The Clare Spark Blog

September 2, 2010

Spinoza as culture critic

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:48 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Toying with Spinoza

I have been reading Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews (1987), and his account of Baruch Spinoza’s critical method leaped off the page, not least  because he identified a major cause of antisemitism in the Europe that Spinoza’s rationalism helped to transform. Here is the Johnson excerpt, along with a quote from Spinoza himself:

[Paul Johnson, p.291] The origin and substance of Spinoza’s quarrel with the Jewish authorities is not entirely clear. He was accused of denying the existence of angels, the immortality of the soul and the divine inspiration of the Torah. But an apologia for his views, which he wrote in Spanish soon after the the herem, has not survived. However, in 1670 he published, unsigned, his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, in which he set out his principles of Biblical criticism. Therein lay his essential heterodoxy. He argued that the Bible should be approached in a scientific spirit and investigated like any natural phenomenon. In the case of the Bible, the approach had to be historical. One began by analysing the Hebrew language. Then one proceeded to analyse and classify the expression in each of the books of the Bible. The next stage was to examine the historical context:

[Spinoza:] the life, the conduct, and the pursuits of the author of each book, who he was, what was the occasion and the epoch of his writing, whom did he write for and in what language…[then] the history of each book: how it was first received, into whose hands it fell, how many different versions there were of it, by whose advice was it received into the Canon, and lastly how all the books now universally accepted as sacred were united into a single whole.

[Paul Johnson, cont.:] Spinoza proceeded to apply his analysis, discussing which parts of the Pentateuch were actually written by Moses, the roll of Ezra, the compilation of the canon, the provenance of such books as Job and Daniel, and the dating of the works as a whole and its individual parts. In effect, he rejected the traditional view of the origin and authenticity of the Bible almost completely, providing alternative explanations from its internal evidence. He thus began the process of Biblical criticism which, over the next 250 years, was to demolish educated belief in the literal truth of the Bible and to reduce it to the status of an imperfect historical record. His work and influence were to inflict grievous and irreparable damage on the self-confidence and internal cohesion of Christianity. They also…raised new, long-term and deadly problems for the Jewish community.

[Comment by Clare Spark:] Almost all of Herman Melville’s religious doubts can be traced to this development in European intellectual history. As for the critical method advocated by Spinoza, it was music to my ears, for not only was such a method my own guide in researching the revival of Herman Melville in the interwar period of the twentieth century, but Melville himself recommended a similar (if abbreviated) approach to understanding art in his “Lecture on the Statues of Rome.”   He also mentioned Spinoza as a “visionary” in his long poem Clarel.  Take note scientists! The labor-intensive work of the competent historian should be obvious from the Spinoza quote.

Some readers may recall the “canon wars” of the 1980s and 1990s, wherein the artistic production of dead white males was pushed aside in favor of  “subaltern” authors and artists who had been ignored owing to “white male supremacy.” Did these trendy academics use the Spinoza method or did they imagine a limited space for art and artists that necessitated the decapitation of those supposedly in “the canon?” My work on the Melville revival strongly suggests that Melville as canonical figure is a joke: he was way too radical then and now. A different “Melville” was constructed by his erstwhile revivers for reasons that were strictly ideological. (For details see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

 

May 23, 2010

Some dirty little secrets

Claire Berlinski, Ph.D.

During the last few weeks, an exceptionally portentous fight has broken out owing to a recent long and juicy article in the Spring 2010 edition of City Journal by Claire Berlinski. This essay was angrily dissected in several rebuttals by Ron Radosh in Pajamas Media, and by others on the Humanities Net internet site, the History of Diplomacy (H-Diplo). The conflict concerns whether or not both academic historians and their reading public have been fully informed of documents surreptitiously copied from the closed archives of the former Soviet Union, and now under wraps in Russia. Berlinski’s initial article, A Hidden History of Evil, reported that historians in high places had ignored the documents made available by researcher Vladimir Bukovsky (once an inmate of a Soviet psychiatric hospital) and Soviet dissident Pavel Stroilov, the latter in exile in London. First noting the world-wide obsession with Nazism (neglecting even more numerous Soviet atrocities), the opening paragraph ends with this remark: “The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.” Moreover, in her concluding paragraphs, she speculated that utopian theories had more appeal than we have admitted; hence she concludes that there is broad resistance to exposing the crimes of the now-darkened Gorbachev and his predecessors: “Indeed, many still subscribe to the essential tenets of Communist ideology. Politicians, academics, students, even the occasional autodidact taxi driver still stand opposed to private property. Many remain enthralled by schemes for central economic planning. Stalin, according to polls, is one of Russia’s most popular historical figures. No small number of young people in Istanbul, where I live, proudly describe themselves as Communists; I have met such people around the world, from Seattle to Calcutta.”

In the process of formulating his set of responses claiming that the not-so-sensational “Top Secret” documents were either already known to reputable scholars, or were understandably not commercially appealing to publishers, Ron Radosh contacted leading figures in Soviet Studies, including Jonathan Brent, Mark Kramer, and John Earl Haynes, in effect putting them all on the spot, whereupon they described in detail what had been translated and where (most of) the materials could be found. The Radosh piece concluded that Berlinski’s argument was so weak as to be unpublishable. Berlinski then replied to Radosh, sticking to her guns. Radosh fired back again, while today City Journal, defending its reputation as a reliable conservative publication, published a long series of comments by leading figures in the imbroglio. Having placed this riposte on her Facebook page, Berlinski stated that she would no longer be involved in “petty” squabbles of this nature, reiterating a statement that she had made in her second article in response to Radosh. (All these publications are posted on my Facebook profile. For other significant comments by scholars, see the archives of H-Diplo.)

Although curriculum formation in the interwar and Cold War periods is my field of interest, diplomatic history and primary sources in the Russian language are not in my skill set, but I do know many of the participants in this now polarized debate, owing to my research into the Cold War Melville revival and long association with leftists and, more lately, neoconservatives. I am struck by several matters having to do with censorship:

1. The institutional constraints on all historians, including professional and emotional investments in earlier publications regarding the facts of still controversial subjects, i.e., I am told on good authority that historians are not given to revising the earlier work that made their reputations, even when new contradictory sources appear; if true (and it sounds accurate to me), this is an unbearable fact; and

2. Berlinski’s suspicion that [social democrats and today’s Communists] are ideologically incapable of confronting the full horror of the Soviet past, an opinion that finds resonance in her supporters; and

3. The vexed issue of “American exceptionalism” as fought over in the Texas textbook wars. (For a review of Joan Hoff’s book on the Faustian character of U.S. foreign policy, see this review by diplomatic historian Thomas M. Nichols: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-IX-23.pdf.) This last point may be the most relevant context that explains why the fight between Berlinski and Radosh has taken on such a high profile and is being hotly argued, for Cold War revisionist historians such as Joan Hoff remain in the saddle, and we are witnessing major backlash from conservatives. (By revisionists, I refer to the 60s generation that argued that U.S. imperialism, as embodied, for instance, in the lout Joe McCarthy, was responsible for the Cold War.)

These interests of mine are too big to flesh out in a short blog, but I do want to comment on a brief interchange regarding the fracas between two Facebook friends of Berlinski’s, whose names I have chosen to withhold. The back and forth seemed to come at me out of nowhere. Indeed, I nearly fell over when I saw this:

[commentator #1] “The dirty little secret in this issue which no one EVER talks about, is the, let’s call it coincidence, between the disproportionate involvement of Jews in the Marxist movement in the past and currently and the disproportionate number of Jews in academia and the media elites seems to bring any investigation of the evils of communism to a shuddering halt.

The same people have no problem correctly criticizing the Governor of Virgina for his inability to recognize the unmentioned slavery that underlay his celebration of Confederate month.”

[commentator #2] “There was also a disproportionate number of Jews in anti-communist political writing and theorizing… and I would guess a disproportionate number of Jews who are writing about the evils of hiding communism’s sins.

And I doubt the academics who are Jewish who are active in the “the commies meant well; let’s move on to other things” are motivated by any wish to protect Jews from scrutiny. Many people of that tendency are also anti-Israel; it’s a way they can prove that they have transcended petty ethnocentric concerns.”

[#1]”…you’re right. You are guessing. And since the field of “anti-Communist political writing” is such a tiny percentage of political writing by the elites, that just goes to prove my point.

I have been part of this scene for 50 years and I am not guessing. You might as well face it. If it makes you feel any better, there were also a way disproportionate number of Jews against Nazism.

There is nothing wrong with the inescapable fact that our ethnic heritage heavily influences us, except trying to ignore it. It is this kind of bald intellectual dishonesty that pollutes the entire field.

I assure you being a descendant of several Confederate generals makes me look at the Battle Flag and hear Dixie differently than you….

If I had been living in the Pale of Settlement getting whacked by the Tsarist Cossacks on a regular basis, I would have been an eager Communist Party member too and I my pride in the ideals of that revolution might have taken generations to wash through my family.” [end FB excerpt]

I should begin by saying that #1, descendant of Confederate generals, regards himself as “a Zionist” (in a message to me). Notwithstanding his support for Israel, he both blames and does not blame Jews in academia and in the media for the ostensible cover-up of these eye-opening Bukovsky-Stroilov materials. The Jews cannot help being influenced by their “cultural heritage.”  Moreover, Jews are “disproportionately” involved in controlling educational media, Hollywood, and publishing, as well as disproportionally involved in “the Marxist movement.” The Jews (though not in the majority) are so powerful that they have sealed our lips, except for his. This claim reminds me of a book written by UC Santa Barbara professor Albert S. Lindemann, Esau’s Tears: The Rise of the Jews and Modern Anti-Semitism (Cambridge UP, 1997). Lindemann considered himself a friend of Jewry, yet his statistics could be deployed to buttress the argument of  #1, or for that matter, the notorious Kevin MacDonald (author of a trilogy ending with Culture of Critique). Jews had too much power after their emancipation (look at the omnipotent Frankfurt School!). Could not such claims imply that the Holocaust was rational, given the pushiness of the Western European Jews, and the nature of the Jew-polluted Soviet regime (and here I refer solely to MacDonald, not Lindemann, though some may find the implications of Esau’s Tears troubling).

What #1 and other readers may not wish to see is that membership in Marxist-Leninist organizations meant the renunciation of religion and nationalist identities of any kind, and after the late 19th century, that meant compulsory anti-Zionism. One enlisted in the internationalist brotherhood of proletarians: there, and only there, was the seat of loyalty, forget cultural heritage. For anyone to assert that Marx, the open antisemite (though leftists hotly deny this), was any kind of Jew is to imagine a racial essentialism that must trump the cultural inheritance that #1 postulates in his own case and to that of a group he has not studied, but believes he understands and is sympathetic toward. Yet, even such a friend to the Jews as Paul Johnson in his history of the Jews refers to persons with Jewish parents as Jews, even though they have renounced any “particularist” (i.e., non-internationalist) identity. This can only mean that Jews are a race, not a religion or persons devoted to a particular set of moral values. Yet Johnson refers to the Soviet officials of Jewish background as “Non-Jewish Jews.” Of course, in his defense, antisemites don’t make these fine distinctions because they are ardent believers in racial character, which can never be thrown off.

If there are any dirty little secrets to be found here, it is the fact that “Jews” are not powerful enough to control either Hollywood, or the media, or academe, or Wall Street (I threw that last one in, don’t blame #1), and especially can they not control their mothers. Ideology and/or the profit motive, yes. Jewish power and solidarity? You have got to be kidding or a born-again populist. Start reading every entry on this site starting May, 2009.

February 20, 2010

The Glenn Beck Problem

Pierrot collage by Clare Spark

[Added 9-1-10: This blog has obviously been evolving as I have tried to place Glenn Beck’s views in some recognizable historical narrative. For a liberal account of Beck as demagogue that I find disturbingly distorted see http://hnn.us/articles/130820.html. My search for Beck follows; I should say that Beck does urge his viewers to do their homework and to read primary sources, then challenge him if he is mistaken in his characterization of the Founders, or any other claim he makes. That is not the usual practice of a demagogue (who does not permit, let alone welcome, criticism from the crowd):]

Click onto the illustration and read what German agent George Sylvester Viereck wrote about Hitler in 1923: you will find the line “he storms their reserve with his passion.” Yesterday I posted my objection to Glenn Beck’s obsession with blaming everything wrong with our society on “the progressive movement.”  I also objected to his tendency to equate right-wing social democrats with communists, an error only a person with little knowledge of 20th century European history would make. Given the millions who tune into every program and who think he is a powerful weapon in the campaign against “Big Government,” it is not surprising that one of my Facebook friends immediately objected to my criticism of a man he thinks is a hero, but who, though I often agree with him, sometime suspect to be a power-hungry demagogue, taking advantage of ever-growing dissatisfaction with U.S. domestic and foreign policies to feed his ego and to line his pocket, while playing the earnest clown. Whatever his motives, there is no excuse for indicting “progressivism” as a “cancer….” as he did in his keynote address at CPAC, or his comments today (May 26, 2010) trashing Bernays and Lippmann. Usually  this is an antisemitic jibe from the Left and Chomsky, but Beck was vehement and nasty.  I am disgusted. See my widely circulated essay https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/

[Added, March 19. I have been reading about Edmund Burke and his revival from the 1950s on. Paleoconservative Russell Kirk (a founder of National Review) and his ultraconservative Burkean allies in academe are probably the intellectual sources for Beck. Although on many points, he seems to be a libertarian, he is also opposed to any view that does not regard the Christian God as the source of order and liberty–along with Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich, his opponents are “secularists.” Hence his attempt to remake the Founding Fathers into believers in God as the chief lawgiver of “moral natural law”–the source of order, with the state as a usurper insofar as it threatens (upper- or middle-class) property, the ballast for “tradition.” This places Beck as a follower of Edmund Burke, as I believe Jonah Goldberg to be, who is as rattled by “the Jacobins” as the source of totalitarian/statist control.)* [Added 6-6-10: I was much mollified and gratified by Beck’s support for Israel during the last week. How this fits in with his general ideology, I cannot say. Added 7-18-10: Beck clarified what he means by rights being God-given: he was contrasting this position with the competing notion that rights are gifts from the State, a key Nazi idea.] [Added 10-30-10. I am taken aback by the Harvard UP published book by Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (2002). This book is more helpful in explaining the religious Right and their alarm at secularism than any other history book I have ever read. If intent matters, Hamburger bolsters the case that the writers of the Constitution did not banish religion from the public square, far from it. See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/05/hamburgers-separation-of-church-and-state/.]

This blog is about the danger of allowing any media personalities to do our thinking for us, and I am not speaking about Glenn Beck alone, nor do I wish to insult his viewers or listeners, but they should be on guard. As my long-time friend political scientist Stephen Eric Bronner wrote in one of his first books (this on German Expressionism), making a passionate work of art or viewing it, though valuable in itself, cannot substitute for the thoughtful study, investigating, organizing and other activity that resists illegitimate authority. Professor Bronner wrote enthusiastically about Rosa Luxemburg too, as well as other radical social democrats who were associated with the Second International. These activists were called left-wing social democrats, because they meant to educate the masses in the most advanced industrialized societies and through majority acquiescence (as opposed to bureaucratic centralism) make the transition from capitalism to socialism. Luxemburg herself was an anti-Bolshevik and argued with Lenin about issues that are still red-hot today, such as supporting anti-colonial social movements that were antidemocratic and backward. (I am updating the debate between Luxemburg and Lenin, originally about the nature of imperialism, and about self-determination in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, not about Third World dictatorships of today. (Thanks to Steve Bronner for the correction. But as Robert Brenner and Perry Anderson taught the debate in a session I audited, the issue concerned  left-wing alliances with antidemocratic entities, so I extrapolated to the present, when the hard Left does ally itself with dubious entities. For an entirely negative view of Luxemburg and other “Non-Jewish Jews” see Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews. Johnson has the clearest exposition of twentieth-century politics and diplomacy affecting the future of Jewry that I have ever read. It is especially welcome at a time when a new “peace process” is under way.)

All this is to explain that “right-wing social democrats” like FDR were conservative reformers, similar in their views to those of Edmund Burke, ardent critic of the French Revolution and its threat of popular sovereignty. Bronner, though a prolific author, is not typical of today’s radical (Leninist) Left. And I have shifted my own position, as my Pacifica memoir makes clear. As an historian with a background in science education, my most positive contribution must be to encourage individuals to be skeptical of all pronouncements from politicians and other celebrities, and to withhold their support until they know among other things, who is financing their endeavors: Arab sheiks? Closet Islamic jihadists? Americans remain innocent, characters in a novel by Henry James. We remain child-like in our quickness to trust. We are not experienced in the ways of amoral and jaded Europeans or elites from other societies who would destroy democratic movements in their own countries and who seek to bring down the West tout court, for the West is full of bad examples, such as the American and French Revolutions. Do we know the extent to which their financing of university programs and media corporations such as Rupert Murdoch’s outfit is affecting their programming (Fox) or curriculum (Columbia U.)?

While reading Schiller’s and Goethe’s plays over the last few years, I was struck by the complexities of their plots, for they were writing in a time when court life was full of intrigue. Perhaps that is why I collect masks and images of Pierrot. Artists knew that it was bad, really bad out there.

* On the subject of Edmund Burke as a liberal constitutionalist and not an organicist, see Rod Preece, “Edmund Burke and his European Reception,” The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation Vol.21, Number 3 (Autumn 1980): 255-273. Preece argues that Burke’s European admirers mistook him for an organicist thinker, and that for Burke, there was a contract between the state and the individual; moreover that he was opposed to Platonic guardians, but preferred practical men of affairs (the moderates) to be running things. But that Burke was horrified by Jacobins and the French Revolution, there is no dispute. If Preece is correct, then Russell Kirk’s name should be added to those who have misunderstood Burke.

July 11, 2009

Multiculturalists and Wilsonians can’t diagnose “the new antisemitism”

foreskinman[12-28-12: This essay explains in a roundabout way, how it is possible to be anti-Zionist without viewing oneself as antisemitic. “Peace is the answer.” It is especially timely given the possible nomination of the anti-Israel Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.]

I. Given the Senate hearings preparatory to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court that are to begin July 13, I thought it would be timely to review how leading academics and other hip intellectuals are handling or ignoring the notion of the law, liberally conceived. Also, I am interested in the claim that her appointment would be a welcome gesture of “inclusion,” long overdue. Hence, this blog, which should be read in connection with my last one on unfinished revolutions. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.)

Professor Bernard Harrison recently delivered a well-received lecture at a recent conference on antisemitism at the U. of Haifa, June 22, 2009. (The link is http://www.edu.haifa.ac.il/~ilangz/antisemitism_conference/. What follows is my critique of two aspects of his general argument: 1. His notion of “prejudice” is not analyzed sufficiently as a term developed by propagandists for the “progressives” (conservative reformers staving off socialism and communism or any other replay of the “jacobin” French Revolution, often through the co-opting of dissident groups); and 2. The idea of “international community” is another “progressive” nostrum that flies in the face of international law and cannot achieve its stated objective of conflict resolution. (I refer the reader of this blog to an excellent essay by legal scholar Samuel J. Spector, disseminated through Middle East Forum that makes the same criticism as I do regarding the underlying ideology of Wilsonian internationalism (the hazy notion of “self-determination,” in Spector’s case study, dealing with the failed diplomacy in resolving problems in the Western Sahara.)

bernard3

The premise of Harrison’s paper was that the once pervasive antisemitic prejudice was based on exclusion, but that it is now superseded by the newer paranoid variety that carries “the scent of death” and “the stench of bad eggs.” In deploying the idea of inclusion as a strategy to fight “prejudice” Harrison does not step outside the assumptions of “multiculturalism”–a policy that bears no relation to what used to be called the melting pot or pluralism–features of the secular state, that is, a state that forbids any and all religious establishments that hold themselves apart from the liberal state and the rule of law. Moreover, he appears to be unaware of the history of racial theory and the assumptions of populist and/or Marxist-Leninist anti-capitalism, with its important persistence in so-called “anti-imperialism,” black liberation theology, or Third World-ism today.

Harrison seems to think that Jews are now enjoying relative “inclusion.” But closer analysis of actual historic persons suggests that, for many,  if a non-Jew includes this or that person of Jewish origin in his/her charmed circle, it is because that exception is a good Jew (i.e. not a fanatic: s/he behaves like a Christian, or agrees with the ever-compromising world view of the “moderate” and “rational” gatekeeper, or worse, submits to Sharia law). This highly conditional idea of inclusion is forcefully brought out in the Radoshes new book on Truman and the founding of Israel, where Truman was strongly put-off by pushy, pressuring Zionist Jews, preferring those like Chaim Weizmann who concurred with his own self-image of the moderate man. It was the pleas of Weizmann and Truman’s old friend Eddie Jacobson who persuaded him to support the new Jewish state in May 1948 (but de jure, not de facto). Thus Truman is portrayed as facing down a recalcitrant and insubordinate Department of State, probably because of his earlier connection with Christian Zionism, blended with more recent humanitarian sympathies with stranded displaced persons in Europe, who were denied entrance to Palestine by the British, and who could not enter other societies as well, given their swelling numbers as many Jews fled Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, adding great numbers to the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, and all living in horrendous conditions.

Harrison has made a distinction between a “new antisemitism” and what he claims is a now virtually passé form of social prejudice. Ignoring the actual history of ethnopluralism/multiculturalism as transmitted by J.G. von Herder and the German Romantics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, he supposes that all stigmatized groups, including Jews, are imagined not as coherent collectivities of persons sharing a national or other group character (such as ‘race’), but as collectivities of “individuals.” This does not square with the historical record. In the U.S., intellectuals such as Horace Kallen, a Progressive, clearly understood that “ethnic” solidarity or cultural nationalism trumped the alarming notion of proletarian internationalism, or the kinship of workers everywhere as Socialist and Marxists had been arguing.  (One favorite test question on the Ph.D. field exams in the UCLA Department of History was to state whether ethnicity or class was the engine of American history. The right answer was undoubtedly “ethnicity” since “class” was constantly collapsed into “race” while I was there, in good anti-imperialist fashion, and stranding the white working class as bearers of “white skin privilege.”)

Turning again to Harrison’s lecture, such social prejudice that makes exclusion or inclusion the test of either prejudice or acceptance, he traces to Rousseau and the (undifferentiated) Enlightenment, not to idealist Germany, with its leading intellectuals in opposition to the “mechanical materialist” French Enlightenment influence, both before and after the French Revolution. Oddly, for Harrison, the conceptual flaw of “exclusion” as the test for prejudice is that it lays “the Chosen People” open to the charge of bigoted exclusiveness. (Clearly, he does not understand or does not report the concept of chosenness as imposing a moral burden on Jews to repair themselves as individuals, through repentance and reparation to the wounded.) Anyway, he thinks such a form of social prejudice has nearly faded away, masking the infinitely more lethal threat of antisemitism that he (and Jean-Paul Sartre) attributed to genocidal Hitler and their current manifestations: Manichean antisemitism in which the division of the universe into the dualing forces of Good and Evil precedes the specifically paranoid conspiracy theory that comprises the new antisemitism. In other words, I infer that Harrison is defending moral relativism, another tic of progressives and moderates, who seek to compromise what may be irreconcilable conflicts with a “middle ground.”

It is my understanding that the conception of Good versus Evil is a feature of absolutist religious world views, and I hasten to add, not Judaism.* The latter has no conception of the devil or of original sin and fallen flesh redeemed by the Saviour. By contrast with Christianity, Judaism as a way of life constantly interrogates the individual as to the possible mixed motives for apparently good and generous gestures, whereas the Christian humanities professors and other intellectuals I have encountered either hesitate to look inside altogether or throw up their hands as to the possibility of any positive knowledge whatsoever of the human psyche. “It is all a mystery,” they often say, or quoting Scripture, we see “through a glass darkly.”   Harrison might have brought out this crucial contrast between some forms of Christianity and Judaism, but did not.

Does the current animus against Zionism and Jews in general have anything whatsoever to do with irrationalism or a fight to the finish between the forces of light and darkness?  The point I made above regarding good Jews (or other token friends from stigmatized groups) still holds. To the “progressive” person, the acceptable Jewish friend has converted away from the collectivity of bad, grasping, pushy, vulgar Jews; indeed has rejected her or his “essence,” but don’t think that the tolerant now-and-then bigot is necessarily comfortable or unwary about a possible switch back to the underlying collective “identity” of the Jew, black, woman, Scotsman, etc. Why? Because “prejudice,” taken by itself is a purely psychological/cultural category invented by social psychologists that is disconnected from the real world of political power,  economic interest, gender domination, and other material considerations. Telling the supposed bigot that s/he has a distorted, i.e., irrational idea of “the Other” is to ignore the structures of domination and irreconcilable conflicts out there (many of which cannot be erased through education or better communication or sensitivity training. And here I am condemning a wide array of social policy that seeks to ameliorate “prejudice”).

To put it plainly and severely, Harrison is worried that the recrudescence of the panicky paranoid variety of antisemitism is creating a “bunker mentality” that focuses Israelis on “security,” not “peace.”” He actually says this straight out, though this, to me, appalling statement, is almost buried by an avalanche of his opinions on other scary matters relating to growing violence against Jews everywhere. So notwithstanding the importance of Arab oil to the West for the last seven decades or so, or the penetration of the Islamic world by Axis elements before and during the 1940s, or the internal hard-line antidemocratic governance of the Arab states and Iran (featuring of course the control of women, and/or economic backwardness and tribalism), Harrison apparently believes that there is a plausible peace process in the offing between Israel and her neighbors, if only all parties would purge themselves of the irrational components of their psyches. And of course the moderate men, the mediators, will sensitively and artfully manipulate the warring parties to eliminate psychological obstacles to compromise (compromise being the braiding together of Good and Evil?). To me, that was the subtext of Harrison’s presentation at the U. of Haifa: a call to moderation and sanity, led by philosopher-kings.

II. In the remaining part of this essay, I  discuss the rejection by progressive anti-Semites of the chief tenet of the bourgeois Enlightenment: equality before the law– the keystone of the liberal state and of liberal nationalism. It is my suspicion that this so-called “legalism” has long been the gravest unpardonable sin indulged in by “the Jews”  and by their “Hebraic” Judeo-Christian progeny in the West.” As a would-be peacemaker in the time of multiculturalism, Bernard Harrison doesn’t see this.

It is no wonder that Carl Schmitt, Hitler’s favored legal theorist has been rehabilitated by some Leftists. This posting continues the thought expounded above with a distinction between rootless cosmopolitanism and rooted cosmopolitanism, expressed through the contrast between conceptions of liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism.

In the new book by Allis and Ronald Radosh that traces the intricate diplomacy surrounding the U.N. partition of Palestine and then the Jewish state (A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, HarperCollins, 2009), they describe the findings of a prominent Democratic lawyer, Oscar R. Ewing, who determined that the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 was in conformity with international law, and that international law was based on the conquest theory of property.  That is, the Allied Powers had defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first world war, and were entitled to dispose of the previously Turkish lands as they saw fit (Safe Haven, pp.287-288). Hence, the idea of the partition of Palestine (as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 29, 1947) did not violate international legal precedent. Against this sort of claim, Arab nationalists had long latched onto the Wilsonian notion of “self-determination.” It occurred to me after reading these pages that the common phrase “international community” must be the foil to “international law” and that “self-determination” was an intrinsic notion of multiculturalism, which stands, therefore, outside the law (and indeed any kind of universalist ethical imperative).

   Another way to put it is this: Ewing and such predecessors in America as Senator Charles Sumner or his ally Thaddeus Stevens (two of the “Black Republicans”) were advocates of the rational liberal state, understood as that overarching set of laws that guaranteed the protection of individual liberty and the common welfare. Liberty was understood not simply as limited government, but both as equal opportunity to advance through merit, and most crucially as equality before the law, i.e., one law for rich and poor alike. Such a classically liberal orientation has been characterized as “rootless cosmopolitanism” by its enemies, and as many of you know, Stalin abhorred and disposed of such an ideology that inevitably spawned enemies of the people. Prior opponents were organic conservatives of the Woodrow Wilsonian ilk, whose “cosmopolitanism” was “rooted.” What follows is Wilson’s own definition of community and its notion of Gemeinschaft.

[footnote from my article (“Margoth vs. Robert E. Lee”) https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. See Woodrow Wilson, “A Calendar of Great Americans,” Mere Literature, 209-210: “[Like Lincoln, Lee was also “national in spirit”]: He fought on the opposite side, but fought in the same spirit, and for a principle which is in a sense scarcely less American than the principle of Union. He represented the idea of the inherent–the essential–separateness of self-government. This was not the principle of secession: that principle involved the separate right of the several self-governing units of the federal system to judge of national questions independently, and as a check upon the federal government,–and to adjudge the very objects of the Union. Lee did not believe in secession, but he did believe in the local rootage of all government. This is at the bottom, no doubt, an English idea; but it has had a characteristically American development. It is the reverse side of the shield which bears upon its obverse the devices of the Union, a side too much overlooked and obscured since the war. It conceives the individual State a community united by the most intimate associations, the first home and foster-mother of every man born into the citizenship of the nation. Lee considered himself a member of one of these great families; he could not conceive of the nation apart from the State: above all, he could not live in the nation divorced from his neighbors. His own community should decide his political destiny and duty.”

So where do the Jews come in? If anyone here has read George L. Mosse’s numerous books on the popular culture of Nazism, you will remember that the Jew was commonly seen in German novels or similar artifacts as the snake in the garden that attacked the roots of the tree. In other words, the Jewish threat is always, in one form or another, that of destroyer of “local rootage,” i.e., community and the solidarity that occurs within families, ‘races,’ and nation-states, with the nation state understood as control over specific territories and resources, as opposed to that of Gesellschaft: the liberal state as guarantor of freedom and safety for individual citizens. How do we “Jews” poison the well? Through the control of money and the media, through the advocacy of science and technology, the defense of equality before the law, skepticism, political and religious pluralism. Name your poison in this secular, hence jewified, world. In my view, this is what the Harrison paper misses (for many of these “Jewish” sins predate the onset of modernity and comprised Jew-hatred, and not simply exclusion or “social prejudice” but death to the Jewish collectivity, a collectivity understood by its opponents to share a common militaristic and domineering national character, instigated by its cruel and vindictive, particularistic God), and yet any serious student of intellectual history must recognize the pattern.

Finally, I refer you again to the paper posted on this website and excerpted above, as it spells out, in often entertaining detail, the difference between a “mechanical materialist” (i.e., “Jew” or Charles Sumner type) and an anti-science, anti-materialist organic conservative of the Woodrow Wilson-Robert E. Lee type. Although this distinction is developed throughout my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, this paper goes beyond the book and is more concrete with respect to Melville’s conservative racist persona as expressed in a book of poems he wrote as a meditation upon the Civil War and Reconstruction. Another of my essays on the origins of multiculturalism is found at https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. Readers here who are curious about the “rootless cosmopolitan” should look at the following paragraphs from Freud’s essay “Thoughts for the Time on War and Death” (1915):

[Freud describes what I call “the rootless cosmopolitan.”]… Relying on this unity among the civilized people, countless men and women have exchanged their native home for a foreign one, and made their existence dependent on the intercommunication between friendly nations. Moreover anyone who was not by stress of circumstance confined to one spot could create for himself out of all the advantages and attractions of these civilized countries a new and wider fatherland, in which he would move about without hindrance or suspicion. In this way he enjoyed the blue sea and the grey; the beauty of snow-covered mountains and of green meadow lands; the magic of northern forests and the splendour of southern vegetation; the mood evoked by landscapes that recall great historical events, and the silence of untouched nature. This new fatherland was a museum for him, too, filled with all the treasures which the artists of civilized humanity had in the successive centuries created and left behind. As he wandered from one gallery to another in this museum, he could recognize with impartial appreciation what varied types of perfection a mixture of blood, the course of history, and the special quality of their mother-earth had produced among his compatriots in this wider sense. Here he would find cool, inflexible energy developed to the highest point; there, the graceful art of beautifying existence; elsewhere, the feeling for orderliness and law, or others among the qualities which have made mankind the lords of the earth.

Nor must we forget that each of these inhabitants of the civilized world had created for himself a ‘Parnassus’ and’ a ‘School of Athens’ of his own. From among the great thinkers, writers and artists of all nations he had chosen those to whom he considered he owed the best of what he had been able to achieve in enjoyment and understanding of life, and he had venerated them along with the immortal ancients as well as with the familiar masters of his own tongue. None of these great figures had seemed to him foreign because they spoke another language – neither the incomparable explorer of human passions, nor the intoxicated worshipper of beauty, nor the powerful and menacing prophet, nor the subtle satirist; and he never reproached himself on that account for being a renegade towards his own nation and his beloved mother-tongue.”

*But see Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Harper and Row, 1987), a large popular work dedicated to a Christian gentleman who is a friend to the Jews. In his first chapter Johnson calls their all encompassing and world-changing moral law “totalitarian” and making clear channels between right and wrong, good and evil. Using the word “totalitarian” in this context is provocative and ahistoric, especially as Johnson lauds the Jews as upholding life above all things, in contrast to their contemporaries in antiquity. But as I read further into the book, it seems to me to be one of the best history books for a popular audience that I have encountered.

Blog at WordPress.com.