YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 17, 2018

H.G. Wells as moderate man

I had not read any of H. G. Wells’ fiction; but I did slog through his massive compendium of earth’s history (The Outline of History) but without the footnotes prominent in prior editions), though he was never a trained historian. He was not strictly a member of the counter-culture, for he was all for science and technology (industrial progress), which would ostensibly culminate in the only slaves being machines, and liberating the (enslaved) masses from the rule of money (i.e., Jewish power).
Here is Wikipedia’s sympathetic summary of his 1200 page culminating work, initially completed in one year, in reaction to the horrifying mass death inflicted by aristocratic Great Powers. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outline_of_History.

Wells started his synoptic book in 1919 (during a year of upheaval), but this edition was completed after WW2. However, Wells shockingly omitted the Nazi murder of European Jewry, a disaster not in Wells’s comprehensive chronology nor was it mentioned in Wikipedia, perhaps because such events did not jibe with the Wells assault on cultural and racial superiority, lauded by Wiki and affirming the moderate men. (His preference for male heroes and anti-heroes such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon (predecessors to “insane” Hitler?) was mentioned by Wiki.

Since I have focused many blogs on multiculturalism, antisemitism and the waywardness of 18th Century Protestant theologian J.G. von Herder’s influence, which culminated in “cultural anthropology,” race, “roots,” environmentalism, and national character: result, antisemitism and Christian Socialism (one 19th Century precedent of Fabian Socialism, also omitted by Wikipedia).
Nor did Wiki see that American greatness contradicted by a Wellsian emphasis on globalism and its constantly reiterated wish for “peace.” Toward the end of peace was his obvious preference for the Muslim and Buddhist religions. His Christian Socialism was also hinted as he regarded Jesus as a revolutionary who opposed the rich.

Surprisingly, and unlike the popular volumes by the anti-imperialist, somewhat Wilsonian, Charles and Mary Beard (1927), Wells expressed positive views of American promise (Wells,like Marx,lauded the American Civil War as a bourgeois revolution), but Wells did attack Stalinism, omitting however, antisemitism in Marx (who also railed against the rule of money as “the universal pimp.”)

So what are left with? Wells was a precursor of the counter-culture, notwithstanding his enthusiasm for machines which would presumably release the masses from toil. And, being a Fabian Socialist, Wells was apparently the father of the Peace Studies movement, the father of other moderate men (the “socially responsible capitalists” of the Democratic Party) and of left-leaning Pacifica radio.


September 2, 2015

Catholics, Marxists, and a sprinkling of neocons

Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

It has occurred to me that there is a close affinity between the early Marx essays and medieval Catholicism. The notion of “profit” (now called “greed”) was anathema during the Middle Ages, and considered a cause of decadence (See Mark La Rochelle’s note on the “just price” in the comments section.) Plus, those of my ex-friends on the Left who are professional scholars have found jobs at Catholic universities and colleges. It may be counter-intuitive, but such Catholic movements as liberation theology, and the Dorothy Day Catholic Workers movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day) are more evidence that segments of the Church would have to mirror leftist rejection of Israel, siding with irredentist Palestinians; moreover Pope Francis has lined up with the left-leaning Green movement.

On the face of it, there could be no affinity between Catholicism and Marxism, for weren’t Catholics such as Cardinal Mindszenty (1892-1975) a major figure in the resistance to Communism before and after World War II? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zsef_Mindszenty).

And are not Catholics and evangelical Protestants, notwithstanding their doctrinal differences, on the same side in the culture wars, with both sides devoted to family life, and taking up arms against [jewified] modernity? Was not the chief item in the controversial Moynihan report on the alarming increase in black welfare assistance and illegitimacy, the reconstitution of the father-led nuclear family? (https://clarespark.com/2015/08/08/the-moynihan-report-march-1965-and-instability-in-the-black-family/).

The early Marx essays (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844) were not widely published and read until the turmoil of the 1960s (their first publication date was 1932). Anyone who has studied them must be struck by Marx’s argument that “money” is the “universal pimp”, turning ugliness into beauty. During the same period, he decried Jewish “hucksterism” as the obstacle to the Utopia that would be realized through communist revolution. Similarly, the influential German sociologist Max Weber, would describe the rise of capitalism after the Reformation as an onslaught against the lovely sensuality shattered by the iron cages of “materialism,” i.e., worldliness. (The German “radical” Werner Sombart (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Sombart), a colleague of Weber’s, would echo these sentiments, arguing that Jews were incapable of relating to Nature without mysticism:

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

Because of our hegemonic racialism, Marx is thought of as a Jewish materialist, though his Jewish father converted to Protestantism for social advancement in 1819. (http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2013/11/karl-marx-as-radical-protestant-infidel.html), and Marx (and his Leninist descendants) continue to rail against religion as the opiate of the masses, an element of feudal socialism (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Feudal+Socialism).

I have written about the “moderation” of ex-Marxists and ex-New Leftists before, especially in blogs about nostalgia for the Middle Ages, and especially an apparent desire for the return of the Good King, who stands with the People against the social chaos wrought by revolting factions (e.g., feminists!). The same reconstructed historians, political scientists, and journalists, may promiscuously use the term “totalitarianism” to equate communism with fascism (https://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics).

So did Cardinal Mindszenty.


June 11, 2014

Individuality: the impossible dream?

social relationsThe problem: how to separate communists from social democrats; is “the Left” the same “left” opposed by bourgeois apologists in prior periods? The “McCarthyism” accusation that reproaches anticommunists is derived from the liberals defending the bureaucratic collectivism of the New Deal: “liberals” attacked those “fascists” from the Republican Party who opposed FDR’s remedies for the Depression. Similarly, FDR called his opponents “economic royalists.” This vituperative playbook still exists, with many conservatives conflating communists and Democratic Party stalwarts, as “the Left.”

The key to understanding the difficulty of separating communists from liberals is here: “Liberals” (not to be confused with classical liberals) selectively co-opted and defanged communist social thought in order to preserve their own elite rule, above all focusing on the working class as the likely red specter. The notion of “proletarian internationalism” was replaced with “ethnicity” or “race” as the mode of sorting people out. Both communism and liberalism partake of collectivist terms. The ‘individual’ is pathological and an outcast. Some organic conservatives agree, imagining mystical bonds (the “rootedness” of local attachments) as the route to “social cohesion” and “political stability.” Organic conservatives need not be on “the Right.” Democratic president Woodrow Wilson was surely one these localist agrarians who spurned the materialism of science. (For some Wilson anti-science quotes see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.)

Here is the key move for “socially responsible capitalists”: the “individual” only exists in repressive ideologies like supposedly unregulated “laissez-faire capitalism” and Darwinist competition. It must be defeated in favor of “the individual-in-society” who is situated in a [statist] “cooperative commonwealth.” Stubborn laissez-faire types are “narcissistic”, given to “huckstering” (Mad Men!) and must be defeated in order to emancipate the truly progressive society from “the Jews” or their surrogates.

Under the leadership and rules of “liberals” mental health professionals emphasize not autonomy and individuality, but “relationships” to groups, including sex partners, families, and workplaces. In all cases these mental health professionals, like the neutral state they unknowingly defend, preach “adjustment” and “integration” of interior, often irreconcilable conflicts, such as mothering infants versus interests outside the home and family. I personally have been subjected to this well-meaning, but futile, advice.


Finding out “who you really are” is all about limiting, not extending choices in the face of personal evolution. It is part and parcel of today’s “identity politics” —more collectivist groupiness, for only “groups” can “make a difference.” Marxists have demolished the notion of the individual, deeming such a one “atomized” or “anomic”—a version of the murderous Cain, builder of cities; similarly artists are stigmatized as Pierrots, also tied to Cain and to the Romantic Wandering Jew. After the revolution, one orthodox Marxist told me, “everyone will be a Mozart.”


Although many persons would like better control over their work processes and over aggression (as did Freud), for Marx the only route to such individual empowerment is through working class consciousness followed by working class revolution: in his view, a progressive, enlightened move that would make the politically emancipated individual able to experience “species being” (a term that he never defines comprehensibly to me, but it has some relationship to nature: enter the Red Greens). [Need I add that the Progressive movement had a drastically different definition of “progress”?]

Nor do these [social workers] expand the imagination, as do our better artists. Instead, following Marx’s necessarily limited vocabulary (he never was able to suggest just how the state would “wither away” ), he brings up earlier forms of human organization (primitivism)—see https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/ (the quoted passage from “The German Ideology”), and my index to blogs on primitivism: https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/. Note that in the “individuality” image, a couple drawn in the cubist/primitive style of Picasso, defines the “individual” who can “make a difference.”

Finally, reading early Marx (the mid-1840s), I have the impression that his entire conception of worker alienation might be derived from his antagonism to all religion, in which he alleges that the worshipper gives away his body and mind to God (I don’t see how this applies to Judaism, which emphasizes a degree of free will and personal responsibility for the wrongs we inflict on others, not blind obedience). This is only a hunch, but it would explain why there has been no working class revolution of the kind Marx anticipated. At best we get a sputter of [doomed] protest as in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society. Most workers probably want the benefits of what Marxists derisively call consumerism, and the pursuit of creature comforts (including the comfort and consolations of religion) does not entail an assault on their individuality, but instead enhances it. But then I am a bourgeois, so should not be trusted to interpret, even tentatively, the major exponent of communism.

April 17, 2014


totalitarianism_01I started out today thinking about chastising the careless use of the term “tolitarianism” by both Left and Right—who generally accuse their opponents of the T word. It is rather like a Nazi sign or a Hitler moustache painted on the Enemy du jour. (For a fuller account, see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/19/totalitarianism-2/)

I was also going to mention that the T word, when picked at long enough, probably refers to the rule of money, which for Marx signified “Jewish” “hucksterism” from which communism would rescue the brainwashed masses. (see Mad Men, that plays on this latently antisemitic hatred of advertising and public relations).

Then I was going to write that the presence of free speech, a free press, and the internet made the US (and the West?) free of the total control imputed to the Fascist powers and to Hitler’s Nazism.

BUT then I thought of Herbert Marcuse’s notion of “repressive tolerance”—a concept only partly understood by rightists who attack “cultural Marxism.” (See https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/.) One thing that Marcuse claimed was that the notion of toleration of dissent was a ruse of authoritarian forces who insisted that their critics accept their ruling definitions of reality and of the meaning of words. Most right-wing descriptions of “repressive tolerance” correctly state that Marcuse wanted to suppress all but left-wing speech. Marcuse’s 1965 claim was a slap against the marketplace of ideas, but I do agree with this sentence: “It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities.” (See https://clarespark.com/2017/04/10/a-reassessment-of-a-critique-of-pure-tolerance-42-years-later/.)

THEN I watched POTUS’s press conference, in which he inflicted the usual liberal double bind: the Affordable Care Act was a smashing success, if only the Republicans would stop bad mouthing it, and yet the President called for bipartisanship. Somewhere in there, he used the word “forcefully” and my adrenalin started flowing again, especially since the yearly meeting of the Organization of American Historians allied itself unambiguously with the police powers of the State (Leviathan). See https://clarespark.com/2014/04/12/the-organization-of-american-historians-taking-sides/.)

As if I were not anxious enough, I learned from Facebook that there is a little-publicized law afoot that would eliminate the Electoral College, institutionalizing a popular democracy and waving goodbye to the constitutional republic that our Founders established. Nine states have already said yes to our mass suicide, imposed by a tiny minority in charge of Leviathan. (See http://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/andrew-cuomo-electoral-college-compact/2014/04/16/id/566097/.)

In the past I have railed against the careless equation of fascism and communism. No more. It is not that I am wrong, but that we have a national emergency on our hands. The ongoing bad-mouthing of that non-observant person of Jewish descent, Herbert Marcuse, should stop. Start thinking of the meaning of words and who defines reality: citizens, POTUS, humanities professors, or mainstream media, including National Public Radio?


February 12, 2014

Is most work alienating and boring?

Sisyphis2Pundits have been lauding the wonders of “hard work” for eons, without asking the questions posed by Marx, the anarchists, or other radical critics of “civilization.” The President’s latest move in the debates over the projected loss of employment due to the Affordable Care Act, has been to celebrate the emancipation of workers (including single mothers with jobs) from boring work, so that they may follow their bliss (as Joseph Campbell used to say).

This is a development that should astound the left, preoccupied as leftists, old and new, have been by 1. The expected liberation from toil that would result from advanced labor-saving technology; and 2. The expanded freedom of choice to pursue one’s interests resulting from the elimination of capitalism and its alienated labor, where workers and machines are held to be interchangeable and equally disposable, and where employers allegedly provide a minimum of subsistence in the “wage-slavery” they impose.

Enter those punk rock bands and other cultural manifestations that look back to a pre-machine age where labor was more skilled and where machines had not displaced the artisan. Melville was full of such thoughts, and especially lamented the lot of the weavers in Britain, and their replacement by exploited, overworked, and underpaid women and children in body-crushing factories. Indeed, Pacifica radio stations used to sponsor Renaissance Fairs where hippie artisans sold their hand made wares, and lovely many of them were too. Such craftsmanship was held to be crushed by the rule of money and a generally materialist outlook.

Marx himself, in his early period, used to ruminate about the choices available to humanity after the rule of finance capital had been replaced by an updated old order, described in utopian terms. All of us, smart or dumb, male or female, would have the choice of hunting, herding, or farming in the morning, while being a critical critic at night. Somewhere in there, lurked the arts, though they were not mentioned in the Marxian reveries. Was the grand old man of the Left nostalgic for the primitive stages of mankind?

So what has our President done? Has he revealed himself as a closet revolutionary, or has he, in a typical social democratic gesture, skillfully co-opted the Marxist program that would abolish so-called alienated, exploitative labor?


I close with a word on dumbing down: Harry Braverman famously wrote about the loss of mental capacity that resulted from de-skilling labor in the industrial age.  Was he, or the other antimoderns, idealizing life in the Middle Ages or in other pre-capitalist societies? Is all labor dignified, as the medievalists would have it?

Capitalists and neoconservatives have yet to address this pressing issue, leftover from the 19th and 20th centuries. No reform in education has meaning, nor does our evaluation of women’s work escape from these hard questions. In an interdependent, yet unevenly developed world, for whom and for what are we working?

Are we looking forward or looking backwards? And are we looking at all?


April 3, 2011

Progressives, the luxury debate, and decadence

Thos. Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1836

Our nation is currently embroiled in a turmoil over finances, the debt, and the potential fall of the  American Republic, indeed, of the West itself. This blog sketches contrasting theories of progress and decadence. The purpose is to identify the eclectic character of history as written by the Progressives and their progeny. I propose that there are three primary schools of interpretation: one is entirely religious, and two are secular, but are not identical. All three are infused with what historians call “the luxury debate,” the secularism debate, and the danger of cities.

1. Many Christians take the position that there was a Golden Age in Eden before Eve ate of the Apple. Since that fatal bite, the world is fallen, and all hopes for amelioration are transferred to Paradise. The world we inhabit is a vale of tears and we “see through a glass, darkly.” The author Hilaire Belloc was of this view, and, like other ultra-Catholics, fixated his attention on the Crucifixion as the moment when Christ’s passion  purified humanity of its sins, promising a better place for the faithful after death. Arthur Lovejoy’s book, The Great Chain of Being, spelled out the Platonic-Christian world view very clearly. If an historian is known by the ability to distinguish between change and continuity through the accumulation of empirical evidence, then such “periodization” is irrelevant within this anti-materialist world view. See my blog on Nicholas Boyle for an example: https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.

2.  In the eighteenth century, Volney and others (Vico, earlier) dramatically intervened in the conservative Christian world-view with the cyclical view of history. That secular and “scientific” view is illustrated in Thomas Cole’s famous series The Course of Empire. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Course_of_Empire.) Cole’s bleak prognosis remains the preferred interpretation for organic conservatives who liken the course of history to the life cycles of plants (Goethe, for instance). A seed germinates, flourishes, then drops to the mold. Similarly, a warrior class is feminized by excessive love of luxury, and fails to maintain its defenses, hence  is invaded by warrior-barbarians, is destroyed, and we are left with romantic  ruins only. Such was the vision of those who posited a sequence of inevitable stages in the history of humanity. Keep in mind that “the Jews” have been seen as agents of feminization,  illicit luxury, and debauchery by such as the Nazis and New Dealers alike. Asceticism was the ticket to neoclassical order,  a point challenged by romantic Nietzsche in Genealogy of Morals.

3. With the development of capitalism and industry, innovations grounded in a scientific (materialist) and worldly view of humanity and its future, various optimistic proposals emerged before and during the American and French Revolutions. The most famous intervention was by Marx, but he was competing with various Utopians, also believers in Progress: Turgot, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Comte.  But in all these cases, human nature was not fallen or doomed, but rather susceptible to changes in the environment and particularly in institutions that brought out the best in [malleable] human nature. Although the new industrial working class did not turn out to be the revolutionary class that would bring about emancipation and utopia(for Marxists), there was enough servile revolt (actually starting with the English Civil War) to implant the continued fear of the red menace in the upper classes. Their pre-emptive strategy was to make concessions to social movements originating from “below” or to attempt to co-opt them through various motions of conservative reform. The Populist-Progressive movement is the most prominent and still powerful of these tendencies in America; they were following that master strategist Bismarck, originator of social insurance even as he made the German Social Democratic Party illegal. Populist-Progressives may be found in either the Democratic or Republican Parties (the latter as “moderates”) and are spurned by “social conservatives” today.

Since the moderate men must deal with a constituency that is internally conflicted, they take pieces of earlier world-views and incorporate all of them in an incoherent and confusing mix. But mostly, they are slippery and hard to pin down, except where the Marxist-Leninist Left is concerned.  That Left is either purged or marginalized, so that current journalists can simply describe what was originally a “moderate conservative” movement as “the hard Left” fading gently into left-liberalism. State power in the service of redistributive justice unites all these tendencies—Marxist-Leninist Left and progressives alike. The moderate men support science, but attempt to halt the inevitable warfare between science and religion.  The recent British movie Creation (2009), a recounting of Darwin’s emotional struggles as he moved toward publication of The Origin of Species (1859), is one example. Yes, Darwin finally puts out into the world his completely destabilizing view of evolution and natural selection, removing God from direct interference in the plan for humanity, but he is buried with full Christian honors in Westminster Abbey. Goethe, with his Pelagian heresy (we are not fallen, there is no original sin), is memorialized throughout the progressive West as the greatest cosmopolitan intellectual ever, but Goethe’s view of human society and progress is grounded in the life of plants and follows Herder’s cultural relativism and rooted cosmopolitanism. His American utopia has no modern Jews—they lack “reverence” and “roots.”

Who then are the moderns? We are left with the classical liberals or libertarians. These thinkers, following Adam Smith, von Mises, Ayn Rand, Hayek, and the Friedmans, see competitive markets as the route to wealth creation and a better life on earth. They are worldly, but not immoralists, for some see the need for state action (see especially the legal theorist Richard A. Epstein). Their European predecessors were the “mechanical materialists” denounced by all the ultra-conservatives, faux liberals, and dialectical materialists who followed. It is this school (not necessarily united within their ranks) , who put the future in the laps of our assessing, choosing, individual selves, who reject the fatalism of Vico, Volney, or their Greek and Christian-Platonic predecessors. (For more on this subject see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.)

March 30, 2011

Eric Foner’s Christianized Lincoln

Columbia U. Professor Eric Foner

Eric Foner’s recent history book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery ((N.Y.: Norton, 2010) has received the coveted Bancroft Prize. In this blog, I deploy a critical tool used by postmodernists, but with a different purpose. According to the “pomos,” all history writing necessarily falls into one literary genre or another, and the “master narratives” used in the writing of the history of the West are suspect (because the Pomos reject Progress and the [protofascist ]Enlightenment). Much as I deplore the cultural relativism and epistemological skepticism of the pomos, I found such an analytic approach useful in identifying trends in Melville criticism, especially biography. Early revivers of Melville’s reputation followed the Narcissus/Icarus myth. “Ahab”(i.e., Melville) over-reached in the writing of Moby-Dick, so crashed and drowned in the crazy book that followed—Pierre, or the Ambiguities. Drowned, he was done for and lost his reading public. But a competing myth or narrative followed that one (and it is deployed by Foner in his Lincoln study): the conversion narrative as exemplified in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  In this rendition, Melville, sobered up by the blood bath or quagmire of the American Civil War, recovers to write Clarel: a poem and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land–his very long “Christian” poem (the narrator is devout, but not the title character) and later his supposedly Christianity-infused “Billy Budd,” with Billy blessing the State that is killing him. Of course, all Melville scholarship is controversial, and Melville never followed the neat and consoling mythic narratives that are used to reconcile the deep ambivalence he felt about most issues that roiled the 19th century. Real lives, unlike myths, are messy.

Eric Foner’s new book follows the conversion narrative: Lincoln begins as a conventional white racist, but is pushed by events and the pressures of Radical Republicans away from his earlier desire for colonization of American blacks to Africa, and toward redemption. Like Foner’s massive book Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877, Foner’s latest history makes Reconstruction utterly unfinished. But in this one he more overtly praises growing state power to remedy injustice, and pulls the reader along as Lincoln “grows” even in his religious references and belief in a God that intervenes in the affairs of humans. Foner’s narrative, dry and boring as most of it is, made me weep by the time I got to the end. Hence, the reader is left responsible to remedy the deficiencies of Andrew Johnson’s awful administration and everything that follows. Foner, a populist-progressive (as far as I can tell), mentions Karl Marx only once, to buttress the notion that the real American Revolution followed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Charles Sumner is lauded throughout because he, like the other Radical Republicans, pushes Lincoln in the correct direction. This is the most positive evaluation of Sumner that I have seen since the 19th century, when he was the object of adulation in New England among the abolitionists and thousands of blacks as well. However, in his earlier book on Reconstruction(1988), Foner misreported that Sumner opposed the 8 hour day for workers (p. 481), which was not true, for Sumner came around and voted for the eight-hour day as a result of his friendship with Ira Steward. Another source reported that Sumner thought that labor was overworked and needed the time for education and leisure. (See also a sarcastic reference to Sumner, p.504, footnoting David Herbert Donald’s mostly hostile biography of [the crypto-Jew] Sumner.) So I take this deviation from the usual anti-Sumner line to be opportunistic. (In the writings of others, especially the cultural historians, Sumner is an extremist, another monomaniacal, war-instigating Captain Ahab.) We the readers are supposed to follow the lead of the Radical Republicans into the Promised Land of racial equality, whatever that means. (For a related blog noting the triumph of communist-inflected black nationalism see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/01/petit-bourgeois-radicalism-and-obama/.)

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.


      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.


[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).

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