YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 29, 2015

Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962)

lassiz_faireI recently read Friedman’s magnum opus for the first time, and was surprised to see how far current Republican, conservative and libertarian politics have conceded to the progressivism that many of them abhor as excessively statist and even communistic. The Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Friedman) plays up Friedman’s divergence from Keynesian economics, which is true enough, but fails to note the novelty of his adherence to free market principles, given the domination of New Deal policies in postwar administrations, and in progressivism in general.

I have written before of the regression to medieval economics and culture, but now I must revise my old blogs, for Friedman’s big book made me realize that we have only partly emerged from the Late Middle Ages into modernity; that is how vanguard Friedman’s free market capitalism is, given his emphasis on equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of condition/outcomes.

In its first summary of his accomplishments, the Wiki condenses his contributions:

[Wiki:] “Friedman was an advisor to Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan[12] and Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His political philosophy extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with minimal intervention. He once stated that his role in eliminating U.S. conscription was his proudest accomplishment. In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax, and school vouchers. His support for school choice led him to found the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.” [End, Wikipedia excerpt]

[Clare:] A reader could have concluded that Friedman was an antagonist to Big Government, with its bloated bureaucracies, illegitimate claims to mandatory regulations, and obsession with “income inequality” and legislating minimum wages, but Wiki highlighted his most problematic view—that doctors were jacking up prices for medical care by monopolizing the field. (My sole objection to the abolition of licenses: before the market has done its work in expelling frauds, the patient may have suffered irreparable harm, even death. The same could be said with respect to harm to the environment: there is no room for trial and error when we entirely deregulate pollution, for instance. Indeed, Friedman declares that the case for deregulating medical care is the most difficult to allege.)

Wiki also downplays Friedman’s belief in both (limited) public and private sectors, instead (?) devoting much space to Friedman’s effects on the Chilean government after the Pinochet coup, perhaps a slap at classical liberalism tout court. But Wiki does acknowledge Friedman’s chief claim: that economic freedom is the necessary foundation of political freedom, and hence that Chile would eventually become more democratic.

To conclude, today’s Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, while embracing many of Friedman’s advocacy of free market principles, have a long way to go in meeting up with his thoroughgoing classical liberalism. For instance, in the “debates” (https://clarespark.com/2015/12/21/debates-as-pseudo-events-with-pseudo-moderators/), no moderators or candidates are taking up the necessity for school choice, or, for that matter, choice in general.

Apparently, religious orthodoxy, not Friedman-esque economic freedom, controls the Right in this election season, at least for the influential “social conservative” wing of the Party.


March 6, 2014

Crises: real and manufactured

MAD“What, me worry?” Someone looked up this blog, written last year on the D-Day anniversary. https://clarespark.com/2013/06/06/morale-in-the-time-of-crisis-overload/. D-Day, 6 June, 1944, was a true crisis, not a mass media manufactured one. This blog is about both real crises and those emergencies that are ideological in origin.

Giving too much weight to crises that are not “real” can affect physical and mental health, not to speak of where we should put our primary efforts in coping with problems, both personal and social. I got the idea for this blog after reading all of “U” a periodical put out by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Although positive in outlook, this important public health magazine is worried about the size of the Baby Boomer generation and the shortage of trained physicians who understand the needs of geriatric patients that is likely to result. It should be mentioned that this is a generally liberal magazine, optimistically progressive, reformist in tone, and certainly not alarmist, as they support ACA without reservation, including a warning about the pointless excessive cost of end of life critical care (i.e., death panels are not mentioned). As good multicultural liberals, they write to everyone (including veterans with PTSD and brain injuries), celebrating both recent discoveries in medicine (e.g. the Genome project, genetic sources of schizophrenia), and the healing power of “faith” and “happiness.”

And as good liberals, they published a letter from a doctor irate with the notion that faith heals, as opposed to science. But that letter is immediately followed by another celebrating faith and spirituality. There is no problem with the marketplace of ideas at UCLA, not here at least.

The rest of this blog lists some emergencies that I, from the distance of my years, can identify as real crises. Some are personal, some are social in origin. All affect personal and public health. As one example of a manufactured crisis, think of “anxiety and depression.” What sane person is not anxious and depressed given the real intertwined crises listed below in capital letters.


True of false? According to Marxist-Leninist theory, capitalism is in a permanent state of crisis, being a “weak and unstable system” [Hyman Minsky’s diagnosis]. For lefties I have known, such an emphasis on the past and future crises (that either should have led to socialism/communism, or are guides for future action, sans errors), can lead to a carelessness or minimizing of personal crises: the ageing and death of parents, divorces, troubled attachments to lovers, families and children. Such persons, it has been widely observed, are living in hopes of a future utopia, not a past Golden Age, as reactionaries do. Their Leninist critiques of the present tend to be framed as “will it advance the working-class revolution?”, or will this or that movement advance such disasters as “false consciousness” allegedly caused by mass media and consumerism. Or, they may infiltrate reformist groups such as environmentalism, in order to turn “Greens” into Reds. Such tactics can lead to alarm over irreversible climate change, an alarm that is intended to delegitimize current types of energy usage. Or, and this is the worst: leftists have bonded with Islamic jihadists on the theory that they are correct to destroy “imperialist” Israel.

Here are some crises that should receive more attention from those of us who give at least lip service to capitalism as either social democrats, neocons, libertarians, or conservatives. Each of these has preoccupied me for the last four or five years on the website. I will not attempt to specify the causes of the intertwined crises that I have emphasized, but I have no love for the progressive activist reading of the “living” Constitution.


*By including “the administered state” I do not imply that concern with progressive statism is not a crisis, but that it is the source of  most of the other crises as listed. In this I am following Richard Epstein’s new book The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government (Harvard UP, 2014). By including “postmodernism” I am agreeing with Epstein’s claim that all text are not inherently ambiguous, hence unresponsive to interpretation. This postulate of his is more significant than many would imagine.

March 2, 2013

“Free Speech” and the internet

Moreau's Prometheus

Moreau’s Prometheus

This is not the first time I have broached this subject. See https://clarespark.com/2010/04/04/what-is-truth/.

When Melville’s Captain Ahab exclaimed “Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines,” the author left the exact meaning of “truth” undefined. For many Christian readers of Moby-Dick, truth signified the truth of Christ the Saviour and Redeemer, hence Ahab must be a wicked blasphemer and opponent of God. But for secularists (including deists), truth signified empirical fact, ethical universalism, and human rights. In my view, the “fighting Quaker” Ahab was another Father Mapple, an abolitionist. Many “anticlericals” of the 18th C. railed against censorship by authoritarian religious institutions, but their notion of the truth was intended to protect their own writing; such as Voltaire scrambled, using either pen names or publishing anonymously.

Sometime during the research for my book on Herman Melville’s resuscitation between the wars in the 20th century, I read the collected letters of Abigail Adams, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. It was clear that for these three icons of U.S. history, free speech was not about libel or slander, but about the search for worldly truth. Similarly, Alexander Hamilton, in the Crosswell case, argued that “truth” should be the standard in cases of libel and slander; that plaintiffs had to prove that their targets were actually lying before crying foul. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/03/03/sluts-and-pigs/.)

Several centuries later, Walter Lippmann, worried about the propensities of the new mass media to spread propaganda distortions, suggested that a special class of intellectuals be developed to determine who was lying in controverted matters: controversies where the facts were faraway and otherwise hidden from citizens who would then be asked to vote on problems that were foreign to their direct experience. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)

When I was appointed Program Director of KPFK-FM (the local Pacifica station in Los Angeles) in February 1981, I was asked immediately to discipline a late-night young programmer who was enamored of punk rock music, and who was allegedly using language that could have cost us our broadcasting license. After warning him, he resisted, and I cancelled his show, irritating his listeners. This action was the least of my troubles at Pacifica, but it got me thinking about our using the phrase “free speech” as a rationale for supporting our famously “non-commercial” radio station.

Now with the internet and the widespread use of fake screen names to shield individuals from litigation or any exposure at all as they vent their dissatisfaction and hatred of individuals and policies, along with pressure from organized groups to control speech in public space ( see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/12/hate-hard-liberty-quick-fixes/, and https://clarespark.com/2011/05/26/who-is-a-racist-now/) the question of free speech remains a live, controverted issue. What do I think about it?

It seems to me that venting rage, either directly through insulting one’s opponents, or through catharsis by listening to or playing raucous music or watching horror films, is no substitute for the careful analysis of problems, whether these be personal or social in scope. Indeed, it may be counter-revolutionary and  destructive apart from the relief of yelling at one’s enemies du jour. Venting and kvetching is no substitute for thoughtful analysis and the labor of organizing opposition.

I used to warn my Pacifica radio listeners that contributing to the radio station was only the beginning of a lengthy process. Later I read Stephen Eric Bronner’s book on the political limitations of German Expressionism that made the same point. There are numerous intellectuals and would be journalists and bloggers who hope to make a living wagging fingers (on both the Left and Right), and some succeed brilliantly at it, but following them accomplishes nothing apart from feeling entirely alienated from their targets, whose different life experience and opinions should be understood as a required prelude to social/political action.

So I end up with a typical 18th C. Enlightenment (classical liberal) view of “the truth.” It is about discovery and innovation, especially the willingness to swim against all currents and to cherish memory and a more accurate history, letting chips fall. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/02/21/discovery-anxiety/.) If this be romantic defiance or an attack upon “unity” as many an order-loving leftist or conservative would have it, so much the better for romantic defiance. The urge to forget and to conform knows no ideological boundaries. But we warned: as fictional detective Bobby Goren warned at the end of one of his episodes on Law and Order Criminal Intent: “The search for truth is not for the faint-hearted.” It was an Ahab/Hamiltonian moment.

1960s Berkeley radicals

1960s Berkeley radicals

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, https://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.


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 (https://clarespark.com/2012/01/28/popular-sovereignty-on-the-ropes/)

December 12, 2012

White Rage, Black Surrogates

Jamie FoxxThis blog started out as a meditation upon a book about “caste sanctions” on the Negro written during the late 1950s, by Bertram P. Karon, a highly regarded Freudian clinical psychologist and psychometrician, who was writing about The Negro Personality: a rigorous investigations of the effects of culture (N.Y.: Springer Publishing Co., 1958).

Since Karon appeared to be yet another corporatist liberal, managing those blacks who were potential troublemakers, and since he cited psychologists and sociologists working in the Harvard tradition personified by Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, Henry A. Murray, and other propagators of adjustment to a society mottled by structural problems and deeply flawed institutions, I expected to assess his book negatively, focusing on his collectivist categories (the Southern Negro, the Northern Negro). Then I would refer the reader to those liberals who had enabled black nationalism, for reasons having little to do with improving the material condition of the black population. ( See https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.)

Particularly, I wanted to suggest that white people (and all women) were often angry and bottled up too, and might be using black rage as expressed say, by ‘comedians’ such as Jamie Foxx (who joked about killing all white people in a recent movie), or by the numerous gangsta rappers as surrogates for their own inexpressible rage. And this is a thought I hold to, for probably everyone has reasons to be angry, whether at “stable” families, divorcing parents, bosses, the government, schools, the human condition, etc. But, such strategies are yet another injustice perpetrated by white people and cooperated with by opportunistic, politically unserious black persons. As for violence and catharsis, it is an ancient technique deployed by elites to keep the lower orders in line. (For a blog on such “ritual rebellions” see https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retititled “Rappers, Primitivism, Ritual Rebellion.”)

But then I came upon some remarks in Karon’s conclusion that softened my own annoyance with his structural-functionalist pedigree. For instance, he responds to those who believe in a hopelessly imperfect “human nature” and hence are pessimistic about any amelioration in our condition (or worse, preposterously deny that there remains racism).

[Karon:] “…it is not necessary to create a perfect world, it is only necessary to create a perfectable one, in which things can be a little better than they are. Any partial improvement, it seems, will be reflected in a decrease in the human cost.” (p. 173)

I was especially moved by his concluding paragraph: “The contrast between northern and southern Negroes is striking: we are led to ask what protects the northern Negro’s personality. Perhaps the southern Negro, whose whole society tells him he is wrong even to resent his treatment, can never be completely sure that he isn’t wrong, nor can he bring himself to completely accept the treatment he receives. The northern Negro, on the other hand, may be made to suffer, but he feels that those who make him suffer are wrong, and he has a right to resent it. He is engaged in an unequal struggle which he may never win, but he knows that he is engaged in a struggle which is not hopeless. Apparently, being able to face the fact that one is being mistreated preserves a sense of personal integrity which, in turn, serves to ward off much of the destructive impact of oppressive experiences. It would seem that when we face the truth, the truth really does, to a large extent, set us free.” (p.175) Which is fine: we will be in touch with our angry feelings, but with no way forward to remove causes of oppression. ‘Free’ for what? If we want ameliorative politics, then we should not fail to address the structural causes of suffering, which entails stringent evaluation of all our institutions. Or is classical liberalism the best we can hope for?

Bertram P. Karon, Ph.D.

More recently, Dr. Bertram P. Karon has voiced unorthodox views on the possibilities of treating and curing schizophrenics with psychoanalytically oriented therapy, rejecting entirely the notion of genetic causes for paranoid schizophrenia. You can see his acceptance speech for an empathy award here, where he lays out his alternative treatment for schizophrenics. Big pharma won’t like it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tisFkl5gdtc.

March 27, 2011

Progressive mind-managers, ca. 1941-42


The following is an excerpt from Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, chapter two (slightly revised). I did not know when I wrote it how active Harvard University and other elite schools were in promoting interest in, and/or “tolerance” of the New Germany during the 1930s (see Stephen Norwood’s The Third Reich and the Ivory Tower)

Had Norwood’s book appeared earlier, I might have been less shocked by the formulations of Harvard- associated social psychologists and their “progressive” colleagues. For the continued relevance of Bateson’s communications theory, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reiss.

Staatsnation to Kulturnation. The official New Lights were formulated partly in opposition to the irreligious motions of radical psychologists in the late 1930s. For example, The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues was founded in 1936 as a pro-labor Progressive caucus of the American Psychological Association, vowing to disseminate the findings of social psychology to a broad public. Its First Yearbook was published in 1939, bearing the title Industrial Conflict: A Psychological Interpretation and included articles by Marxists, left-liberals, and conservatives in related disciplines who were sympathetic to the labor movement; one article helped workers and their allies to decode anti-labor propaganda disseminated by the Hearst newspapers. When the Second Yearbook, Civilian Morale appeared in 1942, there was little continuity with the more materialist group of authorities. One new presence was the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, originator of double bind theory, a diagnosis of structurally-induced schizophrenia. Bateson was not looking at the mixed-messages dispensed by corporatist liberals; rather, he held cold, rejecting-but-seductive mothers responsible for tying up and gagging their sons. Absent fathers were ordered home to block that Gorgon stare, redirecting the Libido away from red-hot, ice-cold mommas. In 1976, schizophrenia was still thought by Bateson followers to be caused by “the absence of anyone in the family, such as a strong and insightful father, who can intervene in the relationship between the mother and child and support the child in the face of the contradictions involved.”[i] (The Gorgon Face had already appeared in Weaver’s Melville biography of 1921.)

Bateson had been a member of the Committee for National Morale created in the summer of 1940 by art historian Arthur Upham Pope in the hope of founding a “federal morale service”; Bateson’s essay “Morale and National Character” pondered the tasks of Americans managing other societies.[ii] The concerns of anthropologist Bateson rhymed with those of the Texas populist three years earlier, especially in the matter of what Martin Dies more vulgarly called “class hatred.” Defending the beleaguered notion of national character, Bateson urged that his concept of bipolarity (“dominance-submission, succoring-dependence, and exhibitionism-spectatorship”) refine (or replace) the “simple bipolar differentiation” typical of “western cultures”:”…take for instance, Republican-Democrat, political Right-Left, sex differentiation, God and the devil, and so on. These peoples even try to impose a binary pattern upon phenomena which are not dual in nature–youth vs. age, labor vs. capital, mind vs. matter.” (my emph. Classical liberals and revolutionary socialists are in sharp disagreement over whether or not capital and labor are structurally at odds with one another. When I wrote my book, I was still writing from the left.)[iii]

Bateson, the hip pagan materialist, has rejected passé formulations like the mind-body dualism; thus we may give credence to his non-dualisms between labor and capital or youth and age. Like the rest of Civilian Morale, Bateson’s essay carried the same progressive “holistic” message as the Nation of 1919. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.) Jeffersonian comrades were spun from neo-Hamiltonian Federalists to unify the “national psyche,” abjuring caste and standing with “labor” by regulating rapacious capitalists, yet guaranteeing the sanctity of property; gently substituting “social science research” for “punitive attitudes.”[iv] Gardner Murphy contributed “Essentials For A Civilian Morale Program in American Democracy” to the collection, deploying a simile from geology to nudge his materialist colleagues off the margins: classes, only apparently at odds, he argued, were really like stalactites and stalagmites, each growing toward each other to “coalesce” in mid-air to form one big pillar (407-408). Murphy, a reader of Vernon Parrington, knew he had to reconcile thrusting “Jeffersonians,” the grass-roots, Bill of Rights-oriented folk, with stubborn Hamiltonian gentry types hanging from the ceiling. But Murphy was pulling a fast one: stalagmites do not emerge from the earth, thrusting upward toward coalescence; rather, stalagmites are very slowly layered with tiny limey drips over thousands of years; the same drips from on high produce the stalactite. When stalagmite and stalactite finally meet, they have not performed like groping bodies in the dark, finding each other at the moderate center to form a more perfect union.

Not to worry; as Murphy implied, inequality was actually natural and earthy because ethnic and religious minority groups have different and diverse “taste or aptitudes or aims” but could shake hands “within the common framework of a reachable goal” (419-420). “Dissidents” must be fed accurate facts to modify their habitual, misinformed (“skeptical,” 410) name-calling, and taken into the Big Barn of civilian morale-planners, trailing clouds of hydrogen sulfide behind them:”The minority-group member can be shown the specific contribution which he can make. His contribution may add to the more placid and bovine contribution of the co-working group. Not only in Congress and in the press, but in the planning of local morale work itself, there should be some acrid critics, not just to buy off the critics as a group, but to introduce some sulphur into the planning process (420, my emph.).”

Not that the minority-group member was demonic. As Bateson had explained, the natural dualism between God and the devil was an outmoded crotchet of Western culture. Ethical distinctions between good and evil had been transcended. The new dispensation juxtaposed different roles: some folks were led into dominance, succorance, and exhibitionism; others into submission, dependence, and spectatorship. The progressive psychologist of 1942, as Gardner Murphy explained it, would lead his newly-inclusive, newly-fertilized, newly-inspirited crew of planners into the open-ended quest to discover “a workable amount and form of private property and of private initiative.” (424, Murphy’s italics). Oddly, the newly-minted Jeffersonian was not flustered by the given fact that “the press, necessarily under our system [is] an organ of business….” (428); moreover Murphy regretted that Dr. Henry A. Murray’s proposal for a “federal department of social science” had met closed doors in Washington (429).

But what of acrid Ahab and his tic douloureux; where would they fit in? Murphy explained that [isolatoes] were happier in groups lauding interdependence and “group thinking”: it could be shown through “existing data and fresh experiments” that authoritarian controls within democratic structures would be appropriate because “leaderless groups, formless democracies, are ineffective or even frustrating” (422-424). But the plan was not “totalitarian, laissez-faire or Marxist” because of its “respect for individual differences and the welcoming of criticism.” The individual (leader) finds “resolution” in the context of “mutual interindividual trust” and in the process of “trying to mold the group to his will under conditions permitting the other members of the group to accept or reject such leadership.” In other words, you could take a plan or leave it, but if you were led to reject the leader’s vision, you might be returned to the toiling masses, which would make it easier, perhaps, for the others to find “resolution” of difference.

The socially responsible alchemists were joined by the Frankfurt School German-Jewish refugees in the early 1940s. Like other progressive productions in social psychology, the massive and numerous studies of the “authoritarian personality” by Adorno, Horkheimer et al, have transmuted objective conflicts of interest and rational responses to economic crises into symptoms of personal irresponsibility. The refugee philosophers, Marxist-Freudians to a man, explained that the character structure of the middle-class with its falsely feeling mass culture and yen for agitators produced mass death in the twentieth century.[v] The overall project of their critical theory was to discredit excessively liberal values while subtly accrediting the discourse and world-view of organic conservativism–re-baptised by T.W. Adorno as genuine liberalism, like Wordworth’s “genuine liberty”(The Prelude, XIV, 132 [vi]), antidote to the protofascist “authoritarian personality.”[vii]

I speak in recollection of a time
When the bodily eye, every stage of life
The most despotic of our senses, gained
Such strength in me as often held my mind
In absolute dominion. Gladly here,
Entering upon abstruser argument,
Could I endeavour to unfold the means
Which Nature studiously employs to thwart
This tyranny, summons all the senses each
To counteract the other, and themselves,
And makes them all, and the objects with which all
Are conversant, subservient in their turn
To the great ends of Liberty and Power. (XIV, 127-139)
…I remember well
That in life’s every-day appearances
I seemed about this time to gain clear sight
Of a new world–a world, too, that was fit
To be transmitted, and to other eyes
Made visible; as ruled by those fixed laws
Whence spiritual dignity originates,
Which do both give it being and maintain
A balance, an ennobling interchange
Of action from without and from within;
The excellence, pure function, and best power
Both of the objects seen, and eye that sees. ( William Wordsworth, “The Prelude,” XIV, 367-378)

According to the Kleinian psychoanalytic theory of “projective identification” the self projects forbidden aggression into an external object which must be controlled. In the case of the upwardly mobile middle class, their (contemptible essentially Jewish or female) will to power is supposedly projected upon the (useful) Jews. Stubborn adherence to non-dualisms was identified with scapegoating, obviously a bad thing for mental health. Social psychologist Gordon Allport denounced group prejudice in his frequently reprinted Freedom Pamphlet of 1948, The ABC’s of Scapegoating. [viii] Allport advised Americans to adjust to pluralism by looking inside to check their “moral cancer” (7). Whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business’ ” (like Allport?), and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating FDR (26). Allport’s pamphlet is illuminated by comparison with the worksheets he earlier devised with Dr. Henry A. Murray for the Harvard seminar Psychological Problems in Morale (1941), meant to be disseminated to “private organizations” throughout the nation. As part of the Harvard Defense Council, the seminar was to be “an important component in a general program of coordinated research.”[ix] The materials for the course consisted of one short red-bound typescript, and numerous stapled worksheets, each methodically dealing with some aspect of propaganda, including a summary of Hitler’s personality and psychodynamics that would inform counter-propaganda. Hitler’s duplicity, irrationality and contempt for the masses was constantly compared with American rationality, which oddly enough, was derived from the protofascist and irrationalist social theorist, Vilfredo Pareto.[x]

In worksheet #4, “Determinants of Good and Bad Morale,” the authors outlined “aggressive needs in group coherence.”

First, there must be “outlets for grievances”: “Provision for the free expression of opinion improves morale.” Second, “scapegoat outlets” were another aid to good morale:”The direction of aggression against a subversive minority group may reduce tensions, and will be least disruptive if the scapegoat group is one which is in conflict with the total group in respect of major immediate aims. Aggression had better be directed against the external enemy, but if this is frustrated, or the group becomes apathetic, the subversive minority group may improve morale by either (1) reducing frustrated tensions of aggression or (2) reawakening aggression, or (3) displacing aggression away from intra-group aggression, or (4) displacing aggression away from the leaders of the group, if and when reversed [sic] are suffered (p.8).” [might the scapegoated group be “Jews”?]

I am suggesting that the ahistoric, irrationalist concept of “scapegoating” or “negative identity” cannot explain “prejudice”; rather, the pluralists are admitting there is no basis for unity in class societies whose politics are organized around national or ethnic “peaceful competition.” If the only unity is found in differing groups worshipping one “ideal self” (or artwork, which will, in practice, be designated by the elite), then the bad individualist like Melville will be attacked. Thou shalt not question the good parent’s benevolence or the possibility of “group adjustment” by reconfiguring the social structure along materialist, i.e., “Jacobin” lines. As Sartre noted in his wartime essay Anti-Semite and Jew, German unity was forged solely in the common project to remove the social irritant that prevented natural harmony. This “prejudice” against the Jewish intellect and its sulking reverence, so corrosive to “natural” family bonds, was specific to a pluralist society whose objective divisions could not be overcome without some measure of institutional transformation. The rooted cosmopolitanism of the moderate men, by definition masking class and gender conflicts with the bizarre notion of competing, yet peacefully co-existing, mutually adapting ethnic groups, is thus deceptive and discredits all science: its “pluralism” and “tolerance” attack the moral individual seeking common ground by straying outside the boundaries set by elites.

In the case of the Murray-Allport worksheets, those limits were scientistically delineated; the Jeffersonian tradition was co-opted and redefined in the indispensable “Values of the Past”: “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).” So much for the messianic republican mission and Wilsonian Progressivism. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. Although the authors had discarded the Wilsonian project, they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13).” But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible” (#4, 7).Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists.

The section “General Attitudes Toward Leaders” anticipated the criticism that American propaganda duplicated Nazi methods. First the authors warned “the less the faith in sources of information, the worse the morale.” The next item suggested “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”:”The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification (11).  By effective leadership the group’s latent communality may emerge through identification with the leader. If this smacks of the Führer-Prinzip, we would insist that
identification is a process common to all societies, and that what distinguishes the democratic leadership from the Nazi leadership is not the process of identification but the content of what is identified with. It is the function of the democratic leader to inspire confidence in the democratic way of life, in its value for the individual or the society and not mere identification with his person, or the mythical Volk (16).” (my emph.)

For the tolerant materialists Murray and Allport, as with David Hume before them, there is no foreordained clash between individuals and institutions, no economic relationships to undermine altruism and benevolence: man is naturally communal and “society” as a coherent entity, a collective subject, actually exists. The good leader is neither autocratic nor corrupt,“does not waver, is not self-seeking, is impartial, accepts good criticism” (#4, 10). As we have seen, tolerance, i.e., criticism of leadership, had its limits.[xi] Jefferson’s legacy had to be reinterpreted because critical support of political institutions in the Lockean-Jeffersonian-Freudian mode is not identical with “identification,” an unconscious process whereby primitive emotions of early childhood are transferred to all authority, coloring our ‘rational’ choices and judgments. Only the most rigorous and ongoing demystification and precise structural analysis (with few or no government secrets) could maintain institutional legitimacy for political theorists in the libertarian tradition, but, for the moderates, such claims to accurate readings as a prelude to reform were the sticky residue of the regicides. And where is the boundary between good and bad criticism? Alas, just as Martin Dies had suggested that the poor should tolerate the rich, Murray and Allport advised Americans to tolerate (or forget) “Failure in the Nation’s Past.” We must do better, of course.

The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation:”The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).” These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their book: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4).

Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community: “…far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4).

[Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups [the Jews complaining about Nazis?] are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5).” (Murray’s and Allport’s emph.)

And one such source of insecurity (i.e., subversion) was anti-war education and pacifism: “insofar as the disapproval of war was based on a rejection of imperialist patriotism, it engendered war-cynicism” (Red-bound typescript, 4). In other words, Murray and Allport were admitting that involvement in the war could not be legitimated as an anti-imperialist intervention, nor could there be any other appeal to reason. Leaders, past and present, would have to be idealized; all criticism bridled in the interest of “integration.” The disaffected should moderate their demands, settling for mitigation, not relief. And if, despite the neo-Progressive prescriptions, the road to national unity remained rocky, scapegoating, properly guided by social scientific principles, would certainly deflect aggression away from ruling groups.

[i] 87. See Carlos E. Sluzki and Donald C. Ransom, ed. Double Bind: The Foundation of The Communicational Approach to the Family (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1976), 11.

[ii] 88. The preface by Goodwin Watson reviewed the history of the Committee in the passive voice and with vagueness as to the politics of their group: “Concern with American morale in the face of a developing world crisis was evidenced at the meeting of the S.P.S.S.I. in September 1940. At that time a Committee on Morale was appointed, under the chairmanship of Professor Gardner Murphy. During the year 1940-41 interest in morale grew, and at the 1941 meetings several programs of the American Psychological Association and of the American Association for Applied Psychology were devoted to discussions of morale. In
accord with its purpose to communicate psychological findings on public questions, the S.P.S.S.I. decided in September 1941, to postpone some other yearbooks, and to concentrate immediate effort on a volume dealing with civilian morale. Professor Goodwin Watson of Teacher’s College Columbia University was appointed editor, and the book was planned in coordination with the president of the S.P.S.S.I., Professor Kurt Lewin, University of Iowa, and the Society’s secretary, Professor Theodore Newcomb, University of Michigan” (vi).

[iii]89.  Gregory Bateson, “Morale and National Character,” Civilian Morale: Second Yearbook of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, ed. Goodwin Watson (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1942), 71-91.

[iv] 90. See Goodwin Watson, “Five Factors in Morale,” Civilian Morale, 30-47, and Gardner Murphy, “Essentials for a Civilian Morale Program in American Democracy,” 405-436. According to Murphy, the federal morale service (designed for both temporary and permanent morale) fell through because it evoked the Creel Committee of WWI; Americans would have rejected “active propaganda,” preferring “patient discovery by Americans of what they really thought about the world predicament.” See Murphy, 426-427, 429.

[v]  91. See T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Anti-Semitism, A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel (New York.: International Universities Press, 1946): 125-138; Nathan W. Ackerman and Marie Jahoda, Anti-Semitism and Emotional Disorder (New York: Harper, 1950) and the other publications in the series “Studies in Prejudice” edited by Max Horkheimer and Samuel H. Flowerman, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.  See below for the links of their identity politics (usually attributed to Erik Erikson) to the Harvard/Chicago pragmatists:  Parsons and Lasswell. Cf. Hugh Seton-Watson, “The Age of Fascism and its Legacy,” International Fascism, ed. George L. Mosse (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979), 365. Hitler was only slightly indebted to the capitalists (who did not extensively fund him, or put him in power), and he soon brought them to heel. The irrationalist interpretation of Nazism as an outpouring of bad middle-class taste was followed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, defending modernism in its reconstruction of the Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937.

[vi] 92. Melville owned (and took with him on his 1860 Meteor voyage) The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth Together With A Description of the Country of the Lakes in the North of England, Now First Published with His Works, ed. Henry Reed (Phila.,1839). Some of his (surviving) annotations were discussed in Thomas F. Heffernan, “Melville and Wordsworth,” American Literature (Nov. 1977): 338-351. There is no mention of “The Prelude.” Hershel Parker states that Duyckinck brought the Appleton proof sheets of the poem to the Berkshires in 1850, and even reviewed it, but that neither he nor Melville read the poem at that time; see Parker, “Melville & The Berkshires,” American Literature: The New England Heritage , eds. James Nagel and Richard Astro (New York: Garland Publishing, 1981), 68. Parker suggests that Melville’s sympathies for the suffering poor were inspired by Wordsworth’s cottagers and his own professional or personal traumas of the early 1850s (78-79), while Heffernan noted the importance of  “The Excursion” to Clarel (351), a work displaying “the similarity of moral and religious concerns.”

[vii]  93. See T.W. Adorno et al, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), 71, 781-783. The “Genuine Liberal” type is anti-totalitarian and free of narcissism; in Adorno’s appropriation of Freud, the genuine liberal possesses “that balance between superego, ego, and id which Freud deemed ideal” (71). Adorno’s example of the type is a politically naive, but frank and independent twenty-one year old  woman, not given to ultra-femininity/feminine wiles; she is the daughter of a hiring manager at a railroad; in the family sexual division of labor, her loving mother represents emotions, her father, facts. She is religious (“Perhaps we will all be saved”) and reads Plato for Utopian inspiration. When asked how she felt about Negroes and Jews, she was “guided by the idea of the individual,” but she wouldn’t want to marry a Negro with dark skin or a man with a big nose. However, as a nurse’s aid, she did not object to caring for Negro patients. Adorno quotes her “joke” [what would Freud have said?]: “Maybe if the Jews get in power they would liquidate the majority! That’s not smart. Because we would fight back.” Admirably free of bigotry, she is also free of “repression with regard to her feelings toward her father: ‘I want to marry someone just like my father’ ” (783).  Distinguishing themselves from “manipulative” fascists, the authors, in their concluding sentence, prescribe an antithetical appeal to the emotions: “…we need not suppose that appeal to emotion belongs to those who strive in the direction of fascism, while democratic propaganda must limit itself to reason and restraint. If fear and destructiveness are the major emotional sources of fascism, eros belongs mainly to democracy” (976).  Henry A. Murray’s Thematic Apperception Test was used by Adorno’s colleagues creating “the F-scale” (the potential for fascist behavior);  Murray’s and Lasswell’s books are recommended in the bibliography.

[viii] 94. Gordon Allport, ABC’s of Scapegoating (New York: Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, 1983, ninth rev.ed., first publ. 1948).

[ix] 95. Gardner Murphy, Civilian Morale, 427.

[x] 96. Murray-Allport worksheet #16, “Psychology of Influence (Education Persuasion) Applied to Morale Building in America,” 13.

[xi]   97. David Hume had confidently asserted that unpredictability enters politics when factions are infiltrated by radical religion; by triumphalist hypermoralistic, hyper-rationalist puritan extremists: the link between cause and effect would no longer be obvious. See History of England, Vol. 6, year 1617. The Hume entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971, presents Hume as a philosopher whose major contribution was his demonstration that there could be no theory of reality, no verification for our assertions of causality. Faced with the necessity of action we rely upon our habit of association and (subjective) beliefs. And yet Hume is described as a thinker who saw philosophy as “the inductive science of human nature.” He is not  described as a moderate or a Tory.

August 15, 2010

Nazis exhibit Der ewige Jude, 1937

Jullius Streicher’s rage

For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/16/good-jews-bad-jews-and-wandering-jews/.]

On November 8, 1937, the Nazis opened a Fair in the German Museum at Munich to commemorate the fourteenth anniversary of The Beer-Hall Putsch.  The show was entitled Der ewige Jude (variously translated as “The Wandering Jew” or “The Eternal Jew” in British and American newspapers).  In his study of British press coverage of Nazism, Andrew Sharf complained that Der ewige Jude had been incorrectly regarded by journalists “as yet another nasty aberration,” not as a sign of mainstream Nazi malice.  Sharf further noted that the Manchester Guardian was one of the few British newspapers to transmit the organizers’ declared intention: “the exhibition is educational in purpose and will show particularly why it was necessary to introduce the Nuremburg laws.”  Sharf thought that the Times had erred in their translation of the title:

” It is surprising that [they used “The Wandering Jew” instead of “The Eternal Jew”].  Can it have been due to the subconscious belief that an adjective so expressive of antiquity as the latter could scarcely have borne a derogatory meaning–even for the Nazis?”   [1]

Sharf is instructively wrong on this point.  There is no positive myth of “The Eternal Jew” contrasting with the negative image of “The Wandering Jew” as Sharf implies.  No European myth is benign or even neutral with regard to Jews or to the liberal values that Sharf wants to defend, nor can it be otherwise.  All Jews, including the “eternal” ones, are “bad”; the antithesis of Christian and Jew corresponds to the antipodes of Christian [organic] conservatism* and Jewish [classical] liberalism: (heartfelt) mysticism and (heartless) science, trust and withering skepticism, loyalty and betrayal, community and mob, busy bee and parasite, garden and wasteland.  “Good Jews” like Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, Cumberland’s Sheva, Walker’s Schechem, and Dickens’ Riah who appeared in the humanitarian literature of the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century were good only because they were more Christian than the bourgeois Christians who were behaving like Shylock and Fagin; capitalism purged of its Judas red-beards would presumably lose its heartless and exploitative character.  Christian landlords would never evict a tenant, Christian bankers would never foreclose a mortgage: this demented idea is fundamental to the völkisch revolution of Nazism,[2] but was not their invention.  Nazi anti-Semitism, then, was only partly about the considerable material advantages in expropriating Jewish property and expelling Jewish rivals: Nazis, to maintain their credibility as redeemers and protectors, would have to plunge a stake in the heart of the “demon Thought” (to use Byron’s expression).  For the antifascist critical mind is not found in a guilt-ridden Adam shrinking from conflict with illegitimate authority or from the perception of other irreconcilable conflicts.  Instead, the anti-Semitic/ anti-intellectual mind anxiously mystifies structural antagonisms by positing (an unattainable) harmony as “normal.”  Brandishing images of solidarity, the fascist bonds people only to “romance” in a false utopia necessarily maintained through deceit, terror and catharsis.

“Moderate” conservatives (including some Jews) have disabled themselves and their readers by discarding the tools of Enlightenment to embrace the myth of American classlessness: the “Holocaust” becomes strangely inexplicable: Germans are alien, irrational and muddled, to be sharply contrasted with the tolerant, rational Western democracies.  Take the following critical remarks of a revered figure in American Jewish history, describing the peculiarities of German anti-Semitism:

“The Jew could be represented as the embodiment of everything to be resented, feared, and despised.  He was a carrier of bolshevism, but curiously enough, he simultaneously stood for the liberal spirit of rotten western democracy.  Economically, he was both capitalist and socialist.  He was blamed as the indolent pacifist, but, by strange coincidence, he was also the eternal instigator to wars.”

Writing in 1946, Max Weinreich, Research Director of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, was agonized but unable to account for the historical record [Weinreich, 28]: How odd it all seemed that Germans could conflate capitalists and socialists.  Yet any streetwise empiricist could have told him that the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie brought forth a new class, the industrial proletariat; like its parent, arguing for emancipation in a discourse of natural rights; that the endlessly reproduced forgery of “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” had warned that Jewish agitators would dupe the suffering masses into throwing off their nationalist masters, only to deliver their victims to the newer and more deadly tyranny of finance capital or “the international Jew.”  In other words, [classical] liberalism was a confidence-game: scabrous Jewish “socialists” concealed their loyalty to one great poison spider.  In the antidemocratic, antimodern discourse of organic conservatives, the newly literate “lower orders” were bludgeoned with images of hypercritical Moral Mothers or greedy Rothschilds or Frankensteins or femmes fatales: they are versions of Eve big with Cain or Prometheus: versions of the modern bourgeoisie tied to its monstrous birth, tugged and tugging around the globe.  It is hard work not to see this.

Here and elsewhere on this website I compare the discourses of the “moderate men” who revived “Melville” with the European and American “moderates” (in all political factions) who paved the way for the rise of Hitler, and who today cannot or will not explain fascism (or corporatist liberalism) as a rational response to democratic social movements and the Universal Reason which classical liberals (but not corporatist liberals[3]) defend.  Instead, as we shall see, the “moderates” have delivered a history of Nazism that, while exculpating high Western culture, blames the moby-sentimental culture of the lower-middle class (including authoritarian workers) for both fascism and “the Holocaust”:  Hitler (like Ahab) is Poe’s “Man of the Crowd”; the feminized Byronic figure who bears the stigmata of “mass culture.”  In the struggle between Nazis and “the West,” however, romantic fascists and classicizing conservatives were not pitted against each other, as many “liberals” argue: rather, the battle, one that rages still, is between rival Appollonians, each faction claiming to be the sole legatee of science and Enlightenment.  Each side champions critical, independent thought; each side depicts its rival as “the shadow” bringing cancer (the lethal disease that initially masks its alien character to its fellow cells) to the body politic.[4]

[Dr. C.G. Jung diagnoses wasteland maladies, 1946:] As I said before, the upheaval of mass instincts corresponds to a compensatory move of the unconscious.  Such a move became possible because the conscious state of the people had become estranged from the natural laws of human existence.  Because of industrialization, large parts of the population became uprooted, and they were herded together in large centres.  And because of this new form of existence–with its mass psychology and its social dependence upon the fluctuations of markets and wages, an individual was created who was unstable, insecure, and suggestible…Germany…is by no means the only nation threatened by this dangerous germ.  The influence of mass psychology has spread far and wide.  It was the individual’s feeling of weakness, and indeed of non-existence, which was compensated by the upheaval of hitherto unknown desires for power…Nothing but materialism was preached by the highest intellectual authority….Hitler…was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities.  He was a highly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic individual, full of empty childish fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or guttersnipe.  He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this is another reason why they fell for him.[5]

The Christian legend of the Wandering Jew framed a Nazi multi-media event because Julius Streicher, chief organizer of Der ewige Jude, had correctly identified the time-tested bedtime story that puts the (hypercritical Jewish) mind to sleep: the preferred social theory for stress-managers seeking to distinguish their materialism and order from the chaos-producing delusions of “the Jews”: Jewish carnality, legalism, blindness and bigotry.  Like their Christian predecessors, (pagan) Nazis defined themselves against Jewish arch-refusers and murderers of the Good Father.[6] Nazis would expose ruthless, rootless cosmopolitans and coin-clippers to protect gentle, rooted, and upright workers and peasants from the deceptions of the confidence-men.  Julius Streicher, the martyred, peace-loving good father invited German children to avenge and rescue him before the next onslaught of Jewish sadism and murder.  Raul Hilberg quotes from “a typical Streicher speech to the Hitler youth” of June 22, 1935:

[Streicher:]     “Boys and girls, look back to a little more than ten years ago.  A war–the World War–had whirled over the peoples of the earth and had left in the end a heap of ruins.  Only one people remained victorious in this dreadful war, a people of whom Christ said its father is the devil.  That people had ruined the German nation in body and soul…[The rise of Hitler meant] the human race might be free again from this people which has wandered about the world for centuries and millenia, marked with the sign of Cain.

Boys and girls, even if the people say that the Jews were once the chosen people, do not believe it, but believe us when we say that the Jews are not a chosen people.  Because it cannot be that a chosen people should act among the peoples as the Jews do today.

A chosen people does not go into the world to make others work for them, to suck blood.  It does not go among the peoples to chase the peasants from the land.  It does not go among the people to make your fathers poor and drive them to despair.  A chosen people does not slay and torture animals to death.  A chosen people does not live by the sweat of others.  A chosen people joins the ranks of those who live because they work.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Boys and girls, for you we went to prison.  For you we have always suffered.  For you we had to accept mockery and insult, and became fighters against the Jewish people, against that organized body of world criminals, against whom already Christ had fought, the greatest anti-Semite of all times.” [7]

In the same issue of The New York Times that mocked “the exposition on the Eternal Jew” (11/9/37, 15), a front-page story datelined October 8, Berlin, reported that chaplains in the armed forces had warned the government that as a result of Nazi antichristian policies “the nation as a whole is now divided into two opposing camps.”  The people would fight for Germany, the chaplains predicted, but “with little confidence in their leaders.” This apparent legitimacy crisis (surely part of an ongoing need to promote the Nazis as the true humanitarians against the rival claims of both Christians and Jews) is part of the context in which we might consider the (public)[8] unleashing of Julius Streicher.  In George Mosse’s opinion, Streicher (who had been forced to withdraw his May 1934 Der Stürmer, a special issue on the blood libel or ritual murder) had initially been viewed as harmful to the “respectable” image of the Nazis.[9] Writing in the same vein, Robert Wistrich believes that conservative nationalists made distinctions between good and bad Jews: After their accession to power in 1933, Nazis were somewhat checked by the coalition with Hugenberg, von Papen, von Neurath and Schact (who would be ousted in the late 1930s, and who believed that radical anti-Semites should be curbed by Hitler to protect “useful” Jews).[10]

Although the headline in The New York Times wryly noted that Streicher was “twitted” by Goebbels after his opening speech at the 1937 festivities,[11] Streicher was no common pornographer or cranky extremist; he had already joined the ranks of those American and European Social Darwinist cultural historians, anthropologists, moralists and purity reformers who designed expositions and museums to uplift the masses and promote progress through science and technology. [12] And like his predecessors in the exposition and museum worlds, Streicher’s objective was avowedly eleemosynary: by annexing the well-worn and venerable Christian myth of the Wandering Jew, a story long accorded respectful treatment by European “greats,” perhaps Streicher thought he could demonstrate to nervous Germans that Jews were never “useful,” and that Jews, not Nazis, were the divisive forces, parasites and decadents hindering the blossoming of the “people’s community.”

Julius Streicher and other curators barraged audiences with “historical material”[13] while at the gala opening ceremonies, actors buttressed “the moral of the exposition” with the testimony of Luther, Bismarck, Goethe, Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg and an abridged Merchant of Venice to prove that Jewish dirt was fatal to blood everywhere, that a race of Shylocks would never be satisfied until it had extracted its pound of flesh.  The contemporary press reports of “Der ewige Jude” I have found in English give only tantalizing glimpses of Streicher’s X-rated method of adult education in physiognomy and prophecy:

[Press clips follow:]  Twenty rooms of the exhibition show “Jewish” noses, ears and lips a foot wide.  A wall is hung with immense photographs of Charlie Chaplin, Max Baer…Mr. Litvinoff, Stavisky, and others, with inscriptions like “Are these Englishmen, Americans, &c.?  No, Jews.”  In one room reserved for the foreign press is a huge poster reading, “How the English press is directed by Jews.”  Another room shows a replica of a Masonic lodge.  Only adults are admitted to the exhibition. [Manchester Guardian, Nov. 9, 1937, 14].

Jews who have contributed to Germany’s fame and prestige and to the service of humanity are pilloried, among them Heine, Mendelssohn, Borne, Einstein, Walter Rathenau, and Albert Ballin. [The [London] Times, Nov. 9, 1937, 15].

Julius Streicher, Nazi anti-Semitic leader, opened the exposition on “the Eternal Jew” here today with the statement that Jews are “children of the Devil” and with a threat “to bring to an end the reputation of eternal life possessed by this race of world criminals.”  The democratic form of government, which Herr Streicher also regards as criminal, he attributes to Jewish influence….The exposition contains historical material and citations from the Talmud and other works designed to prove that Jews are instructed to cheat and murder their non-Jewish neighbors. [New York Times].

[Julius Streicher, “the notorious Jew-baiter”:]  The Jew is a mongrel race mixed with the blood of Negroes, Mongols, and Nordic people.  They are the incorporation of the sin against the blood and destined never to work creatively.  The Jewish people at all times were the destroyers of good….Bolshevism is the most brutal revelation of this Jewish desire to rule the world. [Manchester Guardian].

The Times account (like the New York Times) played off the extremist Streicher against the moderate and gentlemanly Dr. Goebbels, whose blood curdled upon viewing a film “showing the Jewish method of ritual slaughter,” but who nevertheless reassured the 3,000 present (including leading Party men) that “the exhibition was not a ‘demagogic or propaganda one,’ but if they as Nazis, and consequently as anti-Semites were to bring together all the material they had against the Jews, this, he thought, would be rendering the world a service.”  The reporter did not measure the full extent of Nazi beneficence, particularly in Streicher’s inspired grasp of the demand for euthanasia latent in the myth of the romantic Wandering Jew, the guilty victim who would prefer to be put out of his misery: Nazis would have preferred not to have done it, as one S.S. Officer testified at Nuremburg:

Q. Do you wish to say that they (i.e., Jewish victims) soon reconciled themselves to what awaited them?  A. That is how it was.  For them it was as if human life had no value.  Those people either had some experience of their own or did not recognize their own inner values.  Q. In other words, they went to their deaths joyfully?  A. I would not say “joyfully.”  They knew what awaited them.  They had been told.  They reconciled themselves to their fate.  That is the peculiar character of those people in the east.  I would say that the nerves of men who took part were torn to pieces.  They were more depressed than those who had been condemned to be shot.” [14]

Ahasverus (or Cartaphilus), the Wandering Jew, the shoemaker who cruelly refused Christ, had been condemned by Him to wander the earth until the Second Coming, to “Tarry till I come.”  The story of Ahasverus (resonant with both the Christian myth of the repentant Adam [15] and with the ambivalent representation of Cain in early Jewish thought [16]), had been recruited to the side of order since the thirteenth century (and especially after the Reformation): the repentant Wandering Jew was the witness to the historical fact of the Incarnation and an implicit reproach to lower-class religious skepticism and obduracy.[17] After the French Revolution, the French poor associated the Church with reaction and applauded both Napoleon and the Wandering Jew, now a defiant hammer-swinging little man (and once again the unregenerate Cain), the bearer of political liberty and its associated artisanal or proletarian anti-clericalism and rationalism.[18] Romantic poets (Byron, Shelley, later Yeats) identified ambivalently with the Wandering Jew, the fully feeling, fully thinking adolescent Self, an incorruptible independent creature who would never yield to the duplicities of the Fathers, who would never sell out.[19] Writing in the mid-1840s, and synthesizing the opposed variants of the myth, the popular novelist and conservative reformer Eugène Sue made the Wandering Jew and the Wandering Jewess symbols for the oppression of labor and of women, but the Wandering Jew brought cholera in his wake, moulded everything he touched and longed for death.  By the 1920s and 30s, the Wandering Jew symbolized not only the dispersal, endurance and passive (yet threatening) character of the Jewish people, but the alienation of the modern artist,[20] indeed of modern man; for James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, Bloom was the “victim predestined”: immolated, consenting, sad, still, silent.  It is fitting that on July 19, 1937, four months preceding the appearance of Der ewige Jude in Munich, the infamous exhibition of Degenerate Art (timed to coincide with the Great German Art Exhibition) signaled the death throes of modernism in the Third Reich.

Melville scholars have rarely seen the Ahab/Cain/Wandering Jew connection.[21] They are aware, however, that Benito Cereno and Billy Budd were translated into German and published in 1938, that Nazi censors accepted these stories into the House whose visual arts were judenrein–purged of cultural Bolshevist cubism, expressionism and Dada–the House that sponsored heroic vitalism [Grosshans, 1983], and that refused “problematic and unfinished work” [Hinz, 1979, 9]; furthermore Melvilleans have been told by Charlotte Mangold that Frederich Schönemann, an American Studies scholar at the University of Berlin and director of the first Melville dissertation in Germany), was a German patriot hostile to United States democracy.[22] Nevertheless, Mangold’s disturbing opinions and research, like Melville’s Jewish problem, have generally been evaded, denied, minimized, or misunderstood, perhaps for the very good and simple and obvious reason that “the Melville problem” is “the Jewish problem,” indeed, as Julius Streicher made emphatic, “democracy” (i.e., America) is the Jewish problem.

For the conservative narrator of Clarel, Hebrew fanaticism was carried in the Judaised Christian Nathan’s Puritan blood; I suspect that Melville identified with all his brainy Jewish characters and Wandering Jews (including Ahab, Isabel, Margoth, Nathan, and Mortmain) but postwar cultural politics must have made it nearly impossible to mention, let alone analyze, Melville’s Jews.  The Melville scholars are not uniquely weak or cowardly; rather, we are dealing with a cultural taboo: thou shalt not make comparisons between the structures and cultures of “the western democracies” with Nazi or Stalinist “totalitarianism” lest thou exude the odour of pushy and meddling atypical English radical puritans/ un-American ‘Jewish Marxism”, yet nothing is more American than the lusty empiricism, materialism, and libertarian hankering for democracy, self-knowledge, and self-management that I understand the radical liberals to have been advocating, values that have been transmuted into their opposites by organic conservative promoters of Anglo-American cultural hegemony.

*Organic conservatives may be found among those reacting to the French Revolution and who populate today’s paleoconservatives, or may be found among “progressives” professing “multiculturalism.” For these conservatives, social bonds are mystical, not based on a community of material interest. [Added 3-28-12: At the time I wrote this essay, I had not yet encountered the works of von Mises, Hayek, the Friedmans, and other classical liberals.]


[1] The British Press and Jews Under Nazi Rule (London: Oxford U.P., 1964): 51.

[2] Purging the Jewish Marxist materialists would restore natural i.e., racial, unity, a theme Mosse saw in American conservatism and Gaullist France.  See George Mosse, Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich (New York: Schocken, 1981).

[3] In the blood-libel against the Jews, it is claimed that Jews murder Christian boys at Passover to mingle their blood with matzohs.  Speaking at UCLA April 6, 1990, the distinguished folklorist Alan Dundes (and author of an anthology on the Wandering Jew) took sharp exception with my alternative historical explanation for the persistence of the blood-libel against the Jews in European culture since the twelfth century, and which dramatically accelerated during the nineteenth century.  Dundes told his audience that he was disturbed by this “folklore of evil,” responsible for hundreds of deaths, and an embarrassing blot on the normally benign and charming body of culture he studies.  But Dundes could only explain it as a response to Christian guilt over the cannibalism of the Eucharist, psychodynamically as “projective inversion.”  For Dundes as for other conservatives, art and folklore alike float free from contaminating family and related social conflicts.  As Dundes told us, one variant of the blood libel has a temptress wheedling a young boy to enter a garden, where he is murdered; its resemblance to the lesson of the Fall is clear enough, but Dundes was firm in not drawing comparisons to that all-purpose cautionary tale or to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which it also resembles.  Throughout I have placed such “evil” in the narratives of antidemocratic propaganda responding to rational threats from below, not untestable unconscious conflicts.

[4] Cf. Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978).  Sontag rightly criticizes organicism as demagoguery, but she flogs consumerism, psychoanalysis, apocalyptic revolutionaries and the Romantics from the point of view of the higher (liberal) moderation, science, and rationalism.  By describing cancer as “Other” she misses the crucial point: its stealthiness and masquerade are connected to democracy and the People.

[5] C.G. Jung,”Individual and Mass Psychology,” Essays on Contemporary Events (London:Kegan Paul, 1946): xiii-xv. Originally broadcast on the BBC, Nov. 3, 1946.

[6] My description of Nazi anti-Semitism (as indebted to traditional Christian anti-Semitism) is a composite of characteristics drawn by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide (New York: Seabury Press, 1973) and Robert Wistrich, Hitler’s Apocalypse (New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1986): 151.  But Wistrich, while emphasizing the claims Nazis made in the name of Enlightenment, still classifies Hitler as a “monomaniac” assisted by a bureaucratic society (121).  Ruether’s book is especially valuable for her identification of the Jewish stereotype with social criticism/ madness, and her argument that the patristic church fathers of early Christianity had already formulated the anti-Semitism we tend to associate solely with the scientific racism of the nineteenth century. But the analysis lacks a materialist dimension, perhaps because she is a pluralist and does not want to implicate German Romanticism in the story of genocide.

[7] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Harper Colophon paperback, 1979): 12.

[8] See Max Weinreich, Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the German People, 1946, op.cit. 50-53.  Weinreich reported that Streicher had been invited to several innovative scholarly meetings in Berlin and Munich (1936-38) engaged in a scientific, activist, interdisciplinary study of the Jewish question, and not as a reporter or witness but as a respected leader and valued participant: History, politics, and science, past and present, were to be spiritually and holistically fused (but until 1938, away from the public eye).  This of course puts Streicher and the Nazis in the mainstream of European conservative culture, not in the lunatic fringe.

[9] But see Ian Kershaw, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 162. “…Streicher’s newspaper Der Stürmer associated the Christian Communion with Jewish ritual slaughter, an allegation which brought a storm of outrage from Evangelical (and Catholic) pulpits.”  Kershaw’s point was that Protestants who had supported Hitler were becoming disillusioned as they realized that the Nazis were attacking Christianity tout court; there could be no rival source of cultural identity to undermine German nationalism or single-issue politics.  The theme of disillusion, resistance, and disapproval among the working-class and petit-bourgeoisie is developed throughout Kershaw’s book, an attempted corrective to overly irrationalist interpretations advanced by conservative scholars stressing propaganda blitzes or national character to explain “the Holocaust.”

[10] Wistrich, 1986.  There seems to have been a change in 1937-1938; Kershaw’s and Mosse’s (or Wistrich’s) emphases might be seen as complementary.  Cf. Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-45 (Michigan State U.P., 1965) noted a turning point in Goebbels’ propaganda themes between 1935 and 1938; newly apocalyptic imagery responded to the London Times complaint in 1935 that Nazis and Bolsheviks were similar: Goebbels retorted that parasitic Jewry, the “son of Chaos” was the source of the Bolshevist disease (379-383).  Or, Goebbels had broken the triangular view of the Spanish Civil War: two parties and the “neutrals”: “For the first time the image of a rejuvenated and German-sponsored Europe was projected, as the vision of a better world to come.  Goebbels contrasted the wicked deeds of the archfiend of the martyred in Spain with the fata morgana of a better Europe–a technique which he was to employ again and again in days of war to the very end of the Hitler regime” (164). But Hitler came to power with just such claims: the Sun-God would bring a new dawn to Germany and leave the rubble of the Jewish-Marxist night behind; a view that élite theorists suppress in their attempt to render Hitler as a romantic.  There should be a detailed study of the origins and conception of Streicher’s Wandering Jew exhibition; I am taken with the striking coincidence between the intensified anti-Semitism and anti-modernism of the Nazis in 1937, C.I.O. labor movement militancy, and the mounting anti-Ahab/Melville offensive in the United States.

[11] The headline copy was “Streicher Opens Anti-Semitic Fair/ Democracy is Jewish Device, He Warns at Munich–He is Twitted by Dr. Goebbels”.

[12] Robert W. Rydell, All the World’s a Fair: visions of empire at American international expositions, 1876-1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984).

[13] Streicher and Goebbels both appealed to facts: Regarding Streicher’s speech and Goebbels’ response, the Times wrote “‘There are still nations believing in the Jews’s divine mission and proud of their democratic government.  For those who know, however, this much-famed democracy of Western states is a measure of the Jew’s power.  History will open these nations’ eyes.’  The exposition contains historical material and citations from the Talmud and other works designed to prove that Jews are instructed to cheat and murder their non-Jewish neighbors.  A photograph of Mayor La Guardia of New York has been placed in a hall devoted to “international Jews.”  Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels indicated in a speech delivered after Herr Streicher’s that the Nazi leaders are not wholly unaware of a certain humorous element in Herr Streicher’s fanaticism.  Smiling at the high priest of anti-Semitism, Dr. Goebbels said: “Our critics answer us with the assertion that the Jews also are human beings.  Now, as a matter of fact, even Party Comrade Streicher will grant that the Jews are human beings.”  The audience of 3,000 laughed, but the sally failed to amuse Herr Streicher, who continued to stare stolidly at the back of the hall.”

It is most peculiar that the Western press could have separated Goebbels from Streicher; in the spring of 1937, Goebbels propaganda department distributed a pamphlet to students and party leaders, calling for the recapture of “a lost identity” (to overcome the skepticism and despair of an industrialized world).  The late Israeli historian Uriel Tal wrote, “political faith needs an anti-hero,” a scapegoat, a devil.  Indeed it was the Jew who “having been a degraded sufferer for ages” was supposed to make the myth somewhat tangible and acceptable.  Through the “universal conspiracy of the Jew” as well as the “defilement of his blood” the Jew brings about “the systematic decomposition of the Aryan race and the Germanic Folk.”  In “Political Faith” of Nazism Prior to the Holocaust (Annual Lecture of the Schreiber Chair of Contemporary Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, 1978): 19.  But would such appeals have had any impact unless they benefited individuals and social classes in material ways?

[14] See Stanley Rosenman, “The American Nazi and the Wandering Jew,” The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol.39, No.4 (1979): 363-368, quoting from the Nuremburg Military Tribunal testimony of S.S. Colonel Paul Blobel, 363.

[15] Hyam Maccoby, “The Wandering Jew as Sacred Executioner,” The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend, ed. Galit Hasan-Rokem and Alan Dundes (Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 1986).

[16] Ruth Mellinkoff, The Mark of Cain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

[17] See Uriel Tal, Christians and Jews in Germany (Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 1975): 16 on post-Reformation class anxieties.  Tal describes two strategies to deal with the corroding skepticism fostered by persistence of the obdurate Jew: one should either convert them or humiliate them so that their “abject state” testified to “the triumphant religion of Christianity.”  My distinction between Good Jews and Wandering Jews fits Tal’s categories (but he does not name the Wandering Jew myth here).

[18] Champfleury, “French Images of the Wandering Jew,” The Wandering Jew, 1986.

[19] See Erik Erikson’s influential wartime theory: Hitler was not the good father but the big brother who would never yield to the duplicities of the fathers.  I suspect that Erikson has applied the romantic Wandering Jew myth to Hitler (a motif throughout this study).

[20] Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford: Stanford U.P., 1960): 302-303.

[21] See for instance, Wyn Kelly of Stanford University, “Melville’s Cain,” American Literature (March 1983): 24-40, who attempts to classify  variants of the Cain legend, 31, but there is no mention of the Wandering Jew in her text or references (nor in Sontag’s work, although she knows that Jews were blamed for cholera and other plagues).

[22] See Berthold Hinz, Art in the Third Reich (N.Y.: Pantheon, 1979);  Henry Grosshans, Hitler and the Artists (N.Y.: Holmes and Meier, 1983); Charlotte Weiss Mangold, Herman Melville in German Criticism From 1900 to 1955 (University of Maryland diss., 1959): 109, fn 2.  Mangold (and other Melvilleans) should have more fully identified Schönemann. Max Weinrich’s index in Hitler’s Professors, op.cit. (282) identifies him as an important Nazi scholar in the following entry: “[b.] May 30, 1886. Instructor, Harvard U., 1913-1920. Professor of North American Civilization, U. of Berlin. Author: “Der Anglo-Amerikaner und das Judentum,” Wk II (1942); “Das geistige Geschichte Amerikas,” NSMon, October, 1942, 657-666; “Hintergrunde und Tendenzen des USA-Imperialismus,” Völk und Reich, 1942, 697-706; Die Veinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (Berlin, Junker und Dunnhaupt, 1943, 160).”

January 2, 2010

Jottings on the culture wars: what are they?

Ad, Harvard Magazine, Nov.-Dec. 2009

[Added July 6, 2013: There is massive confusion on what the culture wars are about. Bill O’Reilly pits “traditionalists” against “secular progressives” as if either group was internally coherent; while David Horowitz views [anti-Western] whiteness studies as making a “melodrama” that may explain the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin debacle ( http://tinyurl.com/l5wgmrl).

This essay tries to unpack the culture wars by analyzing the confusing and unsettled sociology that has polarized America. Some of my questions interrogate  both sides in the “culture wars,” rejecting the emphasis on culture to the exclusion of history, political science, and social theory.  (My own views tend toward the classical liberal: thus I am one of those “secular progressives” denounced as enemies to Easter Bunnies and Christmas trees.)]

It is true that politics are messy, by contrast, sociology as the product of German Idealism, is not.  Look back to Herder, Goethe and their successors who promoted a rooted cosmopolitanism. Their identity politics are tied to the utopian longing for stable national (or international) identity where its mosaic bits assume a beautiful pattern, stretching and yawning perhaps, but not confused, not switching, not turning on each other.  With the mosaic in place (i.e., all “ethnic” groups embraced and expressing themselves, but monomaniacs/socially irresponsible capitalists cut out), hostility/prejudice will become irrational: “inclusiveness” and state regulation will have removed rational sources of disaffection. [1]

The identity that matters to enlightened “moderates” equates “totalitarianism of the Left and Right” leaving pluralistic “liberal” democracy as the emancipated, yet irrationalist, alternative.  However, the antifascist pluralism they represent is not the liberalism of the revolutionary bourgeoisie (the classical liberals) but a shattering of what is stigmatized as the Egotistical Sublime (Ariadne’s enthusiasm for labyrinths, or the long view of history.).  Following conservative sociologists (e.g., Max Weber, a German patriot and supporter of the Weltkrieg), their social world is packed into separate categories: political, economic, and the cultural, yet the latter has a life of its own that cancels the politics and economic interest; human competence is dissolved into Negative Capability, at best, grasping only fragments.  The New Pluralism-without-Snakes-and-Spiders merges the individual with its “ethnic (multicultural) communities”–all joyously “fused” in the state (or is it the Great Chain of Being? or nowhere at all? is the state both there and not there?): a totally mystical “public interest” in societies with antagonisms between the owning classes and those dependent on them, the latter with nowhere to go.  This corporatist liberal “web and woof” is the spiritual hammock supporting us against “totalitarianism” of both the Left and Right. 

Where do the left-populists and social democrats fit in?  How can there be anti-racist politics while thinking in racialist terms?[2]  All the questions I have raised are intertwined with the larger debate over epistemology: Heraclitus vs. Bacon and the empiricists.  How do ordinary people, responsible for exercising the duties of citizenship, relying upon observation, study, and experience, know that their actions and judgments are not the products of a flawed methodology?

This blog, like others on this website, addresses the contemporary crisis in the humanities, a feverish condition said by some Rightists to have been imposed by Gramsci, Lukács, Frankfurt School critical theorists such as Adorno and Marcuse, and New Leftists who have taken the strategic heights in education and social policy.  With the ascendancy of Reagan republicanism, revisions of the literary canon and the history curriculum generated by multiculturalism, feminism, and black nationalism have been seen by some conservatives as mindless new developments leading to resurgent antisemitism and neofascism.  I share their concerns, but many conservatives cannot defend their own records nor can they reform the reformers, for they have not situated curriculum reform within the problematic of “democratic pluralism” and its vicissitudes (e.g. Lipset’s and Raab’s  The Politics of Unreason (1970), a venue created by “pragmatic” conservatives long before the “tenured radicals” of the 1960s generation began their “Left” stampede).[3]

As an artist and scholar familiar with some of the history of antidemocratic propaganda, psychological warfare, and censorship, I am disappointed and impatient with the scholars who have taken part to date.  I see mostly polarization and self-righteousness, little self-criticism or generosity or insight: more feints among different factions of counter-Enlightenment vying for the vanguard position, each waving the banner for humanitarian values and methodological sophistication.  I see little robust intellectual confrontation between radicals, liberals and conservatives.  And the wars rage on and on, spurred by the dubious appropriations of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and chaos theory.[4]  Underneath the chatter and jargon and ad hominem insults to colleagues and to humanity at large, the questions of greatest importance to our survival lie buried; no reform strategies can be formulated without answers, and the questions are susceptible to empirical investigation:  Is there or is there not inevitable class exploitation in bourgeois democracies? Can social democratic reform remove what the revolutionary left insists are structural antagonisms?    Are contracts between persons, corporations, and nations contracts at all if one party is coerced by the other?  And who shall adjudicate disagreements if the weaker party balks?  If many people are oppressed, how shall they organize themselves to redress grievances, or should we breed a race of supermen?  Are modernization and industrialization really destroying the planet?  If so, what, if any, mass activity could halt or reverse the destruction?  What are the responsibilities of families, schools, corporations and the media in providing the critical and emotional tools to understand and ameliorate our worsening condition?  Have they ever done so?

Here come the masterless men. As hitherto orchestrated and conducted, the culture wars have diverted attention from these life-and-death issues, as perhaps they were intended to, as they have always done.  Nor have conservatives admitted the source of their anxieties: the tender moment of late adolescence when young people are separating from families of origin and lacking family responsibilities that later on might discourage political radicalism.  Conservative social psychologists applying the lessons of psychological warfare are alert to the power of modern fiction in making subversive notions attractive and acceptible.  Take the case of Herman Melville and his “elusive” or “ambivalent” texts, which though apparently conservative or reactionary, have aroused the energies of expert propagandists of the Right who fear his effect on young readers. For instance, some noted psychological warriors have explained how radical messages may be smuggled into harmless appearing fantasies, making stressed readers more receptive to new ideas, ideas they would normally reject as alien if encountered in an explicitly political context:

“…Of crucial significance may be those who are under strain, ambivalent, at once torn between loyalty to patriotic values and to the new values being offered by the communicator.  Such a segment may be a crucially important target, and it is necessary to understand the nature of its ambivalence and the implications for psychological warfare possibilities.  While such a segment is drawn to the new values, its allegiance to the old is made more compulsive by guilt feeling evoked by its attraction to the new.  Among such a population we should expect strong ritualistic conformity which would serve to deny evidences of hospitality to the alien values.  Beneath this ritualism, however, we should also expect to find the repressed side of the ambivalence, the side which represents a disposition to espouse the new values.

Research is now needed on the readiness of individuals under strain to accept communications which represent both the expressed and the repressed sides of their ambivalence.  It has been suggested that such individuals will reject any overt statement of the repressed side; but that they may pay attention if the repressed value is expressed in fictional form, so that it may be received on the level of fantasy, thus protecting the receiver from the need to decide whether or not he believes, or is willing to accept, such a conflicting value.  It is our belief that research along lines such as these would have far reaching operational usefulness for psychological warfare.” [5]

 [Clare:] Such sophisticated machinations at the highest levels of government suggest why apparently harmless cultural artifacts as the novels students read in high school and college can fluster vigilant ideologues.

Blunted tools have brought us to the current impasse over teaching methods, curriculum, and standards.  We are besieged by crazy-making, historically incorrect specters of our own fully feeling, fully thinking selves: The modern artist as slipping Titan, the obsessive Faustian autodidact, the obsequious romantic lover, the miscegenating rootless cosmopolitan, the vindictive muckraker.  Their unpardonable sin is the bad news that uncontrollable curiosity and unbalanced temperaments have shoved in our faces: there are or may be class antagonisms that cannot be reconciled by conservative reform, i.e., by negotiation and adjustments that do not severely threaten the economic interests of ruling classes.  So the hyper-individualistic “materialistic” Jew is converted to “the [idealist] new historicism”and disappears into “community” as defined by others; the judenrein center finds itself ensconced in the administered state.[6]

1930s intellectuals sometimes called this condition fascism; today it is more benignly labeled ‘multiculturalism,’ and is touted as the remedy for prejudice, scapegoating, and intolerance.  As social policy its longevity has been guaranteed by state, foundation, and university funding.  To speak against it incites accusations of Right-wing racism and worse.  Don’t bother applying for a CPB grant or a job in public broadcasting if you disdain the multicultural narrative of world history as racial/ethnic conflict, the genocide and ecocide perpetrated by “white males” or “the West”–a sad story that new textbooks, curricula, and television or radio programs celebrating “diversity” will bring to a happy end.

Although “Left” and “Right” have been internally at loggerheads over this social policy, all parties agree that insurgent blacks, women, and gays of the New Left initiated and now preside over the new wave of reform.  Before that (the early 1970s), an unbroken, unchallenged master narrative of Western progress is said to have reigned in academe and the media.  For the hard Right, the narrative was rational, unified and benign; for the hard Left (including anti-imperialist whites, people of color, and women, but not materialists), the narrative was entirely malignant; for the “moderate” critics straddling both positions, the narrative was contradictory and ambiguous, but would be resynthesized with the vigorous new blood and perspectives of the hitherto excluded, the better to launch a really Enlightened non-Marxist New New Left.[7]

My work takes none of these idealist positions, but seeks to document some of the major thinkers and social movements that promoted cultural policies coinciding with their perceived class interests.  No materialist has publicized the history of multiculturalism or “identity politics,” a history which cannot be deciphered without recalling competing prewar definitions of fascism, protofascism, and antifascism.  Hence I reject as ideologically distorted previous attempts to periodize the culture wars.  I suspect that the media, publishing, and academe are structurally precluded from describing the origins of this dispute for fear of damage done to the reputations of most postwar “liberal” intellectuals, whether positioned on the Left, Right or Center.  Nobody wants to say he has been successful by conforming to pseudo-democratic institutions, in some ways indistinguishable from their analogs in Germany and Italy before 1945; nobody wants to admit he is suffering from a massive failure of nerve.


     So-called multiculturalism is a reactionary ideological offensive that  confused individuals with groups and suppresses economic explanations for conflict and change in favor of cultural anthropological ones.[8]  As a manifestation of German Romanticism, it was an aesthetic theory buttressing a political structure: an irrationalist völkisch “aristo-democracy” (Herder).[9]  The German Romantics and their popularizers in England and America, men like Carlyle and Emerson, waved their supple poetic individuality, unique, yet imperceptibly diffused into race and nation and time itself as Schlegel had advised.  The aristo-democrats were the blooming correctives to the dessicating “mechanical” rationalism and universalism that had undergirded popular sovereignty for the seventeenth-century political theorist of constitutional democracy, John Locke.  In the eighteenth century, Piranesi would visualize this Lockean world in a series of engravings, his nightmarish urban spaces/prisons.  Lord Byron counterattacked with Lockean Prometheans, images of indomitable humanity: fatherless, yet kind, ameliorative and intellectually fortified.  In the later nineteenth century, Piranesi’s desolate, gigantic scenes of torture would reappear in James Thomson’s City of Dreadful Night, the City ruled by numeracy and literacy personified in Melencolia, the Queen patterned after both Dürer’s famous image of writer’s block, and George Eliot, Thomson’s contemporary, the realist novelist, author of Felix Holt, Radical.

I have mentioned just a few instances of cultural conflict over accountability: the culture wars are fought over you and me, non-experts in an advanced, complex, and hierarchical, yet “democratic” industrialized society.  Confident in the capacity of ordinary people to test their betters, Locke, like ourselves, was up against centuries of conservative antidemocratic propaganda on behalf of a tribal or feudal order where either Nature or arbitrary authority were taken for granted as immovable. Not surprisingly, social obligations (contracts) were vertical, links in the Great Chain of Being, not horizontal agreements between equals, each party theoretically free to walk away from a bad deal.  Locke’s antagonistic contemporary, the proto-Tory Robert Filmer (d. 1653) summarized centuries of antidemocratic wisdom in his Patriarcha:

[Filmer:] I know not how to give a better character of the people than can be gathered from such authors as have lived among or near to popular states.  Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy, Tacitus, Cicero and Sallust have set them out in their colours. I will borrow some of their sentences.

‘There is nothing more uncertain than the people: their opinions are as variable and sudden as tempests: there is neither truth nor judgment in them: they are not led by wisdom to judge of anything, but by violence and rashness, nor put they any difference between things true and false.  After the matter of cattle they follow the herd that goes before: with envious eyes they behold the felicity of others: they have a custom always to favor the worst and weakest: they are most prone to suspicions, and use to condemn men for guilty upon every false suggestion.  They are apt to believe all news, especially if it be sorrowful, and, like Fame, they make it more in the believing: when there is no author, they fear those evils which they themselves have feigned: they are most desirous of new stirs and changes, and are enemies to quiet and rest.  Whatsoever is giddy or headstrong, they account manly and courageous, but whatever is modest or provident seems sluggish: each man hath a care of his particular, and thinks basely of the common good: they look upon approaching mischiefs as they do upon thunder, only every man wisheth it may not touch his own person.  It is the nature of them: they must either serve basely or domineer proudly, for they know no mean.’  Thus do their own friends paint to the life this beast of many heads.  Let me give you the cypher of their form of government.  As it is begot by sedition, so it is nourished by arms: it can never stand without wars, either with an enemy abroad, or with friends at home.  The only means to preserve it is to have some powerful enemy near, who may serve instead of a king to govern it, that so, that they have not a King over them, for the common danger of an enemy keeps them in better unity than the laws they make themselves.   [10]

The foil to all this irrationality is of course the reformed queen/king; the paragon of moderation has renounced absolutist, arbitrary rule for a limited, constitutional monarchy: one that protects the body politic from combative and divisive “special interests.”  Unlike the Cool Head with the Warm Heart, Filmer’s “people” are the locus of selfish individualism; the people are incapable of solidarity without an external enemy; the ever-befuddled people lack the self-control to separate inner voices and impulses from the outer world; the people have no self-respect: they may be servile or, given a measure of authority, they will whip their charges to extract obedience; i.e., the barbaric, headlong people have neither the taste nor the capacity for gentleness or politeness.  Let them have outlets for their characteristic sadism and masochism, as Geoffrey Gorer proposed in 1934; ‘tis better than the trap of romantic love.  After the war Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism popularized the notion of protofascist “mob society”–both cynical and gullible–in terms that echoed Filmer.  Similarly, Todd Gitlin has claimed that the mounting Right-wing critique of the new curricula is best understood as a frenzied hunt for new scapegoats after the Cold War was won in 1989; Gitlin asserts that the presence of the Other provides the only source of “national identity.”

Return now to the seventeenth century.  Responding to the autocratic Filmer, John Locke adumbrated his concept of legitimate authority. In the Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke argued that monarchs were not beyond criticism, nor were the people so unbalanced that they could not assess their own interests and the performance of their protectors:

[Locke:] The end of government is the good of mankind; and which is best for mankind, that the people should always be exposed to the boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed when they grow exorbitant in their use of power, and employ it for the destruction, and not the preservation, of the properties of their people?

Nor let anyone say that mischief can arise from hence as often as it shall please a busy head or turbulent spirit to desire the alteration of the government.  It is true such men may stir whenever they please, but it will be only to their own just ruin and perdition.  For till the mischief be grown general, and the ill designs of the rulers become visible, or their attempts sensible to the greater part of the people, who are more disposed to suffer than right themselves by resistance, are not apt to stir.  The example of particular injustice or oppression of here and there an unfortunate man moves them not.  But if they universally have a persuasion grounded upon manifest evidence that designs are carrying on against their liberties, and the general course and tendency of things cannot but give them strong suspicions of the evil intentions of their governors, who is to be blamed for it?  Who can help it if they, who might avoid it, bring themselves into this suspicion?  Are the people to be blamed if they have the sense of rational creatures, and can think of things no otherwise than as they find and feel them?  And is it not rather their fault who put things in such a posture that they would not have them thought as they are?  I grant that the pride, ambition, and turbulency of private men have sometimes caused great disorders in commonwealths, and factions have been fatal to states and kingdoms.  But whether the mischief hath oftener begun in the people’s wantonness, and a desire to cast off the lawful authority of their rulers, or in the rulers’ insolence and endeavours to get and exercise an arbitrary power over their people, whether oppression or disobedience gave the first rise to the disorder, I leave it to impartial history to determine.  This I am sure, whoever, either ruler or subject, by force goes about to invade the rights of either prince or people, and lays the formulation for overturning the constitution and frame of any just government, he is guilty of the greatest crime I think a man is capable of, being to answer for all those mischiefs of blood, rapine, and desolation, which the breaking to pieces of governments bring on a country; and he who does it is justly to be esteemed the common enemy and pest of mankind, and is to be treated accordingly. [11]

Yes, Locke says, there are demagogues, but they would have no credibility were it not for the excesses of the rulers.  Taken with his statements on natural law it is clear that Locke is not protecting private property as unlimited personal aggrandizement, but the confiscation of lower-class property and labor by tyrannical rulers–a crucial distinction for those who view Locke as an image of Filmer’s people: the possessive individualist par excellence. The radical liberal ideal of one set of rules for rich and poor alike and the assumption of rationalism upon which the rule of law depended was a radical innovation; it remains an advanced position and belongs in the democratic tradition, notwithstanding efforts to brand Locke as a hypocrite.[12]

Tories and Whigs crucially differed on the educational potential of “the people.”  If Nature’s God was a democrat for the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century progressive bourgeois, organic conservatives reclaimed Nature for the aristocracy.  In antebellum America, Filmer’s good fathers were models for socially responsible slaveholders contrasting their benevolent paternalism with the cruelty of northern laissez-faire capitalism and class struggle.  Indeed, the distinguished historian of the South, C.Vann Woodward, a participant in the Martha’s Vineyard conference on “Racism and Education” revived the southern apologist for slavery George Fitzhugh to lobby for organic conservatism as antidote to today’s mass society.[13]  Filmer’s image of “the people” would be indistinguishable from “the unconscious” in the social psychology espoused by many in the twentieth-century Progressive movement–conservative reformers responding to the rapid growth of industrialism and class warfare that Northern victory in the Civil War facilitated.  Mass “irrationality” remains the argument for the eternal rule of philosopher-kings operating “in the public interest” in bureaucratic collectivist societies.  While Lockean ideas of the common good have been co-opted, Filmer’s theory shades upper-class secret machinations from the blazing eyes of the lower orders.  The unresolved debate between Filmer and Locke frames this essay; our models of human capacity determine our politics as we face “the mischief…grown general” on our endangered planet.

Are we coping with the decadence of  ‘late capitalism’ (as I thought when I began graduate school in 1983) or are we living in societies that remain dominated by pre-modern social relations, and that have not made “the transition from feudalism to capitalism” (as Marxists formulate the problem)? Is Marx more accurately seen as a product of German Romanticism, left-sounding, but right-wing and reactionary in his organic social model? The American Progressives/progressives were conservative reformers whose English counterparts were Burkean gradualists and social democratic Fabians.  In all my published work, I have taken Marxists[14] and progressives to task for ignoring a feature of modernity, the double-bind, that could have helped them to explain and combat racism, antisemitism, and the social forces that have led to mass death.  The double-bind is omnipresent in the modern family and the university, both pseudo-liberal socializing institutions in a muddled society.[15]  I suggested that class-conscious double-bind theory is more relevant to the appeal of Nazism than social psychological concepts of “scapegoating” or projective identification so reminiscent of Filmer’s ostensibly objective portrait of “the [socially irresponsible] people…fear[ing] those evils which they themselves have feigned”; then I applied “the switch” (or is it the magic wand?) to the cases of utopian reformers and disillusioned radicals.[16]  Elsewhere on this website, I reviewed some influential definitions of antisemitism, suggesting that we refine our understanding of the processes that legitimate mass death.

As the alternative to völkisch social psychology and the non-explanatory “empiricism,” “functionalism,” or “theory” it has spawned, I propose a return to individual biography but with greater attention to historically specific psychodynamics, archival research, and close reading than, to knowledge, has been applied, not only with regard to the actors we study, but to our own defenses as we distance ourselves from “extremists” like Hitler. My work as a whole is an attempt at a materialist psychoanalysis, one inseparable from an intellectual and social history of institutions, movements, and individuals; like Freud in The Future of An Illusion (1927), forthrightly rejecting the “humanist” idea that science and religion can peacefully coexist, that science and history are branches of literary theory, cultural anthropology, or comparative religion (though religion may provide the vocabulary with which political conflict is described).  Above all, I emphasized that the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century spawned an inductive method of investigation, an entirely open-ended journey, a leap into the unknown.  It is specious to claim, as various political factions are wont to do, that “the Enlightenment” necessarily leads variously to fascism and genocide, or social democracy, or unregulated capitalism or socialism.  Such narrow politicking proceeds with a deductive method that cannot co-exist with science or humanitarian values: most particularly for our purposes, with God-like confidence the (moderate) conservative reformers pronounce their grand principle: The Jewish God is bigoted, YAHWEH’s effluent, bourgeois society, is bigoted: let there be Multiculturalism, let the Crumbs drop from Massa’s Table.


[1] For cultural nationalists, the mosaic represents “self-reliance” as expressed in economic autarky, the unit being the ethnic nation.  Such organization would make it difficult for workers to unite across “ethnic” or “cultural” lines. By biological determinism, I do not mean that the followers of Herder had a materialist understanding of the natural sciences. As John Crowe Ransom or Eric Voegelin understood the völkisch idea of a national culture, there would be a spiritual uniformity in a people who had interacted for a lengthy period with their specific material environment, evolving into a balanced relationship with nature and each other. This was the point of T.S. Eliot’s famous remark (1933) about limiting the number of freethinking Jews in the interest of local stability. See Ransom’s crucial essay “The Aesthetic of Regionalism,” AR Vol. 2 (Jan 1934): 290-310, for an elucidation of scientistic localism that infuses contemporary concepts of multiculturalism and compare to Herder’s concept of nationality as described by Eric Voegelin, The History of the Race Idea (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989).

[2] Until I read the political sociologist Eric Voegelin on the history of the race idea, I did not understand this point. Voegelin rejected the concept of “race” as too materialist because of its biological implications. Instead he embraced Herder’s seminal idea of cultural nationalism.

[3] See the tone set by Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Education (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1990): “…the men and women who are paid to introduce students to the great works and ideas of our civilization have by and large remained true to the emancipationist ideology of the sixties” (xiv)…a new form of thought control based on a variety of pious new-left slogans and attitudes (xvi)…The denunciations of the “hegemony” of Western culture and liberal institutions that are sounded so insistently within our colleges and universities these days are not idle chatter, but represent a concerted effort to attack the very foundations of the society that guarantees the independence of cultural and artistic life–including the independence of our institutions of higher education (xviii).”  The radical canon includes Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche (7); quoting Schiller, Kimball praises dissent and complains that the tenured radicals now occupy the moderate center (188-89).

Few have challenged Kimball’s periodization of the “P.C.” debate, nor are the “radical” challenges to the canon seen as élite initiatives, in which a folkish idea has been co-opted and nervously managed by the corporatist liberals on behalf of social stability.  See for instance Gregory S. Jay, “The First Round of the Cultural Wars,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/26/92, B 1-2: The move toward multiculturalism emanated from academic “have-nots” after the 1960s.  Also the militant Heterodoxy, edited by David Horowitz and Peter Collier, Vol.1, #1, “PC Cover-Up,” which argues that left-over Stalinist progeny, 1960s veterans of the New Left, are fighting a rear-guard action which “must be fought to conclusion”: the future of America hangs in the balance.  The writers decry the apocalyptic mentality of “the Left,” chiliastic originators of twentieth-century brutality. [added 1/5/2010: since I wrote this note, I have tended to share the Horowitz-Collier sense of urgency, especially after studying the vogue for Maoism on the Left and chiliasm on parts of the Right.]

A similar urgency informs a more recent debate on PBS (McNeil-Lehrer, 10-26-94) between Lynn Cheney, former head of NEH, and Professor Gary Nash, director of the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools which has produced a curriculum guidebook for grades 5-12 (flexible and adaptable to local conditions and preferences, according to New York Times, 10-26-94, B-8).  Cheney charged that the forces of political correctness have triumphed in the historical profession, and are destroying belief in a flawed, but on balance, great nation; Nash defended his guidebook as “a revolution” in the teaching of history, which will deemphasize “dates, facts, and names” in favor of critical inquiry into an evolving history which is always “provisional and contingent,” sensitive to the presence of women and minorities (labor not mentioned in the TV program, though Nash’s Urban Crucible celebrates the role of radical artisans in the American Revolution).  When charged by Cheney with denigrating all wealth (but not that of an African king) Nash contrasted Carnegie with Rockefeller.  Both Cheney and Nash say they want a critical approach to US history; both agree that a revolution is in progress. Joyce Appleby, president of the American Historical Association sees the culture wars as the chief struggle of our times (conversation with the author).

[4] See Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) for a spirited attack on such appropriations and all anti-Enlightenment tendencies in the humanities.  The authors (who seem sympathetic to sociobiology) suggest that scientists may go their own way, teaching the humanities themselves if the present situation is not remedied.

[5] John W. Riley, Jr. and Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr., “Research for Psychological Warfare,” A Psychological Warfare Casebook, ed. William E. Daugherty and Morris Janowitz (Johns Hopkins U.P., 1958): 543.

[6] I am adopting the formulation of generic fascism as a centrist social movement that has obliterated liberalism, forcing agreement between the goals and interests of capital and labor, as suggested by David Stephen Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism and British Society 1931-81 (University of Manchester Press, 1987).

[7] For the latest example of the moderate position, see Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Culture Wars (N.Y.: Henry Holt, 1995).

[8] If ethnic and gender studies were organized to deal with populations as they have been historically defined by others and often themselves, then there would be no objection from anti-racists.  Such programs need not ignore class issues, nor need they mythologize in search for glorious ancestors.  However, these programs were institutionalized in response to status group politics, and tend to reinforce biological determinism by their very organization.  As I have argued at public meetings, the separation of gender and “racial” issues in special programs has served as an excuse for “regular” curricula to ignore the needs expressed by previously excluded groups to see society and history as a whole.  See David A. Hollinger, “Postethnic America,” Contention 4 (Fall 1992): 79-86, for an interpretation that superficially resembles my own; however, he does not look to the possible structural incapacity of our society to respond to the social democratic reforms he proposes, or the structural antagonisms that make “common ground” a utopian wish or a tactical compromise.

[9] F.M. Barnard, Herder’s Social and Political Thought From Enlightenment to Nationalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965): Chapter IV.  J.G. Herder (1744-1803) is credited with the founding of social psychology, cultural anthropology, and comparative literature in various interpretative works (see above).

[10] Robert Filmer, Patriarcha and other political works, ed. Peter Laslett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1949): 89-90.

[11] John Locke, Two Treatises of Civil Government (London: J.M. Dent, 1955): 233-34 (Part II, sections 229, 230).

[12] See Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution (Princeton U.P. 1993).  The high point of popular sovereignty was attained during 1643 in the rising of London radicals in the English Civil War.  The radical puritans were defeated by the Independents or oligarichic republicans; the voice of the people (vox populi)was replaced by the (returning) voice of public safety or public health (salus populi).  Locke would seemingly conform to the latter, but as Brenner states, the Independents’ politics, with all their limitations, were more progressive than anything preceding or following in England.  David Hume considered Locke a troublemaking Whig. See Robin Blackburn [Caribbean slavery] for a more critical assessment of Locke’s politics.

[13] George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters, ed. C. Vann Woodward (Harvard paperback, 1960): viii, xiv.  Woodward sees Fitzhugh’s critique as relevant to societies which, although rejecting Communism, suffer from “mass production, mass organization, and mass culture”; Fitzhugh is linked to “Young England, Disraeli, and Tory socialism.”

[14]I am trying to distinguish between those aspects of Marx’s thought that were original, and those that were already part of the critical apparatus of Western thinkers.  Vico for instance, recognized the importance of class conflict as the engine of history; see Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder . Once Marx’s contributions are historicized, what is left apart from a cyclical view of history with elements of classical and Christian thought? The old order is doomed, like all social organisms, it must decay.  The antithesis of the bourgeoisie, the increasingly desperate and immiserated working class, naturally free of the corruptions of money, will be the reinvigorator of society.  The State will wither away once money has lost its power to pervert the body politic.  What if Marx did not stand Hegel on his head?

[15] See my article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol.10, 1990; Enter Isabel: The Herman Melville Correspondence of Clare Spark and Paul Metcalf, ed. Paul Metcalf (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991) for more substantial explorations of double-binds in Melville’s family and in the discourse of progressive reformers, most recently in declassified documents from the Psychological Strategy Board, 1951-53.  Double-bind theory was used by Gregory Bateson and R.D. Laing in the 1950s and 1960s, but limited to the instance of the schizophrenia-inducing, cold/seductive mother sending mixed signals to sons.  See Carlos E. Sluzki and Donald C. Ransom, editors, Double-Bind: The Foundation of the Communicational Approach to the Family (N.Y.: Grune and Stratton, 1976): 11.  Conducive to schizophrenia is “the absence of anyone in the family, such as a strong and insightful father, who can intervene in the relationship between the mother and child and support the child in the face of the contradictions involved.”  With Melville’s guidance and the experience of years in “alternative” journalism, then my graduate education, I have applied it to all liberal institutions caught in the uneven transition between hierarchical and egalitarian social relations.

[16] Cf. Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God That Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1987): 17.  Muller argues that disillusioned Nazis continued to be skeptical of the Enlightenment, whereas ex-communists became liberals and social democrats.  I argue that “late capitalism”squashes its democrats (left-liberal materialists), producing conservatives who claim the scientific openness and objectivity of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, but do not necessarily practice it.

June 4, 2009

modernity and mass death

Outsider Art

[Added 1-5-11: the “N” word is to be deleted from an upcoming edition of Huckleberry Finn. The best context for this decision is not merely political correctness, but the fantasy that words, by themselves, not only create reality, but that propaganda, by itself,  is the engine of history. Propaganda is very important, and this website is devoted to it, but I would never make the claims that the academics reported below have done.]

[Added 2/24/10: I have just read a novel by Stephen Benatar, Wish Her Safe At Home, (1982), touted recently by the New York Review of Books and the NYT. It is told entirely from the p.o.v. of a psychotic woman, whose delusions seem to have been instilled by mass culture and the atomization of the individual in the modern world (see the numerous books on “the culture industry” that many postmodernists imagine to be protofascist). Some comments from readers were delighted by the “unreliable narrator,” whereas I found the novel to be tedious and yet another unhelpful voyeuristic depiction of mental illness, this one inflected with a strong misogynist bias. So I am reviving my Pacifica radio talk on “Outsider Art.”  [Added later: Benatar is a former professor of English who started writing novels in middle-age. He is also gay. I wonder if there is some unconscious self-loathing or at least doubts about his own sanity as he let his imagination rove and display itself in all its unmanly costumes. Please excuse the lapse from New Critical method: this author is very much alive and perhaps working out his own pain and self-doubt. For me it is less a book than what used to be called “clinical material.”)]

Here is an episode in my KPFK series “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” They show what was possible to present on a Pacifica radio station before its descent into near-oblivion. My “radicalism” consisted primarily in defending autodidacts and decoding propaganda.

KPFK, 12/3/92. THE BIG LIE.
Frame: I am responding to two significant cultural events: the conference on Censorship in the Arts, UCLA, 11/92, and the exhibition Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art through January 3, 1993.

Purpose of this episode. To clarify a powerful social psychological concept that has ruled postwar American radical ideas about politics: the concept of mass society and mass politics. The idea of mass politics does not refer to bad taste or working-class politics as such; rather the catastrophically mediocre and irrational political culture produced by the rise of the technocrat, the arrogant specialist to be found in any class, who does not defer to traditional authority; its source is European élite theory, for instance in the fulminations of Jose Ortega y Gasset, Revolt of the Masses (1930), explicated in William Kornhauser’s The Politics of Mass Society (1959), and demonstrated in the recent Gothic tale set in mid-18th century France, Perfume, The Story of a Murderer (1986), by the German writer Patrick Süskind. Such thinkers identified with the aristocrats threatened with dispossession ever since the English Civil War of the seventeenth century; their nightmare specter was the artisan radical, an autodidact developing the craft and sophistication to meet the needs of a consumer, market society, and newly confident of his/her capacity to participate in the decisions that determined the work process and the structure of all social institutions.

In Süskind’s Perfume, the monstrous artisan over-reacher is named Grenouille; for élite social pathologists, the frogs were self-fashioners who had turned themselves into princes, all the while unaware that they were merely idiot savants, sociopaths, and vampires; experts, yes, but narrow, wishing only to dominate and drain the all too willing sensualist, libertine moneyed classes, and ridiculously aspiring to massive social improvements and other utopian transformations. What would happen to level-headed experienced élites with their gentle holistic views of society, their heartfelt, communal concepts of management, dripping with the milk of human kindness?

Instead of viewing the improved material and political conditions that ensued after the Industrial Revolution as an emancipation from superstition, perpetual feudal violence, and early death, the displaced élites churned out mountains of propaganda, characterizing the rising bourgeoisie as the agents of totalitarian rule, their states and bodies iron cages of repressive bureaucracy, their false notions of Progress the big lie (or the melting pot that jammed Durkheim’s mechanical solidarities too close to vermischt secular Jews and radical protestants). The twentieth century spokesmen for aristocratic radicalism (sometimes called radical conservatism) are such thinkers as Werner Sombart, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, the Frankfurt School of critical theorists, and Michel Foucault; these antimoderns and their followers seem to spurn antiseptic wastelands for the delightfully messy, spontaneous, carefree, passionate, above all, organic life said to have existed in the Middle Ages before the dull, dark days of “middle-class hegemony.”

The relations of the aristocratic radicals to the romantic anticapitalism of the counter-culture and the New Left should be obvious; for instance in the poetry and criticism of the anti-imperialist Charles Olson, father of postmodernism, specifically his turn toward mysticism, Eastern religions and the archaic. Olson and others draw upon blood-and-soil völkisch ideas of group identity based in the counter-Enlightenment ideas of J.G. Herder or later, Carl Jung; some New Left notions of participatory democracy are not incompatible with this decentered, localist, communitarian ethos, blissfully rid of its freethinking cosmopolitan Freudian/Marxist Jews. After the war (and earlier, 1939-41?) the Stalinist Left adopted this identical organicist anti-Western, anti-Americanism; genocidal America was characterized as the land of Indian killers; Hitler’s deadly propaganda was said to have been inspired by American advertising (Lukács, 1952). Amazingly, and despite the supposed philo-semitism that reigned after the war, such American savagery was linked with that of the Hebrew prophets. Nazis, radical protestants and Romantic artists (instances of Cain, Prometheus, Faust, the Wandering Jew) were now similarly Bad Jews. In Ernest Tuveson’s opinion, America was the redeemer Nation intent on its destructive Woodrow Wilson-style millenarianism. The field of American Studies is built on this staggering claim. Stalinists, Christian Socialists, and Ivy League professors of American literature connected to the CIA walked hand in hand.

Some of these intellectuals asserted that Hitler, like other materialists, was contemptuously, cynically swindling the German masses and admitted this in his autobiography Mein Kampf; as T.W. Adorno, Paul Massing and Leo Lowenthal put it in 1946, Hitler was the confidence-man puppeteer that the kitsch-loving masses preferred.* The foil to Hitler’s manipulativeness was obviously themselves: rational, socially responsible and sincere aristocratic radical leadership (often speaking in the name of Kant, Marx and Freud, the bearers and protectors of high culture and social scientific demystification!). In this aristocratic radical interpretation, Hitler was the culmination of iconoclastic Western civilization, the apex of Enlightenment hubris and over-reaching. Like other Enlightenment mad scientists, Hitler’s typical gesture was the murderous dissection that endless ripped the social fabric in its misguided search for perfection, the grasp of first principles and the hidden essence of things. Thus, the Holocaust has come to be seen as the distillation, the rotten perfume of modernity itself; the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, a follower of Max Weber and Hannah Arendt, has written a book Modernity and the Holocaust (Cornell U.P., 1989) to warn his colleagues that social theory must be purged of its genocidal Enlightenment underpinnings.

One panel at the UCLA Censorship in the Arts conference (organized by the UCLA administration) dealt with art as aggression; deftly assuming the premise that art is dangerous, the program and panelists asked, how can we defend ourself against misogynist and racist art? As the talk proceeded, UCLA English professor Vincent Pecora reminded us that the censored French writer Flaubert was a cynical fraud, and 20th century modernism (Wyndham Lewis, Yeats, Pound, Eliot) could be fascist in sympathy; the claim was made that Hitler’s Mein Kampf was a major factor in the transformation of sane Germans into crazy Nazis (by Nation art critic Arthur Danto, no less, inspired by Pecora: MK was an epidemic eating through the body politic to make Nazis; Pecora did not distance himself from this remark until I objected to it from the floor). Similarly, the feminist lawyer Christine Littleton (recounting numerous episodes of male violence) had stated that “propaganda works”; i.e., propaganda kills.

The pattern should be clear: the recently reconstructed Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937 at LACMA made the same point: Artists and other image-makers are the source of evil, forget the abuse of class power as the villain in the piece. Forget history, in the case of Germany, economic crisis after 1928, the schemes of frightened conservative nationalists responding to rising communist votes in 1932, the tactical errors and sectarianism of the Communists throughout the 1920s and 1930s. For the LA County Museum and the conservative scholars who advised them (including George Mosse), Hitler, the failed artist, the little man with too much power in the modern world, lured the German masses with kitsch spectacles and propaganda; this achievement (added to the disastrously unfair Versailles Treaty, the Hitler line! and the inflation of 1923) fully accounts for Hitler’s rise to power: bad art led straight to the ovens at the death camps: propaganda kills. There could have been no rational reasons to kill the Jews, no material advantages to be gained by the expropriation of Jewish property and/or the removal of professional rivals, Marxist troublemakers and other cosmopolitan internationalists; rather, the Holocaust was cold-blooded mass politics as usual, prefigured by Robespierre and Marat in the French Revolution, the normal machinations of a heartless bureaucracy in Zygmunt Bauman’s view.

I was equally stupefied by the narrow focus of the recent symposium held at the LACMA to discuss issues arising from the controversial exhibition of Outsider Art, curated by Maurice Tuchman and others, to make the startling art historical point that much of modern art (specifically the Symbolist, Surrealist, Expressionist, and Art Brut tendencies) was ripped-off or inspired by the art of psychotics and other “compulsive visionaries.” Although several of the journalists present had strong criticisms of the exhibition, no one complained that whatever genetic inheritance, or family/political history caused the crazies to make their powerful, disturbed and disturbing images was noticeably absent (perhaps because the necessary research was hampered by lack of records, but also possibly by a lack of historical imagination). While elevating the crazies’ outpourings to the status of “art” (a multi-cultural move which brought the marginal, excluded loony to stage-center) their crazy-making painful life experience had been reduced to rubble. In other words, the 18th century entertainment of the visit to Bedlam had been revived; pain had become spectacle; “aesthetic” considerations had silenced Dionysus: the artists’ voices (unheard as historical artifacts) were stilled. Similarly, at the UCLA event, I have been told (by an insider) that artists were not permitted to participate in the program (except of course from the margins, the floor, so reminiscent of the circumscribed public space Franklin Murphy told us he had permitted for criticism of the Vietnam war during the late 1960s at UCLA. Such are the strategies of “civility” in our free society).

To tie these two cultural events together: I have been appalled at the systematic removal of materialist history from our public life since the 1930s; pain, suffering, and mass death have been rendered absurdly mysterious and elusive. UCLA and the LA County Museum are not uniquely culpable; neither the Left nor the New Left, nor the counter-culture has created an alternative popular education to analyze and change the inhumane pseudo-conservatism which it constantly deplores. What should we be doing? We begin with the accurate reading of texts and the reconstruction of all the relevant conflicts in which key texts are situated; this is a task requiring sometimes strenous efforts at empathy with historical actors, laborious archival research and a sociologically informed understanding of institutional structures. It is possible to do that with Hitler’s Mein Kampf; however, as I argue below, an accurate reading of Hitler’s autobiography may collapse or blur the careful distinctions that conservatives have drawn since 1945, distinctions between American Progressives and Nazis, good fathers like FDR and bad fathers like Hitler, democratic pluralism versus fascism/communism: the latter twins held to be the sources of all tyranny, violence, swindling, and intolerance. Upon closer scrutiny, we may find that no society has yet been willing to institutionalize fully the process of independent critical thought, accurately to read its institutions and relationships, to identify double-binds in families and universities (impossible reconciliations between truth and order, independence and loyalty, cosmopolitanism and narrow ethnic identification, science and religion); that such cultural freedom as we have enjoyed has been a bone thrown to appease the mob, as my research has shown, often explicitly intended to disguise the shallowness of our cultural life, but mostly to sharpen the distinction between free West and slave East ever since 1917. For contemporary artists and writers, no greater task for our generation has emerged than the rescue of the radical Enlightenment; that is, the rehabilitation of the creative, dissenting individual willing to separate from illegitimate authority, like Herman Melville as Ahab, Pierre, Isabel, Bartleby, and Margoth, to walk away from the big lie. [Added 12-14-09: the painting is not Outsider Art, but a painting made by my daughter Rachel in her childhood. Also, I am not slyly defending the Soviet Union: it was indeed a slave society, but that did not mean that the West was off the hot seat where cultural freedom is concerned. Nor do I discount the importance of propaganda and/or culture; I am quite obsessed with propaganda and culture as influences on what we take to be real. It is the neglect of material factors such as economic history and conflicts of interest that I object to when academics give all the weight to propaganda in the mobilization of mass movements such as Nazism.]

*  See T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, and Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Antisemitism: A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel with a Preface by Gordon Allport (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1946): 132: “…it is a deceptive idea, that the so-called common people have an unfailing flair for the genuine and sincere, and disparage fake.  Hitler was liked, not in spite of his cheap antics, but just because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning.  They are observed as such, and appreciated….The sentimentality of the common people is by no means primitive, unreflecting emotion.  On the contrary, it is pretense, a fictitious, shabby imitation of real feeling often self-conscious and slightly contemptuous of itself.  This fictitiousness is the life element of the fascist propagandist performances.”  See also Hannah Arendt, “The Concentration Camps,” Partisan Review, July 1948, 745: “Hitler circulated millions of copies of his book in which he stated that to be successful, a lie must be enormous–which did not prevent people from believing him….”  This claim, the center of her irrationalist argument, is not footnoted; in any case, she implies that Hitler was boasting about his own successful lying in attaining the support of the German people.  Arendt argues that Nazis were philistines, relativists/nihilists, not pseudo-aristocrats defending “individuality” in terms similar to her own (for Arendt: “the uniqueness shaped in equal parts by nature, will, and destiny,” 758).  Note the refusal of former critical tools: “An insight into the nature of totalitarian rule, directed by our fear of the concentration camp, might serve to devaluate all outmoded political shadings from right to left and, beside and above them, to introduce the most essential political criterion of our time: Will it lead to totalitarian rule or will it not? (747).”

See Georg Lukács, The Destruction of Reason (London: The Merlin Press, 1980): 721-726 for the claim that Hitler learned his demagogical techniques from American advertising (imperialist Americans were the new Nazis in 1950s Stalinist propaganda). Citing Rauschning as his source, Lukács wrote, “In their speeches and writing, the fascist leaders poured out with a nauseating show of emotion their national and social demagogie, whose public second names were honour, loyalty, faith and sacrifice, etc. But when they came together in private, they spoke with the most cynical, knowing smiles of their own messages and manifestoes” (721).  It was of course English wartime propaganda that Hitler credited in Mein Kampf and he disavowed manipulativeness, see below; Cf. Jim Fyrth, Britain, Fascism, and the Popular Front (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1985): 10: “…fascism posed as a form of socialism and its anti-capitalist rhetoric was directed at the working class and lower-middle class.” The Tory/Stalinist characterization of Americans as the new Nazis persists in anti-imperialist movements today; see for instance, Alexander Cockburn’s ill-timed insinuation in The Nation, 8/17-24/92, 163 that Jews (in the persons of Edward Alexander and the Jews who publish him) selfishly and callously minimize the suffering of other oppressed groups (American Indians and Southern slaves) by resisting [ahistoric] attempts to equate “the Holocaust” with other forms of mass death.  Cf. The New Masses during the 1930s which defended the revolutionary bourgeoisie and its development of the productive forces in the same progressive America that would be treated as a country of Bad Jews after the war.

Also see Joachim Fest, Hitler (Harcourt Brace, 1973): Fest presents a bouquet of diagnoses in “the manic simple-mindedness with which he traced all the anxieties he had ever felt back to a single source.” (101-102); “[Hitler learned everything from Marxism and its idea of the vanguard.]  He also went much further than his model.  In his nature there was an infantile fondness for the grand, surpassing gesture, a craving to impress.  He dreamed of superlatives and was bent on having the most radical ideology, just as later he was bent on having the biggest building or the heaviest tank.” (126) i.e., both Marxism and Hitler are crazy.

Although E. Jäckel criticized the Hermann Rauschning tendency, such arguments appeared before Rauschning’s book.  See for instance, George Sylvester Viereck, 1923 (his self-published journal, with the “explosive” Hitler as Byron, vagina dentata, Jewish intellectual, and Gorgon); also Johannes Steel, Hitler as Frankenstein, with a preface by Harold Laski (London: Wishart, 1933): 7.  Describing Mein Kampf: “Eight hundred pages full of curses against Pacifists, Jews, Marxists, Internationalists, and Capitalists without a single productive idea.  His political faith as proclaimed in this book is, that everybody is wrong and only he is right.  A curious book…in which he never speaks about himself, his family, his life, or even his program for the future, but only about generalities.  Metaphysical theories on the necessity of the purification of the German race, of which he is not a member, and in addition to that, nothing but hate and again hate…. (7).  At the end of his speech he registered a child-like happy self-satisfaction” (9).  Hitler is drawn as a Henry Ford-type, not a corporatist liberal: “[Henry Ford] like himself, was a bourgeois, did not like Jews, Socialists, Communists or Revolutionaries, or government interference with private business.” (33).  On Jew-hatred, Steel writes of  “black-haired Jews who seemed to have such an easy life, just trading, arguing and talking and yet getting on and on more rapidly than he, or anyone around him” (3).  The Hitler-Robespierre-syndicalist connection was explicit in Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Our Battle (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1938): 68 ff, 77.

On 7/17/92 Los Angeles public television broadcast a British film, Führer: Seduction of a Nation, advised by Lord Bullock, which carried these themes, depicting Hitler as an inflamed narcissist, “a face from the crowd” taking in the masses with a line that “sounded democratic”; the grandiose Hitler was too close to his mother, the father was described as “authoritarian” and perhaps half-Jewish.

For other works by conservatives that promulgate the Big Lie theory of Nazi propaganda/Nazi narcissism see the Fireside Discussion Group of The Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith, Hitler’s Communism Unmasked (Chicago, 1938); Louis W. Bondy, Racketeers of Hatred: Julius Streicher and the Jew-Baiters International (London: Newman Wolsey, 1946); Adolf Leschnitzer, The Magic Background of Modern Anti-Semitism (N.Y.: International Universities Press, 1956): 142-143; Stanley G. Payne, Fascism: Comparison and Definition (Madison: U.of Wisconsin Press, 1980): 7.  In his typology of social movements, Payne describes Nazi style and organization as “Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects”; David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983): 44-45; Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986): 3, 147, 259-62; Martin Broszat, “A Plea for the Historicization of National Socialism,” Reworking the Past, ed. Peter Baldwin, op.cit., the (populist) Nazis [not Plato et al] invented the idea of the Big Lie! (84).

A somewhat differing impression of Nazi propaganda is carried in Leonard W. Doob, “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda,” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol.14 (Fall 1950): 419-442.  Doob believes Goebbels defended the “truth” of his propaganda, but “credibility” was sought in the spirit of Machiavellian expediency, not morality.  But, according to Richard Crossman (British M.P.), this was (also?) the Allies’ position!  See his “Supplementary Essay” to Daniel Lerner, Sykewar (N.Y.: George Stewart, 1949): 334-335.  For Crossman, the “arch propagandist” Goebbels was sincerely deluded in his Big Lie (then described as necessarily duplicitous): “Where the Germans differed from us was not in their means, but in their ends.  The Nazis really believed that the Germans were a Herrenvolk, with the right to dominate the world; that democracy was an expression of decaying capitalism, and civil liberty a relic of a decadent bourgeois civilization; that the Soviet Union was simply a Mongolian despotism, and Communism a disease; that the Slavs were natural slaves and the Jews vermin, fit only for extirpation.  The real lie of which Goebbels was guilty was the attempt to conceal from the rest of Europe the implications of his Herrenvolk idea…. (334)  Earlier, he claimed that Nazis “took over and vastly refined Bolshevik techniques of mass persuasion (323).”  (Compare Hitler’s admiration in Mein Kampf of British war propaganda for its clarity regarding guilt and innocence; in the Crossman essay, he states that the same propaganda was solely dedicated to urging the Germans to overthrow the Kaiser and establish democracy.)

In Doob’s account, Goebbels himself did not evolve criteria for measuring the effectiveness of differing media, so tried everything to catch his fish.  As often happens, mind-managers have less confidence in their tactics than their critics.  But see Weinreich, “The Jew As A Demon” (Hitler’s Professors, 1946) for evidence of hypocrisy among Goebbels’ disciples.  In my essay, I make no further claim than the absence of Hitler’s bragging about manipulating the masses (against their interests) in either Mein Kampf or Table Talk.


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