Tag: Jean Bethke Elshtain

The History of Fear, Part 5

I’m back today with part 5 of my intellectual history of fear. After my posts on Hobbes (rational fear), Montesquieu (despotic terror), Tocqueville (democratic anxiety), and Arendt (total terror), we’re ready to turn to more recent theories of fear, which arose in the 1980s and 1990s, in the wake of the conservative backlash against the 1960s and the collapse of communism. In my book on fear, I divide these recent theories into two broad camps: the liberalism of anxiety and the liberalism of terror. The first camp tracks communitarian liberalism (or liberal communitarianism) as well as some influential arguments about identity and civil society; the second camp tracks what is often called political liberalism or negative liberalism, and it includes […]

Jean Bethke Elshtain Was No Realist

The political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain has died. Many people were fans of her work; I was not. In her early scholarship, Elshtain established herself as a distinctive voice: feminist, Laschian, Arendtian. By the mid to late 1990s, however, she had descended into cliche.  As she dipped deeper into the well of communitarian anxiety, she would come up with stuff like “the center simply will not hold.” When she worried about the loss of historical memory, she would say “we are always boats moving against the current, ‘borne back ceaselessly into the past.’” Every sentence felt like a windup to an inevitable, unsurprising conclusion. Any author or topic she mentioned, you knew the exact quote she was going to pull. […]

Protocols of Machismo, Part 2: On the Hidden Connection Between Henry Kissinger and Liza Minnelli

Yesterday, I posted Part 1 of this excerpt from Chapter 9 of The Reactionary Mind. Today, I post Part 2. • • • • •   What is it about being a great power that renders the imagining of its own demise so potent? Why, despite all the strictures about the prudent and rational use of force, are those powers so quick to resort to it? Perhaps it is because there is something deeply appealing about the idea of disaster, about manfully confronting and mastering catastrophe. For disaster and catastrophe can summon a nation, at least in theory, to plumb its deepest moral and political reserves, to have its mettle tested, on and off the battlefield. However much leaders and […]