YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

October 11, 2012

September 29, 2011

The Abraham Lincoln Conundrum

The example of Abraham Lincoln’s conciliatory, moderate  leadership is now offered as the solution to the dramatic polarization of the American electorate by such as Bill O’Reilly, co-author of a new book Killing Lincoln, advertised as a “thriller” but certainly not a novel contribution to the massive literature on the controversial President, assassinated shortly after his second term as President was under way. Nor is it likely that O’Reilly has looked into the attempt by leading social psychologists affiliated with the Roosevelt administration to merge the “idealized” images of good father figures: Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. I wrote about their attempts here, in my study of the teaching of American literature for propaganda purposes, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival. The materials from which this startling advice to other progressives was drawn are held by the Harvard University Archives, and consisted of numerous worksheets, distributed nationally to citizen groups interested in Henry A. Murray and Gordon Allport’s program of “civilian morale,” circa 1941-42. After this excerpt from a published work, I will reflect upon the differing assessments of Lincoln and the more “radical” or “Jacobin” members of the Republican Party.

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

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

The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation: “The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).”

These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their worksheets: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4). Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community:

” …far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4). [Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5). (“integration” Murray’s and Allport’s emph., bold-face mine)

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

Left-liberal historians vs. Southern historians on Lincoln: That the historic figure Lincoln has been appropriated for present-day partisan concerns should be obvious. Richard Hofstadter debunked him as well as Roosevelt in The American Political Tradition (1948): for Hofstadter, Lincoln was a calculating, ambitious politician, who followed public opinion without leading it. That same sub-text can be found in the more recent popular biography by David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (Simon and Schuster, 1995), foreshadowed by Southerner T.  Harry Williams’s anthology of Lincoln’s speeches (Packard, 1943).  For instance, in reporting Lincoln’s last public speech, Donald takes him to task: “…Nor was he about to issue a proclamation for the general reorganization of the Southern states. The sole item on the agenda was peace, and Lincoln did not in this speech—or elsewhere—offer a broad vision of the future, outlining how the conquered South should be governed. He stipulated only that loyal men must rule. His view was not that of the  Conservatives, who simply wanted the rebellious states, without slavery, to return to their former position in the Union, nor was it the view of the Radicals, who wanted to take advantage of this molten moment of history to recast the entire social structure of the South. [Williams wrote an entire book on Lincoln and the Radicals.] He did not share the Conservatives’ desire to put the section back into the hands of the planters and businessmen who had dominated the South before the war, but he did not adopt the Radicals’ belief that the only true Unionists in the South were African-Americans. (p.582).”

Donald, originally a Southerner. later a Harvard professor of note, and author of a hostile biography of Charles Sumner (Donald refers to the Radical Republicans as “Jacobins” in the Lincoln book)  is writing partly in the Hofstadter tradition, as he demonstrates throughout this minutely documented study of Lincoln’s life—a study that strongly contradicts the conversion narrative offered up by leftist historian Eric Foner (see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/30/eric-foners-christianized-lincoln/). By contrast, Foner uses the Lincoln example to buttress the case for reparations, in concert with other left-liberal historians such as David Brion Davis, David Blight, Steven Mintz, and John Stauffer. They are not interested in Lincoln’s purported moderation (that in Donald’s account slips into rank opportunism and lack of principle).

Eric Foner made much of Lincoln’s growing religiosity as his presidency progressed, but one wonders if the religious rhetoric of the Second Inaugural Address was not at least partly inspired by Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic (1861), with an almost identical appeal to Providence, hence an evasion of personal responsibility for the welfare of the freedmen, for Lincoln’s recurrent depression and sense of horror over the casualties of the Civil War must at least partly account for his distressing lack of personal security that allowed Booth’s conspiracy to triumph. It is not an unreasonable inference to suggest that Lincoln was suicidal, and not only at the end, when the country remained enraged, as it had been for many years over such matters as the expansion of slavery and states rights. Add to that the slaughter that we have just learned was underestimated in its numbers of killed and wounded–estimates now exceed 750,000, and perhaps that too is low! See http://www2.bupipedream.com/news/professor-rethinks-civil-war-death-toll-1.2613738.

I find it impossible to laud Lincoln’s record as a moderate who succeeded in conciliating sectional conflict, as O’Reilly imagines; no human being could have done. We are still fighting over the causes and conduct of the Civil War; the proposals of the so-called Radical Republicans might have done much to allay the bitterness that remains over this irrepressible, unresolved, traumatic and traumatizing conflict. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/02/20/are-we-still-fighting-the-civil-war/.) For a treatment of Herman Melville’s treatment of Robert E. Lee and the Civil War in general, see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. And oh, yes, I still maintain that the antislavery Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was at least one contributor to Melville’s world-famous Captain Ahab. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/, for similarities between Sumner’s views and Ahab’s words.


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

March 27, 2011

Progressive mind-managers, ca. 1941-42

Medusa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 29, 2010

F.O. Matthiessen: martyr to McCarthyism?

Maude Slye, Edith Atwater, Frank Oppenheimer, Matthiessen, Lillian Hellman

According to Jennifer Burns, historian and biographer of Ayn Rand, F. O. Matthiessen (1902-1950) was a victim of McCarthyism, hounded to death by zealous anticommunists. She does not provide evidence for this claim. While reading Ayn Rand’s novels and then two recent biographies, I was struck by the representation of Rand as another Captain Ahab: destructive, bossy, and, though an atheist, something of a Russian Jew. Similarly, Ahab was and continues to occupy the Romantic Wandering Jew archetype in the most important Melville literary studies. Their predecessor was Harvard professor F.  O. Matthiessen, like Charles Olson, a hero to many in the New Left. For the first time on this website, I am looting a section of the seventh chapter of my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (Kent State UP, 2001, paperback rev. ed. 2006). It reflects my politics at the time of writing, and I would revise it slightly were it to be republished today. What matters is the gross distortion of Moby-Dick that remains perpetuated in both high and popular culture. Ahab is Hitler is Jew is archetypal American, exceptional only in his capacity for mindless destruction of Nature and closely allied to positive views of Nature, non-white peoples.

[book excerpt:] Charles Olson’s friend and mentor F.O. Matthiessen participated in Irving Babbitt’s antibourgeois offensive: American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman, a monumental study of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville and Whitman, appeared in 1941; it was the organic synthesis that American literature professors opposed to Marx, Freud, and Parringtonian “economic determinism”[i] had demanded since the mid-1930s (and even earlier). In Professor Merton M. Sealts, Jr.’s view, Matthiessen’s New Criticism [ii] had rescued his generation from the art-erasing politics of Vernon Parrington:

[Sealts letter to me:] In the mid-sixties, shortly after I began teaching at the University of Wisconsin, a graduate student came into my office to tell me, excitedly, that he had discovered a book that would release him from “the tyranny of New Criticism”: Vernon Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought! To his surprise I observed that when I was a graduate student (1937-1941) it was New Criticism that had released me from the tyranny of works like Parrington’s…the “history of ideas” approach to American literature that was current in the 1930s had talked about everything except the literary quality of the texts under discussion–either because “literary quality” was supposedly lacking in those texts or because the commentators themselves were unable to recognize it. It was Matthiessen’s American Renaissance (1941) that assured many of us that what we planned to teach was worth teaching as literature.[iii]

Professor Sealts was clueless about the real project concealed under the rubric of “New Criticism”: the “aestheticism” professed by most of its advocates was directly connected to the organic society that their notion of good poetry subsumed. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/22/on-literariness-and-the-ethical-state/.)

Although he claimed to be fusing history and literature, in practice, the organicist Matthiessen set himself against both disciplines, leaving himself helpless to act either on his own behalf or that of humanity. By removing the study of literature from its “economic, social and religious causes” (but not from “its sources in our life”) and focusing on “what these books are as works of art,” then fulfilling the “double aim…to place these works both in their age and ours,” Matthiessen radically dehistoricized literary texts. One could move forward and backward between T.S. Eliot, Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne, or between Ahab and Hitler because historical specificity and concrete institutional referents had been banished: works of art gave birth to other works of art and yet, though fictions, their characters spoke to us today as if freshly minted. Matthiessen’s understanding of social conflict was expressed in timeless dualisms– Reason v. Passion, Good v. Evil, Civilization v. Savagery, or Heart v. Head: these antagonists made literature and history alike, but religion overwhelmed history and political science.

In his draft Introduction to a selection of Melville’s poetry (1944), a penciled addition mapped the Melville problem in the functionalist style as “Melville’s continual concern with the unending struggle, with the tensions between good and evil: within the heart and in the state, political, social, and religious.”[iv] And Matthiessen’s readings of “literary” qualities could be deficient in formal analysis or even accuracy, because he had appropriated nineteenth-century American literature to support the counter-Enlightenment corporatist goals of twentieth century progressive reform, eliminating textual facts that contradicted the lessons to be drawn from such works as Moby-Dick or Billy Budd, all the while (implicitly) distancing himself from Weaver and Mumford by promising to avoid “the direct reading of an author’s personal life into his works” (AR, xii).

Excerpts from drafts and published versions of two major works, American Renaissance (1941) and From The Heart of Europe (1948) clarify Matthiessen’s positions both before and after the war. They seem motivated by the confluence of objectives: a personal and class need for clear, unambiguous, reliable authority (or its simulacrum) and the ideological requirement of his class to moderate the selfishness of upper-class college students lest an unbalanced society continue its path toward disintegration. So Matthiessen evaluated authors and works of art with these standards: symbols should be clear and unequivocal, for (Christian) democratic artists, like other earthy laborers, were craftsmen relating form to function; “individualism” must be tempered by social responsibility. It was Burke against Paine all over again. I will consider his works chronologically, but mostly postponing discussion of From The Heart Of Europe (1948) so that it may be set in the context of other postwar Melvillean pronouncements.[v]

In a book of more than six hundred pages dealing with five major writers and numerous other cultural luminaries of the antebellum period, Matthiessen devoted long sections to Ahab. No previous writer had lavished so much attention on this character, indeed the book was organized around the mad Captain. The preface had ended with a call for artists to abjure [Ahab-ish] anarchy and take the side of the people against the brutal Übermensch who would be limned throughout, while the very last page traced Melville’s progress from the “murky symbols” of Moby-Dick to the “comprehensive symbols” of Abraham and Isaac, Vere and Billy, as if Isaac’s life had not been spared by the Jewish God. In his early unbalanced writings Melville was really the Head person Ahab, not Ishmael and not yet Vere, the Heart person who understood Necessity. Matthiessen had written “…in spite of Melville’s enthusiasm for discovery and revolt [in Mardi], no depth of feeling has fused his instances with his abstractions” (early draft, 153). Instead of the dispassionate assessment of literary qualities that had been promised, Matthiessen delivered a stern rebuke to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century man: there were distortions of the text to support the hostile characterization of Melville/Ahab and to convince readers (and perhaps himself) that Melville was finally the democratic hero Billy who rightly blessed Captain Vere. I still wonder how Matthiessen, a man still revered by academic radicals as a martyr to McCarthyism, could have believed in his own writing.

For instance, the celebrated Father Edward T. Taylor, Methodist preacher to sailors at the Bethel Church in Boston’s disreputable North End, was the source for Father Mapple and identified as an “ex-seaman,” (AR, 127) but not as a protester of Lemuel Shaw’s positions regarding enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. [vi] Since Mapple and Ahab (if not always Taylor) were both proponents of the higher law and the “inexorable self” standing up to evil earthly powers, Matthiessen had erased a fact that would have suggested Ahab as an anti-racist, as a man leading a revolution against illegitimate authority on behalf of, not against, the common man. For Matthiessen, the “Keel of the Ages” in Mapple’s Sermon was not Ahab’s Keel, the conscience that informed the struggle for universal human rights, but the “equilibrium” between “sense impressions and his reflective mind” that Melville had achieved, for a change, in Moby-Dick (AR, 128). Father Taylor was mentioned throughout the book as a positive figure, perhaps because, as Emerson had noted, he had unified a diverse congregation at Concord in 1845 (127); spiced with the salty vernacular, his sermons had followed Matthiessen’s prescriptions for a rooted democratic intellectual discourse, appealing to “black and white, poet and grocer, contractor and lumberman….”[vii]

Matthiessen transmitted more serious distortions of the text, none of which, to my knowedge, has been noted by Melville scholars. Referring to the confrontation between Ahab and Starbuck on the quarter-deck, after Ahab nails the gold doubloon to the mast, bribing and hypnotizing the crew into joining his hunt for Moby Dick, Matthiessen described Ahab’s heartless and obsessive vengefulness through the eyes of “powerless” Starbuck:

[Matthiessen:] At the moment of the initial announcement of his vengeance, he rises to a staggering hubris as he shouts, “Who’s over me?” Starbuck, powerless before such madness, can only think: “Horrible old man! Who’s over him he cries;–ay, he would be a democrat to all above; look how he lords it over all below!” Yet Starbuck is forced not simply to resent but to pity him, since he reads in the lurid eyes the captain’s desperation (448).

Matthiessen has erased both content and order: the text states “Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.” This is Ahab’s response to Starbuck’s accusation of vengeance and blasphemy. Ahab unmistakably announced that the whale hunt was not what it seemed. The text shows Ahab/Melville reproaching Starbuck’s philistinism, telling him to “hark” below the surface of the statement, as Ahab and other modern artists deploy analytic skills to discover the truth and to know themselves: Ahab’s speech is a call to revolution against illegitimate authority, but also a challenge to sincerely Christian readers harkening to Father Mapple’s higher law, in this case conservative New England’s complicity with the slave power. Moreover, Starbuck’s response to Ahab occurs in Chapter 38 (“Dusk”), not immediately after Ahab’s exclamation as Matthiessen implies.[viii] In my view, Starbuck feels invaded, but as a Christian, irresistibly tied to Ahab’s charismatic idea–in Starbuck’s later words, with “soul beat down and held to knowledge,–as wild, untutored things are forced to feed….” Starbuck’s initial response had been anger. Ahab noted that his passion had melted Starbuck’s usual icy incomprehension expressed in “an intolerable…doltish stare.” Ahab says compassionately, “my heart has melted thee to anger-glow,” then he (ambiguously?) apologizes: “I meant not to incense thee.” Perhaps the lurid eyes belonged to Matthiessen reading a double-message and had to be disowned. Similarly, “the queenly personality” who feels her royal rights, Ahab’s self-description and challenge to an indifferent and cruel deity in “Candles,” is negatively interpreted. Without quoting the source in the text, Matthiessen described what Ahab means by “queenly”: “The resources of the isolated man, his courage and his staggering indifference to anything outside himself, had seldom been exalted so high.” Matthiessen’s obliteration of the Milton-Melville connection in favor of Shakespeare-Melville made the task easier.[ix]

The Ahab-Starbuck interchange sums up the Melville Revival: a possibly ambivalent representation of radical Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions has been caricatured by conservatives. In their readings, the antagonists are bad Jews (the Hebrew prophets, Melville, narcissists, monomaniacs, abolitionists, modern women, materialists as either classical liberals or socialists) and overpowered bad Christians (Melvillains, as Merton Sealts Jr. calls himself and his colleagues), bad because they are seduced where they should struggle to resist. In all fairness, Starbuck should not pity Ahab: Matthiessen says Starbuck’s pity was forced. This shocking recognition of Ahab’s comprehensive cunning could lead to suicide to smother the bad Jew within gentlefolk like Matthiessen, or in the less gentle, the image of the “switching” Jew could rationalize social violence. Note that Matthiessen’s example of “the great artist” was T. S. Eliot, not Melville/Ahab, though he quoted Melville’s approbation of Hawthorne’s “usable truth” before this tribute to Eliot:

[Matthiessen:] Such steady inspection of life, which does not flinch from probing sinister recesses and is determined to make articulate the whole range of what it finds, is indispensable for the great artist. Only thus can he cut through conventional appearances and come into possession of what Eliot has called “a sense of his own age” (AR, 192-193).

Eliot is praised for the qualities Matthiessen lacked in himself, and that are abundantly demonstrated in the materialist Ahab, but here have been misapplied to the corporatist Eliot, enemy to freethinking Jews whose corrosive intellects dissolve natural ethnic, today, communitarian, bonds. The English Tories with whom Eliot bonded were paternalistic agrarians, relentless opponents to the rising industrial bourgeoisie that threatened to displace them. Their counterparts in 1930s America were Southern Agrarians, champions of the New Criticism and, like Harvard professors of American literature, supporters of Roosevelt. In a revealingly erroneous reading of Clarel (AR, 495), Matthiessen, like Willard Thorp before him, confused the merchant Rolfe with the ex-Southerner Ungar, the expatriate mercenary for the Turks, even though Melville had not blurred their identities in his text.[x] To be sure, Ungar had earlier expressed passionate criticisms of “Anglo-Saxon” imperialism, Mammon, and the brutal factory system (AR, 401), but so did the Tories of Young England. Expressing the concerns of other Jeffersonians, Melville had written:

The vast reserves–the untried fields;

These long shall keep off and delay

The class war, rich-and-poor-man fray

Of history. From that alone

Can serious trouble spring. Even that

Itself, this good result may own–

The first firm founding of the state.’ (4.21, 91-96)

Matthiessen had, in effect, made the reactionary Ungar (bearer of “a strain of Indian blood” and “the Catholic mind” or, in Poems, “the Latin mind though no longer in the Church”) a proto-socialist. This is an interesting ideological point since Melville’s character Rolfe was a well-traveled and thoughtful autodidact; his antidemocratic and antisemitic views link him to the organic conservatism of Christian Socialists like Melville’s contemporary Charles Kingsley, author of Alton Locke (1850). Rolfe muses whether or not the outcome of class conflict would be a more stable, legitimate, social order, paternalistically concerned with the condition of labor.[xi] Perhaps reflecting his own state of mind, Matthiessen continued his discussion of “Ungar’s” prediction of the coming socialism with the pessimistic judgment that the lower orders are uncontrollable and overly susceptible to false promises and flattery:

[Matthiessen:] Although Ungar glimpses that possible synthesis, he has little confidence in it. In his view popular ignorance often increases as society ‘progresses,’ and masterless men who have foregone all recognition of evil within themselves, are easy prey for demagogues. He holds that only an awareness of Original Sin can give significance to man’s struggle; and the last that is seen of him by Clarel, he is riding off with “that strange look/ Of one enlisted for sad fight/ Upon some desperate dark shore”(495).

Matthiessen’s apotheosis of Billy Budd’s sacrifice is the elixir soothing Ungar’s despair. The converted Melville “has come to respect necessity,” a fact proven by Melville’s check of a passage from “Peter Schlemihl”: “Afterwards I became reconciled to myself. I learnt, in the first place, to respect necessity” (note, 510). Such a mark, taken by itself, proves nothing. Although moody, Melville did not rest in Ungar’s pessimism. He did understand that history forces certain problems and constraints upon us; moreover, as any moralist would, he grappled throughout life with the ambiguous connection between freedom and necessity, structure and agency. But Matthiessen wants to convince the reader that Melville approves of Vere’s action in hanging Billy. Following earlier conservative readings, Matthiessen praised the Plinlimmonish balance achieved at the end of Melville’s life: he had grown out of the “angry defiance” of Pierre and The Confidence-Man (AR, 511); he cites Vere’s death without “accents of remorse” as proof that “Melville could now face incongruity; he could accept the existence of both good and evil with a serenity impossible to him in Moby-Dick” (draft, 819, AR, 512, “serenity” changed to “calm”). This judgment is further strengthened, pressing the unrighteous moralist Mapple’s inexorable self into Ahab’s materialist savagery:

[Matthiessen:] Vere is the wise father, terribly severe but righteous. No longer does Melville feel the fear and dislike of Jehovah that were oppressing him throughout Moby-Dick and Pierre. He is no longer protesting against the determined laws as being savagely inexorable. He has come to respect necessity (AR, 510). [xii]

Matthiessen had suppressed Melville’s delegitimating remark upon the occasion of Vere’s death from the musket ball shot from the Athée. In Melville’s text, Vere “dropped to the deck” just like Claggart, then the narrator comments, “The spirit that ’spite its philosophic austerity may yet have indulged in the most secret of all passions, ambition, never attained to the fulness of fame.” For Melville, Vere’s lack of remorse stemming from secret ambition was the black mark linking him to the ambitious, lying Claggart, but this evil character is connected to Ahab, not Vere, in Matthiessen’s reading (AR, 505). Captain Vere’s “rectitude” as he announces the verdict that Billy must hang reminded Matthiessen of the eighteenth-century Protestant minister Jonathan Edwards (whose name Melville had written in the margin to pinpoint “the Calvinistic text” preached to a dumb “congregation of believers in hell”):

[Matthiessen:] …the deepest need for rapaciously individualistic America [embodied throughout in Ahab] was a radical affirmation of the heart. He knew that his conception of the young sailor’s “essential innocence” was in accord with no orthodoxy; but he found it ‘an irruption of heretic thought hard to suppress.’…After all he had suffered Melville could endure to the end in the belief that though good goes down to defeat and death, its radiance can redeem life. His career did not fall into what has been too often assumed to be the pattern for the lives of our artists: brilliant beginnings without staying power, truncated and broken by our hostile environment. Melville’s endurance is a reinvigorating challenge for a later America (“reinvigorating” only in final draft, 819, AR, 513-14).

This was the conversion narrative, pure and simple. The later Americans should flee from wayward Prometheans like Hawthorne’s Roger Chillingworth and Ethan Brand, criminal precursors to Ahab, catastrophically possessed by their “proud lonely will[s]” (AR, 449-50, FHE, 30), to the open arms of Captain Vere, i.e., to the reinvigorating submission that Melville had mocked as ignoble servility in White-Jacket, a book Matthiessen rated as “running close to a tract of protest”(285).[xiii] Matthiessen’s final comments on Vere (and Coleridge) had linked the text to the America of the late 1930s and early 1940s, the years of the Hitler-Stalin Pact when the Anglo-American libertarianism of the radical bourgeoisie was once again off-limits to the Stalinist Left.

During the early and mid-1940s, the post-Weaver separation of Melville from Ahab energized by Mumford, Thorp and Matthiessen continued. An ominously antimodern, somewhat anti-Jewish article in College English (1943) moved Henry W. Wells of Columbia into his colleague Weaver’s territory, promoting Clarel at the expense of Moby-Dick. The following year, Wells, like Thorp, presented Melville as a moderate democrat, not the aristocratic rebel of Weaver’s biography.[xiv] Charles Olson, writing Call Me Ishmael after these judgments, again modified his reading of Ahab. In his earlier essay, “Lear and Moby-Dick” (1938) Ahab was condemned for the “solipsism which brings down a world,” while the crew participates in the “citizenship of human suffering”: this is Melville’s (Lear’s and Job’s) “meaning” (186, 189).[xv] Olson seemed to be pessimistically criticizing democratic leadership, but with respect for the crew. Call Me Ishmael (1947) more explicitly took on (protofascist) mass politics, linking Ahab’s “Conjur Man” destructiveness to heartless, Ethan Brand-style Enlightenment Reason:

[Charles Olson:] Melville was no naive democrat. He recognized the persistence of the “great man” and faced, in 1850, what we have faced in the twentieth century. At the time of the rise of the common man Melville wrote a tragedy out of the rise and fall, of uncommon Ahab…[T]he common man, however free, leans on a leader, the leader, however dedicated, leans on a straw [reason, the brain, C.S.]. (64)…In exactly what way Ahab, furious and without fear, retained the instrument of his reason as a lance to fight the White Whale is a central concern of Melville’s in Moby-Dick. In his Captain there was a diminution in his heart (72).

Similarly, Willard Thorp’s contribution to The Literary History of the United States (1948) abandoned Pierre: no longer a flawed but “fascinating book” (1938, lxxvii), it is “not a perfect book. It is not even a good one, judged by any standards” (458). Thorp’s other assessments returned with a new emphasis on the importance of Clarel and Billy Budd. Melville’s dangerous sympathies with the wantonly self-directed Ahab’s untrammeled curiosity and materialism had been averted; “private hurts” had been “healed” by the Civil War. The Epilogue to Clarel proved that Melville had chosen broad-minded Rolfe (468) over the antidemocrats, Mortmain and Ungar. In fact, the regenerated writer had come to a serene and manful end in all his Epilogues: the Epilogue to Moby-Dick proved that “young Ishmael” had seen through and rejected Ahab (461); from the Civil War poems onward, Melville had “worked his way to the solid ground on which he finally stood when he wrote Billy Budd” (404). For many liberal critics, the story has been either ambiguous or a thinly-veiled ironic antiwar protest written from the Left; as Hayford and Sealts have shown in their genetic reconstruction of the text (1962), Melville himself increased the polarity between Claggart and Billy. (In the earliest version, Billy is a sexually experienced older man, a guilty mutineer. Gradually he becomes the child-like naif. The poem “Billy in the Darbies” was written first, resulting in some disjuncture between the poem and the final version of the narrative.) For Thorp, however, the sharp division between the naturally depraved, monomaniacal, and subversive Claggart and naturally innocent Billy had shattered the “fetters” of ambiguity, as perhaps it had done for Melville-in-retreat. The brainy mixture of good and evil, “the strange union under the eaves” (457) that had chained Pierre to immobility (470), was finally unmuddied.[xvi]

[Harrison Hayford to Tyrus Hillway, co-founder of The Melville Society, 25 Jan. 1945:] I met [Merton Sealts] wandering in a daze one day just outside the Toasty, and he said “Either Melville is crazy or I am, or someone is.”

In the process of conflating corporatism with democracy, Thorp had, like Matthiessen, cleanly separated the good, questing, submissive adolescent (the redeemed Ishmael-Billy) and the bad father (Ahab-Claggart). The rhetoric Thorp applied to Billy and Claggart implied that their genetic inheritance was dissimilar: the difference between Aryan Billy and the black-hearted monster Claggart was perceived in virtually racial terms. The connection Melville had drawn between the two quasi-lunatics Claggart and Vere, however, was invisible. And Billy was good in Thorp’s reading because he understood the necessity for heroic self-sacrifice when Vere (Order, not Truth) demanded it. Thorp had consistently assimilated Melville’s career to the conversion narrative. The same gesture had bolstered the hegemonic humanities line contrasting Western democracy with German autocracy or Bolshevism, following the ideology of the Columbia University “War Issues” course devised to build support for American participation in World War I and continued in the plans for the Jefferson Memorial, 1939.[xvii] This might have been an honest contrast had not the corporatists been as intent as Nazi and Stalinist bureaucrats in treating the contagious Lockean and Jeffersonian ideas of the American Revolution, turning these radical thinkers upside down to invert slavery and freedom, reinstating the Great Chain of Being to heal wasted liberals.[xviii] By bringing ethnopluralism into the discussion of psychological warfare in the Melville Revival, I am saying that the core conflict between the wars was not democracy versus totalitarianism or autocracy; rather, the forces of modernity were arrayed against those of reaction, even inside “democratic” countries and often inside individuals. Reactionaries might or might not represent themselves as progressives. I have tried to clarify the dispute by deploying the distinction between “rootless cosmopolitans” (exponents of urbanized industrial, scientific society) and rooted cosmopolitans (exponents of small town life with pre-capitalist social relations). English and American Fascist writers of the 1930s made this distinction explicit.[xix]

After the war, Matthiessen and Alfred Kazin taught American literature in Austria and Czechoslovakia, describing their topic as the age of Whitman and Melville. Since both men wanted to teach Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, they divided their groups, Matthiessen discussing Melville followed by Henry James, while Kazin’s Melville was followed by Henry Adams. Matthiessen turned the journal of his fascinating and informative European experiences into a book, From The Heart of Europe (1948), with the published version forced to deal with the recent Soviet actions that had destroyed the independent democratic socialist state of Czechoslovakia, actions that were pending while Matthiessen was still there and for which he became an apologist. Matthiessen (whose father and grandfather had become wealthy through the applied sciences) felt he should explain why he never became a Marxist:

[Matthiessen:] I am a Christian, not through my haphazard upbringing but by conversion conviction while at Yale, and I find an[y] materialism inadequate. I make no pretense to being a theologian, but I have been influenced by the same Protestant revival that has been voiced most forcefully in America by Reinhold Niebuhr. That is to say, I have rejected the nineteenth-century belief in every man as his own Messiah, along with the other aberrations of that century’s individualism; and have accepted again the doctrine of Original Sin, in the sense that man is fallible and limited, no matter what his social system, and capable of finding completion only through humility before the love of God.[xx]

The cross-outs suggest that Matthiessen had no religion before he attended Yale, and that he was searching for the security of a clear, consistent set of rules. The rest of the statement is a grotesque Hume-style caricature of seventeenth-century left-wing Protestantism that is conflated with the most buccaneering irreligious capitalism and then made symbol for the entire nineteenth century. But he was “a radical democrat,” an admirer of Walt Whitman and Lenin (draft, p.10). In spite of its flaws, we should accept the Russian Revolution because “…the Russians have not been deflected from the right of all to share in the common wealth.” As for the disappointed libertarian Czechs, they really were moving toward socialism, despite apparent reverses. They should understand that

[Matthiessen:] Freedom can be gained and protected only by groups functioning together, with their sense of social responsibility as highly developed as their sense of individual privilege. That is what I understand by the definition of freedom as the recognition of necessity (FHE, 142).

In a passage that reiterated the primary thesis of American Renaissance (and derived from the aesthetic theories of Herder, Wordsworth and Coleridge), Matthiessen nostalgically described the role of art in primitive societies. Art best functioned as release:

[Matthiessen:] This knowledge is common in primitive societies where the role both of the medicine man and of the ritualistic priest or poet is to exorcise the evil spirit and to invoke the good spirit by naming them. The naming must be exact, and it requires all the magical skills of the artist, all his control over words to make them become one with the thing…the primitive exorcism by naming life even as it is in its worst moments, and thus releasing us from fear of the unnamed and unknown (FHE, 49).

Melville is not listed among the dark modern figures that provide a similar salutary catharsis: Hamlet, Schopenhauer, Leopardi, and Kafka. Matthiessen also distanced himself from fellow lecturer Lyman Bryson, who had criticized “mechanical Stalinists” and the “Hollywood mass producer” [sic] alike, both of whom were committed to “official versions of life” (draft, 66, FHE, 51-53). These statements, taken together and in tandem with American Renaissance, strongly suggest that Matthiessen was always frightened by the introspection and social inspection that discloses contradictions between signifiers and the signified, the critical process represented by Ahab’s leaps into the unknown, from light into darkness, into disillusion with father figures, thence into Pierre’s ambiguous choice to merge with Isabel, ambiguous not because of elusive or necessarily contaminated “truth,” but only with regard to the writer’s self-interest. Where would it all lead? Would the innocent be sacrificed in the effluent of righteous action? So Matthiessen preferred to melt into the mass and worship necessity.

He had been re-reading Moby-Dick: it was the book he most wanted to talk about in his trip to Europe; the emphasis on racial equality (that he had almost forgotten) had deeply moved him, but the auspicious beginning had been undermined by Melville’s submission to Ahab:

[Matthiessen:]…his ejaculation of the ‘divine equality’ among men was not borne out by what happened. Even the friendship between Queequeg and Ishmael was dwarfed and lost sight of in the portrayal of Captain Ahab’s indomitable will. The single individual, a law only to himself, treats his entire crew as mere appendages to his own ruthless purpose, and sweeps them all finally to destruction. No more challenging counter-statement to Emerson’s self-reliance had yet been written. No more penetrating scrutiny could have been made of the defects of individualism, of the tragedy that ensues when man conceives proudly of himself as pitted against the mass, instead of finding the fulfillment of his nature through interdependence with his fellow-men (FHE 36-37).

This characterization may not jibe with the text: Was Ahab pitted against the mass, or was that Ishmael’s and Starbuck’s reading? Melville’s long-suppressed annotations to Paradise Lost (along with remarks in his published letters and the not-so-muffled protest that he telegraphs throughout) indicated that he was writing under censorship; moreover he had no use for demagogues and mobs or frontier rowdiness and brutality. Melville’s marginalia strongly suggest that Ahab was the necessarily masked modern artist, the Promethean who would, however abandoned and mutilated by God and his fellows, stand alone if necessary, to speak truth to power; he was also speaking to posterity so that his less perceptive and more deferential fellows might one day be emancipated from illegitimate authority. Matthiessen’s Ishmaelite/Anglo-Catholic interpretation of Ahab’s motives rhymed exactly with the picture of the cynical demagogue Hitler disseminated by his colleagues Henry Murray and Gordon Allport in their worksheets on morale (1941). In 1948, Matthiessen praised the student with Heart and buried the [Head] whose views of Ahab diverged from the official story:

[Matthiessen:] In the final session of our discussion group [in Czechoslovakia] Vladimir Kosina raised the topic, “What is there in Moby Dick that would not have been written by anyone except an American?’ Several ideas were picked up from our earlier sessions: the author’s immersion in everyday experience, the union of work and intellect that we had found in Thoreau, Whitman’s kind of belief in the common man. One girl felt that Ahab was a thoroughly American hero in his determination, no matter what the obstacles, to do what he set out to do…. Some sentences from these students’ final essays were very impressive. Bohumil Seidl, after analyzing the basis for Ahab’s tragedy and finding it in the absolute ruthlessness of will that mistook its own desires for divine command, concluded: “The central moral problem in Moby Dick, the relation between will and feeling, particularly appeals to us who, not long ago, had opportunity to experience the disastrous consequences of a strong will in Germany, the will to power, surrounded by mythology and absolutely shorn of human feeling”[xxi] (my emph.).

The one unnamed girl who read Ahab as a positive figure is barely visible because Matthiessen preferred corporatist formulations of the causes of World War II, in Bohumil Seidl’s “very impressive” instance blatantly identifying a nation of American Ahabs with Nazi Head people. For Heart people, triumphant fascism as the outcome of class conflict, economic crisis, Stalinist tactics, and appalling sectarianism in the German Left is invisible.[xxii]

Such confusion is consistent with the counter-Enlightenment views of T.S. Eliot, Matthiessen’s ideal of positive intellectuality (though he later disavowed Eliot’s refusal of social action, FHE, 82). Matthiessen, like Mumford, Olson, and Thorp before him, was supporting the Tory “Melville” they inferred from the later texts. Ersatz critical tools left them helpless in the face of preventable disasters. “Starbuck” was periodically depressed. The conclusion to the life of Matthiessen was a leap from the twelfth floor of a Boston hotel room in 1950.[xxiii] Harvard English professor Kenneth Murdock wrote to Perry Miller after Matthiessen’s suicide:

[Murdock:] Matty’s nervous depression had been growing steadily more intense all winter, and he seemed to have lost any ability to conquer it by will. His friends urged him to see doctors, but he could not bring himself to do so, and I’m afraid his last months were spent in great anguish and loneliness. His friends did everything they could to help him, but he found it more and more difficult to see people and, I suppose, contributed to his final collapse by keeping steadily at work on his writing and sparing himself nothing. [xxiv]

[Added 12-29-10: Matthiessen’s lover Russell Cheney died after the war, exacerbating the depression “Matty” had experienced during the late 1930s.]   The Harvard community of humanists, with all their erudition and accumulated wisdom, could neither help their friend nor in any rational manner explain the horrendous conflicts of this century. In the war between passion and reason, passion won out; Matty lacked the self-control that would moderate his austerity. His colleague William Ellery Sedgwick (1899-42) had earlier (probably) committed suicide; his unfinished study Herman Melville: The Tragedy of Mind, edited by Sedgwick’s widow Sarah Cabot Sedgwick and Theodore Spencer, was published by Harvard in 1944. Henry Murray reported that Mrs. Sedgwick blamed Melville’s Pierre for her husband’s death. But an unpublished poem by Sedgwick, “The Dark House,” suggests that Tory anti-intellectualism was the symptom of excessive self-denial in the service of class rule. It bred despair, isolation and emptiness, not the camaraderie and sane amelioration that the Heart people had professed. This is the poem as written in Sedgwick’s hand: [xxv]

Scribners 1932-36

Stands in the darkness

on the stairs

of the dark house

a life so young–he stands there

tiptoe to question;

stands in the darkness on a stair

makes tentative the silence there.

and near him there

(no where)

chipped by a clock

bright moments fly

upward;

are there only dark hours

and he waits for me.

Across the obscure accumulation of my days

and undecided ways

he waits.

And I’ll not come;

out of the emptiness I’d bring

I should not answer anything.

P.C.  Where I have been he is;

Where I shall be, he is before

and where he asks no more.

The questing Enlightenment mind lives with ambiguity and uncertainty: formulations of moral action in a secular world are necessarily experimental and provisional; we adjust received notions of morality to things as they really are, and the things might be strange indeed, nutty enough to merit structural transformations. While Melville found this lively habit of mind excitingly adventuresome (though it also gave him pause), these were exactly the “tragic” qualities that made Sedgwick and Matthiessen nervous. Similarly, “uncertainty” was the deadly enemy to social coherence in the worksheets devised by Murray and Allport to boost civilian morale before and after the war, even as they affixed the word “provisional” to their specific recommendations. Hitler felt the same way, and devised his theory of propaganda to forestall ambiguity, for this greyness made it impossible to mobilize support for wars to save the planet from Jewish or German Objektivitätsfimmel, the brain-buzz or craze for objectivity that made it hard to establish the harmonious “people’s community,” reunited because rescued from vertiginous, Jewishly instigated, internal contradictions. In his own words, Hitler explained that he was simplifying but not falsifying his messages; the masses were too irrational to cope with the finer points of such pivotal issues as German responsibility for the Great War. This congruence between Nazi and American propaganda was not concealed by Murray and Allport. Indeed, they imitated (almost) the totalizing propaganda of the Nazis:

[Worksheets, Murray and Allport:] The propaganda campaign must be based on a total view of the situation, expressed in an ideological language almost as inclusive as that of the Communists or the Nazis themselves. From the perspective of this ideology, all specific news items should be interpreted, so that they acquire significance beyond themselves and are seen as part of a coherent drama of dynamic forces. Radio programs of propaganda and propaganda leaflets should not be showered off hit or miss; perhaps at cross-purposes, and probably without effect, but should converge upon the master interpretation of the forces involved in the war. Only with a definite rationale, adhered to over a long period of time, can our propaganda have a cumulative effect and thus finally play an important role in the defeat of the enemy (p.2, worksheet on Psychological Warfare).

Harvard professors of American history and literature were joined to American, Nazi, and Communist social pathologists in their pedagogy of the paranoid sublime, the good fight between godly faith and demonic disbelief. But theirs was the destructive method they consistently attributed to wicked Ahab and the equally adolescent Pierre whose universalist ethics the corporatists had transmuted to absolutist domination while disseminating their own, preferred, “master interpretation.” By contrast with Ahab and Pierre, Matthiessen and his counterparts were pluralists of the blood and soil variety. Like Murray and Allport, Matthiessen wished for a modicum of diversity-with-integration, not fusion; we should rewrite our history. Concurring in the important revision of American nationality advanced by Randolph Bourne (1916) and Horace Kallen (1924), Matthiessen urged that the cultural domination of the old Anglo-Saxon elites be repudiated, and moreover:

[Matthiessen:] By making Americans more aware of the diversified strains from which we have come, it would enable us to know more about the rest of the world, and it could help to provide us with the international understanding we so much need now in fulfilling our unaccustomed but unavoidable role as a world power (FHE, 125-126, my emph.).

NOTES:

[i]               104. “Economic determinism” as used by the moderates studied here does not refer to an economic model that neglects the force of religion or other ideas in history. Rather, it signifies the ideas of the “mechanical materialists”:  the philosophes who spawned the mob-driven French Revolution. See Harry Hayden Clark, Thomas Paine, 1944. Clark’s consensus-building project is clearly directed toward separating Paine from the radical Enlightenment and from radical puritanism, while making him the standard bearer of American idealism and cultural freedom. Clark asks the reader to scrutinize Paine’s writing where he will discover Paine’s belief in science as revelation of natural order and harmony, rhyming exactly with the goals of progressive New Dealers (though the analogy is never exactly drawn). Readers could substitute the Axis powers for Paine’s Tory Britain or ancient Hebrew royalists.

[ii]               105. See the admiring essay by New Leftist George Abbott White, “Ideology and Literature: American Renaissance and F.O.Matthiessen,” Literature in Revolution, eds. George Abbott White and Charles Newman (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1972), 430-500, in a volume dedicated to Matthiessen; White attempts to separate him from other New Critics (considered today to be conservative).

[iii]              106. Merton M. Sealts to me, 20 June 1987. Sealts, a Stanley Williams student, is one of the leading Melvilleans and the scholar who completed the Olson project to reconstitute Melville’s library. Sealts, however, denies that he was a New Critic, but eclectic: “…my approach to…”I and My Chimney” combined the biographical orientation then current among Melvilleans with the new discipline of close reading (picked up from New Criticism) and an interest in symbolism deriving from such critics as Eliot and Wilson Knight.” Cf. Robert Spiller’s review of  Matthiessen’s book in American Literature 13 ( Mar.-Jan.1941-42): 432-435. Spiller commended his critical method which reconciled aestheticism and historicism through organic form (“a modern functionalism”). While advocating an extreme determinism (“masterworks” are entirely caused by (great?) “social and philosophical forces”), Matthiessen had rescued artists and literary history from the economic determinists: “those historians who evaluate literature in terms of its content of communism, agrarian democracy, Puritanism, materialistic determinism, or other borrowed ism. The central pole of reference is esthetic significance.” But see H. Lark Hall, V.L. Parrington: Through the Avenue of Art (Kent, Ohio: Kent State Univ. Press, 1994) where Parrington’s views are linked to those of Henry Adams, Randolph Bourne and other native born radicals (i.e. the corporatists described in my study).

[iv]              107. F.O. Matthiessen Papers, Box 6, Houghton Library, Harvard University. These sentences ended his Introduction to Herman Melville Selected Poems (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1944), a work dedicated to the late William Ellery Sedgwick. The published version changed the word “heart” to “mind.” Cf. the NEH project proposal for a Documentary Film on the Life and Work of Herman Melville, authored by George H. Wolfe. In a letter of 12 Feb. 1979 Wolfe (of the University of Alabama) asked Jay Leyda to join consultants Richard H. Fogle, Harrison Hayford, and Howard Vincent. The NEH application states that the film will treat “Melville’s relentless search to unravel the meaning of meaning and the nature of good and evil…his brilliant examination of the human condition…For Melville is concerned with nothing if not with the way men make ethical choices (and live with the results), engage life fully (or fail to), and deal with the ambiguous possibilities of good and evil in human affairs…his cosmic debates with himself about the nature of man. These interior battles bisect his life and work until finding some sort of odd solace in the final brilliance of Billy Budd.” That social cohesion was on Wolfe’s mind is indicated by his definition of Melville’s context: formation, dissolution, reformation of union. The proposal also mentions a third narrative voice, Lizzie, who will provide information about “Herman’s black moods, his monomaniacal writing habits, the state of his health, the progress of his literary works, his finances, and so forth.” Nathaniel Hawthorne is the most important single influence on Melville’s art; the Bible and Milton are not mentioned. See Leyda Papers, NYU.

[v]               108. Cf. The Harvard Report, General Education in a Free Society, 1945, 110-115. Matthiessen is mentioned in the acknowledgments as having either aided the Harvard Report or served on a sub-committee. Their recommendations for methods in high school teaching of English (“language and literature”) include these vague yet balanced strictures meant to emancipate students from both ignorance and faction-making critical habits: “Among prevailing trends to be discouraged in the study of literature, it would list: Stress on factual content as divorced from design. Emphasis on literary history, on generalizations as to periods, tendencies and ready-made valuations–in place of deeper familiarity with the texts. Strained correlations with civics, social studies. Overambitious technical analysis of structure, plot, figurative language, prosody, genre. Use of critical terms (Romanticism, Realism, Classical, Sentimental) as tags coming between the reader and the work. Didacticism: lessons in behavior too closely sought. These dangers are familiar to reflective teachers, as are their opposite extremes: Superficial reading of too much, with no close knowledge of either the content or its import. Lack of any aids to the understanding of what is being read. Indifference to or ignorance of techniques of literature. Avoidance of critical terms and appraisals when the student is ready for them. Irresponsible attitude to the implications of what is being read.” The authors then recommend “abridgement and selective editing” to make great works accessible to general readers. Imagine the “moderate” reader of this report, asked to determine what is too much or too little in her interventions.

[vi]              109. See Charles H. Foster, “Something In Emblems”: Citing Gilbert Haven and Hon. Thomas Russell, Father Taylor, The Sailor Preacher (Boston: H.B. Russell, 1872), especially Chapter XV, “In Reforms,” Foster argued that Taylor (originally a Virginian brought up among slaves) went back and forth on the abolition question and was an unlikely model for the ultra-abolitionist Mapple. But as the nineteenth-century authors (one a minister, the other Collector of the Port of Boston) more precisely put it, “…he shot back and forward between the contending hosts and ideas, faithful alike to his two central forces,–love of ideal truth, love of organic form. Truth must not shatter form: organism must not stifle truth” (250). Here is the double-bind constantly encountered and identified by Melville as I have argued throughout. Yet Taylor could not stomach the Fugitive Slave Act. His biographers report this conversation: “…just after the passage of the “Fugitive Slave Law,” he was standing at the door of the Methodist Bookstore, No.5 Cornhill, and Rev. Thomas Whittemore, the leading Universalist preacher, who was a very strong abolitionist, was passing. “Well,” said Father Taylor,” Brother Whittemore, are you and I going to turn slave-catchers and do the dirty work of these miserable man-thieves?” “No, said Mr. Whittemore, very indignantly. “No, no!” “No, no!” said Father Taylor, with greater emphasis, clapping him warmly on his back: “we’ll see them all in hell first; won’t we, Brother Whittemore?” (253-254).

Melville’s conservative narrators fit comfortably into the popular evangelical protestant culture of his day. The Bethel Church was funded by members of the Unitarian merchant class of Boston, and its purpose was conversion and moral uplift, not the politicizing of the sailor congregation. Taylor, a former sailor and circuit-rider, ardently defended Church and State (laws were inevitably imperfect, being the creation of devil-infested man, 175). With the example of successful mutinies before them (192), captains were asked to sacrifice their natural propensities to tyrannize sailors; while sailors were asked by Taylor, ever the temperance crusader, to give up drink and promiscuity (that were not only impoverishing their wives and children, but infecting and debauching heathen populations that missionaries sought to Christianize), to adhere strictly to duty, with a blissful heavenly reward in sight. One observer, John Ross Dix, described the one painting in the Bethel that transmits the message: “[The Church] is small and neat,–the only ornament being a large painting at the back of the pulpit, representing a ship in a stiff breeze off a lee shore, we believe; for we are not seaman enough to be certain on this point. High over the mast-head are dark storm-clouds, from one of which a remarkably small angel is seen, with outstretched arms, –the celestial individual having just flung down a golden anchor bigger than itself, to aid the ship in its extremity, we presume, although there is attached to the said anchor but a few inches of California cable, which for any practical purpose would not be of the slightest use. However, we must not be critical on allegories; and perhaps many a sailor now on the great deep has pleasant recollections of the picture: if so, a thousand such anachronisms might well be pardoned” (357-358). Another sailor-preacher, Enoch Mudge, was suggested by Jay Leyda as the source for Father Mapple (see below). The Historical Note to the N/N Moby-Dick, discussing the paucity of real-life models for Melville’s characters, names a sailor, Backus, as the source for Pip, then states “(The only convincing exception is Father Mapple, for whom Father Edward Taylor of Boston supplied more than a hint)” (636). We are not told why the editors are convinced. In his Melville biography, Hershel Parker mentions both Mudge and Taylor, but does not specify their politics.

[vii]             110. Matthiessen was quoting Emerson.  Haven and Russell, Father Taylor, are unclear on the integration question. One observer, pro-abolitionist Harriet Martineau, saw segregation at Bethel: “There is one great drawback in the religious services of his chapel. There is a gallery just under the roof for persons of color; and ‘the seed-carriers of the world’ are thus countenanced by Father Taylor in making a root of bitterness spring up beside their homes, which, under his care, a better spirit should sanctify. I think there can be no doubt that an influence so strong as his would avail to abolish this unchristian distinction of races within the walls of his own church; and it would elevate the character of his influence if the attempt were made” (348-49). However, Stevens, historian of the Methodist Episcopal Church, describes the perfect missionary with a different scene: “In a spacious and substantial chapel, crowded about by the worst habitations of the city, he delivered every sabbath, for years, discourses the most extraordinary, to assemblies also as extraordinary perhaps as could be found in the Christian world. In the centre column of seats, guarded sacredly against all other intrusion, sat a dense mass of mariners,–a strange medley of white, black, and olive,–Protestant, Catholic, and sometimes pagan, representing many languages, unable probably to comprehend each other’s vocal speech, but speaking there the same language of intense looks and flowing tears. On the other seats, in the galleries, the aisles, and the altar, and on the pulpit stairs, crowded, week after week, and year after year (among the families of sailors, and the poor who had no other temple), the élite of the city, the learned professor, the student, the popular writer, the actor, groups of clergymen, and the votaries of fashion, listening with throbbing hearts and wet eyes to the man whose chief training had been in the forecastle, whose only endowments were those of grace and nature, but whose discourses presented the strangest, the most brilliant exhibition of sense, epigrammatic thought, pathos, and humor, expressed in a style of singular pertinency, spangled over by an exhaustless variety of the finest images, and pervaded by a spiritual earnestness that subdued all listeners; a man who could scarcely speak three sentences, in the pulpit or out of it, without presenting a striking poetical image, a phrase of rare beauty, or a sententious sarcasm, and the living examples of whose usefulness are scattered over the seas” (367). Significantly, the authors compare Father Taylor to Wordsworth’s Peter Bell (437). I am reminded of Melville in his conservative mood, situated as a stylist in the culture of popular evangelical religion.

[viii]             111. Matthiessen had already set this up earlier on page 426, following a portion of Ahab’s quarter-deck speech rendered in blank verse with the statement, “Starbuck’s meditation opens the next chapter: “My soul is overmanned…” He has excised the chapter “Sunset.”

[ix]              112. See my discussion of Melville’s Milton annotations above and their relevance for Ahab’s probable allusion to Eve, addressed by Satan as “Queen of this Universe.” Matthiessen is contradicting his response to Olson’s draft essay, that Melville could not have lacked the tragic sense.

[x]               113. Willard Thorp, Representative Selections, xci,cxviii.

[xi]              114. Rolfe has been taken by corporatist Melvilleans to be Melville’s true voice in Clarel.

[xii]             115. Matthiessen uses the word “inexorable” to sting Mapple’s and Ahab’s “inexorable self” that stands up to illegitimate authority.

[xiii]             116. Cf. Olson, M.A. Thesis, quoted above; also the chapter on Dana in D.H. Lawrence, Studies In Classic American Literature (New York: Seltzer, 1923). Matthiessen flunks White-Jacket as art: of all Melville’s early too-concrete works, it is “[the] most heavy and diffuse through its number of surface details.” When the right-wing modernists looked for equilibrium between matter and spirit, the lurking model giving specifity to their abstraction was the “dynamic equilibrium” between master and man, characterized by “reciprocity” before the rule of capital destroyed such bonds.

[xiv]             117. Henry W. Wells, “Herman Melville’s Clarel,” College English 4 (May 1943): 478-483; “An Unobtrusive Democrat: Herman Melville,” South Atlantic Quarterly 43 (Jan. 1944): 46-51.

[xv]             118. But see H.M. Bossard to Olson, 26 Mar. 1938, giving him the reference he requested on Jung’s analysis of Hitler, “Wotan: a psychologist explores the forces behind German fascism.”

[xvi]             119. Page references are to Thorp, Literary History of the U.S. (New York: Macmillan, rev. ed.,1974). Melville tried to reform the missionaries in his first works; by the late 1850s, in his lecture “The South Seas,”he advised Americans to leave primitives alone until the “civilized” had reformed themselves. Thorp’s Christian Socialist account would support the aims of the internationalism of the postwar upper-class peace movement by rebuking Pierre’s excessive idealism and rejection of pragmatism. See Thorp Representative Selections, xxxviii; Thorp, Literary History, 470. The strange union refers to the living arrangements of Pierre and Isabel (later joined by Lucy) in the city.

[xvii]            120. See Carol Gruber, Mars and Minerva; also The Report of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission to the Senate and House of Representatives, June 1939 which stated “For more than 50 years, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, has been recognized by our citizens not only for the outstanding part which he took in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, itself, not only for his authorship of the Virginia Statute for religious freedom, but also for the services he rendered in establishing the practical operation of the American Government as a democracy, and not an autocracy.”

[xviii]           121. I am not claiming a moral equivalency between the New Deal and fascism or Soviet communism; state murder is not the same as marginalization or unemployment or amnesia. As I have argued throughout, while diffuse anxiety and self-censorship characterizes postwar American culture, libraries remain open, though access to state secrets is still limited, with the result that conspiracy theories further pathologize our political culture.

[xix]             122. See Donald Davidson, “Where Are The Laymen? A Study in Policy-Making,” American Review 9 (Sept. 1937): 456-481. Davidson was protesting against mushrooming independent citizen policy groups in the South, loosely allied with, but also critical of, the Roosevelt administration. Davidson derisively typed these fact-finders as either neo-abolitionists or as top-down social planners. Scientific industrial society had destroyed the capacity of Jeffersonian democrats to participate in the major decisions of their lives. The New Left phrase “participatory democracy” may be indebted to such 1930s agrarian thought, proudly professed by Davidson as “fascist.”

[xx]             123. “From the Heart of Europe,” “revised early draft 2,” p. 10, Box 6, Matthiessen Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University. See From The Heart of Europe (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1948), 82. In 1937, Reinhold Niebuhr had written “…religion is forced to tell many little lies in the interest of a great truth, while science inclines to tell many little truths in the interest of a great lie. The great truth in the interest of which many little lies are told is that life and history have meaning and the source and the fulfillment of that meaning lie beyond history. The great lie in the interest of which science tells many little truths is that spatio-temporal realities are self-contained and self-explanatory and that a scientific description of sequences is an adequate analysis of causes.” “The Truth in Myths” is reprinted in Gail Kennedy, ed., Evolution and Religion: The Conflict Between Science and Theology in Modern America (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1957): 94.

[xxi]             124. Matthiessen, From The Heart of Europe, 182-183. Sidney Kaplan, a liberal Melville critic and Leyda admirer, criticized  Eleanor Metcalf’s politics but commended Matthiessen’s “wonderfully eloquent and (last) words on Melville” in a letter to Leyda 21 July 1950. Commenting on the difficulties of Benito Cereno, Kaplan wrote,I do intend to examine the whole Melville canon, including the Civil War writings. Warren, Hettinger and Arvin leave much to be said. Some time ago Mrs. Metcalf wrote me that the only thing of interest she had was a presentation copy of Battle Pieces from Melville to his wife…and a brick from Malvern Hill. “If what you write,” she added, “gives a wider circulation to the prose appendix to Battle Pieces, that in itself would be a great service to his memory and fine contribution to the thinking and feeling of these torn days.” I fear I shall disappoint her there; I am not sure that the appendix was or is worth much as a moral-political document. It has the alarming odor of Bennett’s Herald. As you suggest, however, I shall try to see Mrs. Metcalf and talk with her.”

[xxii]            125. But see Leo Marx, “Double Consciousness and the Cultural Politics of F.O. Matthiessen,”Monthly Review 34 (Feb. 1983): 34-56. Marx believes that his teacher’s critical achievement (the recognition of contradictions) helped overcome the regnant organicism: “It signalled the virtual disappearance of the older complacent idea of our national culture as an essentially homogeneous, unified whole” (40). In my research, I have found no such complacency or sense of unity.  Marx discusses the context of Matthiessen’s suicide: personal loss (his lover Russell Cheney had died in 1945), and political persecution exacerbating a history of depression. By contrast, one prominent New Americanist critic sees Matthiessen as a consensus builder, papering over social conflict. See Donald Pease, Moby Dick and the Cold War,” The American Renaissance Reconsidered, ed. Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1985): 113-155.

[xxiii]           126. Cf., Henry W. Wells, The American Way of Poetry (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1943): 86; Wells (a founding member of the Melville Society) discusses Clarel as a revelation of America: “The section of Book One devoted to [the judaizing Nathan’s] past gives a vivid and circumstantial picture of many aspects of American life. Nathan’s pioneering family after migrating from Maine settled at last on the Illinois prairie. Here Nathan came into imaginative touch with the land on which he worked and with the Indian aborigines who preceded him. As a thinker he felt the force, in turn, of Tom Paine’s rationalism, of a narrow and fanatical sectarianism, of a transcendental nature-worship, and of the puritanical variety of Hebraism. This section of only ten pages constitutes a really remarkable epitome of no small part of America’s social and intellectual history.”

[xxiv]           127. Kenneth Murdock to Perry Miller, 12 Apr. 1950, Perry Miller Papers, Harvard University Archives.

[xxv]            128. W. Ellery Sedgwick Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University. There is another version, typed by Sedgwick’s colleague Theodore Spencer. I do not know the meaning of the line “Scribners 1932-36,” or the prefix P.C. which precedes the last verse which is written on the reverse of the page. Neither of these appears in the Spencer version.

June 18, 2010

Whaleness (2)

Mortimer Adler, co-founder Great Books Foundation

[Alfred C. Neal writing about the achievements of The Committee For Economic Development in Business Power and Public Policy, 1981, p.10.]  I cannot conclude these introductory observations without disclosing why a policy-making process that combines academic, professional, and government expertise with business acumen is likely to be better than others that do not employ that combination.  Academic and professional people are highly skilled in formulating policy alternatives in a kind of game that employs the symbols, relationships, and intellectual constraints of their disciplines.  The number of possible policy alternatives for resolving problems in social science is limited only by the imaginations of the scientists, which is high, or by the condition and assumptions that they impose to reduce the almost endless proliferation of possibilities in a world of uncertainty.  Assumptions and conditions are the security blankets of the social scientist’s mind.  Policy-making executives are similarly constrained in their choices by considerations of goal-acceptability and costs and benefits, as well as by considerations of organizational capability, public acceptance, and effective leadership needed to initiate and carry out policy decisions.  The interplay of all these inputs to the policy-making process is seldom explicit, but the interaction of good minds employing their intellectual capabilities is, I am convinced, the basis for much better policy making than we have had.  It is the description and analysis of such interactions over many years and the consequences of the policies resulting from that process, that constitute the main stuff of this book.

[Cultural historian Sander L. Gilman maps and hops with the Other, Difference and Pathology, 1985, 129:]  Certainly no stereotypes have had more horrifying translations into social policy than those of “race.”  Tied to the prestige of nineteenth-century science, the idea of racial difference in the twentieth century became the means for manipulating and eventually destroying entire groups.  The following essays document how easily racial stereotypes have been linked with images of pathology, especially psychopathology.  In this case the need to create the sense of difference between the self and the Other builds upon the xenophobia inherent in all groups.  That which defines one’s group is “good,” everything else is frighteningly “bad.” The cohesiveness of any group depends on a mutually defined sense of identity, usually articulated in categories that reflect the group’s history….We cannot eradicate images of difference, but we can make ourselves aware of the patterns inherent in these images.

The goal of studying stereotypes is not to stop the production of images of the Other, images that demean and, by demeaning, control.  This would be the task of Sisyphus.  We need these stereotypes to structure the world.  We need crude representations of difference to localize our anxiety, to prove to ourselves that what we fear does not lie within….The stereotypical categories that we use are rarely without some point of tangency with reality (biological, social, medical) but their interpretation is colored by the ideology that motivates us. [S. Gilman, 240].

[E. L. Doctorow,”A Gangsterdom of the Spirit,” Nation, Oct. 2, 1989, 352-353.  Commencement address to Brandeis University, May 21, 1989, suppressed by The New Republic, printed as another blow for freedom of speech by Nation.]…I will venture to say that insofar as Mr. Reagan inserted his particular truth into the national American mind he made it the lobotomizing pin of conservative philosophy that has governed us and is continuing to govern us to this very moment.

…A decade ago you did not have college students scrawling racial epithets or anti-Semitic graffiti on the room doors of their fellow students.  You did not have cops strangling teen-age boys to death or shooting elderly deranged women in their own homes.  You did not have scientists falsifying the results of experiments, or preachers committing the sins against which they so thunderously preached.  A generation or so back, you didn’t have every class of society, and every occupation, widely, ruggedly practicing its own characteristic form of crime.

So something poisonous has been set loose in the last several years…To speak of a loss of cohesion in society, a loss of moral acuity, is tiresome.  It is the tiresome talk of liberalism.  In fact, part of this poisonous thing that I’m trying to describe is its characteristic way of dealing with criticism: It used to be enough to brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away.  Now we need only to call him a liberal.  Soon “moderate” will be the M word, “conservative” will be the C word and only fascists will be in the mainstream.  And that degradation of discourse, that, too, is part of this something that is really rotten in America right now….As an unacknowledged legislator, I am giving you not a State of the Union Address but a State of the Mind of the Union Address.

 BLOOD AND DIRT

      Ralph Bunche once said, “Democracy, to be lived at all, must be lived broadly.” The organicism that I analyze throughout this YDS series is not just a tic, more or less regrettable, but a consciously constructed strategy to delimit political aspiration by circumscribing political possibilities; it represents itself as acting in the interests of peace, science and democracy, meanwhile attacking the critical tools (materialism, empiricism, critical reason) that would make science and democracy realizable.  Organicism tries to blunt the critical tools that empowered lower-class autodidacts in a century whose central trope (they say, following Freud) was sexuality, not modernity as science and an excellent popular education.  For Sander Gilman there is no radical Enlightenment, no rational mind that could peer at irrational behavior, then imagine social arrangements that might reduce the “anxiety” Gilman finds natural.  Rather we are told (without self-criticism, even though we are all irrational) that there is an eternally given and inevitable “xenophobia” that would make talk of Rousseauvian solidarity (social bonds as contractual, not given) psychologically naive.  Finally we are left with the contradictory message that stereotypes are constructed, but also, in some unstated way, reflective of historical experience; although stereotypes are tangentially related to “biological, social, medical” reality, we should strive to understand that stereotypes are, in some unspecified way, bogus.

These thinkers are not allies of the labor movement as it once existed: their agenda was made clear in Gordon Allport’s influential and constantly reprinted post-war Freedom Pamphlet, The ABC’s of Scapegoating.[1]  Denouncing “prejudice,” Allport, a colleague and ally of Henry A. Murray at Harvard, advised Americans to learn to live with pluralism: whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business,’ and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating F.D.R.[2]  A Harvard psychologist has asked us to look inside and check our “moral cancer” (p.7), our projections or archetypes, as Jung and Murray would say.  But we do not look inside to probe physiological facts and relationships that link all humanity beneath the skin; we do not look outside to see the objective structures (class societies—and I include women as a class) that impede cooperation and development for all by constructing an unyielding “subjectivity” and a propensity to evil as the human condition.  Instead we fix our attention on “boundaries” and “roots” that may not be leveled or exposed as fiction by “Jewish” science and “Jewish” (because deracinating) internationalism.  Now that Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies have been institutionalized within academe as a conservative accommodation to potentially unifying social movements, blood and soil pluralism may be with us for the duration, as will therefore the contradictory and vague adjurations from “progressive” radical subjectivists who say that stereotypes are both rational and irrational.[3]

Not that the organicists are willing to allow contending pluralities to slug it out: that could eventuate in “the tragedy of the Civil War” as Frederick Jackson Turner warned Woodrow Wilson [AHR, 1942, 548].  William Diamond thought that “distinguished and stimulating” historians like Turner, armed with knowledge, must intervene; Turner knew best how to apply “American sectional and party history to world organization,” so as to keep the Bolsheviki serpent from creeping under the fence.  Alfred C. Neal of the Committee For Economic Development, told Americans that businessmen enlightened by academic experts knew best.  Doctorow told Brandeis students that poets knew best.  Turner, Neal and Doctorow, unacknowledged legislators all, advised their readers and listeners to go shopping for (or bring back) the moderate man who abides in the neutral state: the good father, a paragon of self-control and disinterestedness capable of harmonizing the conflicting and extremist demands of sections and biologically/culturally differentiated “groups,” tucking all his children into bed without favoritism.  The formula is plain: DO NOT try to merge your interests with those of your fellow-creatures, promiscuously defined; DO join the group in which you are naturally rooted; purge the system of venomous false promises and infantilizing utopian demands: evacuate these poetically-yet-scientifically designated poisons and heal the National Mind, then you will be ready for those very high levels of interaction and interplay that permit conciliation and compromise. And if all conflicts were susceptible to mediation, who could disagree?

Gentlemen prefer pre-modern societies (or do they?) because they are judenrein, free of complicating facts and dubious speculation: patriarchal, pastoral, holistic, communitarian, stable, healing, virtuous, and soulful.  There is a continuity between Burkean concepts of natural sublimity and terror and Carlylean romantic conservatism; the Anglo-American culture promoted by Melville’s closet American Tory monarchist in Mardi, the Oxford historian Edward Augustus Freeman (another source of Turner-type theories of expansionism mentioned in Mood, 1943) and James Thomson (“B.V.”); the Weltanschauung disseminated by the Macmillan family (publishers of The English Men of Letters Series, edited by the Fabian/Tory/Mussolini enthusiast J.C. Squire, which brought out the Tory John Freeman’s Melville biography in 1926, and publisher of the Journal of American History quoted above); Frederick Jackson Turner’s “American sectionalism and the geography of political parties”; the belief in “national character” promoted by Jungian psychologists, hereditarian racism in the eugenics of Lothrop Stoddard and William McDougall, the nativist radicalism of Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, and Henry A. Murray, some nativist assumptions in the American Studies movement, and the “anticapitalism” of the New Left.  Gentlemen and sectors of the New Left speak with the accents of Jeffersonian agrarianism; gentlemen and some New Leftists prefer “Melville” and the delicious specter of whaleness that does him in.  In spite of family quarrels between bohemians and crypto-bohemians in the Melville industry, these men, along with “Melville,” occupy the vital center of the political spectrum, not the subversive margins as some critics might imagine.  In the vital center, it is not elites and non-elites that confront each other, but the Anglo-Saxon countryside and the Jewified city: the latter naughty and finally off-limits.  Using the oft-proscribed tool of comparative historical analysis, I have surmised that veterans of authoritarian families are not perversely blind to impersonal and abstract social processes, but have projected their forbidden resentment at being “moulded” onto bad Jews and modern women, the perverse manufacturers of modernity.  For romantic conservative Jungians (not many Freudians) “individuation” signified separation from the moral mother, Jew of the Home.  By contrast, the radical bourgeois Freud sought treatments that fostered autonomy and separation from idealized authority.  Perhaps Gilman and other semioticians are so merged with authority, so invaded by recoiling and alien Ishmaels (“fierce and irresistible” “English Tartars”), and so helpless and confused that they must constantly “beat the boundaries”[4] to differentiate themselves from the “m(other)” from whom they have never separated, and whose mixed-messages forced them to retreat from the task of autonomy [5] into an armored corporatism, [6] into an ironic acquiescence with the “narcissistic disorder” their analyses of stereotypes and “splitting” is supposed to alleviate.

“Modernism” (a misnomer) may be understood as a repository for genteel anti-Semitism insofar as artists are in “primitivist” revolt against the modern world that has nourished and elevated the critical spirit identified with “the corrosive Jewish intellect,”[7] the witch who unmasks the happy family and identifies incompatible expectations thus inciting “civil wars.” As a representation of the impersonal capitalist market, the Jewish principle destroys the warm, face-to-face interactions  that supposedly moderated relations between master and man, substituting the remote and faceless stock exchange for paternalistic bosses, balefully introducing “political class cleavage” [Mein Kampf, 1940, 432].  As a representation of modernity (gestating liberalism and its feared offspring, socialism), the Jewish principle destroys family and sectional unity (T. S. Eliot’s “native culture”), the shared blood and rootedness in the common soil that links the best of past and present. The Jewish principle would substitute a levelling, polluting internationalist identity thus confiscating a man’s wife, children, dogs, cats, cows and chickens, leaving him prey to “six-lane motorways,” Big Brother’s centralized machinery, and other rats. [8]

We are not accustomed to seeing such connections because official American culture since 1917 has drawn sharp distinctions between Western “democracy” and German or Soviet “autocracy.”[Gruber, 1975]  Since Melville’s death in 1891, “critical thought” has been increasingly on the defensive.  After 1945, the victorious West did not hold a conference to examine the economic, social, political, and cultural sources of fascism and genocide.  Rather, propagandists declared the German nation collectively insane, while covertly admiring Hitler’s methods of mind-control and pretended the Western powers knew nothing of the Holocaust until 1945.[9]  While some psychologists joined Theodore Adorno, inventing the F-Scale to measure the nuances of “the authoritarian personality” [10] (a spectrum of prefascist “types” who would be contrasted with the Genuine Liberal, [11] other conservatives claiming to be sane liberals [12] purged crazy and destructive (“Jewish”) leftists and left-liberals, spreading a miasma of fear that has never dissipated.  American Jews could read the handwriting on the wall: the noisy, abrasive culture of cities and class politics would have to be jettisoned as a condition of economic survival.  American Jews who wanted jobs in academia or in the media had better embrace the tradition of “honest Anglo-Saxon democracy” and shadow-dappled country lanes that had defined itself against both Jewish materialism and against fascism and Nazism. [13]  The marching bands and country airs, the discourse of organicism that had been recognized as imperialist and protofascist before the war,[14] was acceptable to such esteemed postwar Jewish intellectuals as Lionel Trilling, Harry Levin, and Alfred Kazin.  What the postwar intellectuals did was miraculous though not original: like earlier reactionaries, the protofascist material world was off limits, while the Christian-Platonic order became the sanely (s)mothered democracy.  There was no place for modern women or radical Jews in the protocols of the moderate men.

NOTES:


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

[2] Allport, p.26 and passim.

[3] Robert Miles, Racism (London and New York: Routledge, 1989) is a summary and critique of scholarly literature, with a useful bibliography. Miles is writing from the Left and using semiotic analysis; he does not look at narratives and metamorphoses, but mechanically reifies Self/Other; such static formulations do not explain connections between the variables of class, gender, “race” and ethnicity.

[4] A ritual in rural England, in which the earth is flogged to delimit the land owned by the parish, a declaration of boundaries.

[5] Cf. Erich Fromm, Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), 135-136. “…Freud thought as a child of his time.  He was a member of a class society in which a small minority monopolized most of the riches and defended its supremacy by the use of power and thought control over those it ruled.  Freud, taking this type of society for granted, constructed a model of man’s mind along the same lines.  The “id,” symbolizing the undeducated masses, had to be controlled by the ego, the rational élite.  If Freud could have imagined a classless and free society he would have dispensed with the ego and the id as universal categories of the human mind.  In my opinion the danger of a reactionary function of psychoanalysis can only be overcome by uncovering the unconscious factors in political and religious ideologies.  Marx in his interpretation of bourgeois ideology did essentially for society what Freud did for the individual.  But it has been widely neglected that Marx outlined a psychology of his own that avoided Freud’s errors and is the basis of a socially oriented psychoanalysis.  He distinguished between instincts which are innate, such as sex and hunger, and those passions like ambition, hate, hoarding, exploitativeness, et cetera, which are produced by the practice of life and in the last analysis by the productive forces existing in a certain society, and hence can be subject to change in the historical process.”  I was impressed with this essay when I first read it, but now I think Fromm was unfair to Freud and to the radical liberals. What makes Marx different from his class conscious predecessors is his view of the inevitability of revolution at the hands of the working-class. Marxists have taken this prediction to mean that they should separate themselves from liberal reformers, designated as worse enemies to the toiling masses than the traditional Right.  I am arguing here that such positions are grounded in irrational institutional and psychological processes that Freud helped us to uncover; for purposes of this essay I am emphasizing the double-bind and the identification of liberal reform with the moral mother, seen as a hypocrite and crazy-making.

As I have tried to show, all conflations of social/historical processes with processes of natural history (catastrophic or gentle) is a mystification that may contribute to immobility in the face of objective dangers to our species and to the earth.  Classes are not strata, revolutions are not volcanic eruptions or avalanches, either “gradualism” or “revolution” may be unnecessarily cruel and violent to the living who suffer (the latter a point made by Mark Twain).  There can be no archetypal rule for radical conduct, no cast of characters that retain their auras, no escape from analysis grounded in the specific and unique matter at hand.

[6] Turner did not advocate ethnic separatism; rather he, like Thomson, imagined a welding together of various (white) European stocks into one nationality, but discreetly guided by a class unmistakably English in its imputed administrative skills.

[7] Jung, quoted in Webb, Occult Establishment.

[8] Cf. Hitler, Mein Kampf on “filth and fire” spawned by parliamentary democracy; the credulous, swindled masses: the Big Liars were the Jewish press: 66-84,99,328, 379.

[9] See Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 1986. Also NYT Book Review, April 4, 1948, p.7.  J.R. Rees, The Case of Rudolph Hess was described as “but one more page in the history of mentally ill people who governed a continent.”  A photograph of Hess emphasizes his crazed and staring eyes; both Hess and Hitler are described as romantics and mystics, not as bearers of conservative Enlightenment.  Murray report (Hitler was a combination of Byron and a thug); and Langer report, for FDR and the OSS, 1943 (see below).

[10] Here is Horkheimer’s formulation in the Preface to the influential work of 1950, The Authoritarian Personality:  “This is a book about social discrimination.  But its purpose is not simply to add a few more empirical findings to an already extensive body of information.  The central theme of the work is a relatively new concept–the rise of an “anthropological” species we call the authoritarian type of man.  In contrast to the bigot of the older style he seems to combine the ideas and skills which are typical of a highly industrialized society with irrational or anti-rational beliefs.  He is at the same time enlightened and superstitious, proud to be an individualist and in constant fear of not being like all the others, jealous of his independence and inclined to submit blindly to power and authority.  The character structure which comprises these conflicting trends has already attracted the attention of modern philosophers and political thinkers.  This book approaches the problem with the means of socio-psychological research.  Max Horkheimer, Preface, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950, ix.  Cf. Meinecke on the technocrat/monomaniac as base for Nazism, below.

[11] T.W. Adorno, et al, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950; Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, 1949.

[12] T.W. Adorno, et al., Authoritarian Personality, 975.  This is the prescription pessimistically bequeathed by the Adorno group as it advocates revolutionary changes in child-rearing, understanding that without structural economic change, no adjustment is possible; here they conservative reformers defending the embattled New Deal. (Both Henry Murray’s and Harold Lasswell’s works are listed in recommended reading): “It would not be difficult, on the basis of the clinical and genetic studies reported in this volume, to propose a program which, even in the present cultural pattern, could produce nonethnocentric personalities.  All that is really essential is that children be genuinely loved and treated as individual humans…For ethnocentric parents, acting by themselves, the prescribed measures would probably be impossible.  We should expect them to exhibit in their relations with their children much the same moralistically punitive attitudes that they express toward minority groups–and toward their own impulses…[Many other] parents…are thwarted by the need to mould the child so that he will find a place in the world as it is.  Few parents can be expected to persist for long in educating their children for a society that does not exist, or even in orienting themselves toward goals which they share only with a minority.”

[13] Villard, 1919, Frederick Jackson Turner, 1921, Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, 1935.  In a group of essays written in 1893-1918, and fearing the “recoil” now that free lands were used up, Turner called for a class-conscious social history to compete with un-American Marxist historical materialism; the state university would dig deep into the earth to extract the golden nuggets of the talented lowly, who would then mediate the antagonisms between capital and labor: “By training in science, law, politics, economics and history the universities may supply from the ranks of democracy administrators, legislators, judges and experts for commissions who shall disinterestedly and intelligently mediate between contending interests.  When the words “capitalistic classes” and “the proletariate” can be used and understood in America it is surely time to develop such men, with the ideal of service to the State, who may help to break the force of these collisions, to find common grounds between the contestants and to possess the respect and confidence of all parties which are genuinely loyal to the best American ideals” (“Pioneer Ideals,” 1910, Frontier, 1921, 285).  George Rawick commented to me upon Turner’s ugly anti-Semitism that surfaces in his papers. I have not yet examined Turner’s unpublished works, but Turner, no less than T.S. Eliot, would say that “freethinking Jews” could not be an American “type;” perhaps they were the “European type” into which freedom-loving Americans were apparently evolving in the early twentieth century.

[14] See Ellis Freeman on proto-Nazi propaganda in Western culture and in America, Conquering The Man in the Street (N.Y.: Vanguard Press, 1940).

February 14, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part one

"The Lord's Prayer," Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

For years, I have wondered why I alone seemed alarmed by the recommendation of prominent progressive social psychologists that Hitler’s methods for mind-management be adopted by the Roosevelt administration. Readers of my book, Hunting Captain  Ahab or my article Klara Hitler’s Son will know that such figures as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, Talcott Parsons, and Walter Langer were some of the names involved in proposing such a project in the interest of “national morale” or “civilian morale.” But then, while researching the history of military psychiatry, I came across a reference to German Psychological Warfare: Survey and Bibliography, edited by Ladislas Farago, and published in two editions by the Committee for National Morale (second ed. 1941), that addressed my deep concerns, for it was not only such as Murray, Allport, Parsons, and Langer that had entertained a full-fledged program of mind-management, but almost the entire progressive elite as it existed circa 1940-41, including A. Philip Randolph! The opening page presents their rationalization, and it brims with down-to-earth confidence that appropriating Nazi methods in a democracy is not an insuperable challenge, but first they suggest the purposes of the appropriation:

“[Germany] uses defensive psychology to select the right man for the right place, to bolster the morale of the whole German “nation in arms,” to habituate its soldiers to the hazards, dangers and strains of technical warfare, to cushion the shocks of combat and increase the efficiency of military life, to regulate relations between officers and men, and to solve all the complex problems of human behavior raised by war.”

“Offensive psychology is used to break down the morale of Germany’s enemies both on the military and the home fronts, to conquer public opinion in neutral lands, to pave the invader’s way into unprepared countries by disintegrating the political, social and intellectual structure of nations singled out for future attacks.”  [Note that they constantly refer to Germans, not Nazis, perhaps to ally themselves with advanced enlightened prewar German culture, and to decrease the shock of their copying Nazi maneuvers in mind-control. C.S.] Now they explain that the Germans are not the sole source of their program of “national morale.”:

“Germany has no exclusive lease on the psychological amplification of strategy and tactics. Neither was she the first to exploit psychology for the more efficient prosecution of modern wars. When drawing up their master plan, German psychologists borrowed freely from pioneering American, French, and Russian psychologists, going even to a Hungarian school of pyrotechnicians for several patterns of tests. [Later they will pin it all on Freud, and before that Clausewitz. C.S.]

“As things stand today, however, the Germans have staked rich claims on the use of psychology in Total War.

“The primary purpose of this Survey and Bibliography is, therefore, to acquaint Americans with the background, organization, functions and development of German military psychology. Its best features, stripped of their bias, obscurity, and apparent mystery, and freed of t heir verbalism, can easily be adapted and amplified for the benefit of America’s own national defense within the framework of our traditions and democratic way of life….” [These latter quotes are from their first page to the “Survey,”  laying out the project of the book.]

Why, you may ask, do we need “Total War?” The science-minded authors are crystal clear on that point, after they quote Prof. E. Weniger, writing in 1938, who believes that “every German can be raised as a soldier….”:

[the authors:] “ Investigation showed that military psychological factors are subject to specific laws and rules which can be recognized in advance and solved accordingly. Frictions, for example, have their preliminary symptoms and are not as unpredictable as certain pre-war theorists assumed. A knowledge of these laws and symptoms [preventive politics! C.S.] are held capable of enabling leaders to cope with frictions not only when they occur, but to forestall them or reduce their effectiveness by eliminating their psychological causes.

“The solution of such problems became all-important when total war inevitably made man himself (his attitudes and sentiments) rather than arms and supplies, the focal point for determining ultimate victory or defeat. In the last forty years the organization of the masses and the enlightenment of the individual have made immense progress. Traditional influences lost much of their original value when they were countered with the rationalism of modern man whom technological training and increasing urbanization accustomed to independent and critical thinking. Instead of accepting traditional impulses at their face value, this modern man searches for causes and feels competent, and often powerful enough, to demand explanations.

“Urbanization also tended to diminish natural courage. The enlightened man rejects the idea of ‘bravery for the sake of bravery’ and weighs the ‘practicability’ and legitimate stake of his action as against its possible returns. Thus his voluntary approval (his morale) became the dominating stimulus of his will to cooperation (47-48).” [my emph.]

To be continued. I am going to quote liberally from this revealing source on the goodness of lying. It is all shocking, and justifies everything on my blog to date. For the complete series see https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.

November 15, 2009

“…and was this little boy YOU?” (2)

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Image (91)I. Here is an excerpt from chapter two of my book/collage, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (Kent State UP, 2001, 2006). Gordon Allport collaborated with Harvard colleague Henry A. Murray to create programs of “civilian morale” that were nationally disseminated to progressive organizations. I presented these quotes to illustrate the double-binds that Melville exposed in such works as Pierre, or The Ambiguities (1852).

[Richard Evans to Gordon Allport:] Since most of our students [at Harvard] begin the study of psychology by reading Freud, it might be profitable to begin by hearing your reaction to some of Freud’s ideas and work. I understand you actually met Freud on one occasion, and I wonder if you would tell about this meeting.

[Gordon Allport:] My one encounter with Freud did not turn out to be very significant for my professional development, but I’ll tell the story briefly. Not long after I finished college, I found myself in Vienna where Freud was not as renowned as he became later. At any rate, I wrote him a note announcing that I was in Vienna, and that he no doubt would be very glad to know it. He was very courteous and sent me a hand-written note inviting me to his office at a stated time. So I went to the famous Burggasser office which was papered in red burlap and decorated with pictures of dreams. At exactly the appointed time, Freud opened the door of his inner office, invited me in smilingly, sat down, and said nothing. It suddenly occurred to me that it was up to me to have a reason for calling on him, but I actually didn’t have any. I was just curious.[i] I fished around in my mind and came up with an event which occurred on the tramcar on the way to his office that I thought would interest him. There had been a little boy about four years old who obviously had already developed a dirt phobia. His mother was a Hausfrau, well starched and very prim, and the little boy would say he didn’t want to sit there; it was dirty. He didn’t want that man to sit next to him; he was dirty. And so it went throughout the whole trip. I thought this might interest Freud since the phobia seemed to be set so early in this case. He listened till I finished; then he fixed his very therapeutic eyes on me and said, “and was this little boy you?” It honestly was not, but I felt guilty. At any rate, I managed to change the conversation. In thinking over the experience, it impressed me that Freud’s tendency was to see pathological trends, and since most of the people who came to see him were patients, it was natural that he’d think I was a patient and break down my defenses in order to get on with the business. Actually, he mistook my motives in this case. Had he said to himself that I was a brassy American youth imposing on his good nature and time, he would have been fairly correct. But to ascribe my motivation to unconscious motives as he did in this case was definitely wrong. As I thought over the experience in subsequent years, it occurred to me that there might be a place for another type of theory to account for personality and motivation. (my emph.)

[Allport reflecting upon the 1950s concerns with conformity:] I’m inclined to think that the challenge to the healthy person is to learn to play the game where necessary, to meet the requirements of the culture, and still to have integrity, to maintain some self-objectification, and not to lose his personal values and commitments. It becomes more and more difficult to do, but I believe it can be done. It implies that the personality of the future will operate under more of a strain, but we don’t know yet what the actual potentiality of human development can be. We may be able to eat our cake and have it too by playing the organization game while remaining the individual of integrity and personal commitment.[ii]

Gordon Allport

 

I have attempted to create a political context for the controversies surrounding the life and art of Herman Melville. Ahab became “Melville” in institutions held to be implicitly critical and self-critical, but where the perimeters of dissent were not always explicitly delineated, or where “individuality” was flaunted in one breath, taunted in the next. The consequence was the construction of a crumbling national monument to American literature, unable to withstand the delegitimating gaze of its radical critics suspicious of claims to unbounded cultural freedom in the playgrounds of the new social sciences. [end book excerpt]

II. Anyone who has survived childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood knows that all professionals claiming the mantle of “science” are not equally competent and are never infallible. Still, they may cover up each other’s errors to protect themselves from the wrath of clients when and if they do mess up. I am saying this because of the furor over the Nidal Hasan jihad, and the blame being assigned to “psychiatry” and related fields in mental health as somehow culpable on account of an innately flawed methodology.

As I showed in my blog on the 1920s pseudo-Freudians, the unconscious mind, held to be the invention of Papa Freud himself, was probably the realm of the lower orders, whose success in American was dependent on accepting the definitions of harmony and conflict handed down by the Platonic Guardians of immigrant youth. Upon reflecting upon the gallons of wrathful ink spilled to discredit the founder of psychoanalysis, I believe his greatest sin was not his atheism (though that was a major crime for critics whose religion had purified themselves of original sin, death, and a future in hell), but his view of conflict. As I have shown on this website, the “progressives” either imposed harmony from above (a habit sometimes denounced by the pre-Freudian Herman Melville), or in the case of Freud, they objected to his notion that self-control was a constant struggle, and that childhood traumas and difficult relationships with the family of origin could leave permanent scars, manifesting themselves as neurotic anxiety (add to this depression), or a tendency to idealize objects (lovers and leaders, for instance). [This is a very crude and compressed summary of what I think Freud’s main argument was.]

Here are two currently relevant and useful examples from Freud’s contributions, and for those followers who have corrected his errors of emphasis and contributed to our understanding of such crucial matters as separation-anxiety for instance. (See my blog on Panic Attacks.)

1. Separating objective anxiety from neurotic anxiety. Anxiety is a common-sense approach to objective dangers in the world. When an opponent declares intentions to destroy oneself or one’s country, it is not neurotic to take steps in self-defense. But if one misreads those who make us anxious because some aspect of their appearance or conduct reminds us of hurtful parents or other intimates, we have to separate fantasy from reality. As long as the hurtful parent or mate or sibling remains “perfect” and always benevolent in memory, we cannot make the necessary separation from fantasy. Demagogues play upon this desire for the return of the perfectly protective parent and rescue us from enemies who may or may not be real antagonists. Hitler’s first speech as Chancellor  (Feb.10, 1933) with its introduction by Goebbels is an example of this technique: Goebbels and Hitler promised to millions the restoration of the conflict-free family, in his case understood to be “the people’s community” that was free of lying Jews and their lying press and their decadent Weimar Republic, the spawn of November 1918.

In chapter 7 of my Melville book, I show how powerful this longing for the perfectly happy “pluralist” family has been in the psyches of Melville’s revivers. Melville himself would vacillate between the explorer of “rifts” and the proponent of family harmony, sacrificing his own “mutinous” sensory perceptions and sense of individuality for their sake: see “Billy Budd” as an example.

2. Recognizing conflict that is susceptible to mediation or arbitration and not assuming that all conflict is reconcilable. In the case of irreconcilable conflict, one must either slug it out with hostile enemies, or tolerate real differences grounded in the material world of classes and genders, meanwhile scrutinizing one’s own contribution to conflict, for instance, in inconsistent or negligent parenting, or inattention to the rights and feelings of others. Where Allport or Talcott Parsons and the other functionalists went wrong was in assuming that “the system” could be manipulated by them and other experts so that “natural harmony” prevailed, and all conflict therefore, must emanate from outsiders, for instance the troublemaking (destabilizing) Jewish capitalist or communist. Freud would suffer from the same stigma—he became the outsider who created ruptures between past and present, who encouraged one to reconfigure the past, and to constantly revise one’s own view of personal and national histories with appropriate curiosity, then to take responsibility for misperceptions and to attempt to correct them in the future. What he did not advocate was excusing miscreants as the products of evil parents, but as moralist, he most certainly held “authority” responsible for abusing those in its care.  (to be continued)


[i] 101. I.e., for Allport, curiosity is a passion, not an aspect or component of reason. Cf. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, Part One, Chapter 6.

[ii] 102. Richard I. Evans, Gordon Allport: The Man and His Ideas (New York: Dutton, 1970), 4-5, 104. The interviews with Allport are undated. Nothing is mentioned about his work on civilian morale, though the role of the academic psychologist in society is briefly explored. The interviewer never asks Allport to reflect upon the possible influence of his intense (German) Protestant religious commitments upon his social ideas. That he was indeed religious was stated by a former student speaking from the floor in a memorial symposium (1969) two years after Allport’s death.

August 29, 2009

Managing the little man, Hitler style, at Harvard

Klara Hitler

Here is an excerpt  from my article Clare Spark, “Klara Hitler’s Son: The Langer Report on Hitler’s Mind,” Social Thought and Research, Vol.22, No. 1/2 (1999): 113-37.  The full article is now on the website. I worked long and hard on this research because I honestly could not believe my eyes as I read Murray’s work for FDR on Hitler or Langer’s supposed secret report to the OSS. This blog is the teaser. Go to my blog of Aug. 31, 2009 for the full treatment (pun intended). https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/. Or for the background to this appropriation of Nazi techniques, see https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/. Four segments pick out highlights of Ladislas Farago’s important book, sponsored by leading progressives, that explains why they must wage “total war” to mobilize American public opinion and squash dissent.

[From the worksheets on “civilian morale”: Henry A. Murray and Gordon Allport, 1941: see https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/] “What are the strengths and weaknesses of Nazi ideology as an instrument for world conquest?”

[Murray to FDR, 1943:] Hitler has a number of unusual abilities of which his opponents should not be ignorant.  Not only is it important to justly appraise the strength of an enemy but it is well to know whether or not he possesses capacities and techniques which can be appropriated to good advantage.  Hitler’s chief abilities, realizations, and principles of action as a political figure, all of which involve an uncanny knowledge of the average man, are briefly these:…. [1]

[Walter Langer:]…It can scarcely be denied that [Hitler] has some extraordinary abilities where the psychology of the average man is concerned.  He has been able, in some manner or other, to unearth and apply successfully many factors pertaining to group psychology, the importance of which has not been generally recognized and some of which we might adopt to good advantage.  [63].

Twenty-seven “factors” follow; those which “we might adopt” are not specified. These passages become even more gripping in light of the Langer report’s conclusions:

“It is Hitler’s ability to play upon the unconscious tendencies of the German people and to act as their spokesman that has enabled him to mobilize their energies and direct them into the same channels through which he believed he had found a solution to his own personal conflicts.  The result has been an extraordinary similarity in thinking, feeling, and acting in the German people.  It is as though Hitler had paralyzed the critical functions of the individual Germans and had assumed the role for himself.  As such he has been incorporated as a part of the personalities of his individual supporters and is able to dominate their mental processes.  This phenomenon lies at the very root of the peculiar bond that exists between Hitler as a person, and the German people and places it beyond the control of any purely rational, logical, or intellectual appeal.  In fighting for Hitler these persons are now unconsciously fighting for what appears to them to be their own psychological integrity (206).”

The Murray-Allport worksheets (1941) had directed a national constituency concerned with “civilian morale” to

” Quote passages from the original unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf, in which Hitler expresses his cynical contempt of the masses, and the necessity of deceiving them.  Quote him in order to prove that he planned the war and devised the tactics.  Ridicule Mein Kampf as a Bible, contrasting paragraphs from the two sources.” [cf. my blog on Harvard social psychologists and “civilian morale” for other examples.]

Jewish blood was the source of brilliant insights, emotional disturbance, and the Big Lie.[2]  Internalized antisemitic stereotypes of switching Jews subverted Langer’s attempt at “a realistic appraisal of the German situation.”  The witch-hunters, to a man, will extrude the unpredictably dirty materialism of Melville’s character Isabel[3] for the limpid regularity of crystals.  A fragment from the 1930s provides the bridge to the Langer report; it marks Sergei Eisenstein’s flight from romanticism and montage to the cult of personality, from the sensibility associated with popular revolution to neo-classicism, from endless agitation to the final solution….

For a related blog series see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/.


[1] Dr. Henry A. Murray, “Analysis of The Personality of Adolph [sic] Hitler, With Predictions of His Future Behavior and Suggestions for Dealing With Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender,” October 1943, p.211, ff.  Murray’s list of Hitler’s skills are almost identical to those enumerated in the Langer report.  It is curious that Gatzke did not mention this in his refutation of Langer’s claim that Murray’s report was not even read by his team before it was filed with the O.S.S. in 1943!  However, there are important differences in interpretation between the two works; e.g.Murray, while giving credence to the Jewish blood, does not discuss Hitler’s sex life as a central determinant, but attempts a class analysis and gives weight to the Romantic Hitler’s reading and his life experience, the brutal lower-middle class father who opposed his son’s ambitions to become an artist, etc.  The Murray-Allport worksheets for their Harvard seminar on “Civilian Morale” (1941) do contain allusions to a deranged sexuality along with inferences drawn from Hitler’s physiognomy, but “social milieu” is deemed more important (“Hitler The Man…” p.11).

[2] Hitler believed that the masses were feminine and irrational, but he does not present himself as a cynical swindler in Mein Kampf.  He invariably paints himself as the good reliable father, protecting the gulllible people against switching Jews, the Fifth Column.  In both MK and Table Talk, he explains that Nazi propaganda must simplify, not falsify.

[3] Melville’s Dark Lady in Pierre, or the Ambiguities; Isabel is the bearer of a revised family history.

August 22, 2009

Left-liberal social psychologists and “civilian morale” at Harvard

pop culture paradise

pop culture paradise

[This blog should be read along with another book excerpt, https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/ for equally determined elite initiatives to improve “social cohesion” at the expense of critical thought.]

One internet journal pitched to educators, Inside Higher Ed (see Scott McLemee, August 19, 2009),  has resuscitated the fascinating book by Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, a guide to the tricks of  right-wing agitators. I suppose that political scientists of the center-Left admire this book, and I enjoyed it too when I read it years ago, twice. But it is hailed by McLemee (though it was published in 1949) as an attack avant la lettre on the tactics of conservative spokespeople in the media (with Glenn Beck as chief example), alleging that racist demagogues of the Father Coughlin stripe are at large and duping the electorate in order to massacre “health care reform.”

   To pin “sykewar” on “the Right” as if “progressives” had not been practicing their own style of mind-management is to ignore the historical record. While I was studying the social psychologists and propagandists who had played leading roles in the Melville revival between the wars, I found materials in the Harvard University Archives that were so startling that even my jaded dissertation committee at UCLA was shocked. So I am putting an excerpt from the second chapter of Hunting Captain Ahab on the blog to warn the Sparkists not to trust politicians and their academic supporters without the most scrupulous and detailed investigations of their rhetoric, claims, and sources. The sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists I studied included Talcott Parsons, Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Harold Lasswell. A slightly revised excerpt from my second chapter follows, and this is only a tiny sample of the horrors I found in my research. (Footnotes not included).

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

     In worksheet #4, “Determinants of Good and Bad Morale,” the authors outlined “aggressive needs in group coherence.” First, there must be “outlets for grievances”: “Provision for the free expression of opinion improves morale.” Second, “scapegoat outlets” were another aid to good morale:
     “The direction of aggression against a subversive minority group may reduce tensions, and will be least disruptive if the scapegoat group is one which is in conflict with the total group in respect of major immediate aims. Aggression had better be directed against the external enemy, but if this is frustrated, or the group becomes apathetic, the subversive minority group may improve morale by either (1) reducing frustrated tensions of aggression or (2) reawakening aggression, or (3) displacing aggression away from intra-group aggression, or (4) displacing aggression away from the leaders of the group, if and when reversed [sic] are suffered (p.8).” [The worksheets are vague about what “subversive minority group” is meant. Could it be “the Jews”? For instance, Keynes once wrote in a letter complaining about the terms of the postwar loan from the U.S. to Britain, and referring to Truman’s “Jewish economic advisers (who, like many Jews, are either Nazi or Communist at heart and have no notion of how the British commonwealth was founded or is sustained)….” (Skidelsky bio of Keynes, Vol. 3, p.445) In other words, despite Allport’s pamphlet skewering “scapegoating in  1948,” only a few years earlier, expediency virtuously demanded that such techniques were appropriate in the interest of a national consensus. Given the widespread impression that Jews were always subversive, no matter what their social class, my conjecture is not unwarranted. Added, 8-22-09]

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

      “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).”

     So much for the messianic republican mission and Wilsonian Progressivism. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. Although the authors had discarded the Wilsonian project, they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13). But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible (#4, 7).”

[compare with this excerpt from another essay of mine, describing the Bunche-Myrdal dispute: “…wise progressive planning and foresight, included the sighting of threats to order, and was reiterated in a Q. and A. booklet from the Office of War Information, “What Do Students Do In The War and After” (numbered M-3227,  slipped into the Ideologies volume in the Bunche Papers at UCLA, though not bound). On page 8 the Committee for Economic Development [business leaders adopting Keynesian economic policies, created in 1942, C.S.] is mentioned as promising “maximum employment and high productivity” after the war. Page 9 quotes Ambassador Winant in a speech to English miners: “Anti-Fascism is not a short term military job. It was bred in poverty and unemployment. To crush Fascism at its roots we must crush depression. We must solemnly resolve that in the future we will not tolerate the economic evils which breed poverty and war. This is not something that we solve for the duration. It is part of the war.”  Page 10 announces “There is a growing sense of social responsibility among business leaders and a wide-spread acceptance of the inescapable duty of business to maintain full production and continuous employment to maintain the purchasing power upon which prosperity depends.” Page 11 ff., states that the curricula for history, the social sciences and the liberal arts will be revised and adjusted accordingly: Education must stress science, interpersonal human relations, and international affairs, the “larger world of other peoples and other cultures with whom we must collaborate in establishing world order.” [end, excerpt from my essay on Bunche-Myrdal interactions]

    Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists. The section “General Attitudes Toward Leaders” anticipated the criticism that American propaganda duplicated Nazi methods. First the authors warned “the less the faith in sources of information, the worse the morale.” The next item suggested “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”:

     “The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification (11).”

    “By effective leadership the group’s latent communality may emerge through identification with the leader. If this smacks of the Führer-Prinzip, we would insist that identification is a process common to all societies, and that what distinguishes the democratic leadership from the Nazi leadership is not the process of identification but the content of what is identified with. It is the function of the democratic leader to inspire confidence in the democratic way of life, in its value for the individual or the society and not mere identification with his person, or the mythical Volk (16).”

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

    The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation:

   “The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).”

    These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their book: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4). Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community:

   “…far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4). [Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5).”

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

[Ernest Kalibala, graduate student in the Harvard Department of Sociology, to Ralph J. Bunche, 30 August 1943:] “Our University is now in the hands of reactionaries. ”

   The famous Harvard Report General Education in a Free Society (1945) addressed the “explosive growth” of high schools populated by the working-class. Fellow-feeling, common ground and common standards as conceived in traditional culture would bind potentially wayward youth, protecting them from the atomizing society made even more divisive and menacing by the baleful influence of mass media. Moreover the Murray-Allport (depoliticized, irrationalist) interpretation of mass politics informed their efforts: youth revolts were exacerbated by “extreme skepticism.” The Report asked “How far should we go in the direction of the open mind? Especially after the first World War, liberals were sometimes too distrustful of enthusiasm and were inclined to abstain from committing themselves as though there were something foolish, even shameful in belief. Yet especially with youth, which is ardent and enthusiastic, open-mindedness without belief is apt to lead to the opposite extreme of fanaticism. We can all perhaps recall young people of our acquaintance who from a position of extreme skepticism, and indeed because of that position, fell an easy prey to fanatical gospels. It seems that nature abhors an intellectual vacuum. A measure of belief is necessary in order to preserve the quality of the open mind. If toleration is not to become nihilism, if conviction is not to become dogmatism, if criticism is not to become cynicism, each must have something of the other.”

   Like the rest of the Report, this statement co-opts the language of enlightenment, but whenever it gets down to cases, actually mentioning writers and documents, those “landmarks” or critical methods of the Western heritage that point to possible irreconcilable structural conflicts are missing. The double bind operating at Columbia University in 1917 was in full force: there shall be no contradiction between “belief” and the open mind.

   Harvard has not gone out of its way to publicize the Allport-Murray contribution to “civilian morale.” In a 1995 exhibition of photographs celebrating Harvard’s participation in the war effort mounted near the entrance to Harvard University Archives, neither Murray nor Allport was represented. Similarly, the Fall 1995 issue of Harvard Magazine featured “Harvard in World War II,” but omitted their role in psychological warfare at home: Gordon Allport was mentioned once in connection with army propaganda and Murray was invisible, while rationales for American involvement described a fight for “liberty,” not democracy. [end, excerpt from chapter two, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, Kent State UP, 2001, paperback rev.ed. 2006]

German poster WW1

German poster WW1

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