I’ll be on C-SPAN this weekend

Just a quick heads-up to say that I’m going to be on Book-TV/C-SPAN 2 this weekend.  S.E. Cupp, who’s a conservative journalist and television commentator, interviews me about The Reactionary Mind. Unlike many interviewers, Cupp actually read the book (I saw all the yellow post-it’s on her copy). And we have a fun Marshall McLuhan/Annie Hall moment, in which Cupp emails Phyllis Schlafly to ask her what she thinks about my argument about Schlafly; the grande dame of the right replies!  The show will be broadcast four times:

Saturday, November 12, 10 pm

Sunday, November 13, 9 pm

Monday, November 14, 2 am

Monday, November 14, 3 am

Check it out and let me know what you think.  In the meantime…



  1. rolandrjs November 11, 2011 at 6:59 pm | #

    Should be fun, looking forward to it.

  2. Paisley Currah November 12, 2011 at 6:46 am | #

    For us cable-less people, is it on the web?

  3. Toby Bartlett November 12, 2011 at 11:01 am | #

    Corey, there is a synchronicity at work here. I was just trying to explain this exact scene to a friend who is not a big Woody fan. After I re watched the clip though, I really noticed how much was going on in the scene, things I had missed the first couple times I watched it. My DVR is revved up for the 10PM showing – I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Intergalactic Ross Royce November 12, 2011 at 11:17 pm | #

    Your interview was very interesting, I look foward to reading your blog and picking up a copy of your book. I was very interested in your argument that conservative political beliefs and practices come from a deeply personal place. I was very impressed by how you were able to frame conservatism as a mindful response to movements of change. This framing is so much more lucid and clear than the dismissive descriptions ive been given about the why of conservative beliefs and practices. Keep Writing buddy.

  5. bruce November 13, 2011 at 12:48 am | #

    I enjoyed the interview, and you seemed to have great rapport with her. I think you could have defended the vibrancy of the left a little more — we’re hardly still arguing about fur and vegans, and #OWS is certainly vibrant. she seemed to fluster you when she asked you why none of her liberal friends liked her. Lots of fun.

    I’m considering taking part in your online Hayak Seminar… but is the really the most important dense text to struggle through right now for left activist-intellectuals? How about Keynes?

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm | #

      Please do take part when the time comes. You should read Keynes too! This isn’t an either/or.

  6. Gobineau November 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm | #

    One thing that is refreshing about your approach is that you acknowledge the multivalent nature of the right. Too many leftists have preconceived assumptions about what right-wingers believe, and don’t know how to approach right-wingers who don’t fit that mold if they even know that such people exist. You, at least, are willing to recognize that rightists can be capitalist or anti-capitalist, nationalist or anti-nationalist, religious or irreligious, and so on. And as someone who identifies as a heterodox right-winger, I agree that the fundamental divide between right and left is on their view of human equality.

    On the other hand, I think you dwell so much on the common ground that right-wingers share that you lose sight of their very real differences. As an agnostic Nietzschean, I come into conflict often with devoutly religious conservatives, most of whom do take their religion seriously. In fact, I find most aspects of the “social conservative” platform (anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, abstinence-only, etc.) rather silly and easily become frustrated with people who see these issues as the gravest threats facing Western civilization. Similar divides are found between other right-wing factions.

    I’ve also noticed that many on the left are reluctant to concede that Nietzsche was “on the other side of the barricade.” When I first read through his works, I accepted the widespread myth, propagated by Walter Kaufmann, that he was an “apolitical aesthete” or something along those lines. Yet it was Nietzsche that “converted” me to the right. I think a relatively impartial reading clearly reveals what his agenda was and the right-wing nature of it. As I read through more right-wing literature, I would even claim that it is impossible to understand the twentieth century European right without a solid grasp of Nietzsche. And if I were to name the thinker that represents the right-wing mind in its purest, most eloquent and most sophisticated form, it would be Nietzsche, not Burke.

    This doesn’t mean that a leftist can’t scavenge his texts to find stuff that they like, of course. But then just because Antonio Gramsci has influenced some right-wingers, like Alain De Benoist, doesn’t mean that Gramsci himself wasn’t a Marxist, y’know?

    I would also recommend that you check out the works of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. A few of them are available for free on the Mises website. He criticizes many right-wingers, with justice, for allowing their positions to be shaped by the left and thus led to reactive positions such as militarism. He also shares your thesis that the widespread appeal of racism and nationalism lies in the fact that it makes an aristocracy out of an entire group of people.

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:03 pm | #

      I quite agree with you about Nietzsche. More so with time, in fact. Will be writing about him more in the coming years, I hope.

  7. Gobineau November 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm | #

    Another interesting case study would be Soren Kierkegaard, who is another major philosopher whose conservative politics often get overlooked. His work needs to be in the context of the 1848 revolutions and events leading up to them, in the same way Nietzsche needs to be read against the Paris Commune.

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm | #

      I hadn’t thought about him at all and know very little about his actual politics. His writings certainly influenced many on the right (and the left as well, actually).

  8. p November 14, 2011 at 1:01 am | #

    Happened to catch the interview this evening. (Lawdee, CPAN couldnt do better with a host?) Towards the end, right before the Schlafly part, I wondered where Tocqueville fits in your project: a reactionary for sure but one more accommodating than your “radical” portrait of “conservatism” perhaps? Gonna buy the book!

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:05 pm | #

      yes, buy it! Tocqueville was fairly ambivalent politically though in 1848 he found his true calling as a hard-core counterrevolutionary. I also write him about him at length in my first book, Fear: The History of a Political Idea.

  9. sixthpartysystem November 14, 2011 at 4:20 am | #

    your c-span interview was very thought-provoking. Something that did not get mentioned was when S.E. Cupp claimed that the more relaxed the gun laws, the safer the neighborhood, which is a classic empirical data error. There are a tremendous amount of confounding factors that go into low versus high crime area, such as population density, demographic makeup, regional location, and economic level. It is important to call conservatives on the use of false/incorrect facts. Sometimes it is intentional, which it obviously was with Mrs. Cupp, who knows better than that, but sometimes they are simply ignorant to the truth.

    Also, rights are quite obviously a left-wing set of ideas. The second amendment was neither a right-wing or left-wing right, it was a self-defense/national duty given to citizens if the state was unable to protect them (due to the recency of wars on domestic soil). Protection from the government had nothing to do with it.

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm | #

      I figured that was true but since I didn’t have the data handy or in my head — and it’s not critical to my argument — I let it go.

  10. Michael November 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm | #

    I enjoyed your interview on CSpan; it’s rare that viewers (of *television*) get to see a reasoned discussion of the philosophy of political movements. (Or at least for more than 30 to 90 seconds.) The interview made me interested in your book.

    A point that I became stuck upon (and perhaps I don’t have the philosophical background to argue it) was the ideas of “things as they are” (I believe that was credited to Nietzche) and the idea of the rights of the individual (the discussion about protection of property and family). I feel like those ideas are very American ones and that they don’t actually work in the settings of societies 200 or more years ago. I don’t think of societies without much personal property or where class is locked in by tradition as being ones where people think they have a “right” to their personal belongings or even personhood. I also wonder about the influence of religion on this attitude, which I would call a kind of religious fatalism. But again – as I say – that may be a lack of scholarship on my part.

    • Corey Robin November 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm | #

      You’re right that the notions of rights, particularly as we understand them, are fairly recent. I don’t think they’re especially American, though. There is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was influenced by many non-American sources and traditions. Conservatism, like rights, is also of fairly recent (historically speaking) vintage.

  11. Anne & Gene Feldman November 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm | #

    We thought the interviewer’s questions made it difficult for anyone who had not run the book to grasp what the philosophy behind your book was. Perhaps we lack the necessary background but we found much of the hour confusing–the assumption seems to be that everyone watching has read the book–we have not although it is on our shelf for reading in the very near future.

  12. Deb November 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm | #

    I’ve also noticed that many on the left are reluctant to concede that Nietzsche was “on the other side of the barricade.”

    Nietzsche loathed ‘levellers’ and ‘preachers of equality’. His credo was ‘“Equality for equals, inequality for unequals”—that would be the true voice of justice’.

    I wondered where Tocqueville fits in your project: a reactionary for sure but one more accommodating than your “radical” portrait of “conservatism” perhaps?

    Tocqueville was a modernizing ‘conservative-liberal’ who accepted most of the changes ushered in by the French Revolution. He was not someone hankering for a return of the Bourbons. His method of reinjecting hierarchy into a putatively egalitarian society was much more sophisticated and well-concealed. Of course, like his counterpart John Stuart Mill, their finely argued writings were applicable only to (propertied) European men–or ideally European women also for Mill. For the “barbaric races” under French and British rule, all bets were off and rule by the gun or satraps was the preferred approach, which would make them liberals at home, reactionaries abroad, I suppose.

    Interpreters have created a certain Tocqueville, one who slips easily into the main dialogue of American politics between self-designated liberals and conservatives, with each camp claiming him as its own. To the one he is a “liberal conservative” who values freedom as well as property rights; to the other he is a “conservative liberal” who is alert to the dangers of “too much democracy” and who commiserates with the burdens borne by political elites, not the least of which is the periodic invasion of the political realm by the masses.

  13. Erstwhile Anthropologist November 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm | #

    Apropos of the comments on Nietzsche and racism turning an an entire racial group into an aristocracy, I am wondering about the ways in which the conservative world view might be held across the political spectrum, by those on both the so-called Left and Right, and might be functions of patriarchy and white supremacy in general (i.e. As institutions–in the way Mary Douglass defined them in her book How Institutions think; or as ‘discursive formations’ on the parlance of Michel Foucault). Your work on the reactionary mind could be put into productive tension with Susan Bordo’s work in UnBearable Weight: this is to say that Bordo’s exegesis of the anorexic not as a discrete break from the norm, but as the outlier on a spectrum of dieting behaviors and bodily self-evaluations shared by all women, is an analytic that could be used, in conjunction with your analysis of conservatism, to understand why even self-professed liberals/progressives–or just those who claim to be ‘colirblind’–still engage in what John Dovidio terms ‘aversive racism’. I bring this up in relation to this blog post (http://www.racialicious.com/2011/11/15/yes-there-are-black-people-in-your-hunger-games-the-strange-case-of-rue-cinna/#more-18966) which reminded me both of the assumptions underlying Anne Coulter’s ‘our blacks’ quip and reminded me of the responses to this post which mentioned Nietzsche and racial aristocracy. There seems to be a de facto–even if implicit, unconscious, and unintended–enunciation of racial aristocracy in the excerpted Facebook comments: are all the commenters conservative? And if not, what might this say about the ink between ‘the reactionary mind’–especially in a post-slave (based on *racial* slavery, post-colonial settler society like the US) and white supremacy (e.g. the US as a de facto white-supremacist nation, in the way that Hollywood is a de facto white-supremacist industry/institution–especially in light of non-colorblind casting policies, the demographics of its top executives, writers, directors; broader patterns of representation and non/representation. The comments that the Facebook commenters make in the blog post to which I have linked provide what think is an interesting, even if orthogonal, incitement to discourse in relation to the link between conservatism (and why the US is far more conservative than Europe) and sentiments of/belief in racial aristocracy. I know that many will be enraged by my description of the US as a white-supremacist nation, but it is an accurate description relative to the definitions of institution and discursive formation I referenced. I think your argument about conservatism as rooted in a fundamental belief in different, hierarchically ranked, classes of people is trenchant and spot-on: people just really need to be more honest (with themselves especially) a out the fundaments of this belief in hierarchy and how widespread, deep, systematic, structured and structuring, and overdetermined and overdetermining it actually is. And I think this is what the Excerpted Facebook comments illuminate. I think the extent to which these commenters admitted that they understand and perceive universal humanity, goodness, intelligence, beauty, and competence in white/racial terms is instructive on relation to the premises of The Reactionary Mind, and the success of (American) conservatism. I think this is worth thinking about in relation to the radicalization of poverty and criminality, and the way this radicalization has been the engine for much of the political success of the Right, especially post-Civil Rights. The admitted inability of the aforementioned Facebook commenters to relate to oor imagine the two characters being discussed as ‘like them’– to be able to ‘relate to them’–affirms espoused Hollywood rationale for being wary of greenlighting ‘mainstream’ movies with (‘too many’) black leads. This question of a racialized ‘relatability’ (as well as a radicalized relationally) has deep implications for the potential support for/of both liberal/progressive and conservative/regressive politics: and especially for a Rawlsian theory of justice. A radicalized world in which one cannot imagine oneself–or fundamentally relate to–a radicalized Other is not one with the profound capacity for progressive change. So it is noteworthy to me that the Occupy movement frames itself both as a social justice movement and as “We are the 99%”. When police brutality, unemployment, downward social mobility, and predatory lending practices were perceived/framed as only affecting a (radicalized) minority, they were not getting the same attention, political traction/mobilization, or public outcry–however much they were social justice issues then too.

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