of the hands of women and children.”

Louis de Bonald, French counterrevolutionary quoted in The Reactionary Mind

Baubles, Bangles, and Tweets: Reactions to The Reactionary Mind

1 Oct


On Thursday, September 29, The Reactionary Mind was officially launched.  Because of Rosh Hashanah—Shanah Tovah to all of you!—I haven’t been able to keep up with the whirlwind of commentary and activity around the book.  With time, I hope to have lengthier, more substantive responses to the thought-provoking reactions I’ve read.  But in the meantime, I just wanted to give you all a quick roundup and a reminder.

First, the reminder: I’m doing a public conversation with Chris Hayes over at the CUNY Graduate Center on Thursday, October 6, at 7 pm.  Details here. Come early; seating may be tight.

Onto the reactions.


Salon interviewed me about the book and contemporary conservatism more generally. Salt Lake City’s NPR station did an interview with me. Doug Henwood interviewed me for his show, which airs on KPFA in Berkeley.  This week,  I’m going to be interviewed for the C-SPAN Book TV show After Words; once I get a link, I’ll post it.


Thanks to that guest post I did over at Mike Konczal’s Rortybomb, which you might have read here on the blog, the book has gotten the attention of some heavy-hitters in the blogosphere, with combined readerships of, well, a lot of people.

Andrew Sullivan, whose writings have served as an immensely useful provocation to me throughout the decade, offered a thoughtful response.

Digby’s forensic analyses of the Democrats and the Republicans have been keeping me sane for the last half-decade or so.  She also responded, twice, with some very nice shout-outs for the book.

Everyone’s saying that Robin’s new book on this very subject, The Reactionary Mind is awesome.

We’ve been mulling this over for some time and I still don’t have adequate answer to the problem. But I think I might be edging toward some insight in reading Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. I’ll keep you posted.

You should also check out the comments on both of Digby’s posts and on the guest post I did for Mike as well.

James Kwak also offered some reflections on the book. His post then got picked up by Truthout, guaranteeing an even wider audience of readers.

Elias Isquith did yet another post on the book, the fourth of a series of fascinating posts in which Isquith takes up a particular theme of the book and applies it to some contemporary issue, whether it be the death penalty or the GOP’s obsession with cunnilingus (I’m not kidding). I’ve really enjoyed watching him work his way through the book, and seeing what he does with it.  I think you will too.

Over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Scott Lemieux used The Reactionary Mind to launch a lengthy discussion of David Brooks and college sports.  Some of you know how I feel about sports, of any kind, but I’ll take the props however I can get ‘em.


But by far, my favorite piece of news:  Don’t know if you’ve been following the Occupy Wall Street protests, but they’ve slowly begun to capture the imagination of America and the world. Apparently, they have a library down there.  Charles Petersen, who copy edited the book, tweeted over the holiday that “@CoreyRobin ‘The Reactionary Mind’ at the #occupywallstreet library.” Caleb Crain, who writes lovely essays for the New Yorker, tweeted “Also spotted in the @occupywallst library: John Dewey, Noam Chomsky, @CoreyRobin.”  Couldn’t ask to be in better company. And here’s the photodocumentary evidence:

The Reactionary Mind at Occupy Wall Street

Speaking of tweets, I did catch this one, from the formidable Brad DeLong, just before the holiday: “Finished reading The Reactionary Mind : Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin by Corey Robin.” Would love to hear what he thinks…

What’s so Liberal about Neoliberalism? An homage to my sister’s father-in-law*

3 Sep

My apologies for the light posting over the past three weeks. I’ve been on vacation and am now at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in lovely Seattle. Next week will probably see some light posting as well: it’s the first week of preschool for my daughter, which involves a delicately orchestrated four days of “transition” in which I have to be either onsite or on call throughout the day. So much for school taking children off the hands of their parents…

While I take up residence in toddlerville, here’s something to chew on.

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a new rule stipulating that employers have to post notices in their workplaces informing workers of their right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. The government will provide the modestly sized posters for free. Even so, the bosses—and the conservatives who speak for them—are furious.

Here are some of the reactions:

“Just when we thought we had seen it all from the NLRB, it has reached a new low in its zeal to punish small-business owners.”

“Out of control.”

“Arbitrary” and “capricious.”

Some Republicans are using this latest outrage to push for defunding the NLRB.

Remember: this is just a rule requiring employers to inform employees of their legal rights. When I say that the last 40 years of conservative politics is about the restoration of feudalism, this is what I’m talking about.

Too often, leftists and radicals agree with conservatives that the promotion of free-market capitalism is about promoting liberal individualism and individual rights. Conservatives are supposed to like that, leftists not so much.

But capitalists and the conservatives who speak for them have nothing but hostility for the exercise of those rights. After all, what is the right to join a union but a concatenation of the classic 1st Amendment rights: freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and the implicit freedom of association that goes with those rights? It also has happens to be one of the rights set out in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Capital does recognize one right: its right to control the hearts, minds, and bodies of labor, which it calls the right of property but which I prefer to call by its proper name: feudalism. Or neo-feudalism if you want to get fancy about it.

As always, Karen Orren’s Belated Feudalism is the indispensable text. Though also check out this new book, Feudal America: Elements of the Middle Ages in Contemporary Society by Vladimir Shlapentokh and Joshua Woods, just released by Penn State University Press. It examines a far wider range of feudal practices in contemporary America: gated communites, private security firms, and the like.

* * * * *

* Sam Lerner, father of my brother-in-law Bennett and a reader of this blog, asked in response to an earlier post, “Whence the label neoliberal? Not sure I like diluting the coin of the proressive realm. Offers solace to free market capitalists who would like to believe they are social democrats at heart.” I replied:

It’s kind of a term of art which probably has a lot more resonance in Europe than here. As you probably know liberalism has a very different meaning in Europe than in the US. It arose in the 19th century and was very much allied with the free market and classical economics. Left-wing critics of the market in Europe took some variety of the socialist banner, and there were a fair number of critics on the right as well. So liberalism remained permanently allied with the idea of the free market there. Then when the free market got a new lease on life during the 1970s, it took the name neoliberal. It has an odd ring in the US, I realize, but it’s somewhat accurate if you’re trying to speak across the borders of one country. Because even in the US there was a movement in the 1970s of people called neoliberals who were members of the Democratic Party (Gary Hart, Bruce Babbitt, Robert Reich in fact) and were pushing the party to be more receptive to markets and less focused on the state. Some called them “Atari Democrats.” They were also critical in pushing for deregulation (in fact, Teddy Kennedy — along with Stephen Breyer, of Supreme Court fame, and Ralph Nader — pushed for deregulation in Congress as early as 1975). So the term is not completely unhelpful.

But I take the force of Sam’s point, and, as I argue above, there’s a basic animus against fundamental liberal principles in neoliberalism that needs to be confronted.


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