YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

January 20, 2013

An awesome Inauguration

Nation_cover_journalismHere are two paragraphs from the late Jacob L. Talmon’s final book on political messianism (Myth of the Nation and Vision of Revolution):

“The general and increasing preoccupation with the nation’s rights, needs and grievances, the brooding over its identity and its past, its fate and its manifest destiny, the reflections on its moments of glory and its failures and defeats were every case a journey into bygone ages, a reckoning with ancestors, a communing with the myth of the nation. No wonder the [19th] century produced such a flowering of the historical sciences and of a literature and art that set out to serve as a mirror to the nation’s soul and a portrait of its modes of existence. National cults grew up and spread, replete with myths, symbols, rites, liturgy, commemoration, and heroes and saint’s days, parades and displays, artistic effects and hypnotic suggestiveness. [Compare to today's pageantry and the invocation of the Nation, http://clarespark.com/2013/01/21/citizen-obama-political-pluralism-and-the-elusive-search-for-unity/. CS, 1-21-13]

“All these tendencies fed upon and in turn promoted the far-reaching change in the image of man from that bequeathed by the Enlightenment. Far from constituting the basic element and goal of society, from being his own autonomous lawgiver and free and equal partner to the social contract, as he was seen in the eighteenth century, man was made to appear more and more a function of collective forces, past traditions, the social setting, the organizational framework, the spirit of the nation, the Zeitgeist, the milieu, group mentality, finally the race. No longer a free agent in making choices, the individual was shown to be in the grip of compulsive urges and aversions, automatically re-enacting ingrained modes of behavior and reflexes. In brief, the individual was portrayed as the plaything of the unconscious and the hereditary, a mere abstraction when pitted against the collective forces deposited in the whole to which he belonged, above all, in the nation [Talmon is not referring to Freud here, but probably to Pareto, a great favorite of some Harvard professors in the 1930s, CS]. Not man, therefore, but the nation, was the measure of all things, and the dominion of the dead was depicted as infinitely more potent than the deliberate decisions of the living. Indeed, this state of affairs was made the condition of social cohesion, political stability and the health of the nation. …Every nation was a world of its own, a unique blend. Since it fashioned countless men and determined their fate and well-being, the nation’s interests, the imperatives of its particular situation, the conditions favoring its survival, cohesion, strength and influence contained its truth, morality and justice. The latter were perspectives, not objective data.” (my emphasis, pp. 544-545)

Talmon associates these counter-Enlightenment tendencies as culminating in “integral nationalism” a characteristic of both Fascism and Nazism. If Talmon’s analysis is correct, then multiculturalism and perspectivism, inventions of the rooted cosmopolitans of Germany (Herder  and his followers) who greatly influenced 20th century pedagogy in America, should be seen in the strategy of the “moderate” Right, not to either classical liberalism or to  libertarianism in either major political party, or in the scholarly search for truth.

inauguration-intro-615cs011113

How then should we see Fox News Channel’s coverage of the second Obama inauguration?  Is this supposed vindication of the eighteenth century Constitution awesome, as in remarkable and admirable, or should we return to the words original meaning: awe-inspiring as terrifying. As Charles Sumner awesomely asked in the nineteenth century “Are We A Nation?” And how do we know (e.g. this weekend) when we are not fascists?  See (http://clarespark.com/2012/01/28/popular-sovereignty-on-the-ropes/)

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4 Comments »

  1. [...] new multicultural VOLK. (For a lucid explanation of the organic nation beloved of the far right see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/, in which I quote Jacob Talmon’s clear explanation of that [...]

    Pingback by Proto-fascism and the Democrat “people’s community” | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 21, 2013 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

  2. [...] identities and rule by Platonic guardians. (For more on the “integral nation” see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/.) Indeed, many of Roosevelt’s social psychologists and sociologists were busy looting Hitler’s [...]

    Pingback by Orwell, Power, and the ‘Totalitarian’ State | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 7, 2013 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  3. [...] in terms that can only be described as anti-pluralist and either socialist or proto-fascist (see http://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/).  If Citizen Obama has his way, political pluralism will give way to one party dictatorship, [...]

    Pingback by Citizen Obama, political pluralism and the elusive search for Unity « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 21, 2013 @ 9:22 pm | Reply


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