The Clare Spark Blog

March 19, 2014

Thomas Carlyle, German Romanticism, and the double bind of modernity

thomascarlyle [Thomas Carlyle’s idea of politically correct sublimity:]”…In Goethe’s mind, the first aspect that strikes us is its calmness, then its beauty; a deeper inspection reveals to us its vastness and unmeasured strength.  This man rules and is not ruled.  The stern and fiery energies of a most passionate soul lie silent in the centre of his being; a trembling sensibility has been inured to stand, without flinching or murmur, the sharpest trials.  Nothing outward, nothing inward, shall agitate or control him.  The brightest and most capricious fancy, the most piercing and inquisitive intellect, the wildest and deepest imagination; the highest thrills of joy, the bitterest pangs of sorrow: all these are his, he is not theirs.  While he moves every heart from its steadfastness, his own is firm and still: the words that search into the inmost recesses of our nature, he pronounces with a tone of coldness and equanimity; in the deepest pathos, he weeps not, or his tears are like water trickling from a rock of adamant.  He is king of himself and his world; nor does he rule it like a vulgar great man, like a Napoleon or Charles II, by the mere brute exertion of his will, grounded on no principle, or on a false one: his faculties and feelings are not fettered or prostrated under the iron sway of Passion, but led and guided in kindly union under the mild sway of Reason; as the fierce primeval elements of Nature were stilled at the coming of Light, and bound together, under its soft vesture, into a glorious and beneficent Creation.

[Carlyle, continued:] This is the true Rest of man; no stunted unbelieving callousness, no reckless surrender to blind Force, no opiate delusion; but the harmonious adjustment of Necessity and Accident, of what is changeable and what is unchangeable in our destiny; the calm supremacy of the spirit over its circumstances; the dim aim of every human soul, the full attainment of only a chosen few….[German Romance, Vol. IV, 17-18].

[Clare:] Historicizing the double-bind.  </ Since the inception of modernity (especially after the seventeenth century), conservative “liberal” institutions have placed their inhabitants in double-binds, transmitting libertarian ideals while simultaneously (and vaguely) delimiting the institutional transformation that would make these ideals fully realizable.  Treasured liberal virtues of free thought and tolerance of intellectual difference need to be shored up and reinforced by institutions that boldly imagine structures capable of systematically advancing and protecting autonomy; not only emancipation from the burden of the antidemocratic past, but informed participation in collective decision-making.  As moderns of course, we are supposed to be willing to dissolve conventional categories to follow the dynamics of change; we allow our minds freely to speculate and experiment, no matter who may be offended.

As social critics, we supposedly bring to the humanities and social sciences the same attention to minute empirical detail that a biochemist applies to the study of molecular structure.  Although every serious artist studies the world with the concentration of scientists and puts out, similarly darting habits of mind will be absent from academics who study each other for career cues then lapse into strategic silences.  Inattention to psychological nuance in primary source materials yields the field to practitioners of psychological warfare and other tireless propagandists who, like Thomas Carlyle, while apparently affirming the values of the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment, have sought to undo the democratic momentum of the scientific revolution, attacking the self-confidence of newly empowered groups (the increasingly literate lower orders of the bourgeois democracies) with cautionary tales that stigmatize the questing, critical (Lockean) intellect that exposes “the ill designs of the rulers” as sources of social catastrophe.


The pseudo-moderate men make no sense: Carlyle, in one breath, denounces “the reckless surrender to blind force”; in almost the next he praises “the harmonious adjustment of Necessity and Accident.”  The “will,” we have already learned, is a “mere brute exertion,” ruled by “Passion,” unless led by “mild Reason”–madly defined as that “Rest” discerning what “is changeable and what is unchangeable in our destiny” as if the formulation of correct social policy (an intervention) is not only obvious to the quieted mind but not canceled by “destiny.”

In his sketch of Goethe, Carlyle has given us a rectified Wandering Jew recognizable now as a conservative psychoanalyst/academic, a “scientific” harmonizer at once promoting “the temper of a third party” (today called “the observing ego”) and the stoic adjustment to social forces that may be incomprehensible and certainly are not of his making.  History is marshaled to underline the inevitability of human weakness; coolness and kindness are attained when he objectively understands the power of the past “in the formation of his character and mode of thought.”  Here is the proof of superior self-control, a quality glaringly absent in the weeping, willful, defiant lower orders: masochism builds character.


I want to suggest why, even in the most exhaustive historical treatments of the Third Reich, the psychological aspects of “the National Socialist past” are the least developed and understood.[1]  We should look to the repressive character of academic politics since the late 1930s, intensified, but not initiated by “the Cold War.”  No societies, even those with robust Left intelligentsias, have formulated satisfactory explanations for popular support of authoritarian regimes and genocidal practices in this century.

The deficiencies of academe today may be partly traced to the eerie quiet that followed World War II regarding the nature of fascism, a richly controversial subject in the relatively wide-open 1930s.  One might think that “the Holocaust” would have provoked tireless efforts to decode the symbols and narratives that undermine democratic morale.  Instead we have been served a very few crude explanations, each interesting and perhaps useful, but too narrow and unempathic fully to explain Hitler’s mass appeal, even in the working class.[2]  Why do we not demand the teaching of competing systematic accounts of Nazi ideology, scrutinizing those features also found in the discourse and practice of  Progressive reform, or to Nazism’s corporatist precursors in Wilhelmine Germany(Bismarck!) and other hierarchical societies, Western and non-Western alike?

In my view, the reticences reflect the prestige of “holistic””structural-functionalism,”[3] the victorious counter-Enlightenment that purged the classical liberals, tending to legitimate only different varieties of conservatives and reactionaries: a coalition of “centrist” or “moderate” corporatist liberals, and “left-wing” romantic anticapitalists, defining themselves against “right-wing” or “fascist” laissez-faire conservatives.  Rallying its forces in the late 1930s, the new “non-élitist” cultural anthropology/”new historicism” tended to proscribe the critical tool of empiricism, employing an ostensibly more advanced, but arguably pseudo-modern, protofascist concept of “the individual-in-society” pursuing “equilibrium,” not enlightenment.[4]

Structural functionalists following Talcott Parsons have co-opted the terms and methods of science to mystify social structures and functions, substituting their “interdisciplinary” social science for the soul-less “economic determinism” ushered in by the Individualists: materialists such as Locke, Mandeville, and Smith who fixated upon relations between men and things, displacing the prior preoccupation with relations between men and men in that healthier world where economics and morality were fused.[5]  Hence all of American intellectual history could be organized around the “tension” between “individual and community,” suggesting that self-control, curbing our evil propensities, was the key to social cohesion, and this was a quality that rulers had or could display as they faced down and soothed screaming mobs and other self-interested parties.  (See Boas above and compare to Henry A. Murray’s “personology.”)  This idealist formulation dominates the profession of history today; current guides to upwardly-mobile youth include “pragmatists” William James, John Dewey and Richard Rorty.



                [1] See Tim Mason, “Open Questions on Nazism,” People’s History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981): 205-210.  Cf. Wolfgang Benz, “Warding Off The Past,” Hitler, The Holocaust, and the Historians’ Debate, ed. Peter Baldwin (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990): 198.  Benz wants the social psychological processes more fully explored, but does not acknowledge that social psychology was invented by antidemocratic social theorists.  I see “psychology” as coterminous with the recuperation of an accurate personal and social history/critical sociology, all institutional sources of coercion and duplicity in place.

                [2] Many conservative historians argue that fascism was rooted in the period between the wars and cannot be theorized.  But liberals and Marxists disagree.  For example, Marxists argue that fascism is always present in crisis-ridden late capitalism, its productive relations and capitalist forms in increasing irreconcilable conflict appearing as monopoly capitalism or “social democracy”; or, fascism is a response to capitalist crises, but crucially is a mobilization of the ruined middle-class that moves both against big capital and the revolutionary workers; or capitalism will produce cyclical downturns, but not necessarily crises (which are caused by bungling leaders and bad political decisions which then allowed the rise of crazy Hitler, a unique event); or Nazism was the product of crazy, cynical Hitler and his deluded German followers (the inheritors of German Romanticism lacking a developed pluralistic bourgeoisie, unlike Mussolini); or Hitler could not have existed without Stalin.  I prefer the approach of the German historian Fritz Fischer in Germany’s Aims in the First World War (Norton, 1967) which stresses the similarity in objectives between the German imperialism of the Wilhelmine and Nazi periods; hence the weight given to Hitler’s demonic personality and its aberrant hold over the duped masses is diminished by crucial archival evidence (retrieved by Fischer and unavailable until after the second world war) demonstrating that the German military and industrial élite stage-managed the diplomacy leading to the outbreak of hostilities in World War I to make Germany appear as innocent victim of the Entente powers.

There is an important debate between “intentionalists” and “functionalists” re the dynamics of the Final Solution; however the psychoanalytic model, ostensibly opposed to the instrumentalism of the functionalists is not an alternative.  Psychoanalytic theories of Nazi antisemitism are biologized and mirror the reform-or-ruin adjurations of post-French Revolution conservatives (and before that all antidemocratic “classical” theorists): overly repressive (aristocrats, fathers, superegos) should be reformed to prevent catastrophic revolts from below (the bloody, tyrannical People, Id merged with seductive Mothers); this may produce contradictions in the thought of its leading historians.  Saul Friedländer argues simultaneously that Germans in general were unenthusiastic about Jewish extermination during the late 1930s-early 1940s and that the same Germans liberalized family relations in succeeding generations to give us hope.  For a classic statement of the Stalinist 1930s view of fascism as capitalism in decay, see Joseph Freeman, “The Meaning of Fascism,” (favorable review of R. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution), New Masses, 10/2/34, 34-36.  For a non-Marxist account of Hitler’s rise to power, then Third Reich business policies see David Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological change and industrial development in Western Europe from 1750 to the present (Cambridge U. P., 1969): 359-419.

For the second position (that “late capitalism”is not necessarily fascist), see Stephen Eric Bronner, Moments of Decision (N.Y.: Routledge, 1992).  For historiographical essays, see Peter Loewenberg, “Psychohistorical Perspectives on Modern German History,” Journal of Modern History 47 (1975): 229-279.  Also, Pierre Ayçoberry, The Nazi Question (Pantheon, 1981): Chapter 10 (for Freudian interpretations); Saul Friedländer, “From Anti-Semitism to Extermination: A Historiographical Study of Nazi Policies Toward The Jews and an Essay in Interpretation,” Yad Vashem Studies 16 (1984): 1-50.

The other (related) set of debates concerns whether or not fascism (or Nazism, which is not necessarily “fascist” because of the centrality of antisemitism to its ideology) is rooted and sui generis, or in any way comparable to tendencies in the “democratic” West, and most sensitively, whether or not “the Holocaust” can be compared with other forms of group violence.  See Tim Mason, “Intention and Explanation: A Current Controversy about the Interpretation of National Socialism,” The Führer State: Myth and Reality, ed. Gerhard Hirschfeld and Lothar Kettenacker (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981): 23-40; also Peter Baldwin, “Introduction,” Reworking The Past (Beacon, 1990) for a review of these issues insofar as they impact on “the historian’s debate” (Nolte vs. Habermas, et al, 1988 and after) regarding continuity and rupture in German history.  Conservatives seem to have set the agenda for postwar history of Germany, Nazis, and antisemitism; see Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? The Dispute About The Germans’ Understanding of History, trans. Knowlton and Cates (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1994): All these eminent scholars use the terms of enlightenment to “unmask” each other; no one reports the contours of Hitler’s antisemitism as it is revealed in the texts quoted in my essay, perhaps because their organicist assumptions would become apparent.

Deborah Lipstadt takes a similar line in Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (N.Y.: Free Press, 1993).  Though ostensibly defending the rationalism of the Enlightenment, Lipstadt discards any attempt at comparative analyses of twentieth-century genocides as right-wing relativism akin to Holocaust denying.  On Pol Pot and the sorely tried Khmer Rouge: “…what they did was quite different from the Nazis’ annihilation of the Jews, which was ‘a gratuitous act carried out by a prosperous, advanced, industrial nation at the height of its power’“ (212).  Nor does she correctly report a key point in Nazi propaganda and in their precursors: Referring to the conspiracy theory of the Illuminati, she claims “Those who unearthed this conspiracy were able to impose a logical coherence on the seeming irrational nature of their charges–bankers aiding communists–by arguing that the bankers anticipated that the communists would create a world government that they would then appropriate and control” (37).  This is the only time the book deals with the seemingly irrational claim that Jews were both capitalists and communists.  But it was Hitler’s contention that all Jews were materialists destroying normal racial harmony, and that the Bolsheviks were not communists but the secret representives of finance capital.  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion claimed that Jewish communists would swindle the masses into overthrowing their nationalist masters, then would turn the masses over to the bankers who would fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham and the Chosen People; i.e., the switch is missing from Lipstadt’s account.

                [3] See Barbara Heyl, “The Harvard “Pareto” Circle,”Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 4 (1968): 316-334.  Talcott Parsons changed his earlier (less organicist?) views perhaps as a result of the Pareto seminars organized by the charismatic physiologist Lawrence Henderson, an admirer of Mussolini, in the early 1930s; the Paretans were seen as fascists by their liberal opponents at Harvard.  Participants included Crane Brinton, Henry A. Murray, Clyde Kluckhohn, Joseph Schumpeter, Bernard De Voto, and Robert Merton  However, after sketching a horrifying picture of fascist social theory at Harvard the author concludes that we are finished with such ideas, thanks to the alliance with the Soviet Union during World War II.  Merton is a key figure in the history of science as presently constituted, relativistically emphasizing the shaping power of institutions against 19th century optimism and claims for science’s relative autonomy.  See Puritanism and the Rise of Modern Science; The Merton Thesis, edited with Introduction by I. Bernard Cohen (Rutgers U.P., 1990): 1-111, for a glowing anticommunist account of Merton’s eye-opening salutary effect on a hitherto vaguely Marxist (hence, narrow, dogmatic, utopian) British-dominated discipline: “[Mentioning earlier works of the 1930s and 40s on science and society:] It is notable, however, that these works were all produced by socially-minded scientists and were not informed by considerations of professional sociologists [i.e., Durkheim], but exhibited instead a liberal or vague Marxism.  In fact [!] such writings–almost exclusively by British men of science–tended to be more concerned with the potentialities of science as a major molding force of a better society than with an analysis of the possible effects or influences of society on the course of science and its stages of development” (4-5).

                [4] See Carolyn F. Ware, The Cultural Approach to History, ed. for the American Historical Association (N.Y.: Columbia U.P., 1940): 3-16, also Introductory Note.  This source was recommended by Leo Marx at the American Studies Association meeting, November 1990, to demonstrate the links between his generation of scholars and the New Left: they were all pluralists, opposed to hegemony and élitism.  The élitism under assault by Progressives was “scientific history” which led the investigator into uncharted waters.  The “new social history” is drawn from this “centrist” and “bottoms up” ideological tendency.  See also the first issue of Commentary, 1945, which aligned itself with the Progressive movement.

                [5] E.g., Louis Dumont, From Mandeville to Marx:The Genesis and Triumph of Economic Ideology (University of Chicago Press, 1977).  This subtly antisemitic and overtly anti-materialist specimen of cultural anthropology follows Sombart, Weber, and Parsons; it was based on lectures delivered at Princeton in 1973.

June 30, 2013

The origins of “political correctness” (2)

political-correctness2[Update, 9-20-13: rules against “hate speech” were enforced by the institutionalized censorship in the movie industry long before the 1960s. “Entertainment” was sharply differentiated from “propaganda” or any movie that portrayed other countries unfairly. I.e., “Love” trumped “hate”. Amor vincit omnia. Thank you Will Hays and Joseph Breen, and lately, Loretta Lynch!]

The Paula Deen affair has returned the subject of “hate speech” and “political correctness” to the headlines. In part one of this sequence ( and I tried to correct the widespread impression on the Right that “cultural Marxism” was responsible for what is considered to be an infringement on the First Amendment. Indirectly, I sharply criticized “paleoconservatives” for aligning themselves with such as Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby that blamed the imputed Jewishness of the German “Marxist-Freudian” refugees for gagging white, Christian Americans. (This was especially notable in Bill Lind’s piece on the origins of PC. See the dissemination of his line here: For more on Willis Carto see

In this blog, I will extend my discussion, taking into account 1. The hypocrisy of punishing Paula Deen for using the “N” word long ago while liberals deploy a racialist discourse that fails to criticize the very notion of “race”; and 2. The understandable confusion arising from the politics of the [Comintern initiated] “Popular Front” against fascism in the 1930s, wherein communists and New Deal liberals were seen as one coherent political entity, which they were not. Both were statists and bureaucratic collectivists, but whereas New Dealers were conservative reformers trying to stabilize capitalism, communists were revolutionary socialists, hoping to turn the world upside down.

First, the question of hypocrisy. Even before the Soviet coup, it was the progressive movement that dreamed up the notion of the hyphenated American in the nineteen teens (1916). Their purpose: to counter the then left-wing generated notion of proletarian internationalism with the notion of ethnicity. Out went the melting pot, and in came the hyphenated American, thanks to such as Randolph Bourne and Horace Kallen (the latter a teaching assistant to William James, the pragmatist philosopher).

(See, and The latter blog quotes Horace Kallen.)

American nationality was thus redefined. The syncretic melting pot American was out. The hyphenated Americans were in. There would be a mosaic or salad of grouplets, sharing the same capacity for love and compassion. Hence was born “multiculturalism” prefigured by the German Romantics as a weapon against rootless cosmopolitans. The very notion of the individual was erased, for “individualism” was associated with narcissism, selfishness, jingoism, and hateful big business, the latter allegedly disgraced during the Gilded Age. The “individual” was all Head and no Heart; such a demon atomized society, leaving in its wake the lonely crowd. He was the generic “Jew,” and was indistinguishable from the WASP elite.

As a further weapon against class politics during the Great Depression, the big liberal foundations adopted the notion earlier popularized by William James as cultural pluralism: that social conflict could be managed with better intercultural communication: there would be no problem with “compromise” if we understood each other better. Later progressives would see that abusive language hampered the rational state of mind that would allow warring parties to submit to mediation. Ralph Bunche saw through the intercultural strategy in his lengthy memoranda to Gunnar Myrdal (ca. 1938-1940), and was stigmatized as an “economic determinist” for his pains in Myrdal’s An American Dilemma (1944). (See Also

Thus the stage was set for Ivy League professors and big liberal foundations to bargain with troublemaking blacks during the late 1960s. (See I have shown in this review of progressive politics that there was no critique of race or ethnicity, but rather an assault on the dissenting or “different” individual. Paula Deen was caught like a fly on flypaper, and no public figure has, to my knowledge, criticized the liberal media for hypocrisy, for it is they who persist in the racialist language of groupiness, and who believe that keeping the “N” word to oneself will solve major structural problems, e.g., the opposition of teachers unions to school choice and/or merit pay.

Second, the confusing Popular Front. Some readers were unconvinced by part one of this blog sequence. They persist in seeing a purely communist lineage for PC. For many on the Right, the boundaries between social democrats and communists have been blurred. For this, we can blame the Comintern that initiated the coalition of bourgeois parties and revolutionary parties from 1934 onward. But make no mistake: the Democratic Party remains a bourgeois party, making strategic gestures that only appear to be anti-racist, but this strategy will not bear close scrutiny as I argued above.

This passage from Hugh Thomas on Spanish politics at the time of the Popular Front (1934) may help to explain why there are divergent views on the origins of political correctness:

“At this time, with the shadows of war and fascism alike growing, the Soviet Union had a good reputation in Spain as elsewhere among Left and progressive people. The great Russian experiment did not yet seem to have betrayed its ideals. Thanks to an extraordinary programme of propaganda and unprecedented secrecy, the facts of agricultural collectivization were as yet unknown, and the persecution of Trotsky not understood. The communist party was to claim that they were responsible for the pact of the Popular Front which fought the Spanish general elections of February 1936. But it required little prompting for the socialists to adopt the salute with the clenched fist and bent arm (originated by German communists), the red flag, the revolutionary phraseology, the calls to unite in the face of international fascism demanded throughout the world by communist parties. ‘Anti-fascism’ and ‘the Popular Front’ were becoming powerful myths, almost irresistible to those who both loved peace and liberty and were impatient with old parties. Equally important on the Right were the myths of empire and national regeneration. The appearance in the Cortes elected in 1933 of a fascist and a communist was a portent and a warning.” (p.117, The Spanish Civil War)

In Thomas’s account, communism and social democracy bled into one another, thanks to the [preventable] polarization in Spain. Extend that bleed to Europe and to the United States, and you have the impasse of today.  Bereft of history, but armed with groupiness, the First Amendment becomes an item in the arsenal of demagogues where “ignorant armies clash by night.”

Paula Deen is road kill.

Paula Deen

March 22, 2012

The Great Dumbing Down (2)

Devils from Rila Monastery

In a prior blog, I attempted to “periodize” the moment when American culture turned toward stupidity and away from the Prometheanism implied in the conception of American exceptionalism and the making of the Constitution by such as Alexander Hamilton (not that Hamilton was an American Candide). In that blog (, I fingered William James and other “pragmatists” as major figures in the deterioration of education. Now I add that moderate man Reinhold Niebuhr to my enemies list.

In the Fall of 1957, I took David Brion Davis’s course in American intellectual history at Cornell U. I have a clear memory of his stating that “the devil was back” in his discussion of Hawthorne and Melville. What Davis meant was that both writers took a dim view of the theory of progress, attacking its key precept, that man was malleable morally (as demonstrated in travel narratives or utopian communes such as Brook Farm) and that better government and capitalism could ameliorate what had been lives that were “nasty, brutal, and short” (Hobbes). Davis also lectured about the importance of Reinhold Niebuhr in furthering that pessimistic ideology after the second world war. See That Niebuhr should have switched his political views at that time, puts him in the camp of other pessimists who sought to dampen American hubris after the defeat of  the Axis powers by the Western democracies (see my blog on film noir:

It was also a moment when the high school population exploded and when returning veterans were availing themselves of the G. I. Bill, flooding colleges with cocky survivors of a war unprecedented in its mayhem. The major universities took note and reconstructed the humanities curriculum in collectivist and anti-urban directions– a direction that would halt the feared road to communism in America. Simply put, the real Marxist-Leninists were mostly purged, and “right-wing social democrats” (the “moderate” conservatives) took over and now are referred to as “the Left.” Their statism (but one that includes “ a reasonable amount of private property”) often leads some right-wing authors to conflate social democrats with Leninists, Italian Fascists, and Nazis.

As the Wikipedia biography of Niebuhr demonstrates, the key element in his conversion to “Christian Realism” (said to be a forerunner of “realism” in foreign relations), was the linking of evil to self-love and pride. Comes now the canonical reading of Melville’s Promethean Captain Ahab as the epitome of narcissism; indeed the Icarus legend was used to describe his literary fortunes from 1919 on. (As Ahab, his wings melted, plunging HM back to earth where he either drowned as Narcissus or burned as Icarus. In any case, he was demonic—the mirror of the Parsee Fedallah– and that theme remains dominant in Melville criticism as taught in the dumbing-down schools and universities controlled by the so-called left.)

Melville was ambivalent about “evil” as an independent entity apart from historically specific institutions and individuals. At times he wrote “evil is the chronic malady of the universe,” or in another mood he would say that good and evil were braided together so confusingly that he could say through one of his characters (the ambiguous Pierre) that “virtue and vice are trash” and that he must “gospelize the world anew.” I am convinced that Mark Twain read Melville, for in his fragment “The Character of Man” he echoes Melville in his most depressed and misanthropic moods.

To summarize: “moral relativism” has been a term used by some conservatives to condemn the explorations typified by the modern, mind-expanding world. What it meant to the Enlightenment was not the trashing of “virtue” but the realization that such conceptions as good and evil were socially constructed and could vary according to the institutional structures and resources of different societies; that in lauding individuals or social practices as either laudatory or destructive, such valuations had meaning only in specific historical contexts. Because many of the Founding Fathers were highly educated men, conversant with antiquity as well as with the discoveries of European explorers, they did not rely upon such ahistoric conceptions as The Devil to mold the Constitution that would govern negative human impulses in favor of a more orderly progress than had heretofore existed. But in the “progressive” world view of such as William James and Reinhold Niebuhr, the human capacity to be educated and uplifted has been ringed round with anxiety and self-doubt. Learning is hard enough without that extra dollop of immobilizing fear. For more on “the moderate men” (Melville’s phrase), see Moderation is a buzz word without concrete meaning, and is a key word in psychological warfare.

March 13, 2012

Dumbing down: when did it begin?

William James drawn by S. Woldhek

I. I have been mulling over the deterioration of public speech and what passes for social and political theory for some time, trying to pin down a date or social movement that I can identify as chief perpetrator of the Great Dumbing Down. (For the second installment of this blog see The Great Dumbing Down (2). Perhaps we (and everyone else) have always struggled with mass stupidity and the temptation of the dark passions, but if one studies the writings of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., one must be struck by the quality of their argumentation and the deep knowledge of European history that each brought to the debates that eventuated in the Constitution. Moreover, many of these men were all too aware of humanity’s dark side, so they looked to the law OR to the ordering forces of religion to produce what has come to be known as “American exceptionalism.” Although Biblical Christian fundamentalists (the “traditionalists”) have emphasized the divine origin of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, secular students of history have read enough late 18th century American history to recognize the materialism and scientific attitudes that many Founders deployed to construct a representative republic that fostered “liberty” and “meritocracy”—at least for propertied white males.

Still, we are left with the ambiguity that surrounds the questions of free will and determinism. What exactly do we mean by human “freedom”? Not to explore the strongly divergent meanings attached to “liberty” is fatal to education in a would-be representative republic. And Hamilton’s notion of popular sovereignty, what he called “the consent of the people” or the voice of the people as the source of political legitimacy (see Federalist #22), was obviously dependent on a quality education for everyone who voted. Hence the disaster of the Great Dumbing Down. Charles Sumner and Walter Lippmann were two important Americans, who, in either the 19th or 20th centuries, fully understood the danger of poor schools.

Note that I use Hamilton’s language in describing our political structures. He was afraid of mobbish democracies, and I cannot blame him. Liberty is a much abused conception that can be annexed by divergent ideologies, as we have seen in the controversies of the day, but it is necessary to strictly historicize each raging issue.

For instance, the U.S. Constitution, a timeless document for many,  was framed in the context of a mostly agrarian society, while European empires looked longingly at the Western Hemisphere for expansion/wealth. Much of our political and economic history cannot be understood without seeing the vulnerability of the new republic to invasion by rival European empires. Since that time, industrialism, urbanization, continental expansion, changing patterns of immigration, and ongoing rivalries between developing countries have drastically changed the meaning attached to our key words (e.g., “immigration,” just as these changes called forth social movements to defend entrenched interests, or in many cases, to challenge them with modifications that anyone would deem to be revolutionary in their implications. Such was the case with social democracy, communism, and fascism. In post-Civil War America, it was first Populism that challenged capitalism, then Progressivism (that co-opted populism) that dominated. With constant interaction between America and Europe and the other major states, the terms of social theory became weapons in the hands of ideologues, using words and comparisons to suit their particular propaganda requirements. This website has been devoted to sorting out such confusions. See for instance

II. What progressivism, socialism, communism and fascism have in common is their statism and collectivism. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish “right-wing social democrats” from the other authoritarian doctrines that have typified human history (for a definition of “right-wing social democrat” see my comment below or go to For instance, some persons on “the [far] Right” think that everything a progressive does is either socialist, communist, or fascistic. Social democrats do the same thing when they use the term “totalitarian” to conflate Soviet Communism and the various European fascisms that developed after the first world war. Indeed, London’s Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, an outpost of the British Labour Party (though there is no formal linkage), will host a conference later this year investigating psychoanalytic theory and practice in the “totalitarian” regimes (see

“Totalitarian” is a made-up word that no historian or political theorist should espouse. That is why I think that social democrats of this stripe are responsible for dumbing down public discourse, hence undermining the Enlightenment—the Enlightenment that produced the doctrine of natural rights—a conception that was much abused by the Jacobins of the French Revolution.

Keep in mind that Progressivism in the United States was bipartisan and reacting against populism and/or the labor movement in the late 19th century. That is why hip scholars approve of the philosophy of the hugely influential William James, 1842-1910 (see Once you go for Jamesian pseudo-pluralism, stability and social cohesion over 1.the search for truth and 2. the best ways to level up/create wealth, you are left with ambiguity and confusion, what I call the anti-ideology ideology or “pragmatism” of “the moderate men.” You have donned the steel helmet, the perfect object admired by Goebbels. (See, and

pragmatists Peirce and James

Moreover, these populist-progressives believe that “Wall Street,” is monolithic, and will undoubtedly play both the race card and will delve into antisemitism to beat “the big money” (“finance capital”) that they, along with some social conservatives, are already associating with Mitt Romney. And yet, a significant number of financiers remain strong Obama supporters, while others have broken away and support Romney. The latter believe that the Keynesian “demand-stimulus” solution to recession is ineffective and are upset over the mounting deficit, hence they worry about bankruptcy as has been threatened in European social democratic regimes.

What can parents and other concerned readers do? Silent acquiescence and going limp are not options. Study, fight back, use public libraries and the resources of the internet, and ask your children and students and friends what they mean by certain words. Draw them out and don’t be harshly critical, but stay with the subject until differences are clarified. We will even find agreement over some basic values, different though we may be at the outset. Start a book club. Study the curricula of your children and young adults and decode their agendas. (For part two of this series see

December 18, 2009

Assimilation and citizenship in a democratic republic



from the S-M collection, UCLA

I have just finished reading a recent book by Eric P. Kaufmann, The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America  (Harvard UP, 2004). If Kaufmann’s reading of U.S. history is correct, then almost everything on this website is either mistaken or misguided. But I don’t think so. What his book  does is replicate the same Harvard line that I experienced there in the Graduate School of Education: that “sub-cultures” were the unit for sorting out people. Moreover, it promotes the “multiculturalism” that I have reported repeatedly as deceptive and confusing: it purports to be anti-racist, but maintains a racialist discourse. (See

     In the case of Kaufmann’s book, he generally underreports or misreports his sources in the service of anti-imperialism, cultural relativism, internationalism, affirmative action, and the United Nations, while lauding the comfort of multiple group affiliations and the irreplaceable warmth of ethnic ties and local color. Taken together, American identity is a “mosaic” in the same sense that Horace Kallen meant (see below), though at times he distances himself from such organicist formulations. 

 At no point does the author define his terms, and though he is a sociologist, well-acquainted with such distinctions as the rooted versus the rootless cosmopolitan, or gemeinschaft versus gesellschaft *, he does not confront the problem of citizenship in a democratic republic: i.e., the necessity for the individual to vote from a standpoint of knowledge, rationality and deep immersion in the policy issues that will determine the course of her life. At no point, does Kaufmann, himself the product of mixed ‘races’, rank the West or the politically libertarian heritage of Britain as possibly superior to competing political arrangements. Hence assimilation for him is simply a rupture with the family of origin and submission to the hegemony of an alien ethnic group (I think he means the Hebraic Protestants of New England), rather than the absolutely imperative reconfiguration of what we think of as family loyalty in a situation where emancipation from the dead hand of the past is a possibility. As I have said before here, either we teach the critical processes necessary for popular sovereignty or we turn tail and return to an oligarchy masked as democracy. (See my blog on the Southern Agrarians and their role in reconstructing the humanities curriculum in the late 1930s.

     The book’s most alarming rewriting of history is the account of the melting pot, seen as the forced imposition of WASP hegemony until some key figures in the early 20th century—John Dewey, William James, and Jane Addams—introduced what he calls “Liberal Progressivism” (or what I have termed elsewhere corporatist liberalism). Added to the Progressive juggernaut, Kaufmann (self-described as a “mutt”) makes much of the soiled “individualist-expressive” line of Greenwich Village, tarred by its love for the “exotic” “bricolage,” but still acting against the dreary old WASPs. But hold on, a choppy and embarrassing U.S. history will have a happy ending if we adjust to “liberty” (undefined) and “equality” (undefined) in the context of a feast of ethnic preferences, with no one ethnicity dominating.

    Here is an excerpt from  Hunting Captain Ahab that contradicts Kaufmann’s presentation of Horace Kallen’s theory of cultural pluralism as directed against “Anglo-conformity” and ethical universalism: [Kaufmann:] “… Kallen expressed his political vision of America as a ‘democracy of nationalities, cooperating voluntarily and autonomously through common institutions in the enterprise of self-realization through the perfection of men according to their kind’ (Kallen 1924: 123).” Contrast this claim (Kaufmann, p.155) with my use of the same Kallen publication of 1924 and the great ideas (Adam Smith’s homo economicus and the specter of proletarian internationalism/solidarity) that Kallen was refuting with his Lamarckian assertions.

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

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

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

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

*Gemeinschaft refers to a “community” bound together by mystical bonds such as those of “race,”  in the case of multiculturalism, a “mosaic” of mutually tolerant communities, to use Kaufmann’s formulation. Collectivities, not individual persons, have “individuality.” By contrast in a rational state (Gesellschaft), the state exists to protect all its citizens, and individual persons have enumerated rights and duties. (Charles Sumner was defending this kind of state when he argued against slavery.) See the article cited above for a brief discussion of Toennies and his followers, critics of the rational state in favor of the mystical one. (see ) 


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

[ii]   James W. Ceaser, Reconstructing America, Chapter 2. Ceaser differentiates among the Founders, arguing that Jefferson’s political rationalism existed in tension with received ideas on race; the overall effect was to replace political science with natural history as the guide to sound government. Condorcet, the most comprehensively democratic philosophe, the champion of internationalism, popular sovereignty, public education, feminism, and progress, and enemy to separation of powers and checks and balances (as ploys of elites to subvert democratic will), was annexed to the conservative enlightenment to give liberal credibility to the New Deal elevation of the executive branch of government over the legislative branch. See J. Salwyn Schapiro, Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism (N.Y.: Octagon Reprint, 1978, orig. pub. 1934, repub. 1963), 276-277: “Security for both capital and labor is essential if freedom of enterprise is to survive…Responsibility in government can be more efficiently maintained by giving more authority to the executive, who would wield power, not as an irresponsible dictator, but as a democratically chosen official responsible to a legislature whose essential function would be to act as the nation’s monitor. Progress has been the peculiar heritage of liberalism to which it must be ever faithful in order to survive.” Condorcet joins Paine and Jefferson as fodder for the moderate men of the vital center.  [Added 3-20-10: I may modify this footnote after I read Frank Manuel’s book Prophets of Paris. I am especially concerned about whether or not Condorcet embraced Rousseau’s notion of general will, a notion that I oppose.]


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

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

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

[v]    See for instance, Louis Filler, Randolph Bourne (Washington, D.C.: American Council On Public Affairs, 1943). The Council was a Progressive organization producing pamphlets during the war and promoting cooperation between capital and labor. Louis Filler (also a Nation writer) explained why Randolph Bourne, espousing an orderly “international identity” for America and explaining war as an outgrowth of nationalism, had been wrongly deemed as irrelevant to the youth of the 1930s; we need Bourne today.

    Filler explained, “Alien cultures, Bourne declared, brought new forces and ideas to American life. [Those bossy, snobbish Anglo-Saxon assimilationists who controlled everything, so] discouraged retention by immigrants of their Old World heritage did not thereby create Americans. Filler quotes Bourne: They created “hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards but those of the mob.” Moreover: “those who come to find liberty achieve only license. They become the flotsam and jetsam of American life, the downward undertow of our civilization with its leering cheapness and falseness of taste and spiritual outlook, the absence of mind and sincere feeling which we see in our slovenly towns, our vapid moving pictures, our popular novels, and in the vacuous faces of the crowds on the city street. This is the cultural wreckage of our time, and it is from the fringes of the Anglo-Saxon as well as the other stocks that it falls. America has as yet no compelling integrating force. It makes too easily for this detritus of cultures. In our loose, free country, no constraining national purpose, no tenacious folk-tradition and folk-style hold the people to a line.”

   What would be done about such a state of affairs? [Filler:] “America is a unique sociological fabric, and it bespeaks poverty of imagination not to be thrilled at the incalculable potentialities of so novel a union of men. To seek no other good but the weary old nationalism–belligerent, exclusive, inbreeding, the poison of which we are witnessing now in Europe–is to make patriotism a hollow sham, and to declare, that, in spite of our boastings, America must ever be a follower and not a leader of nations.” Do not, therefore, denigrate any culture that has driven stakes into the American soil: do not, certainly, term it un-American: “There is no distinctive American culture.” Do not, above all, set up American material achievement as a token of American fulfillment: “If the American note is bigness, action, the objective as contrasted with the reflective life, where is the epic expression of this spirit?” We were patently inhibited from presenting in impressive artistic form the energy with which we were filled. The reason was that we had not yet accepted the cosmopolitanism with which we had been endowed. Americans of culture could be made of the Germans in Wisconsin, the Scandinavians in Minnesota, and the Irish and Italians of New York. “In a world which has dreamed of internationalism, we find that we have all unawares been building up the first international identity (76-78)…[Bourne’s] ideas, his experiences, the warp and woof of his personality were not necessary to a generation that believed it had discovered impersonal economic laws that (properly applied) would at last bring about a settlement of human affairs (133).” Filler is obviously writing against the Red Decade.

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

November 19, 2009

The Scary City: Lamprecht, Becker, Lynd

[Added 11-8-10: The prolific historian Karl Lamprecht is discussed below. It is helpful to know that he was a strong supporter of Pan-Germanism and expansionism as a way to buy off the working class, hence to counter the influence of Social Democrats (revolutionary socialists) in Germany. Like other imperialists, he emphasized the crucial role of the “leading personality.” See discussion in Rohan D’O. Butler, Roots of National Socialism (1941), pp 194-96 . ]

Some historians have complained about the influence of Michel Foucault on the programs of historical associations and periodicals. I agree about his enormous influence, but applaud him insofar as he focuses us on institutions and ideologies in the diagnosis of mental illness;  I also think it is an error to identify one particular intellectual with the near-hegemony of “cultural history” or cultural studies. The same error was committed in the book The Shadow University by Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate, which blames whacko speech codes and secretive kangaroo courts in academia to the baleful influence of Herbert Marcuse and especially his essay on repressive tolerance. The post1960s generation, however, did not initiate those tendencies in the teaching of history.

This website has been reviewing the salvos directed at the “scientific historians” of the late nineteenth century by the German historicists (derived partly from the 18th C. theologist J.G. von Herder, the founder of comparative literature and cultural studies based on his concept of the Volksgeist) who created the field of “social psychology,” a field that simply swallowed up all of history in its capacious maw; it was the latter group of extreme subjectivists/relativists (oddly calling themselves “progressives”) who invented the policy of “multiculturalism” and the practices of “postmodernism.” Some historians reading my blogs will be aware of Carl Becker (a student of Frederick Jackson Turner). Becker was promoted by conservative liberals as a great historian and great artist (the linking is crucial) after his death in 1945. They might profit from a series of five lectures in English entitled What is History? by the German historian Karl Lamprecht (d.1915), an important influence on Becker (who seems to have simply appropriated his ideas), along with William James’s. These Burkean gradualists knew exactly who and what the enemy was and took accurate aim: cities (the site of urban disorder and revolution), working-class militancy, “the economic interpretation of history,” the philosophes of the Enlightenment, eighteenth-century  liberalism (Adam Smith), the machine, materialism, empiricism, the possibility of an objective history of the past as it occurred,  the overstimulation of the modern world that was causing mass neurasthenia and the exaggerated belief in the perceptiveness of the individual fact-gatherer (aka narcissism) as well as the susceptibility of the masses to hypnotic suggestion by demagogues.

Here is more detail about Lamprecht’s intervention in the campaign for the establishment of “culturally-oriented investigations” and the positing of “national identity.” See What Is History? Five Lectures on the Modern Science of History, by Karl Lamprecht, Professor of History in the University of Leipzig, translated from the German by  E. A. Andrews and published by Macmillan, 1905. William E. Dodd, Wilsonian historian and diplomat, had a hand in the revisions for the English-speaking reading public. Here is what the preface says about Lamprecht’s importance:

[William E. Dodd:]  “Like everything else in this world, this little book has its raison d’être and its special occasion. As to the former, the author felt that in his work on the “History of Germany” he had carried his investigations far enough into the different culture-epochs to justify him in formulating and presenting to the public his ideas as to the content of history and the true method of writing it. The immediate occasion came in the form of an invitation to take active part in the Congress of Arts and Sciences which met in St. Louis during the World’s Fair. There the first lecture was delivered. Being called on also to deliver some addresses on the occasion of the celebration of the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Columbia University, New York, in October of the same year, it seemed proper to follow up there the same line of thought. In this way originated the last four chapters of the book. Another incentive was given in the literature of recent psychological science, particularly in von Lipps’ “Outlines of Psychology,” –a book which seemed to invite a further application of the laws of psychology to the science of history.” For more on William E. Dodd, see

Here are two excerpts from the Third Lecture (Transition to Present Conditions) that lay out the ideological program of Lamprecht (playing doctor to society) and his successors among Pragmatists and Progressives and New Left postmodernist critics of mass culture/modernity. First he diagnoses the primary symptom of decadence, Reizsamkeit. (Because of individualistic science, Romanticism and naturalism, the world was too much with us.):

[Lamprecht:]   “The first effect of the revolution is a complete dissociation of the former socio-psychic conditions. The social changes with the resulting increase of city activity, with its nervous haste and anxiety, its unscrupulous abuse of individual energy, progress of the technical arts, and the extraordinary multiplication of the means of communication throughout the world, the rapid development of all the sciences which deal directly with man, followed this enlargement of life: all these and a thousand other moments of modern development produced a great number of new stimuli, which neither the individual nor the community could escape; for they formed in their totality, so to speak, a new historical atmosphere.  But the individual as well as the soul of the people as a whole, being continually surrounded, besieged, and permeated by a flood of new impressions, soon lost the former self-mastery and weakly yielded to the new stimuli. This went on, in the beginning, under a strong repulsion of the higher moments of will; energy was absorbed in a high degree by the acceptation and augmentation of the new stimuli, and was thus limited to an energetic volition in economic life and to a marked receptiveness in the domains of the higher intellectual culture. Moral standards (Anschauung) and intellect were taxed to the utmost; they were subjected to the perpetual assault of the new stimuli.  This is the cause of the general nervous excitement, which now began and which often came to light in pathological investigations–it was now that neurasthenia was discovered as a special form of disease,–and which has not abated until today, but rather entered into the very psychic nature of the present and has become a constituent of the excitability or mental attitude of the age.

There appeared hand in hand with this increased irritability, according to the law of interaction, and as a sort of accompaniment, a condition of motor-psychic weakness: quick but shallow excitation of the will and a strong tendency to the enjoyment of excitation became general, because the much-desired compromise of excitations was never produced; excitations followed each other so rapidly that the even temper of mind, the oequitas animi of the ancients, was only seldom acquired.

These were, and partly still are, conditions which can be observed in all departments of life, but most distinctly among the entrepreneur class and in the new society. The entrepreneurs, the social and political leaders of the upper bourgeoisie, are above all typical representatives of this modern Reizsamkeit. How does this class of men despair during great economic crises, then how rash are they in periods of prosperity! And how irregular do these people appear in their pleasures, when, after the excitement of the day, they repair either to the exciting charms of color and form in a modern home or to the modern theater or concert-hall, where the mind is kept in constant tension!

Even the laboring classes created under the new conditions are subject to similar, though modified, psychic impressions; up to what degree is shown by the fact that special forms of psychosis, as e.g., the traumatic one, have appeared in that class as well as with their employers. Have the older classes remained untouched by the modern psychic state of excitability? We can hardly say positively that the peasants themselves, since they have exchanged their chalk accounts on the wall-door for the ledger and begin to read the market quotations, remain untouched, not to speak of the artisans, who have been seized by the rush of industrialism in the cities. What of the intellectual classes? The new nervosity is winning its way among them in various unobserved, and therefore most devastating, forms. (98-102)”

To counter the devastating effects of Reizsamkeit, a new science is taking shape, one with a definite political program:

[Lamprecht:]   “It is obvious…that, in a time of great psychic changes, the intellectual sciences would be thrust into the foreground. In this very domain a strong reaction set in against the unsystematic, individualistic investigation of the last decades; an analysis of the phenomena, to be made from new points of view, was required, and thus one came to the paramount methodical principle that, in the phenomena of intellectual life, the innermost, psychologic proceedings should be clearly understood, so that their reduction to general laws might be possible, be it laws of psychological mechanics or of evolution or biology. This is the impulse which is coming more and more to dominate the intellectual sciences, and the goal is a new synthesis rather than the detail work of the last few years.

When thus the imaginative and intellectual activities entered into the vast sea of modern stimuli, taxing their own lines of development toward new dominants, a general stimulus seems to have been applied. Men began to collect their forces again in the several lines of human endeavor; personal motives and aims were soon more clearly defined and often not quite so high-flown; the excessive demands of the so-called Übermensch gave place to the more simple and yet entirely modern postulates as well of individuals as of the state, and in society.  Ethical movements with high-set altruistic aims began to take form–a universal peace being one of the chief of these; a so-called aristocratic feeling or appearance became the first demand of cultivated society; piety was no longer considered a luxury; the former exchange of aesthetic and religious devotion disappeared, nobody regretting or perceiving its loss. The great unifying elements, society and the state, gain the first place in men’s minds, and that not because of the influence of a distinguished personality, like that of Prince Bismarck, but as a result of entirely new tendencies and motives in the lives of individuals. Unreasonable economic competition was first attacked; new legislation corresponding to recently developed social-moral ideals was enacted; men felt the old avenues of progress, opened by the laissez-faire policy of the years just passed, closed by the new ideals of a growing moral and clerical cosmopolitanism.” (113-115)

And Lamprecht means the rooted cosmopolitanism invented by his hero Herder, mentioned several times in the text: “…I must not fail to mention the honored name of Herder, the hundredth anniverary of whose death has just been fittingly observed by Germans throughout the world. In the realm of Germanic cultures, and even beyond it, Herder stands as the creator of the conception “Folk soul” (the psyche of the masses).  He was the first to admit the importance of the socio-psychic demands for the proper comprehension of the most important of all human communities,–nations,–and to draw from these the necessary conclusions…Science becomes a prophecy, philosophy turns to poetical metaphysics. That was the character of the great German period of subjectivity that began with Klopstock, and ended in the spreading branches of the philosophy of identity–the period to which Herder, as one of its first great phenomena, belongs….”(19-20, see also p.226 for Herder as rationalist).

His last lecture imagines the future of cultural history, a “scientific Weltgeschichte“. The new discipline of “World History” anyone? There is a brief discussion of Lamprecht and his influence on the American historian Becker in “Carl Becker: On History and the Climate of Opinion,” by Charlotte Watkins Smith, Cornell University  Press, 1956, pp. 66-68. The author somewhat evades or minimizes the influence of Lamprecht, in my opinion, but quotes Becker’s letter to a sociologist, A. J. Todd who was critical of Lamprecht’s subjectivism and abandonment of scientific procedure:

(Becker:)”It is quite possible to deal with the various sorts of particular activities in any period–the political, economic, religious, and intellectual activities–as illustrating, or as related to, certain mental or psychic characteristics common to the social group or nation. These common characteristics thus become a unifying principle round which facts or events, political or other, may be grouped.” (67)

What I found most interesting about Carl Becker’s last work is his volte-face with respect to the egoistic and self-deceived Enlightenment philosophes depicted in his The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers, Yale UP, 1932) after the war started. In his address to The American Philosophic Society, April 22, 1943,”What Is Still Living in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson?” (published in Detachment and the Writing of History: Essays and Letters of Carl L. Becker, Cornell UP, 1958, a publication funded by the Ford Foundation), Becker reinterpreted the intellectual legacy of Thomas Jefferson, libertarian and agrarian advocate of small government, discarding Jefferson’s outmoded views to favor the social democratic state of the New Deal. Becker contrasted the Roosevelt administration and its regulatory measures with the selfish and ruthless laissez-faire policies of nineteenth-century liberalism that, he said, had led to global war and that he implied characterized Nazism! (234-235) Facts were now more separable from “the climate of opinion,” and the changing value biases of the participant-observer; apparently (in my view) historische Individualität could come and go as politically required.

Becker wrote: “…the incredible cynicism and brutality of Adolf Hitler’s way of regarding man and the life of man, made real by the servile and remorseless activities of his bleak-faced, humorless Nazi supporters, has forced men everywhere to reexamine the validity of half-forgotten ideas, and to entertain once more half-discarded convictions as to the substance of things not seen. One of these convictions is that “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” and “the inalienable rights of man” are generalities, whether glittering or not, that denote realities–the fundamental realities that men will always fight and die for rather than surrender.” (p.238)

Stating that Jefferson’s core values were timeless, Becker’s essay ends with his rewritten Declaration of Independence that he calls the “modern declaration of democratic faith”:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that the individual man has dignity and worth in his own right; that it is better to be governed by persuasion than by force; that fraternal good will is more worthy than a selfish and contentious spirit; that in the long run all values, both for the individual and for society, are inseparable from the love of truth and the disinterested search for it; that the truth can be discovered only in so far as the mind of man is free; that knowledge and the power it confers should be used for promoting the welfare and happiness of all men rather than for serving the selfish interests of those individuals and classes whom fortune and intelligence have endowed with a temporary advantage; and that to secure these high aims in the life of man no form of government yet devised is so well adapted as one which is designed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” (240)

Of course Hitler and Nazism were also opposed to laissez-faire, but American diplomats and propagandists were intent on carving a clear channel between the two societies, indeed an antithesis. When historians quarrel over the question of relativism, it is often the case that there is a sub-text invisible to many readers: whether or not there are certain structural similarities between combatants in World War II as they had attempted to meet the crisis of capitalism in the interwar period.

Cf. Robert S. Lynd, Knowledge for What? The Place of Social Science in American Culture (Princeton U.P., 1939).  Like other slippery corporatist liberals, Lynd is transfixed by images of disintegration brought on by the excess of liberty and individualism transmitted by English high culture and spawned, he claimed (erasing the artisan radicals and scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), by aristocrats.  Freud, unlike Jung, is one of their (degenerate) band, pessimistically resigned to the eternal wars generated by innate aggression (240).  Lynd’s faux Marxist polemic (originally the Stafford Little lectures at Princeton, 1938) may be seen as a manifesto of the structural functionalism produced by Talcott Parsons and other ‘antifascist’ supporters of Italian Fascism at Harvard.  Reprinted six times by 1948, Knowledge For What? could stand as handbook for all the corporatist liberals/social interactionists discussed in my book on the Melville revival, including Lewis Mumford and the New Left Melvilleans.  For these radical critics, American society was made decadent by “the culture of cities” and the unfettered Ricardian economics that bred imperialism (personified in the hyper-individualist proto-fascists Ahab and Pierre).

As a masked Burkean conservative (239) Lynd, a Columbia University professor, presented himself as the defiantly open-minded objectivist, resolutely overcoming philistines commanding college boards of trustees who notoriously restrained Marxist insights and all independent research; Lynd will be satisfied with revolutionary transformation if that proves warranted by the collective of interdisciplinary social scientists, by training fit to examine the minutiae of human behavior in specific settings, the better to make us happy.  Lynd’s (German idealist) historicist philosopher-kings take some matters for granted: (English empiricist) history, social psychology and philosophy (hitherto associated with laissez-faire theories of government) are obsolete, but useful insofar as these tools are dragged away from the Ivory Tower and made handmaidens to social scientists dedicated to the problem-solving and relevance urgently needed by a society in crisis (175, passim).  Most crucially, as Lynd cautions near the end of his book, people are not only naturally unequal in endowments, they are decisively motivated by emotions, not by educated understanding based on experience; with the (unmourned) waning of Christianity and all religion, there can be no national cohesion without irrational appeals; anyway there are only different versions of the truth (cf. “intersubjectivity” in postmodern literary criticism) (166).

This passage says it all: “No large society can long exist which is careless of this element of community in feeling and purpose.  The tactics of a Hitler are profoundly right in so far as they recognize and seek to serve the need of human beings for the constant dramatization of the feeling of common purpose.  In our own culture, the roots of the earlier forms of common sentiment were in certain structuralized forms of authoritarian security: church, nation, local community, and family.  These latter, with the exception of nationalism, have weakened or disintegrated with the growth of historical criticism, science, and a mobile individualism.  The democratic right of the individual to think–or to think that he thinks–has played its part in the discrediting of some of these earlier authorities that were wont to focus man’s feelings.  And democracy, interpreted largely as the right to be free to take or leave the world about one and to acquire private property, has afforded little basis for deep common sentiment.  The heavy current reliance upon a man’s job (and the resulting offensive-defensive labor balance of property rights) to hold our culture together is due, not so much to the fact that people want only money, as to the fact that this is the clearest value that remains in a culture which has allowed other values to trickle away (85)…. American culture, if it is to be creative in the personalities of those who live it, needs to discover and to build prominently into its structure a core of richly evocative common purposes which have meaning in terms of the deep personality needs of the great mass of the people (230).”

(This is of course a paraphrase of Hitler’s populist analysis of Jewified modernity and its remedy, but Lynd does not seem to notice, having described Nazism/Fascism solely as racial theory run amok (159n), as “creeping” “leprosy” (221), or as “dictated…class-interest” 240.)  Lynd’s admired rooted cosmopolitans include (besides Mumford) Charles Horton Cooley, Frederick Jackson Turner, Carl Becker, Charles Beard, Vernon Parrington, Thorstein Veblen, George Santayana, John Dewey, Karen Horney, Harold Lasswell, Franz Boas, Carl Jung, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Gardner Murphy, and the newly formed Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (164fn).

Lynd’s book was a call for concerted action by antifascist, anticommunist social science intellectuals resolved to plan and deliver a totally analyzed, predictable, and controlled society where true love, spontaneity and mutuality could once again reign.  As an irrationalist, he did not have to adumbrate a rational theory of accountability in the organicist, harmonious utopia to be guided by the “blueprints” of rational and selflessly neutral planners–the social scientists who alone would determine what “cultural structures” needed change (237)–nor as a professed antifascist did he suggest a Fascist coup-type transition (213) to the benign and well-adjusted post-democratic but anti-authoritarian people’s community where everyone would get an education in the opera of everyday life. Where are the Foucauldians when you need them?

September 21, 2009

Managerial Psychoanalysis: Jung, Murray and sadomasochism (2)


image by Steadman Thompson, UCLA Sadomasochism Collection

In Henry A. Murray’s articles and speeches, personal history, class interest, and the images and fears of an orphaned WASP élite besieged by “Marxian” realists, united to shape a life-project: to identify the enemies of democratic capitalism, repair and restore the world shattered by the Judases of modern science, and to bring world peace without massification.  From the mid-1920s until his death in 1988, Herman Melville was Murray’s inspiration, guide, and alter ego; Murray’s “Melville,” however, resembled Hawthorne, not the author I have resuscitated in Hunting Captain Ahab.  Murray was not shy about declaring the source of atomization and dissolution: there are good Jews like the physician Alvin Barach who have helped emancipate Murray from his upper-class family; but there are bad Jews, such as ancient Hebrews who brought dogmatism and infallibility into the world, and whom Murray associates with the stubborn mechanistic thinkers who are hampering the next step in our creative evolution toward a planetary lovely family, wherein cultural opposites appreciatively quiver in fruitful Jungian tension. (Fabian Socialist H.G. Wells would show the same proclivity for social democracy/moderation.)

      As idealist thinkers, both Melville/Hawthorne and Murray try to mobilize “the heart” (psychic depths which are the repository of real fact), to counter a world which is delusive and lethal because it is, or may be, massified, leveled, and internationalized by materialism; i.e., made enjuive.  The emotional response to this fantasy of miscegenation and pollution is the fear, revulsion, and hostility of the purity reformer.[1]  Murray’s personal anxieties (partly shaped by an upper-class perspective) brought him into confrontation with the democratizing tendencies of the last two centuries: like other nativist radicals (including Irving Babbitt and other “New Humanists”), he may have found relief in the notions of social type, archetype, national character, and race (summarized in his phrase “varieties of human nature,” with race accepted as a category in his Explorations) with their clean distinctions and relative stability over time.

     In his Poe-Henry Adams style autobiographical sketch, “The Case of Murr,” Murray declared his allegiance to William James and sympathized with William McDougall (the hereditarian racist Chairman of Harvard’s Psychology Department, who followed James in 1920, said by Murray to have been vanquished by Harvard behaviorists in 1927, and whose social ideas are nearly identical to those of Lothrop Stoddard, a Harvard Ph.D., like McDougall, a supporter of Nazi eugenics in the 1930s). Here, as elsewhere, Murray (whose stereoscopic vision had been needlessly impaired by his mother’s rage for conformity and the slip of a physician’s scalpel) defends the only source of “fact” which allows him to excel, aligning himself with other victims of the ruthlessly boundary-blurring and therefore miscegenating modern world:

    [Murray:]  “William James (who was said by a later member of the Harvard department to have done unparalleled harm to psychology) had become one of Murr’s major exemplars by that time, and the young man found himself agreeing with almost everything his hero had to say–completely, for example, with the heretical statement that ‘Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses of feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making, and directly perceive how events happen and how work is actually done.’

     “This idea that the ‘real facts’ are to be found not on the surface of the body or in the full light of consciousness but in the darker, blinder recesses of the psyche was of course anathema to the majority of academic psychologists, who were militantly engaged in a competitive endeavor to mold psychology in the image of physics, a competition in which positive reinforcements would be reserved for those who could bring forth experimental findings with the highest degree of face-validity, statistical significance, and verifiability in all cases, obtained by the most reliable and precise methods. To be among the leaders in this race [note the pun] it was necessary to legislate against the ‘blinder strata,’ to keep away from those events which intellectuals at large assumed to be the subject matter of psychology, to disregard individual and typological differences, and to approximate universality and certainty by measuring the lawful relationships of narrowly restricted forms of animal behavior, of physiological processes in general, and of the simplest sensory and sensorimotor processes of human beings in particular. In short, methodological excellence was dictating (more than it did in any other science) the phenomena to be investigated, with the result that in those days psychologists were not the experts to be consulted about problems involving varieties of human nature, as biochemists, botanists, and ornithologists, for example, are consulted about problems involving varieties of chemicals, plants and birds. [Does he mean some of us are crows, some are eagles, or some of us are flowers, some are weeds? McDougall did.] On this general issue, Murr, at variance with his contemporaries, was facing in the opposite direction with the hope of devising the best possible methods for the investigation of obscure phenomena, realizing that it is the part of an educated man, as Aristotle said, to know what degree of precision is appropriate at each stage in the development of each discipline. Although, for various reasons, Murr did not attempt any direct exposures of the blinder strata of feelings, he would in due course find ways of eliciting meaningful imagery and fantasies from which one could infer the nature of some of the components of the blinder strata.” [Italics mine. “The Case of Murr,” 60, 61].

      Self-control, social control, and the moderating of radical ambition, not enlightenment, were the objectives of Murray’s dive for real fact. These “ways of eliciting meaningful imagery and fantasies” would take the form of the Thematic Apperception Test (devised in 1935 with Christiana Morgan) or the OSS operative recruitment test.

       Murray’s publications openly profess the objectives of these scientific procedures.  The tests were designed to uncover the subject’s latent redness (resistance to authority); to prove his freedom from neurotic symptoms, his proficiency at switching identities without cracking, in leading men in hierarchical “teams,” and his manliness–in part, predefined as stamina in resisting the appeals of radical movements (or, freedom from the “Icarus” complex), and the capacities of OSS operatives to endure humiliation and arbitrary discipline.  But Murray was undismayed that the disclosing subjects did not necessarily know the objective of the test, nor how the subject’s responses were to be used.  Murray, who denounced the Marxian and Freudian strait-jacket, ignored the human rights of his clients, perhaps because the testing procedures he promoted (and which Harold Lasswell admired) were to serve worthy goals and programs of “efficient” psychotherapy, “antifascism,” development, stability, and inspirational and humanistic leadership; goals and programs which were however defined and administered by the sophisticated  élite possessing, like the successful OSS operative, a “sound, moderately conservative political philosophy,”  and with whom Murray had been connected, at least since his conversion to Barach and Melville in the 1920s (rather like the conversion of the “socially responsible,” “liberal” capitalists who created the Committee for Economic Development in the 1940s).The OSS “assessment of men” test designed to recruit spies and practitioners of sabotage and psychological warfare (268),would be applied to personnel screening for other (unspecified) leadership positions.[2]

       And yet, like the helpful, protective and power-sharing modern businessmen of the Committee For Economic Development, Murray was not driven to dominate those he controlled or to seek self-aggrandizement at the expense of others.  For instance, Murr “had come to psychology with the hope of advancing current knowledge about human beings, not to raise his status on the totem pole [!] of scientists.” Murr is no grubby ambitious Head person, alienated and bookish, but a practical patrician: independent, inwardly harmonious, integrated and in touch with his nature and all of suffering humanity:

 [Murray:] “Murr’s varied intimate relations with hospital patients, ranging from a notorious gangster and dope addict to a champion world politician with infantile paralysis, together with privately experienced emotional revolutions, upsurges from below consciousness, had given him a sense of functional fitness, the feeling that all parts of his self were in unison with his professional identity as he defined it, and that he was more advantaged in these ways than were many of the book-made academics who talked as if they had lost contact with the springs of their own natures.”  [Murr, Shneidman,61]

   Murray’s social theory all-too-insistently demanded that we adjust to his facts; unsurprisingly, Murray told me that he, like Melville, had at times yielded to the irrational, and, like his “integrated” hero, had lived in the most painful ambivalence.[3]  Yet in print, Murray presented himself and his organicist fantasies of the future with images of harmony in difference (Jungian pluralism). Such escapes from social reality, from the painful disillusionments of contemporary existence in which a deceptive economic oligarchy (not peacefully competing interest groups) determines our future, must be common in readers who “love” Melville, yet cannot (publicly) face his pain and indignation at being (covertly) dominated, or his self-identification with defiant seekers like Ahab and Margoth, Pierre and Isabel: versions of the romantic Wandering Jew. More bluntly put, the “Melville” revival may be rooted in a fantasy, by no means confined to Hitler, that  the heartless, shattered and decadent modern world can be restored  to its “normal” condition of class harmony and cooperation by stigmatizing and expelling bad Jews with their coldly analytical Jewish spirit: the lethal perpetrators of the Unpardonable Sin and agitators of the twentieth-century labor movement.[4] Thus, in a wondrous Melvillean paradox, the Melville revivers would have expelled the historic figure Herman Melville/Ahab (by Martin Dies’ definition, unambiguously un-American and a commie-Jew), from twentieth-century literary criticism, a removal which had its precedents in Melville’s own praxis.  

 Kinky history:    Symbolists such as Jung and Murray are people ruled by fear; they walk a tightrope, manfully trying to maintain their vanguard position while suppressing the evidence of their senses to please an upper-class clientele.  One way to achieve “balance” is to eschew history with its allegedly “reductive” and “simplistic” materialist explanations for change.  The Symbolist establishes his sophistication, superior taste, and heroism by painfully accepting the unfathomable mystery and complexity of “archetypes” which teasingly surface, slither and sink, finally rendering “reality” and “truth” ineffable, mischaracterizing materialism as an arrogant Margothian reliance upon appearances, i.e., vulgar positivism.

      It is no accident that so many of the “modern” artists, critics, and political scientists who rose to prominence after 1917 have been attracted to the theories of Carl Jung, an adherent of Jacob Hauer’s racial symbolism.[5]  In 1930, Jung praised Moby-Dick as the greatest American novel; four years later, he wrote that Picasso (Ahab-ish in his analytic cubist phase) was suffering from a “schizoid syndrome” (“schizophrenia” a term he clarified in Jung, 1934, fn137). In 1936, Jung explained Nazi violence as the disruption of the German communal psyche by the Wotan archetype [Webb, 401].  Jung’s reactionary influence upon artists, alternative therapists, educators, and social theorists, is probably underestimated.

     The conservative wing of Melville criticism has stigmatized its “liberal” rivals as “subjectivist” and “Freudian”: overly romantic, myth-making, and preposterous in their treatments of Melville’s life and art.  In the next section, I will show that Henry A. Murray (one target, along with Weaver, Mumford, Arvin, and Miller) has identified himself with the Jungian tradition, but has co-opted the technique of Freudian psychoanalysis for the purpose of preventive politics and mind-management in the service of counter-revolution.  I suggest that my elegant Symbolists are possessed by Tory images of the People, that they attack these Doppelgängers which, not surprisingly, are representations of their class enemies (a process shared with the humble Martin Dies and his “populist” successors such as Joe McCarthy).  Yet the Symbolists continue to have credibility in high places as radical and rational analysts of society and of the human situation.


     Madame De Farge: “Why? Why? Why?Why?” [“Why” gets bigger until it produces BLOOD, in A Tale of Two Cities, 1935, William Van Dyke, director.]

      [illustrated drawing by Steadman Thompson] “She asked for it.

       “Hesitantly, uncertainly, she asked for it. The guardsmen, used to such requests from well-dressed young girls like her smirked knowingly.  The idea was not new to them as it obviously was to her.

       “When they stripped her to hang her to the flogging cross she asked them to stop short of removing her [red] panties.  They did, to her great disappointment.  She need not be so disappointed, however, for they plan to take them off, rip them off, indeed, later when they do to her certain other things she did not have the nerve to ask for but which will not disappoint her, however much she may struggle or cry out.” [Text to drawing by Steadman Thompson, dated June 19, 1946. Sadomasochism Collection, UCLA]

      [Michael J. Schaack, Captain of Police, Anarchy and Anarchists (Chicago: Schulte, 1889), 683, 686.]  The London celebration of the anniversary of the Paris Commune on the night of March 18, 1889, consisted of a small crowd of boozy, beery, pot-valiant, squalid, frowsy, sodden Whitechapel outcasts who shrieked and fought in a small hall in their district under the eye of a single policeman.

     “Better not go in sir,” the policeman said to a correspondent who entered the door of the small hall at 87 Commonwealth Road.  “There ain’t no danger, but it’s very unpleasant.”

     It was the fumes of scores of dirty pipes and a thousand other causes that made the air almost unbearable.  About two hundred people, a fourth of whom were lushed, soggy Whitechapel women, were in the low-ceilinged hall, while a long-haired Pole was screaming an address from the platform.  He cursed and swore with frantic blasphemy, and called upon his hearers to arm themselves and wade to liberty through blood.  Whenever he uttered the word “blood,” the muddled and maudlin crowd set up a shriek of “Blood, blood, blood!” that was deafening.  All of the women and most of the men had soiled red flags and handkerchiefs, which they waved in the air as they shrieked, “Blood!” in chorus.  Then they would sink back into drunken indifference till the word “blood” was mentioned again.

    Two women and a man, says the correspondent, lay in senseless stupor, with the crowd treading on them.  One woman’s rags did not half cover her.  An illiterate Englishman pushed the Pole aside and began to harangue the people from the platform.  It was the most shameless, ribald, and obscene harangue imaginable.  In the midst of it one woman struck another with a piece of a broken beer glass, and the two females began to fight like cats.  Faces were cut and bleeding.  No one paid the slightest attention except the policeman, who looked indifferently on.  Presently one of the women ran sobbing from the hall with her face streaming blood.  Another woman started after her, when a man made a sign to a policeman and she was restrained.  Then a neighbor plucked the correspondent’s sleeve:

      “Don’t let that nasty scene deceive you,” he said shortly, “it doesn’t mean that Socialism is dead in London.  It means that it is more intelligent.  They’ve left off shouting in public and begun to work under cover.  This thing tonight proves it.”


     Are we prepared, or are we even preparing for the shock?

     Let none mistake either the purpose or the devotion of these fanatics, nor their growing strength.  This is methodic–not a haphazard conspiracy.  The ferment in Russia is controlled by the same heads and the same hands as the activity in Chicago.  There is a cold-blooded, calculating purpose behind this revolt, manipulating every part of it, the world over, to a common and ruinous end.  Whether the next demonstration of the Red Terror will occur where its disciples are goaded to desperation under despotic measures, as in the land of the Czar, or in our own country, where they are allowed to preach their bloody doctrines under a broad construction of the American constitutional right of free speech, time alone can tell.  [end, Schaack excerpt] 

     “The rightful place for women…is the home, and not the world of commerce or industry. Marriage is her true career and one for which she is trained from infancy. Needless to say a society which is of this nature is totally unlike our proletarian, mass-minded society of the year 1953 which is concerned with social security in the form of government handouts and has no conception of beauty or appreciation for anything worthwhile….

     “We instinctively prefer a restrictive, aristocratic sort of life in which all of the essentials of a true aristocratic society are present. We love privacy and by nature are esthetes and hedonists who seek beauty and pleasure from the restrictive environment  in which we live. Our pleasures are those of the refined, cultured, sensuous lady or gentleman. In our choice of bizarre costumes and unconventional, prohibited dress, we are not only unconsciously protesting against the proletarian manners and dress of contemporary society, but we are likewise exhibiting a preference for all that is unproletarian, hence at heart we thoroughly hate and abhor all that is contrary to our conception of an ideal society. The real truth of the matter is that we, the majority of the readers of “Bizarre,” are patricians or aristocrats by nature who would be happier living in Victorian days than in the present atomic age.

     “As a student of sociology, I can proudly and thoughtfully say that the proletarian society of 1953 has not supplanted the aristocratic, genteel society of 1893.  The spirit of Victorian days not only still lives but many of the customs, dress and manners yet flourish among a selective few, who wisely refuse to yield to that proletarianization of society which people of the masses mistakenly refer to as progress….” [Fred S. Mac, defending tight-lacing and hobble-skirts in “Bizarre.” Box 54, Sadomasochism Collection, UCLA]

 “Young, professional man, interesting but submissive personality, seeks dominant lady of any age, race, or nationality.  I am 30 years old, tall, have excellent position and income. Have many varied interests such as psychology, collection of rare and unusual books and pictures, female wrestling and judo.  Never married, free to travel anywhere….” [Justice Weekly, April 23, 1960, p.8, Sado-Masochism Collection, UCLA]

 “…I have long wanted to draw but apparently my drawing, like my writing needed a strong compelling urge and conviction that nobody would ever see it except me [,] to make it come.  Only because I have absolute assurance that my drawing and writing will never see the light of day do I lack the fear that they should be found unworthy.  Writing that is for myself alone can be vile if it merely suggests its content to me.  Drawing that is terrible is adequate if it brings to mind the perfect picture I copied when I drew it.

     “My writings and drawings are partly memory keys, a glance at a page, not even reading the words, brings whole stories into my mind, stories which, because they are expressed to the full extent of my mind at the time, are uncriticizable, my mind not being greater than they to look down on their wording and grammar and style.  The pictures I draw in air are perfect, colored, balanced, harmonized, more perfect than anything ever done in oils by Titian.  If my pencil sketches can return these to the forefront of my mind instead of letting them slide off into oblivion, they have served their purpose, no matter how contemptible they may be as art.

     “I told Blanche that the pictures and the stories are mood-builders.  That is all they are.  I seek a thousand channels to the same pleasure.  I build a thousand carved entrance gates to a single court of joy.  My pleasure, much as the pleasure of music, is single and unvarying but the outward forms are myriad.

     “I have beat the boundaries of my soul to find the extents and limits of my desire and pleasure, forcing myself to accept nothing, merely asking, “Does this please you?”  “Does that?”  Without ever limiting myself in the future I have found the present bounds and set out forthwith, having fenced the woods to examine all its shady pathways and ultimately to know and catalog every tree.

     “I can only say that I have no regrets.  I do feel slightly soiled and tired when I arise and I hasten to clean up myself and the room but throughout all my regular life I am not ashamed and I take a great positive joy in it when I throw myself into my private life.  [Steadman Thompson, ms. ,June 5, 1946.Sado-masochism Collection, UCLA]


      What do Jungian psychologists and other romantic conservatives mean by “individuation”?  Surely not that you, the once conflicted Pierre, but now the rectified and integrated patient, having dredged up the “shadow” are entitled to reject your parents’ values and to think for yourself (a process that could challenge the legitimacy of ruling élites and the versions of social reality they propagate).  Au contraire, the cured Pierres, having eyed the dragon, retreat to ever more firmly drawn boundaries and hole up in towers: their erect postures, military and correct, signify victory over temptation: they have resisted the merger with  Mammon: “the least erected Spirit that fell/ From heav’n.”  We will never see them bent over (like Melville’s “invalid Titan”), rifling “the bowels of their mother Earth/ For Treasures better hid”: treasures connoting enlightenment and the illicit power to pursue “perfection” in this world: the outcome of labor, creativity, self-direction, the rejection of “servile pomp” and the demystification of God and Heaven. [Paradise Lost, I,675-690; II, 229-283]  Perhaps Murray was dismayed by Ahab, Pierre and Isabel, because such characters have merged with nature (the digging “lower orders”) to meet the insatiably curious, joyfully seeking, constantly reformulating self (“Pierre just emerging from his teens”).  For Pierre, incestuously bound to Isabel and not yet a disenchanted Mortmain, is seeing grey, a color so deranging to  his class and family, he will retrogress to flashy conservative black and white: Look not to exploitative institutions to find the source of Evil, but beneath the skin; evil originates within our bodies (or matter) and its deceptive and self-deceptive imagination: “…when there is no author, they fear those evils that they themselves have feigned,” wrote Filmer of the People and its natural disposition to believe its self-serving fantasies.

      Perhaps Melvilleans who follow Murray’s critique of Pierre are interested in projective identification, not because they want  more rational social organization,  but to rationalize the escape from political commitment: by “checking our projections” (accepting the dragon within ourselves, living with the eternal bipolar opposites in “unity”), we “free” ourselves from the heavy tasks of structural transformation, positive social action and social responsibility; like Murray’s mother (a babe in arms in his unanalyzed dream), we cough up history and swallow Jung’s reified, static “opposites” as real: “light/dark, above/below, white/black, male/female, etc.” [140]. With Melville, we successfully defend our chimneys; inwardly we are crushed and wasted.  Symbolist-style conservatism (which defines itself against Jewification: Red Terror, anarchy and dissolution) depends upon pervasive social and psychological constrictions which, as we have seen, only undermined the stability of every social relationship through the fear of “pain” and the pursuit of impassibility.

     For Jung as for other organic conservatives since the Greeks, the Delphic oracle’s adjuration to “know thyself” was a warning against the narcissism of democratic egos: with “self-knowledge” one accepted personal limitations and the descriptive accuracy of received categories.  The “beaten boundaries” of rural England (where officials ritualistically struck the earth with a switch to trace the borders of the local parish’s domain) may be seen as expressing the self-abuse inflicted through tight-lacing: modeling one’s body and soul to fit the property relations of rigid class societies and their bizarre formulations of reality.[6]

    Jung had warned of the dangers to the questing, probing, dissecting, boundary-blurring Picasso: “this inner adventure is a hazardous affair and can lead at any moment to a standstill or to a catastrophic bursting asunder of the conjoined opposites” [140].  In his Picasso prognosis, Jung sounds like Ishmael or Henry Murray contemplating the dangers posed to Ahab and Pierre by their shadows: Fedallah, his tiger-yellow Filipino crew, and dark Isabel:

 “The strident, uncompromising, even brutal colours of the latest period reflect the tendency of the unconscious to master the conflict by violence (colour=feeling).” [Jung,140]

     Here is Filmer’s image of the People again: Jungians seem to find their lost equilibrium in Mumford’s golden, sedate and well-regulated patriarchal families; not in flapping constitutional democracies, with their “narcissistic” players filled with sinful self-regard, hence (as Lasswell would say) concocting “grandiose” and “chimerical” visions of Utopia.  These unhinged Ahabs and Claggarts are dangerously free to “rise,” to take advantage of the emancipatory possibilities in a new world where “the masses” have (or want) political rights and accountability, have limited the rights of property, and where they have fought for, and (to some degree) attained freedom of expression.  And like Ishmael in the crow’s nest, flooded with pantheistic longing to unite with  nature, the narcissist will slip and fall: the “factions” produced by the unchecked ardor of the legislative branch were as dangerous to the Federalist Ship of State as “the syren song of equality” was to foolishly self-scrutinizing Pierre, or “romantic” Rousseau to New Humanists following Irving Babbitt in the 1920s.

            [1]Or, good fences make good neighbors. See Derrida, Critical Inquiry, Spring 1988 on Paul De Man’s view of decadent Europe as Jewified or enjuive.

            [2] The TAT subjects were told “this is a test of literary imagination….” Henry A. Murray, “A Method For Investigating Fantasies: The Thematic Apperception Test,” Shneidman,391; The OSS Assessment Staff, Assessment of Men: Selection of Personnel for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (New York: Rinehart, 1948), 20,60-61,440,462-466 and passim.

          [3] But he could have treated Melville’s mental illness. Personal interview, Nov.4, 1987. Cf. the harmonious and uxorious Murray presented by Salvatore R. Maddi and Paul T. Costa, Humanism in Personology: Allport, Maslow, and Murray (Chicago and New York: Aldine-Atherton,1972).

            [4]Burton Hendricks, The Jews in America (New York: Doubleday, 1923). Carey McWilliams is the only writer on anti-Semitism I know to have mentioned this important best-seller. Hendricks’ claim was that the Sephardic and German Jews were no threat to America; only the “Polish Jews” were the problem because they insisted, unlike American radicals, that there were irreconcilable antagonisms between labor and capital. Immigration must stop at once. Cf. the arguments of the Protocols. Hendricks explained that the German Jews were too individualistic to comprehend the team spirit that had built capitalism in America, the achievement of Protestants, not Jews, as some were claiming. Hendricks’ book was part of the campaign against immigration.

            [5]James Webb, The Occult Establishment, 1976. Cf. Henry A.Murray, Explorations, 738, “Jung’s…racially determined sequences of fantasy….” hypostatized “the collective unconscious.”

             [6]My account of “beaten boundaries”  is a gift from John Seeley, sociologist and psychoanalyst, May 1989, who commented on the materials I had gathered from the Sadomasochism Collection at UCLA. His insight about “the lesson of the beaten child” (the terminal weakness of the oppressed) was gleaned from his clinical experience in the treatment of former abused children.

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