The Clare Spark Blog

June 16, 2017

Populist “momentum”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:57 pm


Rereading Lawrence Goodwyn’s THE POPULIST MOMENT (1978), a must-read for graduate students in US history.

I now may understand why the New Left veterans support what is obviously a petit bourgeois movement, devoid of working class identity, but nailing “finance capital.” There is a belief that “cultural” factors such as a loss of deference can lead to more searching critiques of society that could lead to transformational politics. This belief in momentum explains why Daniel Greenfield and other conservatives call social democrats “radicals.”

Goodwyn uses the phrase “cultural radicals” to characterize the Populists and Greenbackers. That aligns him with the cultural anthropology that has taken over economic determinism that characterized the writing of massive progressive histories of American history and that was foreshadowed by the Wilsonian progressives Charles and Mary Beard during the Jazz Age (The Rise of American Civilization,1927).

Competition and individualism bad, cooperation and collectivism good.

Hence we can understand why New Left intellectuals would support “race” and “gender” black power or girl power collectivist movements, rejecting individual differences among the groups that the New Left academics support.

It is true that populism was the most radical movement in US history. But if my intuition is correct, the leftward momentum theory would explain the generational support for the Democratic Party that we can observe today.

We are all populists now, claiming the mantle of “the people.”


Transl. from Japanese on


April 27, 2019

Re-reading Herman Melville, re-reading myself as Melville scholar/historian

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 11:55 pm

Being a perfectionist (like other upwardly-mobile middle class kids) I worried whether or not my big book, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (2001, and second edition paperback 2006), had errors of interpretation, now that I had become a classical liberal, instead of a quasi-Marxist. So I reread those major works that constituted “the Melville problem.” Though most of the scholars had recognized the difficulty of Melville’s texts: his blending of aristocratic and radical values often noted as (confusing) ambiguity and ambivalence, I had criticized their legit researches as propaganda for corporatist liberalism, a perplexing ideology to which I was strongly opposed at the time.

That was mostly wrong, and I apologize to those few who are still alive. If they didn’t have my particular historical indoctrination that was their training as literary critics, whereas I picked up the New Left emphasis on racism, but often failed to see it where it plainly existed in Melville’s short stories and novels. Melville’s texts could not be fit into any “socialist” proclivities. whereas the whole Melville, a sort of mirror to myself, was too much the family-proud aristocrat for that. Focusing on his pity for “suffering humanity” did not make him any the less of a snob, subject to the same social pressures as I had been; I.e. HM was a conflicted bourgeois though masculine (thus was more adventurous than even this educated “girl”).

Moreover, I did not pick up on his identification with a pro-slavery Agrarian Southern elite. Of course, he thought that we were all slaves, which could have been a projection for all of us.

So did that make him unique, ideologically speaking? What about his attitude toward a single truth? That comes out in his ambivalence toward Captain Ahab (in my view, his character Ahab was a radical Enlightener.) I make no apologies for that reading, for even in his post-Civil War crypto-Catholic Clarel (1876) he was still troubled by the conflict that beset the 19th Century: the antagonism between (materialist) science and (mystical) religion. Moreover, he had lost both his sons, then his favorite (?) sister and mother before the lengthy poem was published..

Recently, I came across a (liberal?) interpretation of HM’s politics as “alt-Right”! This gets me to my final point: that there  is not much difference between our time and HM’s (mid-19th C.) Yes, there have been unanticipated advances in technology and industrialization, but the same old ambiguities and ambivalences beset the artist, even a surpassingly great one such as Herman Melville.hunting-captain-ahab-psychological-warfare-melville-revival-clare-spark-paperback-cover-arthunting-captain-ahab-psychological-warfare-melville-revival-clare-spark-paperback-cover-art

April 20, 2019

Mark Levin, the Mueller Report and the moderate men

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:50 pm


The sometimes vehement Mark Levin, lawyer, author, and commentator on the Constitution, had a field day commenting on the inner contradictions of the Mueller Report on Fox and Friends (4-19-19). He vindicated my own musings that collusion with Russia was the point of the two-year Mueller investigation, and therefore that the liberals, by pouncing on the obstruction matter, was superfluous and demonstrated bad faith. By so doing, he challenged the moderate men: he was off the (Fox/ Wall Street Journal) reservation.

The rest of this blog deals with what passes for “moderation.” It proposes that FNC operates within the parameters of “fair and balanced” discourse that tilts it toward Democratic politics. “Liberals,” like a few “moderate” conservatives,” eschew the search for truth in favor of (irrational) compromise, multiculturalism, postmodernism, and “civility” in favor of “many truths,” depending on race, class, and gender. Similarly, they advocate “unity” and the “living Constitution,” thus delivering a mixed message (how can there be “healing” a structural divide?)

Levin didn’t do this on 4-19-19. He further violated the moderate code by raising his voice, suggesting excessive love toward the original Constitution. In so doing, he violated the tenets of moderate pseudo-democracy: politeness and “rationality.”

April 6, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:47 pm

To those practiced in the law, motives are limited: one is not indicted for mixed motives, but according to one offense against “the people.” But historians and ordinary people are not so fortunate as to be able to pin down often complex motivation, such as sibling rivalry or Oedipal/Electral urgings welling up from the unconscious that may affect crimes against the truth.

Political and psychological motives, however reduced by some politicos, are examples of complexity. Sophisticates frown at long-distance diagnoses of mental states. This no-no is often characteristic of liberals, who often elevate feelings over (rational?) considerations, such as science/materialism/empiricism or religious values including “family” loyalty. (This latter complicates the heated debate over “immigration,” both legal and illegal.)

Conservative resistance to what passes for “feminism” may be added to this list; i.e., the flap over Joe Biden’s “touching” objected to by many women, as if the female objectors must be “feminists.”

Is it not obvious that politicians and/or citizens of both Left and Right both plump for “unity/”the American people” as if this collective entity should have the same motives? What ever happened to individuals or to good or bad institutions?

March 31, 2019

Is there such a thing as “the American people”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:38 pm

American people

Of course we are bound together; as FB friend and lawyer Harry Lewis has reminded me, “the American people” is a legal concept dating from the American War of Independence. As such it asserted itself against Britain. But at a time of drastic polarization between laissez-faire and social democracy/communism, it worth asking about it as a concept.

I suppose that there is, insofar as “the American people” refers to participation in “Western civilization.” (That is, to capitalism, the rule of law, and the value of the individual; though much ink has been spilled to argue against “imperialism” and/or” cultural relativism.)

The phrase “the American people” is of course an example of the collectivist discourse that capitalism sought to displace with the concept of the individual (dissenting or not), and that fight is undermined by the German Romantic conception of “multiculturalism,” now hegemonic, including at Fox. It subsumes the supposedly “racist” conception of individual choice, because we must partake of cultural relativism and mystical identity with a group.(I have called this “groupiness” in anti-imperialist rhetoric.) As such, multiculturalism is a mixed-message, typical of (late?) capitalism facing “socialist” challenges to its rule.

I began worrying about collectivist discourses in graduate school, as it seemed to me that the notion of a unified “working class” erased the individual worker as we had clearly not made the transition to anything resembling communism, and as a sort of leftist, I was supposed to consider the working class as a fighting unit, But my bourgeois upbringing was at stake. Later on, as I tackled world history and US history, I saw that “individualism” was something new in the world, invented by the late 18th Century. Thus it is not surprising that collectivist discourses reasserted themselves through such mystifying conceptions as “the American people.”

Is it any wonder that such confusion persists today, to infect our uniquely American culture? We should tell the children in civics classes.

March 18, 2019

Unity as a problem

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:37 pm

assassins unity

We long for inner unity in order to reconcile the warring parts of ourselves, thus it is a reliable propaganda strategy, adopted by both Right and Left. The Marxist Left wants unity as solidarity with the working-class majority, while the Right and “moderates” (compromisers) seem concerned with the perfectly loving unified family, Never-Trump-ers and other deviants from the President’s agenda.

In the wake of the New Zealand Muslim massacre, their elected leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, stated that “we are united by grief.”

Fox News Channel (in its move toward the Left) declared that “white supremacy” (as opposed to China-style authoritarianism, admitted by a few Fox anchors) was responsible for the shooting spree that took 60 lives.

Nobody blamed the intrinsic polarization (disunity) conferred by multiculturalism. See (As I have explained Herder was a racist, see

But Democrats and most Republicans regularly denounce “racism,” which contradicts the longed for solidarity/unity.

Does “tolerance” (aka MC) amplify or diminish our recognition of ambivalence and ambiguity? Is the Behaviorist objection to ideological conceptions of unity the primary reason for anti-Freudianism?

Integration, like unity means to overcome divisions. Isn’t this a contradiction?

March 14, 2019

“Narcissistic personality” explanation for latest college scam

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 4:37 pm

The notion that narcs are responsible for bribing coaches in pursuit of personality aggrandizement is the latest fallout from the “scam” bomb. J’accuse television personality Dr. Drew Pinsky of this generalization.

Is the old fight between individualism and collectivism behind this diagnosis? After all, Dr. Pinsky (who has appeared on the Greg Gutfeld show on Fox) should be an avatar of individual distinction, for Pinsky is flawlessly bourgeois. Since time out of mind, discourses were tribal (collectivist). Enter bourgeois revolution in the late 18th century (the American and French Revolutions) that highlighted individual rights and talents.

The recoil against such “individualism” came quickly from “traditionalists,” who emphasized collectivism. Although Sigmund Freud (who both attacked and defended the family), I don’t remember any reference to “narcissism” in Freud’s writings. Indeed, he was frequently condemned as pan-sexual.

So I am wondering what prompted Dr. Drew (who has written about the turn toward narcissism in his latest book) to nail the narcs in this latest instance of corruption among the bourgeoisie, most notably female actresses.

(It should be clear that I am criticizing the diagnosis of narcissism and not defending the conduct of those arrivistes (?):the wealthy scammers who bribed their way into the colleges that would supposedly enhance their class positions.

March 4, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 2:49 pm

No matter how I kvetch, there is no diminution of “Jew-hatred.”

The Clare Spark Blog

Lodz Arthur Szyk, Lodz, Poland, ca 1939; This blog will try to address the Pittsburg massacre. Why am I not surprised by misleading reactions on MSM, that collapse the specific and varied features of antisemitism into “hate”? Since I began this blog I have stressed as comprehensively as I am able a few of the attitudes toward Jews and Jewry; here are some of the subjects that I have raised:

1. Vast numbers of anti-Semites and well-meaning persons of all religions are resentful of modernity that apparently emancipated dirty Jews and “bad” women. Not many scholars have studied this confluence of antisemitism and misogyny.

2. The contrast between rooted cosmopolitans and the “rootless” kind. Tyrants of all types believe in the reality of blood and soil. The detached seeker after truth is a threat to illegitimate authority.

3. The failure to understand these images of the bad Jew: a…

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February 7, 2019

Socialism or social democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:32 pm

This blog is about the misnaming of “Socialism” for “Communism.” For instance, Seth Barron in City Journal, 2/7/19 wrote, praising the President’s SOTU speech: “The last few months have seen an ascendency of socialist ideas about wealth, property, and the role of the state. Suddenly, the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street and Z Magazine has gone mainstream, with prominent Democrats demanding confiscatory federal taxes on wealth, the abolition of the private health-insurance industry, and centralization of planning and production.”

Barron makes a case for “Socialism” as communism, but his prescription is reminiscent of the New Deal (which was also statist and confiscatory through high taxes, though it did not institute a single-payer health plan). And 1930s liberals did tar their laissez-faire opponents as “fascists,” just as some current liberals have done, though there is some evidence (in Shirer) that FDR sympathized with Nazis; but less controversially, with (statist) Italian Fascists.

Fox has also erred by hinting that the new Socialism in the Democratic Party is communistic, though, briefly, Fox has noted that Socialism existed in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

It should be obvious that there has been no call among the “Leftist” Democratic candidates for a revolution in property relations that would place all economic decisions in the State among a collection of bureaucrats (though a single-payer health plan would do just that).

Rather, the “Left” candidates who seek to unseat the President in 2020 seem to view themselves through the lens of identity politics and populism, since the 1960s, the chief planks in the Democratic agenda.


February 3, 2019

The hypocrisy of some “anti-racists”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:08 pm

were-different-were-the-same The media are falling all over themselves to denounce the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam for his alleged racism (while denying the serious gaffe regarding what amounts to infanticide: an obvious sign of privileging racism over my feminist concerns, but I must comment about Northam’s current emphasis on his anti-racism.

1. The first comment is about the salience of the race issue. There was a history of racism in the United States, not only affecting blacks. To deny this is ludicrous. The question is how we historicize it. Black nationalists want to claim that there has been little progress, and that such changes as affirmative action do nothing to remedy the condition of the black masses or of the presence of “white supremacy.” Is Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of integration irrelevant? Slavery has been over since the Civil War. Nevertheless, discrimination has been alleviated at least since the advent of mild reforms (although little has been done about anti-Semitism for obvious reasons). Nor has much been accomplished to denounce the very concept of racial difference.

2. The now defunct Yankee Doodle Society, in its effort to demonstrate that popular American composers and related figures sometimes fed into the regnant racism and [feebler] anti-racism (a project of both myself and the co-founder of YDS, Joseph Byrd). We were as concerned with other variables, namely sexual repression, authoritarian family influences, class differences and “the war against Nature.” Racism was held to be enmeshed in other instances of the status quo. More, the 19th century minstrel shows are occasionally defended as populist, as a reproach to the snobby upper classes.

3. It is odd that some defenders of “diversity” have failed to notice blackface in the tribute to Bojangles In Harlem dance number in Swingtime (1937), or the “Coon Song” in another popular movie (Meet Me In Saint Louis, 1944), especially as Northam’s Nickname was “Coon” for some time.

January 29, 2019

The assimilation debate (testing cultural nationalism)

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:26 pm


When the civil rights movement emerged in the 1960s, it was sometimes labeled as fascist. Today, there is a flap over whether or not Tom Brokaw and a Duke professor are going too far when they call for Hispanics to learn English as part of their assimilation. This very short blog is about the coercive aspects of separatist social movements, grounded in fantasies of reparations.

The original 60s civil rights movement was integrationist, as inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.. although there were fringe movements following separatist Marcus Garvey (in the 1920s) claiming to be “fascist” and before that, Henry Highland Garnett (in the 19th century).

The Chicano movement, as led by social democratic Cesar Chavez demanded unionization, not the return of the Southwest and California to Mexico. But the Democratic Party recently have gone over to separatism, with its antagonism to assimilation.

Multiculturalism has changed all that, and its racist content has been noted constantly on this website.

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