The Clare Spark Blog

July 8, 2014

What is sexual freedom?

applesnakeIn my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/), I predicted that the issue of sexual freedom would strongly affect the outcome of the next election cycle. A Facebook friend asked me what I meant by that. He took my ensuing response to express “responsibility” as the controlling value. I only partly agree with that judgment, but the issue bears more elaboration.

This blog expands the answer to my online acquaintance. It is partly  an opinion grounded in my particular experience, but also the result of historical research into changing mores. It is not a romp into relativism. I could come off as some kind of female ‘puritan’ and killjoy, though I don’t see myself that way.

First, consider the vogue for expensive weddings as no more than conspicuous consumption, female narcissism, and often absurd demands on the parental pocketbook. Note too that sentimental literature and romantic comedies are focused on that delicate period between puberty and marriage, where adolescent rebelliousness must be reined in for the sake of the status quo. Romantic love has long been associated with revolt from below. So a certain amount of order must be imposed on a process that could get out of hand. Free love, like free thought, has its limits.

The drama of the hunt and courtship dominates the mass media genres preferred by women, but stops at the usually humdrum period of marriage and parenting, where sexual passion almost inevitably fades, to be replaced by parenthood, community/political involvement, and the unforeseen demands of the aging body. Almost all our ideas about sex are shaped by maintaining our sexual attractiveness, including fashion, hair and skin care, “working out” and of course plastic surgery as if it is normal to be sixteen forever. While shopping the Bloomingdale’s July 4th sale, I heard one woman snort to another that Eileen Fisher’s flowing minimalist designs are meant for “menopausal women.”

wedded-blissswarovski

What I have already written should be obvious. No pop culture group celebrates companionate marriage and growing old together, let alone the day to day challenges of managing family life; nor are there trendy analogs to the Thomas Moore poem and touching popular song “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms….” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believe_Me,_if_All_Those_Endearing_Young_Charms.) Instead we have the dubious passion for redecoration and home-building—a creative act in some cases, but also escapist. Old people, a growing part of our population, are stowed away out of sight and out of mind, unless they are fabulously rich and can attract gold-diggers of either gender.

Second, I rejected libertinism (often a consequence of “existentialist” despair, and “what the hell”), mostly because, though Casanovas and Don Juans probably think it is their birthright to cat around, for women it is most certainly the case that sex is not a drink of water. There is not only the rational fear of STDs, there is the partly irrational (?) fear of abandonment. Add to that the rational fear that birth control technology is imperfect, and you have anxiety during and after the sex act. (I am not suggesting that males do not have their own anxieties, partly over performance, partly over arousing usually buried feelings about Mother and the mother-son bond that may be problematic; the same goes for women, who may be anxious about “unresolved” relationships with Father.)

But all these considerations pale in contrast to the issue of abortifacients and abortions—an issue that is said to be highly “emotional.” Let me make a more materialist observation: the timing of her pregnancies is the single most important economic issue that women make. That is why many feminists are adamant about controlling “reproductive rights,” and take it to be a women’s health issue, not to be negotiated under any circumstances.

I understand that many religious persons see the “pro-choice” position, a symptom of mass media-induced “hyper-sexualization,” as the moral issue of our time, for eternal hellfire is often at stake. Some of the faithful are ready to go to the mat to overturn such laws as Roe v. Wade. Hence the polarization that complicates every election, for no Republican candidate who deviates from the pro-life position, or the related stipulation that stem cell research cannot be conducted with discarded frozen embryos, only adult stem cells, can expect to be nominated or elected (except in New England, perhaps). Meanwhile, in much conservative propaganda, late term abortions and infanticide are trotted out as talking points, as if all liberals and libertarians were potential baby-killers and communists.

The controlling context of this debate over abortion rights is the growing power of the state in surveilling and presumably controlling even the most intimate affairs of individuals. Many conservatives are appalled by “feminism” as if all feminists marched in lock step over “women’s issues,” or were out to destroy the family as the only haven in a heartless world.

Because of cultural/religious pluralism, institutionalized in the law of the land, pro-lifers can practice their religion without imposing a theocracy. It puzzles me that some media conservatives take a triumphalist tone, as if they were theocrats. It should not be a requirement that all Republican candidates are forced to conform to the Catholic/Evangelical social agenda, opposing not only abortion rights, but gay marriage. If statism is to be reduced, then religious conservatives should get their priorities straight and lighten up: as I have written before, capitalism/free markets are on the line. The women’s vote cost Mitt Romney the election of 2012, did it not? (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/07/capitalism-is-on-the-line/)

Here, finally, is how I view my most important feminist commitment, in which the welfare of children trumps individual preference—say for no-fault divorces. Having been through one such divorce in the early 1970s, I was in a position to observe the grief and confusion inflicted upon my own children. I don’t understand why feminists have not written more about the complicated fates of She Who Is Dumped and her offspring.

My own conclusion: if you are unwilling to put children’s emotional stability above your own whims or passions, then don’t have children. Obviously, if the marriage is so abusive, physically and emotionally, to spouse and kids that divorce is the only possibility of rescue from a disastrous home life, then divorce is the only remedy, but be prepared for the fallout affecting every member of the broken family.

divorcegg

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June 28, 2014

Bat Ye’or’s EURABIA: more relevant than ever

anti-women-2Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis was written by Bat Ye’or and published in 2005 by Associated University Presses. The author had already published other books on this and related subjects, mostly in French and translated into English, Hebrew, and Russian. Her general terrain has been the transformation of Europe in its ill-conceived alliance with the Arab world; she dates the turning point in 1973 (the oil crisis), but also alludes to Charles De Gaulle’s foreign policies in the 1960s.

Her argument is easily summarized: European elites made common cause with Pan-Arab elites, establishing the EAD (Euro-Arab Dialogue) to further the aims of 1. Muslims interested in re-establishing the caliphate that would compensate for its losses in Spain and Southern Europe during the late medieval and early Renaissance periods; and 2. A mostly French elite that wanted to challenge US supremacy in the world after the second world war.
The result was an aggressive (as opposed to a peaceful) multiculturalism. I.e., Ye’or holds to the school of international diplomacy that rejects Wilsonian internationalism/the United Nations for Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis.

The outcome of the Eurabian cultural offensive has been intensified immigration of non-assimilating Muslim immigrants into Europe, and the propagation of what she calls the “Andalusian myth” that the misnamed Western civilization itself owed everything to Muslim arts and sciences, and nothing to ancient Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire, “the Judeo-Christian heritage,” or to all societies prior to the propagation of Muslim religion from the 6th century onward. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Islam.)

Scholars such as the late Edward Said have been prominent adherents to Eurabian thought: their goal, she states, has been to attack the legitimacy of Israel, to undermine Christianity, to devalue the United States, and to establish a condition of “dhimmitude” (limited freedoms characterized by servility to the Muslim master and the Sharia law) in all regions where militant jihadists seek hegemony. Her book, written after 9-11, accentuates the cultural offensive or a one-sided “dialogue” between the West and jihadism in which the West has yielded its achievements to the claims of militant Islam and putting cultural pluralism (her “peaceful multiculturalism”) in dire jeopardy. These policies are supported, the author notes, by ambitious Muslim elites, some of their striving middle classes, communists everywhere, and nazified social movements of the far Right. (She does not include, obviously, those European politicians and social movements who oppose sharia law as advanced by Muslim immigrants.)

edwardsaidcard13

Wikipedia dismissed her claims as a “conspiracy theory”; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurabia. But it is well known that Wikipedia is controlled by the same “postcolonial” leftists who oppose Israel and the West as hopelessly imperialist and repressive. Eric Hobsbawm himself could have written this curt dismissal of Eurabia as entirely lacking in academic merit. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/12/08/hobsbawm-obama-israel/.)

obamaisrael3

A daring work such as Bat Ye’or’s should be judged on its documentation as well as its predictive value. With Iraq now threatened by ISIS a.k.a. ISIL, Eurabia deserves a second look. (You will absorb her argument if you read the introduction and conclusions. The book has endnotes and multiple appendices.)
For a CV, see http://www.dhimmitude.org/d_bycv.html.

BatYeor

September 26, 2013

Cultural pluralism vs. multiculturalism

Pandora's_box

[Update: see https://clarespark.com/2017/04/10/a-reassessment-of-a-critique-of-pure-tolerance-42-years-later/, for this is a better antidote to the prevailing New Deal phony liberalism that goes by the name of cultural pluralism/multiculturalism.]

Abstract. Multiculturalism imitates cultural/religious pluralism, while undermining it by denying that we can understand persons of different “races” or genders, for each category is self-contained and indecipherable to other groups. Cultural pluralism should be about lots and lots of competing political parties and religions. The very fact that there is no state religion can call into question dogmatic upholders of any one belief system, religious or otherwise. Intellectual diversity can freak out the true believer, no matter how affiliated or indoctrinated.

Several Facebook friends have asked me to define my terms more carefully, because I assume too much when using academic jargon that is unfamiliar to them.  Today’s topic is “cultural pluralism.”

Cultural pluralism is a confusing term because of the word “culture.” Much of this website is devoted to tracing the history of the term “culture” as a substitute for a more materialist analysis of our society and its institutions (i.e., substitute secular for materialist to distinguish me from a dialectical materialist). As currently practiced, cultural pluralism is almost synonymous with “multiculturalism,” which is adhered to by those envisioning a happy cooperating system of grouplets based on race or ethnicity. The multicultural assumption is that the race or ethnicity they name is free of internal divisions or divergent and/or incompatible economic interest. Thus it may be imagined that all “African-Americans” think alike, have the same economic and gender interests, and are “different” from other Americans, even though the (better) Founders and their 19th century admirers imagined that we would all live under the rule of law as distinct individuals endowed with inalienable rights.

A better term than cultural pluralism, not weighed down with “cultural” differences, would be intellectual diversity or “the marketplace of ideas.”

But in order for the marketplace of ideas to work, all participants need to be able to decode propaganda, whether the propaganda is transmitted through buzz words like “family” or through images that compel our allegiance or frighten us.  Herbert Marcuse’s theory of repressive tolerance remains useful, but when first presented, it aroused a firestorm of opposition because Marcuse wanted to ban (most?) all but left-wing speech. Can anything be reclaimed from his theory? My view is that we lose when we allow the opposition to define the terms of the debate.

We are familiar with such tactics today, as Harry Reid and others define the Republican Party as “obstructionists” or “anarchists” or “defiant.” Reid and his ilk could define the competing ideas that motivate different political factions today (for his own party does not think as one), but he cannot do that, for he MUST smear the opposition in order to 1. present a united front of Democrats; and 2. to please the political class that supports him. It is the way things are done in Washington DC today. I could point to some polarizing Republicans as well.

These are hard times for intellectual diversity.  That is why I admire Eva Moskowitz’s notion of having her charter school kids learn how to extract the message of a poem in grade school! Reading comprehension has never been more important. I could add to that the decoding of images.

Another confusing tactic use by authoritarians of either party is the accusation of “power-seeking” as an end in itself.  I have been watching House of Cards on Netflix, and “Francis Underwood” talks to the viewer explaining that he is not out for money but “power.” But in a few episodes later, we learn that he has risen up from Southern “white-trash”.  So his delight in “power” is all about revenge for the snobbery, bullying, and exclusion he undoubtedly experienced as a boy.

Displaced aristocrats (or those working for them) originated the notion of the organic society, or the organic nation, or “races”. For wannabe “aristocrats” today, nothing is so forbidden as reasoned differences of opinion, or as I call it intellectual diversity, including the summoning of “facts.”  For once you open Pandora’s Box, there is no telling what monstrosities will fly out. Better to keep that box shut tight, lest the inquiring mind acquire the legitimacy that it occasionally enjoyed in eighteenth century England, parts of the United States, the Netherlands, and France.  (On Pandora in Greek mythology see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora.)

Collage, Clare Spark, early 1990s

Collage, Clare Spark, early 1990s

September 8, 2013

Reading between the lines

Humpty-DumptyIn an often contentious thread on my Facebook page yesterday, I responded to a critic who suggested that I view my website as if it had the legitimacy of Biblical texts and rabbinic commentary. As part of my response, I argued that Biblical texts and associated commentary were “texts” susceptible to criticism and analysis (just as my blogs are meant to be by readers who fault my reasoning and/or facts).

Mine was postmodern talk (i.e., that all communications are “texts” susceptible to deconstruction) so this blog is about where I stand regarding postmodernism, which I do use selectively as part of my critical toolbox, along with “historicism” (See https://clarespark.com/2013/09/04/the-syria-crisis-and-historicism/.).

I.First, wherefore the term “postmodernism”? Here is the Wikipedia definition of the movement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism. Its critics are vehemently opposed to this movement in criticism because of its “nihilism,” its denial of “truth,” its challenge to the authority of “science,” its tendency to “anarchism,” and its “moral relativism.” In practice, the postmodernists often point to bureaucratic rationality (Max Weber, not Karl Marx!) and mechanistic thinking as the cause of such catastrophic phenomena as the Holocaust. Since the general tendency of cultural studies follows the postmodern/poststructuralist agenda, I will explain why I find much of it useful, if not all.

While in graduate school at UCLA, many postmodernists saw me as sympathetic to their cause, perhaps because I was doing “reader-reception theory” (exploring the drastically changing meanings assigned to Herman Melville’s texts since the 19thcentury). I.e., I was looking competing narratives that explained Melville’s sometimes difficult texts . There was a similar interest in my finding that many of the key Melville revivers were practicing psychological warfare, while in some cases, caving to academic pressures that conflicted with their spontaneous responses to Melville’s often ambiguous, even mysterious life and art.

The key word is “ambiguity” along with “indeterminacy,” terms espoused by “pomos.”  Being an introspective person, I do find my own life to be ambiguous in the sense that I cannot relate a personal history with a definite cause and effect sequence. Where I depart from postmodernism is in its insistence that all of science is “a swindle”, or that “mechanical materialism” is a philistine element of the Enlightenment that caused “the Holocaust,”  or that all attempts at reconstructing the past are fool’s errands.

II. Second, a few words about cultural pluralism as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It is undoubtedly offensive to some readers that I view the Bible as a text, rather than seeing it as God-originated revelation; I imagine that my Orthodox Jewish son-in-law would see my position as Talmudic and typically Jewish. One reason for the duration of our representative republic is the notion of tolerance and relatively free exchange of ideas. Whereas Europe was engulfed in war following the Reformation, the Founders very wisely insisted in a separation of Church and State: there would be no established state religion. The culture wars are fought over this point, and they have polarized the country around competing readings of the Constitution, with “secular progressives” read out of the polity by some pundits on the Right.

PluralismCenter_MikeGhouse_Pluralist

III. Third, the notion of “the will to power” (the title of one of Nietzsche’s books).  I have seen many Facebook comments attributing “the will to power” as the driving purpose of their ideological opponents. Indeed, in a past field exam for the U.S. history graduate students, one question asked us to comment on feminism as “the will to power.” I took this to be a hostile response to such usurpers of male authority as Anne Hutchinson in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But in my dissertation research, I noticed that aristocrats threatened with dispossession by partly emancipated women, Jews, and workers after the French Revolution, attacked these rising groups as motivated solely by a demonic, hence illegitimate, desire to control them. It is my view that Foucault and his followers come out of this aristocratic reaction to the rise of the bourgeoisie with its all-engulfing “cash nexus.”

During the period that I was shopping my book manuscript, an occasional reader would accuse me of too closely identifying with the dastardly Captain Ahab, and imagining that I had the right answer to the Melville problem, notwithstanding that I refused to conclude anything in particular other than the suppression of key documents in Melville’s life and art that would have made his more influential critics look really bad. There are problems that are insoluble, particularly where the human psyche and a dearth of primary source documents are involved.

Some other Melvilleans claimed that I was vindictive owing to my firing as Program Director of KPFK in 1982! Obviously, I, a female with strong views about censorship, must be possessed by “the will to power” over authoritative male literary historians.  Whereas I should have backed off and admitted that there are a “multiplicity of readings” on all matters of fact. For these nay-sayers I perhaps invoked Hawthorne’s sketch of the uppity, puffed-up “Woman” : Hester Prynne was modeled on Anne Hutchinson as Michael Colacurcio once argued.

As the late Norman J. Levitt insisted in his takedown of the postmodernists among the academic Left, some science is “settled.”  But the “bourgeois apologist” Levitt is dead, and I hear rumors that 2+2=5.

will to power

January 24, 2013

Culture wars and the secular progressives

Marianne, symbol of the French Republic

Marianne, symbol of the French Republic

Walter Hudson has written an essay for Pajamas Media ( http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/01/15/whose-morality-is-it-anyway/) touting religion as the sole building block of social order, the only belief system that prevents “evil.”  Hudson, like many other believers, holds Communists (and by implication, “secularists”) responsible for wanton killing and mass death, perhaps of the kind we have seen at such locales as Newtown, Connecticut, or in the underreported incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as perpetrated by Nehemiah Griego (the fifteen-year-old killer, whose father was a local pastor and reportedly  liberal).

It is true that communists have inveighed against religion as “the opiate of the masses” that holds workers in bondage to a fantasy at best, or terrorizes them at worst (with threats of eternal hell), but Hudson’s privileging of religion as the sole source of morality is repugnant to me. I am one of the dread secularists, which puts me in the same category as those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment, that forbade any established state religion. It is cultural pluralism that has enabled diverse immigrant groups to come to America, and protected them from forced conversion to a state religion. Has Hudson forgotten that “equality under the law” was a salutary innovation that protected all of us from murder and from what Hudson regards as “evil” in general?

But worse, Hudson’s essay negates the Enlightenment, which removed truth, absolute authority and “virtue” from Kings and established Churches, instead investing knowledge, power, and (potential) virtue in the People and their political institutions.  This disestablishment of monarchs and clergy was laid at the feet of the rising bourgeoisie (themselves the children of the French Revolution), who were then attacked by both the deposed monarchists of the ultra-right and future hard leftists. The new popular freedoms were associated by the ultras with the Cult of Reason (symbolized by Marianne), cannibalism, and a host of other horrors, including parricide and deicide.  And so Mary Shelley wrote her famous Frankenstein;  or the Modern Prometheus, while Herman Melville fretted about his own Promethean impulses throughout life. (For more on this theme see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/26/decoding-call-me-ishmael-and-the-following/.)

Much of what Hudson has written is directed at Ayn Rand, her followers, and “Objectivism” in general.  I conclude that it is the “atomized” individual (along with free market society) that is his target. This so-called “atomized” individual was also the target of the moderate men, the Progressives who hoped to stave off Red Revolution through a compassionate welfare state, that would stop just short of turning the world upside down,  and would co-opt religion in the service of those buzz-words “social cohesion” and “political stability.”

Not all moderate conservatives believed that modernity and capitalism would lead to widespread mayhem. See for instance the social thought of Charles Sumner, the anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, whose moral code embraced all of humanity, and most particularly slaves and then the freedmen, while his bosom enemies sought to return the freedmen to new forms of bondage after the Civil War. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/, or https://clarespark.com/2012/01/03/the-race-card/ )  Sumner was a visionary, and for his sacrifices to humanity at large, he has been assailed as a carrier of Jewish blood by his major 20th century biographer.

guillotine

If Walter Hudson and those who agree with him want to improve morality, he should come down on the authoritarian family and all those institutions that fail to educate their children to the obligations of citizenry, or those families who believe in demonic possession as the explanation for mental illness. We need more science in our thought patterns, and less regression to pre-capitalist forms of authority, authority that cannot be made legitimate through any appeal to Reason as embodied in the laws, laws that men and women of all colors fought for and formulated out of an abundance of experience.

September 19, 2009

Populism, progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919

Oswald Garrison Villard

   In my last blog, I objected to David Brooks’s drastic separation of populism and progressivism. Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of my book on psychological warfare in the Melville revival (Hunting Captain Ahab (Kent State UP, 2001, second ed. paperback 2006). Readers of prior blogs will see ample evidence of the deletion of “Jewish” materialism in favor of “Christian humanism” in the fused populist-progressive movement. The influence of Hobson’s notion that finance capital was the cause of war is apparent in Villard’s Nation of 1919; it seems that international finance capital had dictated the peace as well. The Nation recommends a racially-inflected moderation as the remedy of choice to defeat class war and Bolshevism. For more on J. A. Hobson’s attack on “finance capital” see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.

[Book excerpt:] Blue-pencil deletions in The Nation (1919) and in a book for Jewish immigrants (1925)

Raymond M. Weaver’s 1921 biography of Melville had emphasized Melville’s romantic propensity to buy the blissful illusions constructed by bourgeois sentimental culture; these “stupendous discoveries” necessarily evaporated upon contact and brought him down. It is a commonplace of liberal Melville criticism, following Raymond Weaver’s lead, that “disillusion” with the bourgeois idea of progress after the debacle of the Great War to end all wars explains the receptiveness of writers and the reading public to the ever disillusioned Melville, who not only saw through the duplicities of confidence-men before anyone else, but prophesied the totalitarian dictators, Stalin and Hitler. Historicizing gobbet-girls will interrupt: “Just a minute: who was disillusioned after the war, who had been betrayed, and what was to be done?”

Weaver’s essay celebrating Melville’s centenary appeared in the Nation, 2 August 1919, the year of (apparently contagious) international revolution; the negotiation and ratification of the Versailles Treaty; raging class, ethnic, and racial conflict in the U.S.; and violent right-wing reaction, including the establishment of the anti-Bolshevik division of the FBI. The Nation responded with hysterical entreaties for reform even before the conclusion to the Versailles Treaty negotiations, regarded by editor Oswald Garrison Villard as a betrayal by Woodrow Wilson.[i] An editorial of February 8 unabashedly urged repressive tolerance as remedy of choice:

[Nation editorial:] The process of turning the thoughtful working people of the country into dangerous radicals goes merrily on…Readers of the Nation do not need to be reminded that for half a century it has opposed socialist dogma as energetically as it could; and it will continue to oppose it. But in the present premises it is concerned with preserving to every law-abiding citizen and organization the right to present for public consideration his ideas, no matter how erroneous they may appear. The democracy that cannot preserve that right for its minorities cannot live. It is the men who are denying that right, and not the Socialists or I.W.W.’s, who are the most dangerous enemies of the social order today.

For we live in perilous times. Privilege in Russia and Germany has dissolved, and in Great Britain is on the brink of dissolution. The people have lost faith in their rulers and leaders. Let not our privileged classes imagine that the United States is immune. Signs multiply that precisely the same unrest is working here. Deny men the right to discuss their grievances and to redress them through changes in the law, and you develop the temper recently expressed by one of the Socialist leaders: “I, for one, have severed all relations with the enemy. I have stopped signing petitions or other instruments of a pleading nature. I will endorse demands only. It is time that we came out in the open…We must isolate ourselves–fight alone. This is the method by which we will be able to demand–not beg–our rights.”

This is a spirit that cannot be put down by threats or suppression, and woe to that society in which it becomes rampant. We desire no violent revolution, and therefore we adjure the holders of privilege and power solemnly to consider whither their present course of repression leads. Perhaps it is not even yet too late.[ii] [end editorial]

The progressive but counter-revolutionary theme was constantly reiterated: “reconstruction” in the conciliatory mode of the Anglo-Saxon heritage. The search for “common ground” would lead the masses away from proletarian revolution and dictatorship; against the Spartacist Manifesto (reprinted in the Nation, March 8) claiming only socialism could bring peace and order, Anglo-Saxon progressives summoned another voice from Germany. Berlin professor and pacificist, F.G. Nicolai, argued that Karl Liebknecht, the recently murdered Spartacist leader, could have been brought into the system: “Revolution must come; not the revolution which is put through by force, but ordered revolution fought with spiritual weapons.”[iii] Another article opposed the “efficiency scientist,” pleading for a reformed academic humanism to protect “ordered progress,” the alternative to [Ahab-cancer]: “rampant Bolshevism” “malignantly seek[ing] to slay the great serpent, or at least scotch it into impotence.” The triumph of materialism would result in pseudo-humanism–chaotic, sentimental and dilettantish. In a pre-emptive strike, the reformed Ph.D. would promote Christian humanism: gentlemanly art was a moderating criticism of social evil.[iv] Freed from [Jewish] materialist science, [Christian] scholarship–once more liberal and courteous, prudent and restrained, spiritual and holistic–would not present a clear and present danger to capitalist and (patriarchal) family order.[v] Structural change was somewhere else, far, very far into the future.

The “disillusion” explanation for the Melville Revival has truth in it, but has been misunderstood. Internationalism was in the air; the world was confronted with two sublime visions after 1917, Lenin’s and Wilson’s. Both would find intellectual support in Melville’s White-Jacket: the perception of irreconcilable conflicts of interest between haves and have-nots, and the peace, order, and prosperity projected by the Protestant mission. Although Wilson’s and Lenin’s visions were apparently contradictory, at times the Left supported both. As Socialist H.W.L. Dana wrote to James Graham Phelps Stokes:

[Dana to Stokes:] The propaganda which I find most necessary here in Massachusetts is one in favor of Wilson’s ideals. So anxious do I feel myself to protect Wilson from attack, that I find myself ready to hold a position more radical than his in order to draw the fire of the reactionaries upon us. What does it matter if we are crushed out, so long as his liberal ideals remain…I am willing to sacrifice those things which one holds dearer than life, my reputation and the understanding of my fellow men, if I can only contribute a little toward that great solution of the problem of war; so that my bleeding brothers may not have bled in vain. [vi]

Thus Villard’s vehement opposition to the League of Nations gains added significance. The following is a synthesis of diagnoses and presciptions transmitted by the Nation, January-August 1919, reproducing the Judgment Day discourse of Villard and other writers. Materialism was linked both to Shylock/Wilson (international finance capital, the source of imperialism), and to Russo-Semitic mud of Greenwich Village (Freud’s “nauseous juices”).[vii] The “hostile spirit” of mass politics (likened to “white ants”), was eating at the foundations of society. Mammon, Freud, Eros, science, and cities marched past shriveling Anglo-Saxons.[viii]

Villard (who had once believed that the Fourteen Points would end war and arms races) howled at the betrayal of the Versailles Treaty, more or less denouncing Wilson as a hypnotic confidence-man, long aware of the Allies’ secret agreements to divest Germany of land and colonies.[ix] At the “mad” Peace Conference, Wilson’s disguise had been discarded of necessity; the lone wolf and egotist was snuggled in [Shylock’s [x]] pocket, international finance capital. Thought by the pathetically eager and gentle millions to be the carrier of the Christian mission, Wilson was sponsoring the League of Nations to promote peace, while conniving with other insider imperialists to dominate the world.[xi] Meanwhile, Europe lay in smoking ruins, bankrupt and hungry. The red flame of revolution leapt from Moscow to Munich, to Budapest, to Vienna, to London, to Paris, to Milan: Americans should be quarantined with a “Chinese Wall” to block the news (or “whirlwind”) from Europe.[xii] The disappointed, suspicious masses everywhere were tinder for the conflagration to come. Workers in Winnepeg, New York, Seattle, Toronto, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), and Waltham (Massachusetts) were poised to take power. In the vacuum left by the fallen Wilson, the most deluded, stubborn and headstrong false messiahs would be taking the van, pointing away from the calm, careful, and free deliberations of Anglo-Saxon politics, most plainly exemplified in the Puritan town meeting and its spawn, the “honest populism” of the North Dakota Non-Partisan League. They were moving toward the savage (Jewish) vengeance of socialist revolution, mind-control, and the bureaucracy that would follow in an inefficient, decadent worker’s state.[xiii]

Under these desperate circumstances, what should a moderate man do? While praying for another Savior/Superman (an economic dictator or a Lord Robert Cecil), Villard’s action-oriented magazine (with very few exceptions) put out a familiar appeal to rational conservatives. The Right, in its crusading zeal to stamp out the Left, was destroying the Constitution and every semblance of civil liberty, driving orphaned Wilson children into the arms of [Jewish Bolshevism] where presumably they would be betrayed once again, this time for good.[xiv] Similarly, by invading the Soviet Union, America and the Allies were only consolidating the irrational hold of the Bolsheviks. Unmolested, the Russians would revert to type and turn inward; meanwhile, a profitable trading relationship with the Russian masses beckoned.[xv] To avert the bloody massacre of class war, Christian conservatives were to make a few needed sacrifices, move sharply to the Left, and engage Labor as partners to Capital in a Christian, decentralized, associationist state of humanistic, anti-materialist but productive brothers and sisters.[xvi] Alien and exploitative international finance capital (up in the air) should be banished; native commercial capital (close to the ground) would remain. If even twenty intelligent industrialists set their minds to it, conferred and planned, the problem of class warfare could be solved in a matter of weeks.[xvii] The socialist claim for international solidarity through “workers’ control”[xviii] was jettisoned in favor of spirituality and a reinstated family of democratic Christian gentlemen, one or more of whom would befriend the common people: a “builder of more stately mansions.”[xix] In spite of the Nation’s occasional support for liberal internationalism and opposition to racism and national chauvinism, (12 April, 540), the scientific but Jewishly-divisive suggestion of opposing interests between Capital and Labor had been discarded for the mystical but (internally[xx]) unifying glue of race and national character. Honest Anglo-Saxons invited shifty immigrants to rationally assimilate through class collaboration, even if they were racially unfit to get it, quite.

An anonymous review of George Woodberry’s “Nathaniel Hawthorne: How to Know Him” clarified American historicism in the Nation. Every writer (not only Hawthorne) should be first considered with regard to his all-shaping environment and the ideas of his time. Second, the writer, now located geographically and molded accordingly, should be considered with regard to his peculiar and idiosyncratic responses. These are the relevant factors of his biography. “Art,” however, was a separate category from life. “Aesthetics” were related to standards of universal literature; unity was found only in the aesthetic realm. Alas, non-Anglo-Saxons could only hope to peer at Hawthorne. As the reviewer noted of literary scholar George Woodberry: “[However singular and parochial Hawthorne might have been] there is no one now living who is so peculiarly fitted by racial inheritance to speak of Hawthorne with sympathetic understanding.”[xxi] Relations between Hawthorne and Woodberry were guaranteed to be harmonious since, happily, a similar biological environment had pre-soaked their individualities; why, they nearly had the same name. (Relations between Hawthorne and the Melville revivers would be as trouble-free; it shall be seen that Hawthorne’s insights into Melville’s obsessive character, especially as recorded in the former’s English Notebooks, would influence assessments of twentieth-century Melville revivers, almost as if a blood brother could not be contradicted.)

But such a rooted, blood and soil historicism would logically have to sabotage the rational search for “common ground” so strenuously advocated by Progressives as the approved Anglo-Saxon solution to class warfare. This impasse was addressed six years later by Nation reader Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, a pluralist and pragmatist, who was the self-proclaimed intellectual descendant of Kant, Comte, Spencer, LeBon, Durkheim, McDougall, Cooley, and John Dewey. Levinger identified two brands of extremism: 100 percent Americans pursuing the “lost cause” of anti-Semitism; and maladjusted Jews suffering from “oppression psychosis.” In his book Anti-Semitism in the United States: Its History and Causes (1925), Levinger softly explained that American “soil” sprouted neither Marxists nor nativist hysterics: “class consciousness” and “prejudice” disappear when hard hearts melt and rationally adapt to new conditions. Jewish immigrants should leave behind their rigid European formulations of Fascismo versus Socialism, Czarists versus Bolsheviks. In racially and ethnically diverse, sprawling, brawling America, unity would yet be found in the “higher synthesis” of “group minds” admiring their “ideal self.” An all inclusive God-figure smiled on equal opportunity, experiments in group adjustment, and a “scientific” sociology in which “group mind” (an “empirical fact”) confers “functional unity.” Worrisome dissension, hate and inter-group violence were produced solely by “hysteria,” the residual “high emotional tone” left in the dissolution of artificial wartime unity. With corrected “gradation of loyalties” and discreetly harmonized “overlapping” “group affiliations,” groups, not individuals, would be possessed of the “individuality” for which democrats yearned. The national (nascently international) symphony should commence. As for domination, there isn’t any. Levinger explained after quoting James Mark Baldwin, a sociologist:

“The real self is always the bi-polar self, the social self.” Empirically, not only are civilization, history and government the products of social heredity; the individual himself as we have him owes his mental content, many of his feelings and motor responses, and his ultimate ideals to the group in which he was born and has developed. On this basis the ancient conflict between the isolated individual and the group domination becomes unimportant, if not meaningless, from the empirical point of view (32).”

Regretfully, Levinger’s “exceptional individual,” the “genius or social discoverer” was linked to the “criminal or social rebel.” Mad and tragic misfits–like stubborn, hypersensitive, primitivistic Jews regressively merged with their “alters” or “other”– refused the “tolerant” “social self.”[xxii] By the end of the 1930s, Melville’s isolatoes (Ahab, Pierre, Isabel, Margoth) would be desaparecidos. Wholeness (but not whaleness) commanded “American” literature.

The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights to every individual citizen. The new social psychology was sanely designed to wrest the concept of individuality from individual persons to groups: races, ethnicities and business corporations.[xxiii] There might be no commitment to civil liberties in the practice of corporatist intellectuals had not the bloody repression of oppositional political speech during the first two decades of the twentieth century apparently propelled workers and their allies toward socialism, forcing moderate conservatives to forestall revolution in the disillusioned lower orders after the Great War by incorporating libertarian ideals and subversive writers. But the inspiring enlightenment rationalism of John Locke, Condorcet, and the Founding Fathers [xxiv] was vitiated by the racialist Progressive discourse derived from German idealism and the ideas of J. G. Von Herder, the hyphenated Americanism promoted after 1916 that advocated antiracist social and educational policies persisting today as “multiculturalism.” [xxv] Horace Kallen’s Culture and Democracy in the United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples (1924) [xxvi] linked blood and soil determinism with anti-imperialism, boldly asserting an eighteenth-century völkisch social theory against materialist class analysis, proletarian internationalism, and war:

[Kallen:] “The experiments on the salamander and the ascidian, on the rat and the rabbit, make a prima facie case, the importance of which cannot be seriously questioned, for the inheritance of acquired physical traits. The experiments upon the white mice make an even more significant case for the inheritance of acquired “mental” traits (29). …The American people…are no longer one in the same sense in which the people of Germany or the people of France are one, or in which the people of the American Revolution were one. They are a mosaic of peoples, of different bloods and of different origins, engaged in rather different economic fields, and varied in background and outlook as well as in blood…The very conception of the individual has changed. He is seen no longer as an absolutely distinct and autonomous entity, but as a link in an endless historical chain which is heredity, and as a point in a geographical extent involving political, economic, social organization, and all the other factors of group life, which are his environment (58-59).

[Kallen, cont.:] …The fact is that similarity of class rests upon no inevitable external condition: while similarity of nationality has usually a considerable intrinsic base. Hence the poor of two different peoples tend to be less like-minded than the poor and the rich of the same peoples. At his core, no human being, even in a “state of nature” is a mere mathematical unit of action like the “economic man.” Behind him in time and tremendously in him in quality, are his ancestors; around him in space are his relative and kin, carrying in common with him the inherited organic set from a remoter common ancestry. In all these he lives and moves and has his being. They constitute his, literally, natio, the inwardness of his nativity, and in Europe every inch of his non-human environment wears the effects of their action upon it and breathes their spirit (93-94)…Americans are a sort of collective Faust, whose memories of Gretchen and the cloister trouble but do not restrain the conquest of the new empire, and perhaps, the endeavor after Helen (265). (my emph.)”

Researchers would not examine unique individuals with highly variable life experience, capabilities and allegiances: more or less informed individuals making hard choices in shifting situations that were similarly available to empirical investigation, reporting their findings to anyone who cared to listen and respond. For many “symbolic interactionists” or “structuralists,” “society” or “the nation” was a collective subject composed of smaller collective subjects or “sub-cultures”: classes, races, ethnicities, and genders; these collectivities each possessed group “character” expressed in distinctive languages; we communicated solely through the mediations of symbols or “institutional discourses,” and badly. The dissenting, universal individual (the mad scientist) had been swallowed up, while at the same time the conservative reformers claimed to protect or restore individuality in their rescue of deracinated immigrants. Such confusing policies, I believe, are a futile attempt by planners from the right wing of the Progressive movement to impose a sunny, placid, crystalline exterior upon social actors–both individuals and groups–riven by unrecognizable but seething inter- and intra-class conflicts.[xxvii] Although Progressive “corporate liberalism” has been derided by recent populists and New Leftists, its critics have not brought out the organicist sub-text, which, curiously, many radical critics carry but do not seem to see. Melville as Ahab and other dark characters diagnosed the demented character of ‘moderate’ social nostrums;[xxviii] his conservative characters blinkered themselves for the sake of family unity. Why this semi-visible racialist discourse on behalf of a more rooted cosmopolitanism was deemed indispensable to many Progressives is one theme in my book. The construction of the Jungian unconscious as site for Progressive purification and uplift is further developed below as I draw a straight line between some aristocratic radicals of the 1920s and their New Left admirers in the field of American literature.


[i]. Villard believed that the Peace Conference would degenerate into a contest for spoils without the presence of Wilson, The Nation, 2/15/19, 252. On 2/22, “The Net Result” (on the Peace Conference) argued that leaders were failing to perceive the importance of class conflict as national alignments gave way to those of class (268).

[ii] “Danger Ahead,” The Nation, 2/8/19, 186-187. (In the same issue, Nathaniel Hawthorne was lauded as a genius whose writing, formerly held to be parochial, was now to be judged in competition with universal art.) According to revolutionary socialists, tolerance is repressive when it masks social impotence; expression is “free” but may not be translated into measures for structural change beyond social democratic reformism.

[iii] “The Future of the World,”The Nation, 3/22/19, 298.

[iv]  Norman Foerster, “Reconstructing the Ph.D. in English,” The Nation, 5/10/19, 747-50. See also Richard M. Gummere, “The Modern World and the Latin Classroom,” 1/4/19, 13-14; Grant Showerman, “Measuring the Immeasurable,” 7/5, 12-13. Study of the classics would stave off the catastrophe resulting from the scientific vogue for quantitative results. See Norman Foerster, Literary Scholarship: Its Aims and Methods (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1941). Foerster et al were reforming the teaching of literature, seeking “to sort, order, weigh, apply—what the scholarship of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth so devotedly accumulated” (29-30); they will “expose and counteract the unbounded appetite for material power, combined with the self-deception of flimsy ideologies from eighteenth-century sentimentalism to twentieth-century totalitarianism” (31).

[v]  See Nation 1/25, 136. Jews are perennial radicals, no matter how wealthy; 4/19, 664-65; 4/26, 646-647; 5/3, 668, 675, 678.

[vi]  See the James Graham Phelps Stokes papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Butler Library, Columbia University. The Second International supported Wilsonian diplomacy, the Third did not support Wilson’s “alternative to Bolshevism” (the League, the International Labour Organization) until 1933, when Stalin felt himself menaced by both Germany and Japan. See Kathryn W. Davis, The Soviet Union and the League of Nations 1919-1933 (Geneva: Geneva Research Center, 1934), 3-23. Also see Arno J. Mayer, Wilson vs. Lenin: Political Origins of the New Diplomacy 1917-1918 (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1964), 368-393. Mayer saw both visions headed in the same direction: “Lenin’s immediate aim was destructive: class war in preparation for the transitional dictatorship of the proletariat. However, his ultimate objective of the classless society in a warless world had the same hopeful and utopian quality as Wilson’s search for a peaceful community of sovereign democratic nations of unequal power” (393).

[vii]  See the hostile review of Albert Mordell, The Erotic Motive in Literature, 7/19, 94. Freud’s only God is Venus who “rages like a fire” “defaming and defacing” noblest names like Galahad and Lancelot. See also Walter A. Dyer, “The New Order at Juniper Hill,” 7/26, 104-106. The “Anglo-Saxon race” is free from ideas of “class revolution” (106); Fabian Socialism (bearing “inherent common sense”) is contrasted to the Greenwich Village “red radical[s]” with their “Russo-Semitic” “lineage” (104). The Right (a banker, an economist, an editor) is not characterized racially. The same issue notes that British conservatives in a “National Unity Movement” will remove false teachings from the working class (131).

[viii] “Mental Reconstruction,” a review of five recent books, 5/31/19, 871-873.

[ix] See Oswald Garrison Villard, “The Truth about the Peace Conference,” 4/26, 646-647. See also 2/15, 252; 2/22, 268; 5/10, 721, 728-30; 5/17, 826; 7/5, 30. Also, “The Failure of Moral Leadership,” 7/5, 4 (the hypnotic Wilson to which even The Nation had succumbed; the need for a spiritual revival); 5/5, 14-16; Lincoln Colcord, “Why Wilson Was Defeated at Paris,” 5/17, 782-84. Colcord explained that the secret treaties of the Allies had been published by Trotsky, November 1917; Wilson had them, but would not act. “With the ineluctable knowledge of their existence and terms, he outlined, a month later, his famous Fourteen Points…It is only fair to assume that he himself was deluded; at all times he promised himself that he would rectify the error when the Peace Conference came” (783). The preceding article, “Madness at Versailles” was harsher: “His rhetorical phrases, torn and faded tinsel of thought which men now doubt if he himself ever really believed, will never again fall with hypnotic charm upon the ears of eager multitudes. The camouflage of ethical precept and political philosophizing which for long has blinded the eyes of all but the most observing has been stripped away, and the peoples of the world see revealed, not a friend faithful to the last, but an arrogant autocrat and a compromising politician.” With the sane liberal center abandoned, there are two hostile camps: radicals and reactionaries. Wilson is with “the staunch supporters of power and privilege, the controllers of great wealth and dictators of social favor, the voluble champions of the established order against every form of revolution, the preachers of hate and prejudice, and the timid and dependent whose souls are not their own”(779). See also 7/19, 68.

[x]  Although Polish pogroms were vigorously protested, anti-Semitism in The Nation was implicit in its characterizations of finance capital and foreign radicalism. See especially W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12, 37-39, a defense of the populists and their Anglo-Saxon antecedents the Lollards. “The League in North Dakota represents the organized revolt of the farmers, who make up the majority of the population, against long-continued exploitation of financial Shylocks and marketing profiteers.” The populists are not “European [dishonest] radicals” but examples of “honest American progressive democracy.” Failure will only come from outside the system (autocratic forces that hate democracy). In a review of a pamphlet, Shylock Not a Jew, by Maurice Packard and Adelaide Marshall, 6/28, 1018, the reviewer belittled “the little brochure” as unilluminating and belaboring the obvious.

[xi]  See the reprint of a pamphlet by the English anti-imperialist, J.A. Hobson, “The New Holy Alliance,” 4/19, 626-628: Wilson “willingly poured his idealism into the Smuts plan”; a “conspiracy of autocrats” will defeat true internationalism and control the world. Also, Lincoln Colcord, “A Receivership for Civilization,” 6/28, 1009-1010: The press has been hiding this story–American boys will be giving their lives to protect bond investors in Europe. Cf. 5/24, 820: U.S. soldiers will die to protect loans to China; Anglo-American imperialism will rule the world; progressives in the Republican Party are splitting from the Old Guard on this. Also, 7/5, editorial, Elihu Root, the servant of finance capital is swaying Republican opinion away from the progressive bloc to join Wilson and the Democrats, all of whom are in their pockets. Also, “[P]ossibly other inner circles” of finance capital for the benefit of Wall Street are mentioned in connection with the Treaty, 8/2, 140-141. The anti-Semitism of Hobson’s influential study of imperialism (1905) has been noted by Lewis Feuer, but from the Right. See Lewis Feuer, Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1986).

[xii]  4/15/19, 485, “the whirlwind approaches across Europe.” Villard, “Germany Today: Food or Chaos,” 3/29, 464-465.

[xiii]  2/15, 246-247; 3/29, 464-66, 496-497; 4/26, 650-652; 4/12, 542-49; 4/19, 601-603; “Reason in Revolution,” 6/14/19, 932. If we open lawful channels for change, labor can realize its demands. 5/10, 726 on “May Day Rioting”: we should stick to “the Anglo-Saxon method [the moderate way] of settling our difficulties by peaceful means and no others.” Also, 6/7, 899, The “Anglo-Saxon way of altering social and political institutions by free debate and discussion” contrasted to “Prussian intolerance.” Also, Allen McCurdy, “Wanted–A Ballot Box,” 7/5, 9-10. Also, W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12/19, 37-39. William MacDonald, “North Dakota’s Experiment,” 3/22, 420-422, “The Technique of Revolution,” 3/22, 417; 5/10, 738-39; 6/7, 899; 3/15, 396; 5/5, 10-11; 6/14, 955-56; 3/29, 460, 467-68; 5/17, 839-40; 5/31, 871-72; 7/5, 23; 7/12, 43.

[xiv]  “While They Dance the Tango,” 3/22, 452; Spartacism is unchecked, we need an economic dictator, also 459: labor and capital must sit down and transform industry; John Kenneth Turner, “A Pledge to the World,”7/5, 14-16: Lord Robert Cecil (like the model subscriber to The Nation?) had departed from the feudal and reactionary ways of his Vere de Vere type ancestors, standing for peace and cooperation with labor, in control of all the impulses that made for irresponsible demagoguery of the past. 3/8, “Poisoning the Wells”; 3/29, 485-486; 4/12, 553-54; 4/19, 595, 626-628; 5/3, 692, 699; 5/17, 806-808; 6/28, 1000; 7/12, 37-39; 7/26, 97.

[xv] 2/8, 188-190; 3/22, 413; 4/5, 522-25; 5/10, 792.

[xvi] See the review of M.P. Follet, The New State, 1/18, 97: the neighborhood group would be the embodiment of the “group state” that replaced the “crowd state.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis [ideological successors to Melville’s father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the State of Massachusetts] represented the change from a state that protected individualistic privilege to a conception of law as the “outcome of community life and bound to its service.” 3/1, 314-15; 3/29, 459, 463, 478-79; Richard Roberts, “England in Revolution,” 5/17, 784-85; “The League of Nations in Danger,” (sermon by Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, who fears  education and science as promoters of competition, not Christian corporatism), 806-808; 5/31, 866-67; “The Problem of the State,” 8/2, 137.

[xvii]  6/7, 931-44; Lincoln Colcord, “The Carving of Russia,” 6/14, 940-941, for the distinction between “industrial bankers” versus “financial bankers.” The “international bankers” stand in the background of the negotiations in Paris, arranging the destinies of men.” Commercial bankers are “outside” this scenario. Unlike the “financial” bankers, the commercial ones (e.g. National City Bank connected to Standard Oil, American International Corporation, and the banking-engineering firm of Stone and Weber) are close to production, wisely making concessions to labor. The former (e.g. J.P. Morgan) see the state as existing to clamp down on debtors. 7/12, 28: The Non-Partisans are not Socialists; they want to buy cheap and sell dear; alien speculators and alien control of markets and terminals are to be eliminated. In the same issue, a review entitled “Immanent Idealism” (a synthesis of the old idealism and pragmatism) recommends its formless self as best counter to emancipated, atheistic, international democracy (23). 2/15, 243; 3/22, 452; 4/12, 536.

[xviii]  2/8, 217, 241; Special Correspondent, “The Shop Stewards Movement,” 2/22, 277-279 (favorable towards worker’s control); 3/22, 451; 3/29, 477-78; 5/3, 680; 5/10, 722.

[xix] A.A. Berle, Jr., “The Betrayal at Paris,” 8/19/19, 170. Cf. 160, “An Appeal to America Not Yet Written by Woodrow Wilson,” in which the ideal leader is not a friend of one class over another, but helps classes to understand each other, then see their common interest and common justice.

[xx]  Internal to “the race,” not the individual psyche.

[xxi]  Unsigned review, 2/8, 202, possibly Carl Van Doren.

[xxii]  Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, Anti-Semitism in the United States, Its History and Causes (N.Y.: Bloch, 1925), 29, 333-34, 39-44, 51, 71, 78, 94-95, 110, 115.

[xxiii]  A clipping preserved by Carey McWilliams is revealing in this regard: Woodruff Randolph’s editorial in the Typographical Journal 9/4/37, protested recent right-wing offensives; the headline read “Incorporate Unions? Step Toward Fascism, Says ‘Typo’ Secretary.” Randolph contrasted the business corporation “partly a person and partly a citizen, yet it has not the inalienable rights of a natural person” with “A labor organization [which] is organized to do in numbers what each may do individually under his inalienable rights.” Carey McWilliams Papers, UCLA Special Collections, Box 14.

[xxiv] James W. Ceaser, Reconstructing America, Chapter 2. Ceaser differentiates among the Founders, arguing that Jefferson’s political rationalism existed in tension with received ideas on race; the overall effect was to replace political science with natural history as the guide to sound government. Condorcet, the most comprehensively democratic philosophe, the champion of internationalism, popular sovereignty, public education, feminism, and progress, and enemy to separation of powers and checks and balances (as ploys of elites to subvert democratic will), was annexed to the conservative enlightenment to give liberal credibility to the New Deal elevation of the executive branch of government over the legislative branch. See J. Salwyn Schapiro, Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism (N.Y.: Octagon Reprint, 1978, orig. pub. 1934, repub. 1963), 276-277: “Security for both capital and labor is essential if freedom of enterprise is to survive…Responsibility in government can be more efficiently maintained by giving more authority to the executive, who would wield power, not as an irresponsible dictator, but as a democratically chosen official responsible to a legislature whose essential function would be to act as the nation’s monitor. Progress has been the peculiar heritage of liberalism to which it must be ever faithful in order to survive.” Condorcet joins Paine and Jefferson as fodder for the moderate men of the vital center.

[xxv]  I am using 1916 as a milestone in the promotion of ethnopluralism because of the publication of the Randolph Bourne article, “Trans-National America,” and a now forgotten book by the head psychologist of the Boston Normal School, J. Mace Andress, Johann Gottfried Herder as an Educator (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1916). The latter introduced Herder as the precursor to Franz Boas and advocated the new “race pedagogy.” There was no ambiguity about the welcome counter-Enlightenment drift of German Romanticism in this work. For Andress, the German Romantic hero was a rooted cosmopolitan, fighting to throw off [Jewish] materialist domination to liberate the Volksgeist. In 1942, Herder was presented as a Kantian, pantheist, cosmopolitan and quasi-democrat, even a supporter of the French Revolution in James Westfall Thompson, A History of Historical Writing, Vol. 2, 33-138, especially 137.

Some more recent intellectual historians are rehabilitating Herder along with other figures of the Hochklarung, similarly held to be avatars of the freethinking emancipated individual. In his talk at the Clark Library symposium “Materialist Philosophy, Religious Heresy, and Political Radicalism, 1650-1800,” (May 1, 1999) John H. Zammito declared that Herder’s philosophy (the demolition of mechanical materialism?) cleared the way for the further development of natural science in Germany. The key figure for these scholars is Spinoza, his pantheism the apex of “vitalist materialism.” Margaret C. Jacob, author of The Radical Enlightenment, 1981, was organizer of the conference, but we are using the term with differing assumptions about scientific method and what, exactly, constitutes the radical Enlightenment.

[xxvi]   Horace M. Kallen, Culture and Democracy in The United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples, (N.Y: Boni and Liveright: 1924), recognized in Alfred E. Zimmern’s review in The Nation and the Atheneum, 5/17/24, 207, as a shift away from Lockean environmentalism toward hereditarian racism, however (benignly) characterized as “a cooperation of cultural diversities”; Zimmern linked Kallen’s pluralism to that of William James. He did not mention Randolph Bourne’s Atlantic Monthly essay of 1916, “Trans-National America.” See also Robert Reinhold Ergang, Herder and the Foundations of German Nationalism, (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1931), Chapter III. On the explicit and implicit antisemitism/Counter-Enlightenment in Herder’s position, see p. 92: “The Hebrews ‘were a people spoiled in their education, because they never arrived at a maturity of political culture on their own soil, and consequently not to any true sentiment of liberty and honor.’ ” There it is, the Big Lie of rootless cosmopolitanism. See p.95 for the basis of Herder’s anti-French revolt: Rousseau’s Contrat social is not the force that binds a nation, but nature’s laws of blood and soil; Nature, not Culture creates interdependence; for Herder there is only Nature and all history is natural history; environmentally acquired characteristics are inherited by the corporate entity.

[xxvii] See for instance, Louis Filler, Randolph Bourne (Washington, D.C.: American Council On Public Affairs, 1943). The Council was a Progressive organization producing pamphlets during the war and promoting cooperation between capital and labor. Louis Filler (also a Nation writer) explained why Randolph Bourne, espousing an orderly “international identity” for America and explaining war as an outgrowth of nationalism, had been wrongly deemed as irrelevant to the youth of the 1930s; we need Bourne today. Filler explained, “Alien cultures, Bourne declared, brought new forces and ideas to American life. [Those bossy, snobbish Anglo-Saxon assimilationists who controlled everything, so] discouraged retention by immigrants of their Old World heritage did not thereby create Americans. They created “hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards but those of the mob.” Moreover: “those who come to find liberty achieve only license. They become the flotsam and jetsam of American life, the downward undertow of our civilization with its leering cheapness and falseness of taste and spiritual outlook, the absence of mind and sincere feeling which we see in our slovenly towns, our vapid moving pictures, our popular novels, and in the vacuous faces of the crowds on the city street. This is the cultural wreckage of our time, and it is from the fringes of the Anglo-Saxon as well as the other stocks that it falls. America has as yet no compelling integrating force. It makes too easily for this detritus of cultures. In our loose, free country, no constraining national purpose, no tenacious folk-tradition and folk-style hold the people to a line.” What would be done about such a state of affairs? “America is a unique sociological fabric, and it bespeaks poverty of imagination not to be thrilled at the incalculable potentialities of so novel a union of men. To seek no other good but the weary old nationalism–belligerent, exclusive, inbreeding, the poison of which we are witnessing now in Europe–is to make patriotism a hollow sham, and to declare, that, in spite of our boastings, America must ever be a follower and not a leader of nations.” Do not, therefore, denigrate any culture that has driven stakes into the American soil: do not, certainly, term it un-American: “There is no distinctive American culture.” Do not, above all, set up American material achievement as a token of American fulfillment: “If the American note is bigness, action, the objective as contrasted with the reflective life, where is the epic expression of this spirit?” We were patently inhibited from presenting in impressive artistic form the energy with which we were filled. The reason was that we had not yet accepted the cosmopolitanism with which we had been endowed. Americans of culture could be made of the Germans in Wisconsin, the Scandinavians in Minnesota, and the Irish and Italians of New York. “In a world which has dreamed of internationalism, we find that we have all unawares been building up the first international identity (76-78)…[Bourne’s] ideas, his experiences, the warp and woof of his personality were not necessary to a generation that believed it had discovered impersonal economic laws that (properly applied) would at last bring about a settlement of human affairs (133).”

[xxviii]  Cf. David Leverenz on the “Ugly Narcissus,” Ahab: “He certainly is not afflicted with contradictory or discontinuous role-expectations. But he does start to experience a desire for [sadomasochistic] fusion, previously blocked by his obsession.” In Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), 294.

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