YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 12, 2015

The “free speech” muddle, or cherchez la femme

Student protest, Philipp Arndt photo, Business Insider

Student protest, Philipp Arndt photo, Business Insider

[The following blog is a lengthy excerpt from my unpublished ms. Eros and the Middle Manager. Footnotes not included, but note quotes from primary sources. This ms. excerpt is intended to clarify the problem of “free speech, by analyzing how recent (idealist) sociology has created a muddle where rational discourse is hard to find.] 

The New Pluralism-without-Snakes-and-Spiders, the “multicultural” condition of the postwar progressivism, is stressful for everyone.  Progressive institutions are only vaguely and intermittently committed to the no-holds-barred search for truth, while the very fact of any pluralism and relativism frighteningly destabilizes authority for the vertiginous veteran of authoritarian families.  The persons I have studied, Herman Melville, the Victorian poet James Thomson (“B.V.”), Columbia professor Raymond M. Weaver, Picasso, Hitler, Jungian psychoanalyst Henry A. Murray, Charles Olson, and other Symbolists, are all disturbed by Mother, the emblem of inscrutable modernity; it is Mother who sows confusion with mixed signals.  Melville has described such behavior in Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), exhibiting the institutional double binds that demanded both artistic truth and corporatist order, independence and loyalty, making it impossible for him to please authority whatever he did and terrifying him with the scowl that marred the placid maternal gaze, the cloud that scudded before the sun.  For Melville, one defense against such lingering big chills was to divide people (or himself) into all good or all bad (switching objects); he patrolled the wall that prevented the sadness of his own black bile from leaking into and depressing the happy mother giving her all to the “perfectly happy” family.  It is her failure that must be denied, her secrets that must be kept to spare the already overburdened mother further suffering.

Ideally (for the Symbolists) authority should be rational and lucid: the good objects are predictable; they are not hypocrites; they would not suddenly turn on the child who valiantly has been trying to please them.  For Melville’s Ishmael it was the noble savage Queequeg who provided such a rescue; several Leninist critics have seen, not Ahab, but Queequeg and other non-whites on board the Pequod potentially leading the revolution (C.L.R. James, 1953, H. Bruce Franklin, 1978).  In the attempt to recapture an image of innocence, the Symbolist will defend the self from unfair and unmerited accusations.  Such crimes include soiling oneself in infancy or early childhood before one was physically ready to be “clean”; later, the budding scholar’s (solicited!) criticisms of illegitimate authority.  For the bewildered child/student, then, the bad object is above all the one who has switched, perhaps in retrospect seen as the peddler of false utopias (Mother the switching Jew of the Home) who encouraged her victim to let down his guard and then put him on trial for unpremeditated, unremembered, indescribable, but gruesome crimes.  In other words, here the urge to split has a rational component: It is the “liberals” who make us “crazy”; there was a different problem in families that demanded moral purity, conformity, and obedience.  Such environments were repressive in the sense that renunciations were excessive, but, theoretically at least, one conformed to a clear set of rules.  There were myths and rituals that channeled aggression away from the adorable new baby to defeat clearly defined enemies.  I use the past tense, because the localism of traditional societies has been destroyed by the penetration of cosmopolitan mass media and an expanding global market; the corrupting city, moral ambiguities in tow, has invaded the country.

The Symbolists are complaining about socialization in families or universities that seem to demand autonomy and unbounded criticism of their practices, but turn on the child/student when “difference” turns into opposition; again, opposition not to core values, but to hypocrisy, or what appear to be two sets of rules.  The frantic “paranoid” maintenance of firm, impermeable boundaries between good and evil might be understood in this context.  So might be the eagerness of radicals to defend blackened oppressed groups from distorted and hostile representations–other innocent children unfairly stigmatized by “Victorian culture” or “bourgeois morality.”  As academics, these radicals will pursue image studies and other variants of idealist sociologyBelieving that images, like “hegemonic” institutional forces, mold and stamp their victims, these radical pluralists move the furniture around to prevent wild “outbursts” from either Right or Left.  For this they are handsomely rewarded by élite universities invested in preventive politics.  The pluralists write funny:

[Maurice H. Krout outlines the province of social psychiatry, 1933-34:]  “It is concerned with the motivation of the hobo, the delinquent, the would-be-suicide, the prostitute, the drug-addict.  From the point of view of individual participation social psychiatry is interested in mass movements, viz., financial crazes, booms, migrations and rushes, panics and stampedes, war manias.  From the point of view of adjustment effected by deviate personalities it studies revivals, mob action, political campaigns, and organized gang rule.”

[Neil Smelser, Talcott Parsons’ collaborator, declares his fitness to the Harvard Society of Fellows, 1959:]  “At the present time my research interests have turned toward the field of mass behavior–those occasions on which organized human activity gives way to outbursts such as riot, panic, fad, boom, craze, hysteria, revivalism and revolutionary activity.  The aim of this study is to locate some of the determinants of these kinds of behavior in the social structure, and thereby attempt to distinguish the occasions on which one, rather than another, type of mass outburst is likely to occur.  The intended contribution of the study is to assemble much of what is known about mass behavior into a more satisfactory theoretical framework.”

The Tory biases of Krout and Smelser are obvious: for Krout, evangelical protestantism, criminality, politics, and mob action are similarly deviant.  Smelser adds revolution to the witch’s brew.

If institutional double-bind theory is more explanatory than the Krout-Smelser idealist sociology, the implications for psychological counseling would be clear: the issue for “splitting” liberals and radicals would not be owning up to one’s angry but forbidden impulses against authority, the repressed childhood memories to be retrieved in treatment so as to live with appropriately “mixed feelings” or “ambivalence.”  Probably this is the relevant problem for explicitly authoritarian families (Catholics,  evangelical Protestants, Marxist-Leninists) whose veterans have been forced to idealize authority and who may not criticize the rules, not even in fantasy.  But the more heimlich approach to splitting would recognize double-binds in pseudo-liberal institutions, the Kafka-esque worlds that may not disclose their rules until they are broken, which trap parent and child, professor and student alike, and which send some of us scurrying away from “bureaucratic domination” to “alternative” “simpler” cultures or subjectivist epistemologies or levelling S-M rituals that affirm human weakness and brutality, mocking hopes for enlightenment and universal tenderness.

We have become “self-consumer[s] of [our] woes,” tubercular addicts of the disappearing body (Schwindsuchter).  I am quoting from “I am,” by the nineteenth-century “mad” peasant poet, John Clare:

“I am–yet what I am, none cares or knows;

My friends forsake me like a memory lost:

I am the self-consumer of my woes–

They rise and vanish in oblivions host,

Like shadows in love frenzied stifled throes

And yet I am, and live–like vapours tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,

Into the living sea of waking dreams,

Where there is neither sense of life or joys,

But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems;

Even the dearest that I love the best

Are strange-nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod

A place where woman never smiled or wept

There to abide with my Creator God,

And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,

Untroubling and untroubled where I lie

The grass below, above, the vaulted sky.”

The “mad poet” laments the abandonment of intimates who trouble him because he has troubled them: they did not wish to know him as he was, really, to himself.  He yearns for a virgin nature (his own), neither touched nor touching, where he would be neither crushed by father’s disapproval nor confused and made guilty by mother’s switching emotions.  In The Future of an Illusion, Freud did not blame the unruly masses for acting out if their societies were economically exploitative; such class societies did not deserve to exist.  Moreover, his unambiguous allegiance to scientific method deflects charges of orthodoxy and reproaches those followers who ignore institutional sources of social violence or refuse to revise psychoanalysis.  Compare both John Clare and the radical Freud to conservative Freudians and Kleinians as they explain ambivalence and violence.

Persecuting parents or their surrogates are containers of the denied and split-off (Oedipal) rage of the child; the switch from friend to fiend is what Freud meant by “the uncanny,” the heimlich object which disconcertingly becomes unheimlich; it is the return of the repressed.  In the Kleinian formulation, the loved one becomes threatening because s/he is invested with forbidden (pre-Oedipal) hostile feelings projected into her/him by the child.  As the child becomes more upset, the “angry” parent/love object appears to be more and more hostile and must be controlled; thus the troubled patient has a boundary problem, confusing the Self and Other.

The usefulness of the concept of displacement and projection is said to have been born out in clinical treatment of anxiety hysteria, phobias, obsessive-compulsive neurosis, etc., but I question its application to all violent social interactions as numerous “progressive” social psychologists analyzing the “scapegoating” of blacks by whites, Jews by Christians, and “business” by “labor” had implied in the 1930s and 1940s.  Such cultural anthropologists and social psychologists were, like Ruth Benedict, adjusting society to the New Deal and circumscribing the proto-socialist imagination while deploying Marxian language.  If gut perceptions of danger are denied, will we not doubt our grasp on reality?  Is it not also possible that the troubled patient with fluid boundaries, thus unable to differentiate the self from the parent and hence experiencing “projective identification” has not developed (or has not been allowed to develop) autonomy; has not established a boundary that protects the legitimacy of personal rights and entitlements from the assaults and confiscations of authoritarian parents or parental surrogates, primarily because the culture is premodern or covertly protofascist or fascist, i.e., its corporatist rulers view “bourgeois individualism” (a.k.a. “mechanical materialism,” the body free of original sin) as the source of vanitas, feminization and decadence; that what is really threatening about “individualism” is the stubborn notion advanced by recent “mechanical materialists” that there are social-economic antagonisms that cannot be ignored or passed off as delusional; universal facts perceivable by anyone that are not “group facts” dependent on blood, soil, and institutional context as Frederick Jackson Turner and other “materialist” social historians or “new historicists” would insist?

[A former paranoid schizophrenic diagnoses modernity and fascism:]  “Protestantism has indeed its share of responsibility for the tragic situation of today, but that responsibility is largely a result of its very successes.  It has helped to produce a new mechanized and urbanized and depersonalized world with which it is unable to cope.  Its exaltation of freedom of inquiry and freedom of trade has unlocked a Pandora’s box of uncontrollable furies.  The hope of the future, as I see it, lies in the development of the inner control of conscience which is so repugnant to Dr. Fromm and of the loyalty to that which transcends the Hitlers and Mussolinis of this war-stricken world.”

“[On persecution delusions: the paranoid fantasy contains a “kernel of truth”: the patient may experience empathy with an unconscious wish of the persecutor; also]  The ‘truth’ may also relate to the observations of events during childhood that were denied at the time.  These elements later return to consciousness distorted and magnified in an irrational, delusional form.”

“Paranoid character is the term applicable to an individual whose personality structure is dominated by marked suspiciousness, querulousness, and persistent rationalized hostility against other persons or groups.  The use of scapegoats or “enemies,” the need to ‘defend’ against a hostile world (representing externalized aggressive impulses within the individual himself), the tendency to fight excessively over minor causes (often becoming litigious), and frequent contempt for others are the traits usually observed in this disturbance.  Here the characteristic and most frequently observed defense is projection–the displacement of the individual’s unacceptable wishes and thoughts onto others, who then are felt to direct these ideas back to their source (i.e., I hate him; no, he hates me, and therefore I am justified in attacking and beating him).  This permits the rationalization of the individual’s hostility, and allows him to defend his megalomanic image and fantasies.  In spite of their pathology, however, certain paranoid characters have contributed to some of the basic systematic research in science, as well as classic works in art, music and literature.

“…No personal experience has come to light which could help to explain the intensity of Hitler’s hatred of the Jews…It is a disturbing question to consider when was the last occasion on which this man, who was responsible for the death of six million Jews, actually spoke to or met a Jew in person.  But “the Jew” as one encounters him in the pages of Mein Kampf and Hitler’s ravings bears no resemblance to flesh-and-blood human beings of Jewish descent: he is an invention of Hitler’s obsessional fantasy, a Satanic creation, expressing his need to create an object on which he could concentrate his feelings of aggression and hatred.” [The last two paragraphs from Alan Bullock, writing about Hitler.]Melissa Click

 The Kernel of Truth.  For conservative Freudians the return of the repressed marks a paranoid episode; for purposes of my argument here, reading Melville, reading myself, reading my friends, the return of the repressed may be the empirical reality that we have screened out while longing for good objects to rescue us from brutality and alienation.  In the discussion of stereotypes that follows, I do not want to be misunderstood as reinforcing the “truth” of “negative images”; rather I want to defend the common sense of “ordinary people” asking for realism; I want to criticize the tactics of recent media and curriculum reformers seeking “balance” through “positive images” rather than the thoroughgoing, unbounded pluralism that makes the achievement of more accurate histories a possibility.

Social critics (including some feminists) condemn some or all of Freud’s ideas as neurotically or opportunistically formulated, while the rough formulations of anti-Freudian, Jungian social psychologists go uncriticized.  In order to demonstrate that group prejudice is irrational, the latter postulate an entirely socially constructed “Other” and, when it suits them, they deplore “scapegoating.”  Nor is it common to decry their definitions of fascism.  It is argued that the armored fascist/authoritarian personality projects his negative identity onto the Other or Alien.  We should be very suspicious of these tactics in “left” cultural criticism.  Such analyses are not only reductive, collapsing the various fascisms of the 1920s and 1930s into one vague and ahistoric hyper-nationalism and hyper-racism, moreover conflating negative images reinforcing sexism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia, and class resentment into one all-purpose, “dirty” or “inferior” Alien (what an insult to protean Devils!).

The theory of “projective identification” (a name object-relations psychoanalysts use instead of scapgoating or projection) can be a victim-blaming maneuver that implicitly requests the “prejudiced” person to cleanse himself  by embracing and then incorporating the evil he attributes to others; by regressively and primitivistically merging with his real “nature”as a diversion from possible political action.  (Hence the vogue for sadomasochistic forms of eroticism as mass media bring more and more of the world’s suffering to our attention, situations begging for intervention?)  Gordon Allport and his Harvard colleague Henry Murray criticized scapegoating as irrational when the target of lower-class wrath was upper-class or member of a protected group; scapegoating was encouraged when conflict managers needed to redirect resentment away from themselves toward a common enemy to enhance “group morale” or “group cohesion” (See worksheets for their seminar in Civilian Morale, Harvard 1941).  To be awarded the blue ribbon for social responsibility, then, the tolerant citizen must believe that his common sense evaluations of stubbornly hostile others are only projections of his own inner conflicts and deficiencies: there are no real individual or group conflicts out there resistant to mediation.  Sadly, the unwary youth who falls for such corporatist liberal ruses is already marching down the road to herrenvolk democracy and fascism.

By contrast, the theorists of democracy, from Locke to Jefferson to Walter Lippmann, have argued that the senses and universal reason produce useful knowledge of the visible world.  For Enlightenment rationalists the problem lay not in necessarily deluded perception by ever-passionate People, but in the invisible world erected or blanketed by arbitrary, secretive authority.  For Lippmann, stereotypes (“the pictures in our heads”) exist where we have not first-hand experience with the faraway or sequestered; such distortions were inevitable in complex industrial societies, but could be corrected by political scientists who would serve the public interest as independent fact-finders (i.e., experts separated from the policy-making function), who would then pass on their accurate pictures of reality via newspapers to laymen and their elected representatives.  Lippmann referred only to situations where people could not encounter each other face-to-face over time.  Of course, for ordinary people today, unflattering “stereotypes” opposed by the media reformers are not confined to second-hand impressions, but are felt to be verified in everyday life; such shared perceptions have been the basis for popular humor and common sense.  The problem with such stereotypes may lie in their interpretation.

The angry, frightened “bigot” or “paranoid” imagines class, gender, racial or ethnic “character” as the primary source of threatening social evil (the bloated capitalist, the deceitful woman or “Oriental” or Jew, the lazy/violent black or brown person).  But this is a misconception: people are not born to be cunning or greedy; they respond to historically specific, systemic institutional imperatives; no one has yet demonstrated genes for troubling behavior resistant to self- or social correction.  Therefore to the extent that “negative” stereotypes are accurate, their “kernel of truth” is situational, a reflection of structural position (business or job competition, exclusion, dependency) not a typical or imperishable attribute like fallen flesh necessarily to be erased through mass death or iconoclasm, or its rage diverted into Sade’s/Gorer’s “constructive Sadism.”  So denying the validity of at least part of the cultural “stereotype” by labeling and ostracizing the frightened person as “hysterical” or “paranoid” or “racist” or “misogynist” disarms persons who need to defend themselves now against real (partly) hostile adversaries, who should not be asked to wait for the structural change (the reform or revolution) that promises relief.  The antidote to “negative” images of “The Other” is not a switch to a “positive image” or to an impossibly benign pseudo-pluralistic society, a “multicultural curriculum” curiously lacking dissenting individuals, structural antagonisms, or hierarchy.  Rather, as Lippmann insisted in 1922, we must “see the world steadily and see it whole”; to be informed of current events is not the same as knowing the truth.  We urgently require an historical analysis which reconstructs all the institutional structures and the social relations such structures necessarily call forth, precisely recording the measurable behaviors of the state, the family, the market, education, and the media.  How do these institutions legitimate authority or create and discover new knowledge?

Only after this question is answered, will we understand the opportunities and constraints within which individuals or artists are asked to make political, moral, or “aesthetic” choices in order to function and survive.  An historian might argue that moral choices are ultimately produced or limited by abstract and impersonal social property relations; hence “stereotypes” are personified or frozen (“reified”) social processes.  Crucially, our analysis should note the presence or absence of social movements offering realistic options for more humane behavior and more cultural freedom by achieving the material preconditions for universal creativity, meaningful participation in decision-making, equality and tolerance.  The longed-for “self-esteem” that upper-class reformers would bestow upon “the oppressed” comes with increasing understanding and mastery of the material world, not moralistic admonitions and glorious ancestors.


May 15, 2010

Foucault Follies Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Foucault with UC Berkeley students, 1983, photo by Paul Rabinow

In the annals of “diversity” training, nothing could be more startling than this description of the “archaeological” or “excavating” project of Michel Foucault as elucidated by one of his publicists, C. G. Prado, in his Starting with Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy (Westview Press, 1995):

“Archaeology has a diversifying effect in that its objective is to fracture the smooth totality of a disciplinary tradition’s picture of itself or of one of its constitutive elements. The objective is to unearth, to excavate factors and events, overlooked likenesses, discontinuities and disruptions, anomalies and suppressed items, which yield a new picture of whatever has previously gone unquestioned and has been taken as definitive knowledge and truth with respect to a particular subject matter and more generally of how the world is. Foucault is everywhere concerned with exhuming the hidden, the obscure, the marginal, the accidental, the forgotten, the overlooked, the covered-up, the displaced. His subjects for investigation are whatever is taken as most natural, obvious, evident, undeniable, manifest, prominent, and indisputable.

Shored up by meticulous empirical research, Foucault’s basic strategy in both archaeology and genealogy is to retell the history of a discipline or institution or practice by highlighting previously marginal and obscured elements and events, thereby presenting a very different picture of that discipline, institution, or practice….Cases in point are madness, the subject matter of psychiatry as dealt with in the asylum, and illness, the subject matter of medicine as dealt with in the clinic” (25, 26).

What is startling in Prado’s exegesis is the notion that no one had ever thought of doing this before: no historian, no psychoanalyst, no alert journalist, no sociologist or political scientist, no artist or author or composer—as if reconfiguring our pictures of what is real had gone uninvestigated before the great philosopher weighed in:  Foucault, the son of a surgeon, whose reputation Prado was rehabilitating in his book after years of protest against postmodernism and its domination of comparative literature, literary history, or the history of science/madness/medicine, all in the name of “theory”  and “interdisciplinarity.”

Is the Foucault folly over? Even the young conservative commentator S. E. Cupp asked in one appearance on “Red Eye”, “should we be studying Foucault?” She is not alone. Here is  a call to papers that appeared in my Inbox several days ago. Read it and weep, students of antisemitism. It appears that yet another academic entity will be attacking what has been studied for eons. But of course, that would be missing the point: modernity and the Enlightenment, hitherto broadly represented in the rise of “the Jews,” must be in crisis. Here is how Yale University, once home to Paul De Man, presents itself :

 YIISA: The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism


The International Association for the Study of Antisemitism (IASA)

For The Upcoming Conference

“Global Antisemitism:

A Crisis of Modernity”

Monday, August 23rd – Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Yale University, New Haven, CT

 The International Association for the Study of Antisemitism (IASA) is a newly formed professional association which aims to represent scholars and intellectuals engaged in the study of antisemitism across the globe regardless of school of thought, scientific approach, academic discipline or ideological view.  Created to advance knowledge pertaining to the origins and manifestations of antisemitism, IASA recognizes the aspirations of scholars in all disciplines.

Antisemitism, is one of the most complex and, at times, perplexing forms of hatred.  It spans history, infecting different societies, religious and philosophical movements, and even civilizations.  In the aftermath of the Shoah, some contend that antisemitism illustrates the limitations of the Enlightenment and modernity itself.  In the contemporary context of globalised relations it appears that antisemitism has taken on new and changing forms that need to be decoded, mapped and critiqued.  In fact, given the rise of current genocidal antisemitic discourse as a social movement, and the limited response to it by the human rights community, this could point to a possible crisis of modernity.  This conference aims to explore this discursive phenomenon from an interdisciplinary approach. [End, call for papers, my emph.]

    “Discourse,” the favorite word of postmodernists who are unremittingly disdainful of panopticons and all other bourgeois innovations to perpetrate universal surveillance, the better to control our minds,  is described as “a social movement.” To the postmodernists, this is no big whoop. Speech is a performative act. Discourse creates reality. Genocide will be halted by one great inclusive conference, in which anti-Zionists and supporters of radical Islam presumably will be welcome to join the cultural anthropologists and hip philosophers. The exemplary multiplicity of interpretations (“truths”) the conference promises (that is pomospeak), along with the renewed Ivy-League enabled assault upon the modern critical tools that could help us analyze our institutions and ourselves, will leave us kinder, gentler world citizens. Your tax dollars are paying for this charade, boys and girls. (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/, or https://clarespark.com/2013/03/28/power-and-aristocratic-radicals/.)

October 29, 2009

The Enigmatic Face of Philosemitism

Image (78)[Update, 10-1-13: I have come around to rejecting the word “totalitarianism”, but possibly for different reasons than Heni’s. I also agree that the Holocaust, like fascism, was historically unique. I.e., I am comfortable with historicism. But the distinctiveness of the Holocaust does not preclude a new attempt to murder “the Jews.” ]

A new journal on the history of antisemitism has just appeared, featuring a stellar advisory board of scholars, and purporting to be philosemitic and pro-Israel. It is part of their intellectual mission to distinguish antisemitism from “prejudice” or “racism, ” but also to attack the theory of “totalitarianism” that would equate Nazi and Soviet forms of terror. Clemens Heni, one of their authors and a founding member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,  in his blog “The Prague Declaration, Trivialization of the Holocaust, and Antisemitism,” argues that the moral equivalence of Stalinist and Hitlerian murder denies the uniqueness of the Holocaust; indeed that habit is taken to be a mini-form of Holocaust denial! As if Stalin had not had his own plans for the Jews, embodied in the Doctor’s Plot and cut short only by his death in 1953. (For details on Soviet treatment of Jews during the second world war, see Niall Ferguson’s War of the World.)

You can find the first issue at http://jsantisemitism.org/pdf/jsa_1-1.pdf. I have read Dr. Heni’s article,  “Antisemitism as a Specific Phenomenon,” who writes of the irrationality of antisemitism:  “No group of people but the Jews has ever been singled out and blamed even for opposite developments, such as both capitalism and communism, and being weak-willed but powerful enough to take over the planet.” (Heni took his degree in political science, and was for a year a post-doctoral researcher at YIISA (The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. One of his two books is Salonfähig der Neuen Rechten–a sarcastic title indicating that the author is writing from somewhere on the Left.)

It is my view that we are in the murky territory of the moderate men again. [Added 3-22-10: When I wrote this blog, I had not studied the Burke revival in the twentieth century. It was particular organic conservatives (following Burke) who twinned Nazism and Stalinism, constantly using the term “totalitarianism.” Both Nazism and Communism were seen as the effluent of puffed-up Jacobins and other mechanical materialists, displacing religion by worshipping the Goddess of Reason, re-inventing the State and hence usurping God. Cf. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.] It depends on what we mean by rationalism and irrationalism. “Irrational” suggests to me that the theory of projection, advocated by social psychologists allied to moderate conservatism, is in play. (See my prior blog on Adorno’s harmonizing of Freud’s theory of incessant conflict, substituting in its place of constant struggle to achieve civilized behavior, a “balance” between id, ego, and superego; the happy outcome would be “genuine liberalism;” see that chapter in The Authoritarian Personality and https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/. In other words, what is presented as a bold new approach to the history of antisemitism is probably yet another defense of “moderate” statism, hence the outrage at equating Nazism and Stalinism. Nazism is usually hung on “the Right” or “fascist Republicans” by  Stalinists. But see R. Palme Dutte blaming social democrats in 1934, prior to the Popular Front.)

Take the quote from Heni’s article, above, describing the “irrationality” of antisemitism for confusing capitalists and communists–a claim I have seen countless times elsewhere. Convinced antisemites had no trouble with this supposed cognitive dissonance: Gentlemanly organic conservatives understood that atheistic science-plagued modernity had bred lucre-loving capitalists, and then in reaction to their [typically “Jewish” capitalist greed and exploitation] communism raised its ugly head. The solution to the onset of a disenchanted modern world would be a Christianized capitalism. Look no further than Christian Socialism, Bismarck’s welfare state, the Fabians in Britain, Rerum Novarum ( the encyclical issued by Leo XIII in 1891)  or the social gospel movement in America, followed here by populism and progressivism. Hitler himself advocated a “third way” between capitalism and communism,* meanwhile opposing “Jewish Bolshevism” in the Soviet Union as a mere front for “finance capital” and not socialism at all. My point is that these mostly European movements were reacting against the displacement of an aristocratic elite by the new men—the moderns, whose elevation of hard science, hard work, novel financial instruments, and free markets threatened the property and lifestyles of the landowning class and  their employees, dependents, and allies. In Britain, Young England represented a coalition between aristocrats and the working class against the rising industrial bourgeoisie (see Disraeli’s Sybil, or The Two Nations for their outlook; detail here: https://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/).

So far I have mentioned as examples of rationality (as opposed to ostensible antisemitic irrationality) the Third Way of the moderate men. But think now of the benefits to Nazis and other antisemites if the Jews were either removed from their regions (as in Israel) or from their nations (as in the Third Reich): the expropriation of Jewish property and the elimination of Jewish rivals in business and the professions, or relief from the unpredictable chaos brought about by political and technical innovations in general, let alone the restless and “skeptical” Jewish mind that so frazzled Hitler and probably Stalin. Think especially of antisemitism as backlash against the emancipation of the Jews after the French Revolution, with all the reasons just mentioned.

*[From Hitler’s Table Talk:] The English have to settle certain social problems which are ripe to be settled.  At present these problems can still be solved from above, in a reasonable manner.  I tremble for them if they don’t do it now.  For if it’s left to the people to take the initiative, the road is open to madness and destruction.  Men like Mosley would have had no difficulty in solving the problem, by finding a compromise between Conservatism and Socialism, by opening the road to the masses but without depriving the élite of their rights.  Class prejudices can’t be maintained in a socially advanced State like ours, in which the proletariat produces men of such superiority.  Every reasonably conducted organization is bound to favour the development of beings of worth.  It has been my wish that the educative organisations of the Party should enable the poorest child to lay claim to the highest functions, if he has enough talent.  The Party must see to it, on the other hand, that society is not compartmentalized so that everyone can quickly assert his gifts.  Otherwise discontent raises its head, and the Jew finds himself in just the right situation to exploit it.  It’s essential that a balance should be struck, in such a way that dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives may be abolished as well as Jewish and Bolshevik anarchists….(Jan. 27, 1942, p. 253).

[Illustrated: Picasso’s La Dama de Azul, with the Pierrot mask as I read it]

Blog at WordPress.com.