The Clare Spark Blog

August 13, 2016

There and not there: progressives make us crazy (2)

As seen in review of play "Double Bind."

As seen in review of play “Double Bind.”

(For the first one in this series, see

I have been rereading old books of mine to see if I could still recommend them; the horror show today is by Ashley Montagu (born Israel Ehrenberg, 1901-1999), a very long book republished in paperback by Oxford University Press in 1974: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, and dedicated to the three Mississippi martyrs on behalf of civil rights for Negroes (“James Chaney, Andy Schwerner, and Mickey Goodman”—in that order, and with nicknames reserved for the two white guys).

This is how this particular progressive, super-prolix author puts us in double binds.

  1. (In no particular order) The hip reader of physical anthropology praises both competition and cooperation (“altruism”—an inborn trait, over the taught horrors of Social Darwinism—a capitalist deviation from the ideal).
  2. We are both shaped by particular [unique/incomparable] societies and individuals free to choose a better path, i.e., the collectivist progressive way.
  3. “Race” is out, while “ethnicity” is in no way a racist term. (This is a wild distortion of Huxley and Haddon’s We Europeans (1935) where they discard both race and ethnicity, preferring the ancient reference to “ethnos” as any particular population.)
  4. Hybrid vigor improves what has been mistakenly called “pure” races. (This may be an indirect way of being a racist, while posing as an anti-racist: some 19th C. crypto-racists played this game.)

Along the way, the lordly Montagu describes the unenlightened lower orders as “wild” and “coarse.”

For a detailed account of how the pseudo-science of social relations (sometimes known as cultural anthropology) prevailed over the wild and coarse pursuit of truth, see, and most of this website.

The only way to resolve the double bind is to retreat into mysticism over anything so banal as materialism.


April 10, 2010

Columbia U.’s double bind, October! 1917

James McKeen Cattell

[This is an excerpt from my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, chapter 2 :] Young Raymond M. Weaver, founding father of the Melville Revival, thrashed about in two conflicted venues in the late nineteen-teens, first, the academic freedom controversy that excited Columbia University in 1917 after the summary dismissals of two antiwar professors; second, the Red Scare of 1919 as addressed by the Nation magazine. In the pages that follow, I will scrutinize nutty, yet in their view, logical institutional responses to anticipated mutiny, for similar tactics were followed in other conservative but “liberal” institutions and professions: universities, periodicals, the Dies Committee in the late 1930s (HUAC), the American Historical Association, a prewar organization of social psychologists, and postwar intelligence agencies. They could not describe their operations accurately without threatening institutional legitimacy, thus every human relation was deceptive; under such preposterous conditions the critical intellect would have to waste away, dissimulate or flee. The New Left opposition that entered university faculties after the 1960s has been forced to negotiate the same mixed-message as Weaver; if my analysis is accurate, then it would be difficult for younger scholars to describe their own predicaments without risking expulsion.

The incident at Columbia is infamous in the annals of academic un-freedom. Weaver’s student and friend Joseph Freeman recalled that it started the “reign of terror” that transformed the American Union Against Militarism of 1915 into the ACLU. Carol Gruber, a student of Richard Hofstadter, has, like other liberals, criticized the limp behavior of the Columbia faculty and all professors who fail to protect academic freedom from right-wing hysterics.[i] But the weakly challenged purges of 1917 revealed more than faculty cowardice. There were contradictions in liberal thought, in the rhetoric of the French Revolution, and in Melville’s family that Melville himself had identified as crazy-making in Pierre: how to reconcile manly independence and free thought with loyalty to conservative families? If we are liberals, how shall we simultaneously achieve liberty, equality, and fraternity? Why should socializing institutions in class societies subsidize processes that can get out of hand? Who decides that authority is legitimate anyway? Or, as conservatives from Robert Filmer, to David Hume, to Edmund Burke, to Thomas Carlyle, to the narrator of Pierre, to Henry A. Murray, to Orson Welles, to Hans Jurgen Syberberg would say, “Little man [Leveller, Jacobin, Pierre, Citizen Kane/Cain, Hitler], what now?”  

    During the mid-nineteenth century, Herman Melville failed to get the unambiguous patronage of another gentleman-sailor, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author, abolitionist, Free-Soiler and Boston Brahmin. Perhaps Dana’s distaste for Lemuel Shaw, his political enemy and Melville’s father-in-law, blighted a stimulating friendship for both men. Dana had written in his journal: “The truth is, Judge Shaw is a man of intense and doating biasses, in religious, political and social matters. Unitarianism, Harvard College, the social & political respectabilities of Boston are his idola specus & fori (1856, Log).” 

     Six decades later, Dana’s grandson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, a Harvard Ph.D. (1910), socialist and peace activist, was summarily dismissed from his position as instructor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University: the New England Red Prince had been blatantly insubordinate. Although America entered the Great War on April 2, 1917 “for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government, for the rights and liberties of the small nations…and to make the world itself at last free,” as Wilson told Congress, [ii] Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler announced to alumni on Commencement Day, June 6, that anti-war “wrongheadedness” and “folly” were now “sedition” and “treason”; academic freedom would be suspended in wartime.[iii] Butler referred to the conspicuous agitation of Dana, economics professor Henry R. Mussey, the distinguished experimental psychologist James McKeen Cattell, Cattell’s son Owen, and other friends or members of the Collegiate Anti-Militarism League. With motions magnified by the popular press, these were activators of primal passions, enemies to “balance.”[iv]

   Cattell, editor of School and Society, had been a loud and unrelenting advocate of faculty control and community-responsiveness in the universities; he was nearly “retired” in 1913, but, it was suspected, retained solely to cast an aura of liberal toleration.[v] In May 1917, the irrepressible Cattell read a paper “Academic Slavery,” before the Twentieth Century Club, adjuring professors to remove their snobbish and mobbish propensities to please the king:  “…in fact the professor has no right to hide in the crowd. It is not thieves alone who have a code of honor. Each group has its moral etiquette and its unpardonable sin. The soldier may get drunk and get syphilis, but he must not desert his post; the lawyer may try to deceive the jury and the court, but must not betray his client; the physician and the clergyman may flatter and conceal, but they must try to save lives and souls; the university professor may be “fonder of glory and vain,” a snob and a cad, but in his teaching and research, he must tell the truth as he sees it and seek the truth as it is (18 May 1917).”

    Cattell, a student of the British eugenicist Francis Galton, may have opposed the draft out of fear that the Conscription Act would provoke a revolution, for Woodrow Wilson had been elected on a peace platform.[vi] Along with anthropologist Franz Boas, English professor William Peterfield Trent, co-editor of The Cambridge History of American Literature, was one of the few faculty who supported the long beleaguered Cattell. Trent wrote to political scientist E. R. A. Seligman, June 20: “It ought not to be possible for a man of my training and temperament to feel that at bottom despite all his defects and missteps, my sympathies are steadfastly with Cattell rather with the ostensible attitude of a majority of my colleagues and with the officers of administration. I like peace and order and in many ways am conservative. I have filled, in a small way, administrative positions myself, I practically do not know what friction with my colleagues and the administration means, yet in my fifty-fifth year I find myself continually impressed by the subserviency and the sycophancy observable in academic life, by the parasitic nature of the typical professor, by the growth of the spirit of censoriousness and revolt in myself. This is not as it should be, but self-examination does not leave me convinced that the fault lies entirely with me.[vii]

    During the summer, Cattell had lobbied numerous congressmen, writing to them on Columbia University letterhead stationery; that seems to have been the last straw; on Oct.1, the trustees unanimously voted to “vacate” the positions of Dana and Cattell. Cattell alleged that the firing was a pretext to perpetuate the oligarchy of businessmen: the real targets were those professors who wanted administrative independence from the trustees; John Dewey agreed. As he told the press, “They smeared the whole case over with patriotism. If they had good cause to dismiss Cattell, they might have come out boldly with the reasons.”[viii]

   Raymond M. Weaver was hired on October 8 to take over the teaching of Dana’s classes, the very day that Charles Beard, hailed as the most popular professor at Columbia, resigned from the Department of Political Science to protest continued trustee interference with teaching. Oct. 9, The Columbia Spectator led with the story of Charles Beard’s emotional departure, noting approvingly that “sentiment is almost wholly in favor of Beard’s action”: “Charles Beard announced it in his class yesterday morning. His action was greeted with applause which lasted for five minutes, and many of the students crowded about his desk at the close of the class to express their regrets personally. He was in tears when he left the room…The resignation has created the greatest excitement among the faculties of the various schools and colleges of the university. Unofficially, several of the professors have signified their intention of resigning from the faculty in sympathy with the ideas of Beard…[It] may lead to a secession of the most prominent members of the university.”

    What were Beard’s ideas? According to the Spectator, his classes fostered a spirit of wide-open political debate. Beard’s position was not antiwar like Dana’s, or anti-forced conscription like Cattell’s; he felt that support for the war should be proffered by disinterested intellectuals. He wanted to be viewed as an objective voice for national interests, not as a mouthpiece for the special interests of the trustees.[ix] Whether Beard was a sane liberal or a moderate advocating repressive tolerance like Cattell, he had significant support among students and faculty; but the issues raised by the purge seemed to drag the rational intellect leftward onto the barricades. Worried liberal faculty and press predicted “incipient revolt,” “a riot” and “great upheavals.”[x] James Harvey Robinson said the Constitution had been violated; America’s credibility as a democracy was at risk. John Dewey and Charles Beard felt proletarianized: “To my mind, this college is nothing but a factory, and a badly run factory at that,” said Dewey.[xi] Beard’s Letter of Resignation was even more vehement: “[A] few trustees dominate the university and terrorize the young instructors…the status of the professor is lower than that of a manual laborer…Holding his position literally by the day, the professor is liable to dismissal without a hearing, without the judgment of his colleagues who are his real peers.[xii] 

Columbus Day, 1917. The Spectator of Oct. 12 rocked with three incompatible pieces on the controversy. A front-page statement by Professor Robert Livingston Schuyler defended Charles Beard’s book of 1913, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution from the attack of a New York Times editorial of October 10. (Beard’s revisionist work characterized the framing and ratification of the Constitution as a virtual coup d’état by government bondholders and other representatives of the rising industrial bourgeoisie at the expense of the agrarian interest, including indebted small farmers and poor mechanics; the Constitution was a conservative class document, cunningly contrived to give the appearance of republican “balance” while actually stacking the deck against the popular legislative branch. Beard’s “scientific history” had attempted to delegitimate federal authority; he unapologetically aligned himself with the Marxists against Bancroft and other early nationalist historians or the unnamed advocates of Teutonic supremacy; however, he imprecisely labeled the Federalists as “aristocrats” and their more numerous anti-Federalist opponents “agrarians”; cf. T. S. Eliot below). The Spectator editorial called for rationality and unity, so the Dana-Cattell firing should be excluded from the agenda of the formal student-faculty meeting to come, while a less visible article headlined “Pacifism Was Not The Issue” quoted Cattell’s suggestion that “A private corporation which now taxes the people to maintain the privileged classes must ultimately be taken over by the people and conducted for their welfare.”[xiii]

    To his opponents, Cattell’s rationalism hitched to Beard’s iconoclasm must have resembled an eruption of the apocalyptic sublime. While Cattell, Dewey and Beard used economic categories to describe class domination and proletarianized professors, corporatist seekers of truth, taking the roles of doctors and clergymen, proposed medical remedies to save the souls of febrile organisms. Political disputes, resolvable only through rational deliberation, organization, and social action, were transmuted into diagnoses and prescriptions for decorous purges and healings. Disparate and irreconcilable interests had been welded by love’s delicately equilibrated machine. An emotionally and intellectually mature person would manipulate the “body” to his (and everyone’s) advantage; failure staggered forth from lapses of self-control and social sensitivity. The Committee of Nine was an early HUAC-type body formed at Columbia in March 1917 “to help the trustees inquire into the state and ultimate tendency of teaching in the university”; or, to be less polite, to sniff out pink and red disloyal professors. Columbia was conceived as a single body, but not One Big Union; the Committee had been denounced by some as an insulting and unnecessary inquisition.[xiv] Amid the furor of petitions, rallies, resolutions and rumors of strikes, uprisings, plots and walk-outs following Beard’s resignation, The Committee Of Nine pronounced “the University mind” quite mad and frantically cried for “corporate interest and corporate responsibility;” then, in a spectacular Freudian slip, begged for closure: [xv] 

    “…the University mind is left a prey to distraction and unrest, which in these critical times may lead to unrestrained outbursts by the impulsive and to severity in discipline by those entrusted with the exercise of power. It would seem wise, therefore, to consider our state of health dispassionately before either by neglect or by improper remedies, our disease becomes chronic…What then should be done?…This occasion ought not to be used to indulge in recrimination, censure, protest, or strife. We are in no fit state for dispassionate criticism and review…If we can not or do not recognize the state of mind we are in, it is folly to suppose that in that state of mind we shall do full justice in any case which stirs profoundly our primal passions when we look upon those who are about to die and the whole tragedy of this present world. Our only hope, our only reason, our only sanity is to try to protect us from ourselves for the future. That we can do if we but set about to do it. We can not do it, however, by devising some happy plan overnight. We can do it only by patient study, for it is the soul of the plan which must be made over. Our house can not be cleaned by the Trustees of the University…there can only be one leader and that is the President of the University. Efforts have been made to reform this place without his leadership and these efforts have failed. These efforts should stop. A new effort should be made under his leadership as chairman of a committee chosen from the University faculties to look into our condition. The findings of such a committee would be final and conclusive, or [sic] they would create issues which can freely and openly be discussed by men who love the University and bear the name of scholars.” (my emph.)

   This is an astounding document to have emanated from a great university: men trained through life to control their emotions in favor of objective judgment, had utterly lost it. Farewell to the Rights of Man they say, while hovering over an Abyss: the whole World is awash in primal Passions–”we” are our own worst Enemies; “we” want a strong Leader to unite our flailing Family; and “we” want an unambiguous Diagnosis of our Insanity, ASAP. Where will the correct Answer come from? Why, from amongst our maddened, divided Selves in a Committee stamped by the Head, where else? Otherwise, we might succumb to the Ambiguity of ordinary Persons, becoming Scholars who love their Students and their Work.

Five weeks later, Butler received a letter from the faculties of Political Science, Philosophy and Pure Sciences upbraiding him, but urging rational reform all around:[xvi]

“[The university is under suspicion]; there is a conviction that the Trustees and Faculties…are becoming increasingly estranged and are approaching an open conflict. [We want to] free the University from the imputation that the Trustees and Faculties have something to conceal and do not trust one another. It is now a great and international institution–we must cooperate with Trustees in this critical time…[the last two years have been embarrassing]. We have been too tolerant of abuses we might have remedied. [But your behavior has been cause of our suffering reputation.] That such things as we have enumerated give occasion to the radical minded and the emotional to hold the university up to scorn is regrettable. [And more, we don’t approve of them] (22 Nov. 1917). “

    The faculties who signed this letter presumably had been trained to analyze institutions, social movements, and competing epistemologies; trained to teach their students how to separate facts from factoids by exploring the material world, clarifying controversies by consulting primary sources to compare competing truth-claims. They should have been relieved that the widening rift between professors and trustees had disclosed their true condition as unfree investigators, but no. They were aghast that their peers, radical critics all over the world, might be laughing as Columbia’s perfectly happy corporatist identity came unglued. In the interest of mental and physical health at Columbia University, an institution devoted to the training of rational gentlemen and rational scholars by rationally cooperating faculty and trustees, disruptive passions were out and factoids were in. The “irresponsible,” “poisonous” and “emotional” Dana and Cattell along with hot-heads like Will Durant and the expelled Jewish student protester Leon Samson (one of the “wild-eyed” ranters and “kickers” pushing “cheap pacifism”) could take their vagrant principles elsewhere, which of course made the leftovers look really liberal, at least to themselves.[xvii]

Two years later, Levering Tyson, Executive Secretary of the Alumni Federation and Managing Editor of the Columbia Alumni News, wrote to attorney John Saxe on the occasion of Cattell’s lawsuit brought against Columbia for denying him his pension. Tyson reviewed the possibly fatal blow inflicted by Dana and Cattell: “It will be years and I doubt if it ever happens [sic] that Columbia will recover from the reputation which activities of these two men gave her. The men were cancers. All [the radicals] needed was a few men like Cattell and Dana to give them standing and Columbia University was always conspicuous in the accounts of their activities. After getting rid of them the University was really able to make some headway in demonstrating to the public and to her alumni the war work which she was actually accomplishing, ready to perform and that she had already entered a regular program in assisting the Government in preparation for and in pursuit of war (29 Nov. 1919).”

    Such was the social environment in which the impressionable and sensitive Raymond Weaver found his thorny nest. Not surprisingly, the young Melville presented in his biography resembled the Columbia troublemakers of 1917; whereas the sadly wised-up older authors (both Weaver and his subject), reeling from the barbs of readers hostile to Moby-Dick and Pierre, became brothers to the sedate and resigned professors who (with a few exceptions) had made their peace with Butler and the trustees.

    Sanely moderate Columbians did not agonize over conflicts between Reason, Conscience and the State. George W. Dithredge of the International Steel Car Company frankly advocated the primacy of order and cost-effectiveness over truth in his letter urging President Butler to fire the seditious bad father Cattell.  Dithredge did not send mixed-messages. Due process, academic freedom–even competence–were expendable. Loyalty to the goals of big business, identified with the national interest, was not: “With the example of Scott Nearing and his progressive descent to the dogs, Columbia cannot afford to cast the mantle of protective charity over a man so clearly unfit to exercise any influence over our young men, who above learning and technique, must be saturated by precept and example with the principles and spirit of good citizenship (14 Sept. 1917).”

   In contrast, some “Members of the Committee on Instruction of the Schools of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry” (perhaps with a more obvious professional interest in the protection of innovation than Dithredge) writing to Butler on September 19, urged him to have it both ways. He should safeguard Columbia’s good name by removing Cattell and Dana, avoiding future Ahabs, but without chilling the critical spirit: “We are also anxious that our students shall be surrounded by those influences which while encouraging vigorous independent thought, at the same time develop unquestioned loyalty to our country.” Similarly, Professor Giddings declared on October 29, “Every loyal alumnus of the university and every loyal student, whatever position he may take upon the question of academic freedom, should make perfectly clear to the public that he does not stand by men who disobey law and obstruct government.”[xviii] These practical men were saying that students could think vigorously about science that stabilized the status quo.[xix] Here is the double bind specific to incompletely realized, subverted modernity, the contradiction that cannot be identified by “moderately conservative” psychiatry: academic slavery was masked by academic freedom. It was an intolerably blinkered situation for sensitive intellectuals, enough to call forth “radical” and “unbalanced” sympathies with an ever more numerous working class. By 1919, the proles were dangerously possessed of (or by) printing presses and movie cameras, some asking trained scientists and engineers to join them. A Wobbly intellectual wrote an open letter to professors, proposing a different image of coalescence than the one offered by Columbia faculty and alumni. One Big Union was designed to protect all humanity, a sublime project in social engineering:

“We are intensely desirous of spreading our ideas of Industrial Democracy before the engineers, chemists, and technical men of the country, for we feel that their interests are identical with the interests of the artisans and laborers and they should recognize the splendid part they can play in the construction of a new society–a society which the workers regard as, in all essentials, a great engineering enterprise.[xx]

   Advocating a different form of uplift, and perhaps justifying his own controversial actions two years earlier, Nicholas Murray Butler testified to the New York State Overman Committee in its hunt for revolutionary radicals, October 9, 1919. The Columbia University President suggested that the teaching profession be upgraded and co-opted: [xxi]  “What the loyal and patriotic citizens really have to confront is a widespread state of mind that is both disloyal and patriotic, and which glories in the fact because it regards patriotism and loyalty as outworn and ‘capitalist’ virtues. This state of mind is especially frequent among those who often read but who rarely think. It has infected many school teachers, editors, clergymen and these have, consciously or unconsciously, become aids in a movement to break down the American civilization and the American government.

To combat a state of mind like this the only effective weapon is a better and more reasonable state of mind. Force does little more than create martyrs, except, of course, in months of acute national danger, when force must be resorted to by the nation for its self-protection. In ordinary times, however, the effective weapon to use with unwisdom and folly is reasonableness. This habit of reasonableness coupled with adequate understanding of social, economic, and political facts, should be constantly urged upon teachers, editors and clergymen, as well as upon any others who undertake to influence and guide public opinion. Columbia University, in its various parts is doing what it can do to instill the habit of reasonableness in those who go out from its doors.

It is a fact that the material compensations for the teaching profession are not sufficient to attract permanently to it men and women of the highest competence. On the other hand, competence alone will not change a state of mind, although it may have some effect upon the conditions which, in any case, have given rise to such a state of mind.”

    For Butler, as for other Progressive mind-managers advocating the vigorous and systematic investigation of the social, economic, and political environment, the co-existence of “disloyalty” (to upper-class interests, narrowly understood) and patriotism was intolerable. Definitions of “reasonableness” and “folly” would be adjusted accordingly.

                [i]     34. Carol Gruber, Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Uses of Higher Learning in America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1975), 187-206.  See also David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), and Ellen Schrecker, No Ivory Tower (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986).

                [ii]      35. Wilson quoted in Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century (Boston: Little Brown, 1980), 112. Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated March 15. The overthrow of his reactionary regime removed one important obstacle to the entrance of America on the side of the Triple Entente. Germany had further antagonized American opinion by sinking three U.S. unarmed merchantment late in March. The interception of “the Zimmerman telegram” followed. Germany promised Mexico much of the Southwestern U.S. if it would join them. A selective service bill cleared Congress in May, drafting men from 18 to 45 (116).

                [iii]      36. Walter Metzger, Academic Freedom in the Age of the University (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 255.

                [iv]      37. A letter from Alumni Secretary Levering Tyson to John Saxe, 29 Nov. 1929, states that the warning was directed against Dana. My description of Butler’s targets is a synthesis of my research and Carol Gruber, Mars and Minerva, 1975. Gruber is hostile to Cattell. Unpublished materials cited here are from “Miscellaneous correspondence relating to the dismissal of Cattell and Dana” in the Cattell Papers, Manuscripts Division, Butler Library, Columbia University. As the preliminary report from the Committee of Nine reminded E.R.A. Seligman, Dana and Cattell had argued against the Conscription Act before it was passed into law; however Dana and Cattell were highly visible. Harry Dana paid the bond to release Owen Cattell and two other Columbia students from jail after their arrest June 1, 1917. The New York newspapers featured the controversy on their front pages.

                [v] 38. A clipping from the Evening Telegram, 19 May 1913, in the Cattell file reported that Cattell could be in trouble because he had attacked the Century Association for its refusal to admit the Jewish Jacques Loeb, biologist at the Rockefeller Institute. Cattell, leading a movement for faculty control, may have been saved from dismissal at that time (1913) because his “early retirement” would have given credibility to his claim that professors were muzzled. See letter from the zoologist Edmund B. Wilson to Butler, 20 May 1913. Cattell was a consistent radical throughout the interwar period, but no American Rosa Luxemburg or Wobbly; still he did not view “socialism” as a “nightmare.” See his “Academic Slavery,” School and Society, 13 Oct. 1917, 421-426: “I myself accept the social ideal: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs; and I think that, thanks to the applications of science, the resources of society are sufficient to provide adequately for all.” His animus against college administrators was connected to a rejection of the “autocratic and bureaucratic” rationalizing businessmen who ran American universities (unlike Oxford and Cambridge where dons are administrators). See Cattell, University Control (New York: Science Press, 1913), 9, 13-15, 44, 49. As a young man writing to his parents in 1888, he declared his intellectual preferences and affinities for many of the English romantic anticapitalists (Tory-Radicals): “I can suggest no other wedding-present than books and pictures. We should like to have editions of Carlyle, Ruskin, Scott, Rossetti, Morris, and Darwin.” In An Education in Psychology: James McKeen Cattell’s Journals and Letters From Germany and England, 1880-1888), ed. Michael M. Sokal (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981), 303.  

                [vi]  39. See Columbia Spectator, 4 Oct. 1917, 2. Amazingly, Cattell was serving on a committee of the American Psychological Association organized to assist the U.S. military in the current conflict; see R.M. Yerkes,”Psychology and National Service,” Science, 3 Aug. 1917, 101-103.

                [vii] 40. Quoted Gruber, Mars and Minerva, 195.

                [viii] 41. Evening Post, 9 Oct. 1917. Dewey’s protests had been quoted also Oct. 4 and in the New York Tribune, Oct.4 and Oct. 9, New York Times, Oct. 9.

                [ix] 42.  World, 9 Oct. 1917. The newspaper clippings quoted here were mostly found in the Cattell file.

                [x] 43. Herald, 10 Oct.; American, 10 Oct. quoted Robinson.

                [xi]  44. Evening Post, 9 Oct. 1917.

                [xii]  45. New York Times, 9 Oct. 1917.

                [xiii]  46. Spectator, 12 Oct. 1917, 4. Also see letter Cattell to John Coulter of the AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom in Wartime, 30 Mar. 1918, still insisting that the underlying motive for his dismissal was his cause of “university reform.”

                [xiv]  47. See Metzger, Academic Freedom, 224-225.

                [xv]  48. Unsigned 12 page ms. in file, probably the report of the Committee of Nine, summarized in Spectator, 13 Oct. 1917. Even if the last sentence contained a typo, it must have been proofread.

                [xvi]  49. One of the signers was John Erskine, Butler’s friend and with Carl Van Doren, W.P. Trent and Stuart Pratt Sherman, an editor of The Cambridge History of American Literature (1917).

                [xvii]   50. Spectator, quoted 12 Oct. 1917, 1. “Sane, dignified and gentlemanly” views versus “cheap pacifism” was the contrast offered by C.P. Ivins, Vice President of the Senior Class, Columbia, ‘17. It was reported on 10/11 that Matthew Josephson, Kenneth Burke and Percival Winner were supporting academic freedom as long as it was exercised in a legal manner. A statement in support of Cattell and Dana was circulated denouncing the public meeting, signed by L.M. Hacker and Josephson (10/16).  On Oct. 16, 17, and 18, the Spectator ran anti-Semitic stories on Leon Samson’s activities: he was linked to outside agitators Henry Factor (NYU), Isidore Schneider (CCNY), and Israel Common (Columbia ‘17), and mocked by “The Delilah Club.” Meanwhile, also according to the Spectator, Samson had been expelled, and could not get into another university nor obtain a certificate to study law. On 10/25, the Alumni Association was quoted: they supported the action of the Trustees; “unbridled license” was not part of free speech; the university was neither forum nor market place but a site for the training of scholars, not soap-box orators. Spectator coverage ended Oct. 27, with a mention that Morris Hillquit denounced Dana’s firing. Letters in the Cattell papers from Henry Mussey (who resigned and later became editor of The Nation) and Thomas Reed Powell are moving examples of the moral conflicts generated by the dispute.

                [xviii] 51. Quoted in Gruber, Mars and Minerva, 206. Cf. David Hume, sardonically commenting on the transparent ruse of the house of peers and Charles I in amending the petition of right sent up by the house of commons, 1628. The peers had proposed this clause: “We humbly present this petition to your majesty, not only with a care of preserving our own liberties, but with due regard to leave entire that sovereign power, with which your majesty is intrusted for the protection, safety, and happiness of your people.” Hume sneered, “Less penetration than was possessed by the leaders of the house of commons, could easily discover how captious this clause was, and how much it was calculated to elude the whole force of the petition.” See History of England, Vol.6, 188-189. 

[xix] 52. This point has been missing from published  commentaries on the Columbia incident of 1917. See for instance Russell J. Reising, The Unusable Past: Theory and the Study of American Literature (London: Methuen, 1986), 43. Commenting on Gruber’s standard account, Reising states “Gruber is careful to avoid crude assertions of conscious complicity or hypocrisy, and one of the major strengths of her book is its cautious, though bold, delineation of an academy won to interests antithetical to its declared and sincerely held values.” Throughout, Reising sees American Studies as a propagandistic discipline devoted to American exceptionalism and imperialism (39-40), a view with which I sharply disagree; I am arguing that the field is an outpost of humanism, tory and antibourgeois to the core.

                [xx] 53. Abner Woodruff, “A Letter to the Professor,”One Big Union Monthly, 19 Aug. 1919. Also, Steven J. Ross, “Struggles For the Screen: Workers, Radicals, and the Political Uses of Silent Film,” American History Review 96 (Apr. 1991): 333-367, also Working-Class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). Ross argues that early working-class film challenged the dominant images of the labor movement that had characterized the rank and file as mobbish, its leaders demagogic, and its efforts doomed to failure.

Cf. Senate Document No. 217, 74th Congress, p.33, citing the 1933 Baccalaureate speech of Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University, in its investigation of “Alleged Communistic Activities at Howard University, May 12, 1936.” Johnson (a Baptist) wrote: “…We must not allow the words “communism” and “socialism” to blind our eyes to the realization that on Russian soil today–it makes no difference what mistakes are being made or crimes are being committed–there is a movement for the first time in the history of the world to make available the natural resources for the life of the common man. I am in hearty sympathy with those want to preserve our American system, but the preservation of our system is not the primary urgency. The primary urgency of life is to work out some way to use the scientific and technical resources of life for the emancipation of the people (33).” Johnson did not separate the Head and Heart; see “Communism A New Religion Says H.U. Prexy,” The Afro-American, June 10, 1933. It was reported that intellectuals should use their powers of observation and ability to think systematically, spotting blind alleys and enthusiasms that mislead the people; their plans and visions sprang from the pure, inspired, knowledgeable Christian heart.

[xxi] 54. N.Y. State Legislature. Joint Committee Investigating Seditious Activities, Revolutionary radicalism: its history, purpose and tactics with an exposition and discussion of the steps being taken and required to curb it, being the report of the joint legislative committee investigating seditious activities filed April 24, 1920 in the Senate of the State of New York (Albany: J.B. Lyon, 1920), 3306-3307.

November 16, 2009

Panic Attacks and Separation Anxiety

Manipulative Mother 1923

 This slightly revised version of a Pacifica radio talk fits well into our recent discussions about the continuing relevance of Freud, and how liberal mental  health professionals thought about anxiety disorders in the early 1990s. I refer the reader to Freud’s Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego for a stimulating remark on “neurotic dread.”* I was asked (by listeners) to repeat the KPFK talk, and it was subsequently read  and okayed by a practicing historian-psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg. I got no criticisms from listeners who showed it to their therapists. I am not a therapist, but sufficiently well-read in the history of medicine, psychiatry, and the Romantic preoccupation with subjectivity to write this essay.

KPFK program Panic Attacks, hosted by Dr. Etta Enzyme, December 12, 1994. First in a projected series exploring the ways specific historical explanations (especially the causes of World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Cold War, ecocide etc.) affect mental and physical health, hence the possibility of constructive social change.

1.What is a panic attack?  Panic attacks are not fear responses to immediate threats like earthquakes.  Rather, harmless but symbolically laden internal body signals stimulate terror: of isolation, of loss of support, of loss of balance, of descent into madness; it is the state of mind most desired by practitioners of psychological warfare.  Persistent anxiety weakens the immune system.  Clinicians often see panic attacks as one instance of separation anxiety, itself symptomatic of an underlying narcissistic personality disorder.

2.Comment on Dr. Joycelyn Elders firing: how have journalists explained opposition to masturbation?  For instance, see Gina Kolata, “America Keeps Onan in the Closet,” The New York Times, 12/18/94, p. E5 for an ooh-la-la description of masturbation phobia since the 18th century “when sex became medicalized.”  Laughable consequences are listed, but none resembles the fear of critical thought (i.e., of separation from abusive authority) in D.H. Lawrence.  In a Letter to the Editor 12/20, Frederic C. Thayer writes, “Traditionally, masturbation is condemned because it wastes energy and sperm necessary for procreation, and is for selfish pleasure rather than social duty.  Masturbation is described as “self-abuse” that causes mental derangement.”

The hostile conservative response to masturbation is more complex than some timeless resistance to (anarchic) pleasure by ascetic, corporatist thinkers.  In Pornography and Obscenity Handbook for Censors, D.H. Lawrence rants on about the “self-abuse” he attributes to mass culture which, while apparently promoting “sex-secrecy,” “stealthily” inflames the flesh: the “mental energy” sometimes released leads solely to the “futility…nothingness…sentimentalities…self-analysis…impotent criticism…suppressed rage” which characterize (solipsistic) “modern literature” and “work[s] of science.”  “[Masturbation] is the deepest and most dangerous cancer of our civilization.”  Lawrence’s is a class-bound reactionary response to the “the grey ones left over from the nineteenth century,” i.e.,, to Victorian culture; his panicky diagnosis of [narcissism] reminds me of more recent, equally pessimistic  criticism.  What (other than the family) are the political and institutional sources of this anxiety?  How have mental health professionals accounted for panic attacks and related anxiety disorders, and what are some of the debates in the field?

3.Object inconstancy and its discontents.  Since the pioneering work of Bowlby, Winnicott, and Mahler, new thinking in clinical psychology and social work stresses the lifelong salutary effects of a strong and reliable maternal bond, experienced as object constancy.  Should there be a lack of steady parenting in early childhood, the damage may manifest itself later in panic attacks and related phobias and symptoms, especially during adolescence; appropriate separation is sometimes impeded by parents who ask their growing children to befriend them so as to contain the parents’ anxieties.  At all ages related symptoms may include insomnia (there is no internalized representation of the protective parent: only a surrogate close at hand will allow relaxation); hoarding; fears of being poisoned (e.g., by mass culture); school phobia (clinging to mom or exposure to “secular humanism”?); drug use to deaden the pain of loss; self-mutilation and adolescent suicide (only a violent act directed against the self can restore the maternal bond); agoraphobia; compulsive “taking care” of others to control them; clinging to masochistic relationships; the inability to cope with divorce; and in borderline personalities (close to psychotic), oscillations between depression over lost attachments and fears of being swallowed up and disintegrating.  One psychologist notes a common wish: the longing for the golden fantasy of a symbiotic [i.e., not draining?!!]) relationship with mother where all needs are met, hallowed by perfection.  (None of the dozens of psychology abstracts I consulted specifically alluded to authoritarian ideologies and peasant societies of the Right or Left where individuation would not force young people into agonized choices; cf. D.H. Lawrence, or T.S. Eliot and his hatred of “worm-eaten liberalism” aka “freethinking Jews,” the catalysts or enzymes of social disintegration.)

Professionals disagree about the efficacy of antidepressants, or whether or not separation anxiety in infancy and early childhood explains panic attacks in adulthood.  To me, the most sensible suggestions for treatment were historical and sociological in approach: psychiatrist Terry Kupers says mental health professionals must be activists to provide public funding for the treatment of anxiety disorders; meanwhile in short-term care the patient should record the circumstances of every parting to detect lifelong patterns of separation anxiety in relationships.  Another stressed the need for family therapy to scrutinize the ways in which their interactions impede autonomy.  Another writer, in a similar vein, reminded me that the problems in separation cannot be described schematically, that particular families shape the difficult problem of growing up in their own unique and awful ways. [I doubt that there is an infinite variety of  histories.] In other words, individuals and their families are being taught to read themselves and the often subtle messages they communicate around issues of maturation and difference, to discover the patterns which contribute to serious mental and physical health problems, and which in turn will affect social action.

4. The larger institutional environment in which anxiety disorders have emerged.  Because the transition from pre-modern to capitalist social relations is incomplete, the humanities lag behind the hard sciences.  There are some sociologists, political scientists, and cultural anthropologists whose work is avowedly anti-science; Harold Lasswell was part of the moderate conservative movement of academics who explicitly separated the methodologies of the social sciences from the physical sciences in the 1920s.  In a related move, the history of science as an academic discipline was contrived by Harvard’s Robert Merton to demonstrate the socially constructed character of scientific knowledge; Merton’s project was candidly counter-Enlightenment.

The legitimacy of the exploring, self-directing individual is advocated by only a minority of liberal and Left intellectuals; scientists are necessary but suspect, like rationalism in general.  We give lip service to “cultural freedom,” but few of us are willing to live with its consequences.  Yet our official ideology in “the West” asserts numerous civil rights and obligations to participate in democratic processes.  What critical tools are required to make popular sovereignty rational and humane?  How have threatened élites discouraged the development of critical skills through psychological warfare in popular culture?  Have upper-class radicals, in the name of socialism, served reaction, not popular education?  What public policy demands should be advanced by liberals to educate citizens for mental and physical health?

5. On narcissism theory and recent prescriptions for its cure.  The derogatory term “narcissistic” denotes the selfishness of yuppies; for instance, some social democrats claim that “the culture of narcissism” (Christopher Lasch) has produced Generation X: abandoned, empty, confused and self-destructive.  The narcissistic disorder as I see it, is less moralistic in its diagnosis: Perhaps narcissism results from unreliable attachments in early childhood, and the repeated exposure to ambivalent systems of support inside and outside the family, in schools and other socializing institutions, including the media.  Because communication is often dishonest but unchallenged (“Be yourself, be original, but don’t make me too angry”), youthful egos are weakened while the source of domination is obscured.  Hence narcissists lack a sense of inner balance, competence in defending their interests (who dunnit to me?), and self-worth that would make them self-directed and socially responsible: creative, curious, lovable to others and effective reformers.  They may depend on omniscient others who feed their weak egos with flattery/conspiracy theories (we alone are the cognoscenti).  To restore the Golden Age, they will fuse with such heroic agitators, or with a glorified racial past, or with fetishized luxury goods.  As repressed facts of the material world return, idealizations are shattered.  The all-nurturing other (the object) may become a killer who must be destroyed (Otto Kernberg). [My reading:]  The switch occurs at the moment of disillusion, as artificially inflated self-esteem (grandiosity) ebbs or rushes away, leaving in its wake emptiness, uncontainable fear and anger.  The fear and anger (if suppressed) triggers the adrenalin that begins the panic attack; the ghastly irony lies in the misdirection of our anger toward the self; we may remain politely fastened to an object that was never there for us in the first place.  (Or perhaps as children we believed our anger caused the death of domineering or negligent parents and/or sibling rivals or the breakup of a family in divorce: any eruption of anger is unmanageable and world-destroying.)

By contrast, some romantic conservatives account for the pervasive “narcissism” and related social problems (including the rise of fascism, a narcissistic disorder) as the result of weakened paternal authority in the family.  The newly triumphant figures of modernity have sapped the authority of the paternalistic father: vampirish specters appear as Goldfinger the international Jew (designer and profiteer of mass culture and consumerism) in cahoots with mad scientists, femmes fatales, and perfectionist puritan mothers.  Feminized and jewified, modernity has produced, what else?  The Masturbator!  Similarly, the terror-gothic genre (horror movies and gothic fiction) confronts the viewer with appalling images of the inquisitive, wandering, goal-directed imagination exploring the sensuous material world (D. H.Lawrence’s “nosy Hebrew”).  Persistently feeling one’s own unhappiness and the common pain of suffering humanity, asking authority “why” it devises particular damaging social policies, demanding access to state secrets, can lead only to bloody revolution, ripping and shredding of the social fabric, and finally, the Bomb (e.g., the theme of Pandora’s Box in Kiss Me Deadly, a classic of film noir).

One would hope that progressive intellectuals would be alert to such right-wing tactics, but no.  As one KPFK listener put it, intellectuals today latch onto traditions which make them comfortable; the idea of the detached, disinterested seeker following the truth wherever it leads is held to be a bourgeois illusion, the Big Lie of objectivity and positivistic science that delivered scientific racism.  Some poststructuralists say that (relatively) accurate readings of the world are impossible, that there is only “intertextuality” for ballast, that the goals of “objectivity,” or of universally valid moral standards are (in fact!) a stealthy imposition of a totalitarian ideology.  Such irrationalist  [1] ideas should be vigorously opposed in the culture wars raging in our universities, and not just by the libertarian Right. Liberal Freudians are not irrationalists; rather they believe that rational processes (historical memory and the reconstruction of power relations in socializing institutions) can at least diminish the extent to which we are misdirected by self-destructive behavior. (Irrationalists have said that such fantasies are disseminated by Jews, consummate peddlers of false utopias; see the excellent description of the right-wing agitator in Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, 1949).

Are panic attacks a health risk of middle-management?  Historians revise and reconfigure the past, finding material causes for socially-induced catastrophes; we seek clarity and balance, not chaos, but threaten illegitimate authority.  Because democratic pluralists seem to support critical thought (but in practice are unevenly committed to it), institutions are vague and abstract in their demands.  Be original, but not too destabilizing, we are advised, echoing the family.  But how far to go too far?  We don’t know the rules until we break them.  So, to keep our jobs, we may betray the real and the good, not daring to hold authority accountable; all relations remain shallow and there is, in fact, little reliable support.  In such a deceptive and self-deceptive society, anyone and everyone can turn on us–whenever we demand that our arguments be engaged, calling love and support into question.  People too attached to their creative work must be “monomaniacs,” like Melville’s Captain Ahab.

If my analysis is valid, what are the implications for the treatment of anxiety disorders?  As long as institutions are unwilling to be tested and challenged, as long as they blunt critical tools, no amount of individual or group therapy or pills will alleviate our distress; perforce we will adjust to a world without many enduring attachments.  The fearful may continue to follow false friends and false prophets: screaming, hysterical demagogues and paranoids who will divide us when only species cooperation can protect the planet.  Idealizing the father-driven family will not solve the problems conservatives are (often rightly) worried about.  Accurate readings of our bodies, our histories, our loves and friendships, the origin and development of all institutions and of the natural world which we are fast destroying, should be the goal of education.  Workers in mental health cannot neglect these aspects of their training, lest the good work they do be nullified by the strange world outside the clinic. [12-27-94]

* From Freud (1922): “Dread in an individual is provoked either by the greatness of a danger or by the cessation of emotional ties (libidinal cathexes [Libidobesetzungen]); the latter is the case of neurotic dread. In just the same way panic arises either owing to an increase in the common danger or owing to the disappearance of the emotional ties which hold the group together; and the latter case is analogous to that of neurotic dread.” Group Psychology and the  Analysis of the Ego, Chapter V, transl. James Strachey. Apply this suggestion to the assimilating immigrant or upwardly mobile ethnic individual or group. This view eliminates the problem of separation from the mother, but rather extends panic and anxiety to other situations in any society with fluid class boundaries. Imagine the fear of loss of status or the fear of abandoning one’s neighbors and ancestors. (For another blog on this topic, see

September 3, 2009

Manifest Destiny or Political Liberty?

de Chirico imagines Apollinaire

The poet Apollinaire once wrote that he was more interested in what divided men than in what united them, and most of all, he said, he wanted to know what gnaws at their hearts. That sentiment remains uppermost in my thoughts, especially at this time when the U.S. is confronted with a health reform bill that proposes funding for preventive medicine and mental health services, even though there is zero agreement among practitioners as to what constitutes sound protocols in either of those fields. All my prior blogs have addressed this problem (see the entries on panic attacks, sadomasochism, social psychologists defining civilian morale and preventive politics or psychoanalyzing Hitler, embedded antisemitism, the Pacifica memoir, etc.).

Whatever I have learned throughout my long life about the human heart and its tangled emotions, the most original contributions have been gleaned from very close reading, particularly during the many years spent with Herman Melville (1819-1891), both as  man and writer. One reason that Melville has been claimed by readers and propagandists with incompatible politics is his constant switching from one point of view to another, changing sides or positions with breathtaking speed.  As I have argued throughout my book on the so-called Melville Revival, he never feels safe or at home wherever he may be on the questions that agitated the American nineteenth century–Jacksonian political styles and mass politics, westward expansion and Indian removal; abolitionism, Civil War, and Reconstruction; angry de-skilled artisans and a potentially mutinous new working class; evolution and the higher Biblical criticism; nascent socialism in Europe; naval discipline; and the growing power of women in the family–especially in their role as moral reformers, to a degree, displacing paternal authority.

[From Hunting Captain Ahab:]  The switches from one unsafe prospect to another are diverting. As “White-Jacket” (1850), Melville abruptly rejected the piecemeal reform he had just been advocating: his proposed ban on flogging could not end injustices meted out to enlisted men whose class interest in pacifism was “essentially” opposed by glory-seeking officers. White-Jacket fatally defined the situation that class collaborationists, fascist and antifascist alike, have ever attempted to render invisible:

“…can men, whose interests are diverse, ever hope to live together in a harmony uncoerced? Can the brotherhood of the race of mankind ever hope to prevail in a man-of-war, where one man’s bane is another man’s blessing? By abolishing the scourge, shall we do away with tyranny; that tyranny which must ever prevail, where of two essentially antagonistic classes in perpetual contact, one is immeasurably the stronger? [i]

Moreover as the black cook “Fleece” pointed out in Moby-Dick, “the sharks” did not care to be converted. Such “dark” perceptions were dangerous but essential to a morally ambitious artist faithful to social reality. If moral reform is only a blast of hot air, then structural transformation is on the agenda.

[i] 19. Quoted by H. Bruce Franklin, The Victim As Criminal And Artist, 39. Franklin uses this passage to make a claim for Melville as primitive communist. In Chapter XVI of his unpublished biography, the Progressive Henry A. Murray revealingly distorted the passage, minimizing Melville’s description of a structural antagonism. Rather, Melville is describing point of view as dependent on one’s place in the hierarchy: “War, for example, which offered officers their only opportunity for glory, was anticipated more eagerly by them than by the seamen.” Although Harvard professor Alan Heimert has identified Ahab with John Calhoun, neither White-Jacket nor Ahab condones coercive harmony. However, noting the differing interests of sailors and officers does not make Melville a Marxist. Cf. John Calhoun’s defense of slavery as a positive good: “…there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other…There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict.” Quoted in Frederick Jackson Turner, The United States 1830-1850 (New York: Norton paperback, 1965), 197. [end book excerpt]

In my last blog, I distanced myself from the postmodernists, particularly those who rejected modernity and Enlightenment as elevating the protofascist “mob society” to use Hannah Arendt’s famous term. Melville, in one of his many personas, could do that too, perhaps because he suffered from double-binds that seemed specific to a science-driven world that was challenging the traditions that once made people feel at home in their skins. Astonishingly, in all my reading in the cures offered to “neurotic” or “nervous” patients from the late nineteenth century on, I found no recognition of the conflicts that Melville himself had identified throughout his oeuvre, but most blatantly in his “crazy” novel, Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), which I view as Moby-Dick brought home to the family, with the writer Pierre as analog to Captain Ahab, two of Melville’s traveling company of Prometheans.

A good teacher is supposed to state clearly the hoped-for outcome of a curriculum (and this website is a sort of syllabus), so here goes:

Ideally, readers of my blogs should be able to identify ambiguities or conflicts (reconcilable or irreconcilable) specific to modernity. These include the search for truth vs. (upper-class) Order; intellectual independence vs. unswerving loyalty to family or state; capital vs. labor (? I used to think that this was so); science vs. religion; and (“rootless”) cosmopolitanism vs. narrow “racial” or “ethnic” identification or “pluralism” as “rooted” cosmopolitanism.  To the extent that the pseudo-moderate men attempt to reconcile conflicts that may be irreconcilable, they place citizens in Orwellian double-binds:  inverting knowledge and ignorance, praise and humiliation, freedom and slavery. It follows that participatory politics and other processes intended to legitimate authority are stymied if these inversions operate inside us.  So we end up with unquestioned allegiance to a favorite pundit, and relinquish thinking for ourselves.

It is not my claim that no reforms should be advanced short of total structural transformation by which I mean a revolution in social property relations; it is a question of conceptual clarity.  Tactical compromises and coalitions are pointless unless located in the realm of the possible; utopian fantasies of unattainable social harmony lead to disillusion and perhaps despair followed by violence or apathy. Social conflict should be analyzed with a view to real difference of interest: ethnocultural or gender categories as the primary source of “identity” are not only essentialist; they mystify internal class conflicts in that group or gender or nationality and sink the dissenting individual (e.g., as modern artist or scientist).

Moreover, insofar as “identity politics” posit self-contained “communities” such categories deflect attention from interdependence with other groups and with nature.  But most crucially, the search for “identity” is an imperative formulated by reactionaries worried about “continuity” and “cohesion” in those modern societies that continually question authority; the modernists (deemed iconoclastic by their opponents) seek new forms of order that may “de-skill” kings and clerics.

How do competing “historicisms” alleviate or worsen the pressures of double binds? I contrast two of them: one is now dominant in the humanities, while the second one promises potential advance in our undercivilized war-ridden world.

A. Historicism as “blood-and-soil” pluralism or “ethnoculturalism” or “ethnopluralism”: the “identity politics” created by the pseudo-moderate men.  Defining itself against the New Unpredictability, i.e., the open-ended inductive methods of science, the new civil liberties and miscegenating “rootless cosmopolitanism” of the radical Enlightenment, ethnopluralism denies the existence of universal truths or ethical standards since there are only “group facts”; hence there can be no conflict between the independent thinker and the group.  These corporatist[1] thinkers (pluralists and cultural relativists) may attempt to restore a racially or ethnically homogeneous “community” which is innocently erotic, harmonious, pre-capitalist, myth-loving and patriarchal (i.e., ruled by the wisely integrative good father); free of the disintegrating Enlightenment (Hebraic, radical Protestant, technocratic, consumerist) intellect: everyone is protected, rooted and comfortable with her/his place and modest possessions, not tormented by the expectation of autonomy (which is caricatured as leading to anomie or the insatiable will-to-power or masochism).

B. Historicism as critical historical analysis. We should understand that the imagination has a social history that must be retrieved if we are to transcend the irrational politics of the past.  A critical history will not simply look at class, “race,” and gender in a static fashion to detect “positive” and “negative” images, or heroic myths, or gender/racial/ethnic archetypes, or instincts for “innate aggression” or “Thanatos.”  Rather, a critical history examines all the institutions that limit or expand opportunities and choices; people and their emotions are in motion, (partially) accepting or rejecting inherited narratives that diagnose difficulties and recommend solutions.  Even if some human characteristics are proven to be genetically transmitted, aggression for instance, it should be explained why some people seem out of control while others master their instincts in the interest of peaceful conflict-resolution: What are the ideological and environmental conditions that limit or expand choices?  Unlike some postmodernists or “new historicists,” I do not conclude that people are stamped or inscribed by discourses/ environments, even though individual and social conflicts are historically concrete and require site-specific contextual analysis.  Nor does this historicism automatically preclude comparisons and contrasts with institutions and conflicts in other cultures and earlier periods as some conservative cultural relativists would have it.

My final goal is the reclamation of the amelioration, critical thought and universalist ethics promoted by the Radical Enlightenment: Can there be a preformulated good myth, a “narrative of resistance” (Richard Slotkin), or is perpetual improvisation and the open-ended process of anti-mythic narrative (analysis, revision, and reconfiguration of past and present) the enlightened alternative to the Symbolist politics of the Progressives?  For example, their paternalistic “reform-or-ruin” prescription for preventive politics (Lasswell and Murray) does not remove, however gradually, what may be structural causes of conflict, hence is a form of psychological and political warfare, not the social and individual progress it wants to be.

I will end with some deathless words from Melville’s character, the abolitionist Father Mapple:

“Delight is to him- a far, far upward, and inward delight- who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges.”

In the context of this particular blog, the “sin” is yielding to another, however admired or adored, our critical capacities as citizens with both rights and duties.

[1] Corporatist does not refer to modern corporations and their power, but to the institutional style associated with  medieval Europe and the Christian-Platonic tradition.  It is the cultural style of the organic conservatives who believe that hierarchies are natural and beneficial; all diversity the gift of a perfect God.

August 27, 2009

Hitler and the “Jewish” Mind, Part Three

Werner Sombart, Neo-Nazi idol

[This is the last of three entries on Hitler’s encounter with the restless, skeptical, switching “Jewish” mind. It should be read along with my earlier blog on Hitler and modern art (“Hitler, Switches, Modern Art and more….”) as introduction to the three recent entries. Also see the materials from my book chapters two and nine that document the actions of social psychologists on behalf of ‘civilian morale,’ or preventive politics, also posted this month.]

[Concluding entry to Hitler and the “Jewish” mind:]  How can we synthesize the separate facets of Hitler’s situation? First, he is self-identified with a defeated power (Germany, the victim of treachery whose victory was stolen) and with rural producers, the declining class whose interests are opposed to industrial workers and their bosses as well as to bankers. (Peasants and landowners need cheap industrial goods but want maximum prices for their foodstuffs, while workers and industrialists depend on cheap farm prices to keep the costs of labor down and the buying power of wages up.)  Hitler’s affinity group is organized politically as the agrarian interest, the backbone of conservative nationalism and German imperialism: Prussian Junker landowners and small farmers wanting tariffs and autarky to protect their prices from international competition. Hitler can revitalize the ruined pastoral if both hidebound reactionaries and wandering workers will only see his light: his solution will protect and restore everyone, rich and poor, parents and children. Crucially, peasants and workers are no longer at odds, but the stable foundation of the rectified neo-feudal order; national, not international unions, may be brought into the system without tearing it apart as long as “the Jews” go away.

Personal history has energized his politics; Hitler may have believed that his civil servant father Alois, dying suddenly of apoplexy, was felled by his own internal contradictions between cosmopolitanism and extreme nationalism and Hitler’s angry insistence (at age 12) in maintaining his difference as an artist and stubbornly rejecting his father’s occupation; he is simultaneously angry that he has been betrayed, abandoned and impoverished: if father was so cosmopolitan, why couldn’t Hitler be an artist? That is, he read the double-bind and father died, a dependent’s worst nightmare: truth leads to destitution. Now political expediency and personal predilection combine: Like other romantic anticapitalists, Hitler chooses the viewpoint of the declining aristocracy glad to pay agitators for the defeat of capitalism-becoming-socialism, a process impelled, the more prescient members of this patrician class believe, by their stubborn brethren who won’t make humane concessions and interventions, but madly press their selfish interests.

Like other agrarians (English Tories, ex-Southern slaveholders in the U.S.) Hitler sees the Jew as undermining the capacity for uncluttered communitarian thinking and social relations through the institutions that “the Jewish character” has brought. The Jewish spirit (as Werner Sombart called it) is the source of real class divisions that Hitler longs to erase. Specifically “Jewish” institutions–money, the Stock Exchange with its absentee ownership, international capitalism, the press, and the intellectual disciplines and attitudes associated with modernity like the study of political economy–literally divide master and man and have inserted themselves between the good consistent parent and the grateful child.

Secondly and crucially, like the good parent turned bad, “the Jew,” a personification of any thoughtful materialist class analysis, confuses the child by unanticipated and frightening switches. As a commentator on group life, “the Jew” asserts the natural rights of individuals and the fallaciousness of blood-and-soil doctrines of identity that ignore the uniqueness and free will of the individual. However, as a commentator on voluntarism and the power of the will, s/he points out structures of determination and the difficulties in decisively separating agency from structural imperative! As a commentator on sexual repression, s/he points out the joys of sex and emotional expressiveness. But as a commentator on bohemian libertinism s/he points out human interdependence and the obligations of the individual to suffering humanity, the noble renunciation of selfish “sensual” gratification (like promiscuity, a cheap fame and popularity) on behalf of higher, finally more satisfying moral principles: the protection of intimate relationships and the pursuit of universal truths and uplift of the poor, relationships and processes whose complexities are still under investigation and are by no means fully comprehended.

[footnote:] Geoffrey Gorer’s presentation of de Sade’s delightful Constructive Sadism (1934) suggests that promiscuity is not the exciting self-indulgence of happy lovers, but a flight from sex, sensibility and experience, i.e., a refusal of intimacy, individuality, and compassion; that romantic love is tied to the senses that report continued domination in collectivist, “egalitarian” societies. (See Hunting Captain Ahab for key quotations.) For Werner Sombart, romantic love was a threat to tradition; along with the heroic entrepreneur and the stranger unbound by local ties, here were the ingredients of “the breakthrough” and monomania.  See Samuel Z. Klausner, Introduction, The Jews and Modern Capitalism, op.cit., xxxii, lxxi.  The rehabilitation of de Sade began in the early 1930s when Gorer was allied with Stalinists; the incriminating passages were deleted from the revised edition of 1953.  “The breakthrough” was a concept Thomas Mann thought was responsible for the rise of fascism, see Doctor Faustus.  Lukács believed the concept of romantic love was one of three sources of Marxism; he supported Goethe’s confidence in apprehending the natural world against Kant’s medievalist insistence on the “unknowableness” of nature and of radical evil in human nature, see Goethe and His Age (London: Merlin, 1968): 200-201. [end footnote]

Hitler is not the only one who has felt anxiety when confronted with the boundary between what he does and does not understand, but nevertheless is called upon to judge and act in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty.   Such intellectual and emotional mobility is the bewildering accompaniment to decisive and wise social action; here I believe is the combined satisfaction and burden of Jewish chosen-ness subtly expressed by Freud in Moses and Monotheism (1939) (I may be misreading Freud here). Here and elsewhere Freud opposed the primitivist acting-out and nihilism often associated with his name. In accounting for the murder of the Jews of Europe, he implicitly linked himself and the Jews (specifically their intellectual and ethical achievements) to the social idealism of the radical puritans. All in all, “the bad Jew” is quite the ideal of balanced, well-proportioned Greek classicism cut to the human scale, quite the moderate man.

[footnote:] On the “deplorable quarrelsomeness of the Greeks”see C. Bradford Welles, “The Hellenistic Orient,” The Idea of History in the Ancient Near East (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1955): 159.  “They were little ready to let go any advantage to another, although this may have been only a consequence and an extension of the qualities which made them unique as a people–their restless and aggressive curiosity, their impatience of authority, and their reluctance to acknowledge a superior.”  This volume links the historical imagination to science, democracy, technology, and optimism; it is of course contradicted by helplessness and other-worldliness.  Cf. Mosse’s claim that the young Greek ideal lay at the heart of Nazi ideology; i.e., Nazism was a romantic youth revolt, see George L. Mosse, “Introduction: A General Theory of Fascism,” 12. [end footnote]

[Hitler, Oct. 24, 1941:] The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before–and I remember that I drove them to despair…When science finds out that it has to revise one or another notion that it had believed to be definitive, at once religion gloats and declares: “We told you so!” To say that is to forget that it’s in the nature of science to behave itself thus. For if it decided to assume a dogmatic air, it would itself become a church.

[Hitler, Jan. 22-23, 1942:] …A fly began buzzing. Foxl [Hitler’s terrier at the front during the First World War] was stretched out at my side, with his muzzle between his paws. The fly came close to him. He quivered, with his eyes as if hypnotized. His face wrinkled up and acquired an old man’s expression. Suddenly he leapt forward, barked and became agitated. I used to watch him as if he’d been a man–the progressive stages of his anger, of the bile that took possession of him. He was a fine creature…To think they stole him from me!…On my return [to the trenches] he hurled himself on me in frenzy (232-233).

[Hitler, Jan. 23, 1942:] A good three hundred or four hundred years will go by before the Jews set foot again in Europe. They’ll return first of all as commercial travellers, then gradually they’ll become emboldened to settle here–the better to exploit us. In the next stage, they become philanthropists, they endow foundations. When a Jew does that, the thing is particularly noticed–for it’s known that they’re dirty dogs. As a rule, it’s the most rascally of them who do that sort of thing. And then you’ll hear those Aryan boobies telling you: “You see, there are good Jews.”
Let’s suppose that one day National Socialism will undergo a change, and become used by a caste of privileged persons who exploit the people and cultivate money. One must hope that in that case a new reformer will arise and clean up the stables (236).

[Hitler, Feb. 19, 1942:]…I could live very well in a city like Weimar or Bayreuth. A big city is very ungrateful. Its inhabitants are like children. They hurl themselves frantically upon everything new, and they lose interest in things with the same facility. A man who wants to make a real career as a singer certainly gets more satisfaction in the provinces.

[Hitler, Sept. 1, 1942:]…The relations between master and man in old Vienna were charming in the mutual loyalty and affection which characterized them. There is only one town in Germany, Munich, in which social differences were so little marked. I can blame no Viennese for looking back with sad longing to the Vienna of old; my younger sister is filled with this nostalgia (680).

Contrast with American reactionaries.     Hitler wants the same aristo-democracy lauded by American reactionaries: Lothrop Stoddard, William McDougall, the Southern Agrarians, and “new historicist” admirers of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound—some of whom are nativist radicals acceptable to the anti-Stalinist Left. It is they, like the German Romanticists before them, who have furthered hyphenated Americanism to dilute the power and appeal of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Enlightenment, turning the word “bourgeois’ into an all-purpose insult connoting only tyranny and decadence. It is the aristodemocrats who pretend to have “decoded” antidemocratic propaganda since World War II, in their inversion of slavery and freedom, vitiating public life and the humanities. It was not the rootless cosmopolitans who invented the discourse of scientific racism.

Surely, Hitler was not alone in backing off from the intellectual and emotional inconsistencies of modernity that he affixes to Jews as others have done with radical Protestants, puritans, romantics, and modern women, yearning for a stable image of the good authority figure who would never turn on the child or drive the child to turn on him. That Hitler chose such extreme and obsessive (sadomasochistic) methods to purify himself and the world of bilious “dirty dogs” is perhaps explicable (but only partly) through analysis of a brutal childhood which he never described in the first person, the death of his father, and an antidemocratic cultural inheritance. And of course, Hitler’s obsession may have been tolerated owing to the similar ambivalence with which “the West” has embraced a modernity neither internalized, nor fully actualized, nor entirely understood.

Obviously, an alternative approach to Nazi “irrationality” would have to examine the fragility and novelty of the radical Enlightenment, then the ongoing class project in which organic conservatives masked themselves as “progressives,” attempting to divert the titanic energies of science and democracy into “gradual” change apparently in “the public interest” but often advantageous only to their class. I suspect that such efforts could not persuade the powerless were children not punished for evil thoughts and speculation, as if fantasy and reality were merged, as if thinking angry thoughts made their acting out more acceptable. Even Darwin held these views and observed the insane to study untrammeled emotions. [footnote:] See G.T. Bettany, The Life of Charles Darwin, London, 1887.

After all, ordinary people, in the bourgeois democracies at least, can use public libraries and reflect upon and deepen their own experience, can avail themselves of the good counsels of past emancipators from illegitimate authority. The defining attribute of the conservative Enlightenment, of pseudo-modernism, then, is the triumphant circumscription or shutting down of rival wandering imaginations: here is the highest achievement of “character,” the proof of “sanity.”

Masochism builds character. To put it another way, I have been describing repressive tolerance, the conditions under which “radical” Enlightenment ideas may be incorporated or co-opted by established institutions. The scientific analysis of social institutions advanced by seventeenth-century empiricism is apparently absorbed, but in practice turned against the mountaineering lower orders uplifted by natural rights, popular sovereignty, mass education, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Shockingly, the Left has abandoned the education of ordinary people: While promoting “tolerance” and empiricism (multiculturalism, “identity politics”, the “new historicism”) the “anti-racists” switch the very concept of the dissenting, goal-oriented individual capable of standing outside “the system” or “the body” to observe its processes, thus to produce universally valid abstract knowledge, a description of reality independent of bodies or class position and intended to facilitate accountability and rational amelioration. In the thought of Werner Sombart (1911), after 1933 an enthused Nazi, that detached (disillusioned?) observer was essentially the profit-seeking Jew, a kill-joy mountaineer who both repulsed and attracted him:

[Sombart:] [We see “the teleological view”] in all those Jews who, with a soul-weariness within them and a faint smile on their countenances, understanding and forgiving everything, stand and gaze at life from their own heights, far above this world…Jewish poets are unable simply to enjoy the phenomena of this world, whether it be human fate or Nature’s vagaries; they must needs cogitate upon it and turn it about and about. Nowhere is the air scented with the primrose and the violet; nowhere gleams the spray of the rivulet in the wood. But to make up for the lack of these they possess the wonderful aroma of old wine and the magic charm of a pair of beautiful eyes gazing sadly in the distance…Goethe said that the essence of the Jewish character was energy and the pursuit of direct ends.”

[footnote:] Werner Sombart, The Jews and Modern Capitalism (Transaction Press, 1982): 266-267.  Do the beautiful sad eyes belong to depressed, disappointed, martyred mother?  For a Marxist interpretation of European antisemitism derived solely from economic forces and class position, see Abram Leon, The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation (N.Y.: Pathfinder Press).  The writer was leader of the Belgian Trotskyists and an anti-Zionist, executed at Auschwitz, 1944 at age 26.  For Leon, the Jews (whose numbers had dramatically increased in the twentieth century) were caught between decaying feudalism (when they lost their social-economic function to Christians) and decaying capitalism (economic crisis squeezed their petit-bourgeois rivals); hence for Leon, the Jewish question cannot be solved without socialist transformation. [end footnote]

By drawing a hard line between Hitler and the corporatist liberals/the New Left, by refusing to examine the analogous confusing confrontations between tradition and modernity in our political and intellectual life, we obscure one important dimension of mass death, not only in “the Holocaust,” but in our timid responses to threats ranging from a weakened First Amendment to ecocide. In my view, only an ever more energetic redeployment of the Enlightenment critical methods and objectives disdained or scuttled by the (pseudo) moderate men will save us from newer and even bigger catastrophes: outcomes which cannot switch from bad to good.

[Note: these entries on Hitler’s view of the “Jewish” mind were read by Roy Porter, Robert Brenner, and my teacher of the German language, Lewis Jillian in the early 1990s. At the time of writing I was writing from the Left. I had not yet read von Mises or Hayek, hence did not consider the argument that class divisions are erased by the self-regulating free market. Still, much of this essay remains valid, for instance, the conflict between the interests of peasants and workers that Stalinists tried so hard to erase through the planning state, with horrible consequences.]

August 9, 2009

What is a corporatist liberal? And why should they frighten us?

Tony Grist Janus 2011[Janus painting by Anthony Grist,2011]To those practiced in political theory, the term is an obvious oxymoron. That is, a corporatist thinks in collectivist terms, while a liberal (at least in the eighteenth century version) focuses on individual rights, competitive markets, and advance through merit. During the 1960s-70s New Left radicalism, “corporate liberalism” usually referred to the despised Democratic Party that was seen, as all capitalist parties were, as part of the business-oriented state that was therefore irrevocably set against the working class. It was my teacher at UCLA, Robert Brenner, who suggested that I use the term “corporatist liberal” instead; he may have wanted to emphasize the protofascist character of the “progressive” capitalist state whose psychological warfare I was studying (and in this case referring to Italian Fascism, with its organization by occupation, the so-called sindicati, with the [corporatist or corporative] state imposing harmony on capitalists and workers from above, in similar fashion as the New Deal intended.

But I liked the term because it suggested the institutional double-binds that Herman Melville had revealed in some of his more autobiographical texts, so the oxymoron formulation brought that out. For instance, he was to search for truth as an original artist, but not upset the conservative* formulations or belief systems of his patrons and family–clearly an impossible task (see Similarly, in graduate school, I discovered that original historical research was demanded, but not so original that it undermined the published work of the faculty that awarded the Ph.D.  [8/11/09: I have been criticized by one academic  for sounding like a disgruntled failed graduate student here, so let me give an example: in a course on women reformers of the nineteenth century, I was punished for using class analysis, indeed one well-known feminist historian stated outright that I should have been thrown out of the program (apparently for noting that not all women had the same economic  interests). In general, class was collapsed into ‘race’ and gender at UCLA, in keeping with the “anti-imperialist” and anti-Western orientation of UCLA at that time. Similarly, I was accused of racism for opposing cultural nationalism as an inevitable outgrowth of separate “ethnic studies” programs. Still, I stuck to my guns and after only eleven years got my Ph.D. in U.S. history.]

In other double binds, I found contradictions between loyalty to one’s country of origin while simultaneously becoming a citizen of the world, sensitive to suffering humanity wherever it might be found. Hence the compromise of “the rooted cosmopolitan” as opposed to the unreliable “rootless cosmopolitan” that I have written about in other blogs and in my book on the Melville revival. This notion of the compatibility of [moderate] “nationalism” and “internationalism” is everywhere today, and must immobilize those who think that all conflicts with other nations can be negotiated peacefully. As I saw while researching Ralph Bunche’s actions as mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the notion propagated by progressives such as Elmore Jackson that an artful and rational mediator could manipulate irrational warring parties to come to their senses and compromise, came straight out of strategies emanating from capitalist managers that disagreements between capital and labor* could be arbitrated by skilled mediation. So much for peace studies or conflict-resolution in general. They are part of the utopian thought of populist-progressives and dominate the mainstream media.

positive state

Briefly, what corporatist liberals do is switch from one P.O.V. to its opposite, as if no contradictions were involved. I trace the aversion to this tactic and to its association with Women to early childhood impressions. What follows is a brief but meaty extract from my conference paper given at the Modern Language Association in 2002. Do not despair if it is too much for you. Just read it, or skip it, and move on below.

“Extrapolating from his texts (and from the writings of other Symbolists) perhaps Melville’s demonic clouds are related to the “ruffled brow”: the sudden pained and searing glance that mars the happy mother’s smooth placidity when her child vomits, wets his bed, soils his clothing, touches his genitals, blurts out a dirty word: the glance that makes him feel so poisonous to her, he imagines she would like to spit him out…and yet, she molded and branded him in her womb-factory: she is his double and his shadow.  Ever entwined, they are Eve/Cain, the Wandering Jew, Beatrice Cenci, and Pierrot: over-reachers whose self-assertion and gall will be rendered innocuous in the final scene.  The thick black eyebrows of the Gothic villain (like the mark of Cain or Pierrot’s black mask) will trigger the memory of Mother’s distress and her child’s shame.  Romantic defiance, in its identification with the designated enemies of authority, portends only degeneracy and decline; as Melville has shown us, it brings remorse and cleansing punishment, not better forms of social organization.  The cancellation of early childhood “dirt” and parental disapproval (which may be registered as sadness–Mortmain’s “muffled” “moan”–as well as anger), then the return of the repressed in the ostensibly opposed symbols, “archetypes” and “types” of popular culture, undermines emancipatory politics.” [This will be hard going for many readers. To see the original MLA paper, please write to It is both psychodynamic and anchored in Melville’s texts, but I think, clear enough.]

What I wrote is an hypothesis only, and to be persuasive, would have to be verified through examination of the early childhood brain under similar stress, that is, so far as I know, currently beyond the capacity of physiologists (neurologist Robert Scaer has observed this as traumatic to the child). But it intrigues me and seems plausible  for it links the intertwining of misogyny and antisemitism that I observed in the biographies of Melville readers: Woman is the [switching] Jew of the Home.

In all the academic literature I have read recently, no explanation is offered that adequately explains why antisemites are so often fearful of women, especially mothers, clinging or otherwise: the important feature to me is their inexplicable switching. I am not satisfied with explanations that refer to “the Other” as produced by the projection of forbidden aggression onto Others who must then be controlled (the Kleinian object- relations explanation pervasive in “cultural studies” with its generally post-colonial slant).  As I have mentioned elsewhere, that formulation of “scapegoating” was produced by the very social psychologists who, during the late 1930s and 1940s, created programs of “civilian morale” and “preventive politics” through psychological testing in order to provide consensus and order. Their goal was not discovery of new and useful truth and/or an informed and appropriately educated clear-eyed and critical citizenry. (I am referring to such corporatist liberals as Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, Henry A. Murray, and Harold Lasswell, with allies among the much lauded “critical theorists” whose influence in the humanities remains powerful. See especially chapters two and nine in my book Hunting Captain Ahab for documentation that shocked my doctoral reading committee, but, not surprisingly, remained invisible in published reviews of my book.

Compare this emphasis on the double-bind with Jonah Goldberg’s scathing critique of the Progressives, who are nailed for statism and authoritarianism but not for immobilizing us through the double bind. For instance, if you compromise your art or writing to please authoritarians of the Left or Right, then you are not an original artist/writer, but a courtier. If you sacrifice “order” to be true to your vision, you may not be able to support yourself through your craft–you are what Melville called a castaway. The consequence: those with independent incomes make art or saleable books, and their life experience may estrange them from the various less fortunate whose  vision could enrich their own. )

    Which brings us to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war on terror. As long as we pretend that all conflicts can be compromised through skillful (i.e. manipulative) mediation, we are helpless to defend ourselves or our allies against determined enemies for whom “peace treaties” (i.e., the rule of law) are irrelevant and tactical only. What I have been arguing here, as elsewhere on this site, is that corporatist liberalism, the ideology of “civilized” progress, indeed, of the United Nations itself, does not only make us crazy in attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable (such as Truth versus Order), its continued hegemony may threaten all life on our planet as we ignobly submit to determined aggressors in thrall to premodern and antisecular ideologies, and who will stop at nothing to maintain traditional hierarchies and privilege. (By secular, I mean the older definition that specified the separation of Church and State; I did not mean the newer meaning where “secular” equals “atheistic” or suggests Jacobin hubris/popular sovereignty.)


*Marxists postulate that there is a structural antagonism between capital and labor. In later years, I have rejected that formulation, and prefer to look at concrete situations, for instance, where there is either a labor shortage or a labor surplus. Moreover, as Michael Mann and other sociologist have argued, the state is not simply dependent upon capital, but has its own particular interests. This should be obvious from the recent brouhaha in Wisconsin with respect to teachers unions. And when I used the term “conservative” with respect to Melville’s relatives, I did not mean to equate the religious conservative Democrats who supported his projects, with the classical liberalism of the Founding Fathers, especially Hamilton. (See, for links to blogs on Hamilton.)

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