Tag: Arno Mayer

Why, when it comes to the Right, do we ignore events, contingency, and high politics?: What Arno Mayer Taught Me

One of the many reasons I resist the Trump-as-fascist argument is that it often leads to (or accompanies) an inattention to or eclipse of matters of high politics and elite action: the jockeying for position at the highest levels of state, the coalitions and fractures within the dominant regime, the day-to-day events in which policy gets formed and unformed. There’s no intrinsic reason that an invocation of fascism should require that inattention; the best historical studies of fascism don’t ignore these questions at all. In the American context, however, the invocation of that parallel—whether to McCarthyism or now to Trump—often does. The reason for that, I suspect, is that most people tend to think of fascism as primarily a form of mass politics, that […]

What Michael Rogin means to me, particularly in the Age of Trump: Traditional politics matters!

A Facebook post by Lisa Duggan reminds me of the power of Michael Rogin’s book The Intellectuals and McCarthy. Though it’s less famous and influential than Rogin’s later book Ronald Reagan, The Movie, The Intellectuals and McCarthy was a formative text in my own development. It came at a critical moment in my thinking—either the year before I went to graduate school or in my first year of graduate school—and permanently left its mark. In his book on McCarthy, Rogin took aim at historians like Richard Hofstadter and social theorists like Daniel Bell who had argued that McCarthyism was essentially a form of irrational mass politics, a midcentury American populism that, though right-wing, was the inheritor of left-wing movements like the Populists or Young Bob LaFollette’s movement in the 1920s […]

On Islamist Terror and the Left

Glenn Greenwald speaks to and rebuts a rhetorical move that’s become common across the political spectrum: when it’s pointed out that US and European foreign policy makes some contribution toward radicalizing Muslim populations, including the turn to terrorism, the response is that anyone who makes such a claim is: a) denying the agency and autonomy of terrorists; b) overlooking the role of religion as an independent variable, which some want to see as completely unrelated to any other variable. You see this response increasingly among certain parts of the left, and Glenn shows why it’s wrong. I would add two points to Glenn’s analysis. First, with regard to the agency/autonomy claim, it surprises me that leftists would repeat an argument […]

Yom HaShoah: Three Readings

On Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, three readings. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: And night came, and it was such a night that one knew that human eyes would not witness it and survive. Everyone felt this: not one of the guards, neither Italian nor German, had the courage to come and see what men do when they know they have to die. All took leave from life in the manner which most suited them. Some praying, some deliberately drunk, others lustfully intoxicated for the last time. But the mothers stayed up to prepare the food for the journey with tender care, and washed their children and packed the luggage; and at dawn the barbed wire was full of children’s […]

Persistence of the Old Regime

The death of Otto von Habsburg, the man once slated to be Emperor of Austria-Hungary, reminds us just how recent the destruction of Europe’s old order really is.  Up until World War I—some would say the end of World War II—Europe was still in thrall to its feudal past. (Otto was the eldest son of Charles I, who ascended to the Hapsburg throne at the tail end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.) Landed aristocracies possessed inordinate political and military power, furnishing what Joseph Schumpeter called the “steel frame” of bourgeois capitalism. Academics like me often wield the term “modernity” as if it describes a centuries-old formation, but the fact is: a great part of Europe only became modern—in the sense of […]