Revolutionary Mind

Professor Robin’s collection of essays, and his work in and around it, occupy two different border areas at once, between politics and history, and between history and the philosophy of history.

Between politics and history:  Professor Robin wants to discuss and, it would seem, intervene within contemporary political discussion. He wants, as someone once said, to change history, not just understand it.  In addition to writing in The Nation and other publications concerned with current affairs, he’s a blogger and active Tweep, and may even be setting off on a TV career:  He appeared yesterday on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, and, though it may be true that guesting on Up with Chris Hayes is in some ways hardly appearing on television at all, as one element in an extended book tour it’s rather more grand than a visit to someone else’s graduate seminar (even if in some ways the TV session felt that way).

Between history and philosophy of history:  Any attempt to describe a “mind” is already a philosophical exercise.  Robin’s sketches of a reactionary mentality are therefore inherently a set of philosophical as well as historical investigations.  At the same time his chosen subject of conservatism from 1789 to the present acknowledges a very particular historical-philosophical framework, the one defined by Hegel as marking the end of history in principle.  From 1789 – commencement of the French Revolution, Declaration of the Rights of Man – within this framework, history unfolds as the attempt to close the distance between universal freedom and equality as concepts and as a realized political-economic order.  That the reign of the Hegelian modern – “thought and the universal” – brings liberation but also terror, war, and dispossession opens a space for the reactionary to speak in favor of anything else, and also, as Robin also stresses, in relation to real losses, material and otherwise.

Conservatism – modern conservatism, reactionary conservatism – for Robin is thus every attempt to resist or retard the process of liberation. When he unites disparate and variegated conservative political movements as “reaction” on behalf – we might say objectively on behalf – of the powerful against movements of emancipation from below, he has adopted the Left-Hegelian and Marxian perspective, a view of history as a struggle between two classes, one whose interests push it forward versus another whose position stands in the way, but the rules of contemporay political discussion – implemented and enforced by virtually the entirety of the ideological state apparatus,  including all of conventional (bourgeois) political science as filtered down through “left” or “liberal” or “left-liberal” popular punditry – make it impossible for him to use the old names.

As a blogger with very little to lose, however, I can much more comfortably name them:   Bourgeoisie and Proletariat, with reactionary conservatives performing in the (formerly?) well-understood Petit Bourgeois role.

It is important to keep in mind not only the fact that Bs v Ps is or defines Hegel’s Lords v Bondsmen or Masters v Slaves for the modern era, but that it is or defines that relationship in a peculiarly modern way, since the Bourgeois, as Marx knew and as Hegel knew before him, is not the same as the prior era’s Master:  He is a pseudo-Master because a Slave to his own property, therefore to money or capital, yet also in a crucial sense (in the very sense that the libertarian individualist after Hobbes defines the human being) to himself.  Though the source of endless confusion and complexity regarding the character of political “consciousness” and its expression, this modified two-sided formulation still fits neatly within the Kojevian summary of the Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic:  “Human existence ‘appears’ in the World as a continuous series of fights and works integrated by memory–that is, as History in the course of which Man freely creates himself.”

Conservatism is the other side in each and every particular fight, the human limitation on every work in this historical process of collective self-liberation, which is, for Hegel, history itself.  Yet Robin cannot directly engage this discourse, whose terms were once upon a time familiar or at least adducible even in libertarian individualist, anti-Communist America, because the lips of a would-be public intellectual in America today close on the word “Marx” as around a cyanide capsule:  if ever, only to spit it out.

For the same reason, responses to Robin’s book have often unfolded like exercises in red-baiting under observation of an absolute verbal taboo.  It’s only at the end of Mark Lilla’s review that the Marxist specter finally appears to rattle his empyreal chains, conjured via a literary anecdote that casts George Lukacs, author of a seminal work much more on point than Lilla lets on, in the role of satanically nihilist monster.  Lilla must have known what he was doing:  Not exactly “calling Robin a Commie,” but warning those with ears to hear about the radioactive sacrifice zone whose invisible borders we would need to cross to embrace Robin’s argument fully and on its own terms.

We still live in a time during which self-avowed Marxian intellectuals ritualistically confess the sins of Stalin and Mao, and advise young people interested in “socialism” and struck by timeless passages from a certain Manifesto to find some, any other terms for their affinities, conclusions, and aims.  I therefore cannot expect Robin to welcome anyone saying what Lilla politely refrains from saying, or says without quite saying.  Yet in a different sense, it’s nothing that Robin himself has not already said or almost said:  To trace the workings of the reactionary mind in history up to the present already refers to and, possibly, begins to re-invent, the opposite – in history, and up to the present.


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58 comments on “Revolutionary Mind

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  1. No, Lilla, he’s not a red baiter, but he does wonder why Robin, offers such a class determinative maybe Beardian analysis, Russell Mead had similar notions in ‘Mortal Splendor’ but he developed a more sophisticated worldview, The hatred for the 1%, is that only limited to Dimon and Moynihan, or does Al Gore, Madonna, Soros qualify,

    • You don’t know what you’re talking about, Don Miguel. “Hatred for the 1%” is at most a secondary factor in this particular discussion, and, for now, mainly arises in the current Western/American political climate as a projection from the 1% and its spokespeople, though in the broad historical view it remains an inevitable and significant product of the system that produces a “1%.”

  2. Robin knows little of classical liberalism, the socalled ‘negative liberties’ that were obtained at such great cost of blood and treasure, one is reminded by that anecdote from Antietam, that Bohannon recalls, in the last episode on HoW,

  3. Yet in a different sense, it’s nothing that Robin himself has not already said or almost said: To trace the workings of the reactionary mind in history up to the present already delineates and, where necessary re-invents, the opposite – in history, and up to the present.

    My relfex is to go to some combination fo neuro stuff and Buddhism to delinate these issuesi in other terms. While this may provide guidance on what to do on a personal level, it provides no clear path on a political level. But still leaves the problem of what to do.

    But think that the the unsaid you describe contributes, but does not define a similar problem for the political Left. The collapse of the Marxist discourse being part of the general cultural vocabulary is also an obstacle to figuring out what to do. OWS somewhat illustrates this, although it may also create a space for the discsuuion to reemerge.

    Before OWS Zizek had similar musings ending with this:

    The journal in which Gramsci published his writings in the early 1920s was called L’Ordine nuovo (The New Order)—a title which was later appropriated by the extreme Right. Rather than seeing this later appropriation as revealing the “truth” of Gramsci’s use of the title—abandoning it as running counter to the rebellious freedom of an authentic Left—we should return to it as an index of the hard problem of defining the new order any revolution will have to establish after its success. In short, our times can be characterized as none other than Stalin characterized the atom bomb: not for those with weak nerves.

    Communism is today not the name of a solution but the name of a problem: the problem of the commons in all its dimensions—the commons of nature as the substance of our life, the problem of our biogenetic commons, the problem of our cultural commons (“intellectual property”), and, last but not least, the problem of the commons as that universal space of humanity from which no one should be excluded. Whatever the solution might be, it will have to solve this problem.

    • I’ve re-written that last sentence as a more conservative and specific claim. (The original was overcoded by an echo of one of the great sentences in critical theory, which I’m always finding some reason to bring up.) Still not completely satisfied with it… but it’s just a blog post.

      The “what to do” is of course the classic question, and the classic problem for Marx, and for the Left Hegelians vs God’s Holy Dialectical Prophet. For Hegel, the owl of Minerva flies at dusk. By the time we “know now” what we should have “known then,” it’s by definition too late. But his solution, as elaborated and further thought through by Kojève, is the “cunning of history”: That we seem to lack a clear guide to action, or anything we can call a solution, doesn’t mean that the solution we ought to have chosen isn’t working away anyway. It suggests a secular and even atheistic or post-theistic version of simple faith, and, interestingly to me (as I’ve commented before), leads the “faithful Hegelian” into the same dangerous territory that belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing God leads religious leaders, justifying Napoleon, or Stalin or Mao or Hitler or Capitalism in approximately the same way that a Pat Robertson justifies 9/11 or AIDs or sometimes the same historical/human-made disasters.

      Marx’s decision to turn Hegel upside-down, insist on applying and extending the dialectical method as a basis for political action couldn’t have been more fateful. It risked and may even have required that those inspired by his work commit every conceivable mistake – and that too may exemplify the cunning of history. To me, the primary mistake has always seemed to have been the assumption that an application of the dialectical method should or could be simply homologous to the dialectical critical discourse.

  4. Marx was engaging in magical thinking, Lenin focused the theory with the addition of the vanguard, because too many suffer from ‘false consciousness’, life is infinitely more complicated, because neither the bourgeoisie, petit or otherwise, or the proletariat are monolithic. hence the former liquidated a sizable portion of the latter from Moscow to Kampuchea, that is the wages of that peculiar faith, and the likes of Comandante Gonzalo, wanted to continue the experiment.

    • “Magical thinking” may even be the opposite of Marx’s error, if we can really presume the ability to judge it. The problem with the incessant and obligatory recitation of crimes carried out in the name of Marxism is that it induces us to perform a set of different but equivalent errors: especially assuming that criminals who hid responsibility or successfully shifted it onto others, were guiltless. Since you like movie references so much, think of the bad guys in DIE HARD: They pretended to be revolutionaries, but were just thieves – model capitalists in some ways. Third World Marxism-Leninism and Maoism, and other variants, may have little to do with mature Marxian analysis or with the revolutionary idea as understood by Hegel, Marx, Kojève, and others.

  5. I love this line…”because the lips of a would-be public intellectual in America today close on the word “Marx” as around a cyanide capsule: if ever, only to spit it out.” Great imagery. That’s my favorite thing about your writing. You’re visuals are so unusually vivid for a writer with your intellectual capacity. Plus, I think I’m intuiting something from this piece. Robin fails in the way you don’t. You were willing not to just see both sides, but to live in both sides for long enough to forget that you were just living in a side. You actually lived as a conservative. No one with your intelligence could live there (or just on the other side for that matter) for ever, but you did it. So you’re not afraid in the way you explain that Robin is afraid. My guess is that he has to be afraid because he doesn’t and hasn’t lived on either side really, and as a squatter has to be fearful of eviction. You can’t be evicted because you can live on either side if you had to. Of course, there was and is a price to pay for living where no one should live.

      • Don’t know Robin from Batman, but I do think that actually living in the conservative world was an interesting mad-scientist thing to do on your part. It makes you different I imagine than all the other Marxists. I don’t know all the other Marxists but I’d bet you’re unique. And, yes, I realize that referring to you as a Marxist is problematic.

      • For my part, I found Scott’s “You’re visuals are so unusually vivid for a writer with your intellectual capacity.” problematic. The 2 interpetations I came up with are equally improbable.

        Smart writers are usually not able to convey vivid visuals. Colin is not very smart.

        Now if Scott was referring to my intellectual capacity, things fall into place quite easily

        • I guess I really did write “you’re visuals.” That’s problematic just in respect to the misspelling. Typical of me, though, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go with the self-deprecation, and it’s true in my opinion that most philosophers are not nearly as very visual as CK. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but think of CK’s use of that Pepsi can for God Is Dead. How many philosophers could come up with that visual? Not many. And just because CK isn’t famous now doesn’t mean he will be unknown in the future. He’s young. He had to do his Scorpio thing and Phoenix dive into the ashes. He could rise up and write one of the most important philosophical books in history. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit and then it will be known that MacLeod is the most visual philosopher in history, Seems hyperbolic, I grant you, but it could happen. Stranger things have happened.

          • Wasn’t really referring to “you’re”. Imisspell as a matter of corse. But rather with the assertion of intellegent writers not being vivid. This comment clarifies “writer” being “philosopher”. This is a more intresting assertion, but one that I’mstill notready to gt on board with.

            • I understand. I knew the misspelling was my concern not yours and I understand you still not being on board with the idea that CK is most visual philosopher in history. That’s okay. I’m sure CK agrees with you.

  6. This quote from a description of Robin’s work is very helpful to me in respect to understanding where CK was living and where folks like Miggs still live. I had a real “ah-hah moment” reading this…

    “Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market, others oppose it. Some criticize the state, others celebrate it. Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality.
    Despite their opposition to these movements, conservatives favor a dynamic conception of politics and society–one that involves self-transformation, violence, and war. They are also highly adaptive to new challenges and circumstances. This partiality to violence and capacity for reinvention has been critical to their success.”

    As you all know, what troubles me about CK’s beliefs is that they seem to me to favor violence and war. I think CK sees his beliefs as “highly adaptive to new challenges and circumstances,” and maybe they are, but partiality to violence I think may be the one thing that stands in the way of his reinventing philosophy with much success. I think he’s done defending power and privilege but I shouldn’t write that because anything I write may send him trotting over to the other side. And who could blame him? It’s sad being a great philosopher whose only real fan writes things like “you’re visuals.”

    • Sorry, not a great philosopher. Maybe I could have been a decent philosopher, don’t know. Not even sure that that would be a worthwhile activity, given the state of contemporary “philosophy.” But that’s just another version of my problem with everything and why my life has been such… what it has been. Finding anything in particular very worthwhile, I mean.

      Not “partial to violence,” but don’t believe we’re near having done away with it. Violence is inherent in life. Life itself for human beings is systematic violence, it’s possessing or occupying an organic system, an organic system of systems, that lives off destruction, annihilation of living or once-living things, in the shadow of death until the shadow falls away. Since violence, including murderous violence, is an irreducible possibility of life on Earth, even up to the notional moment that it was completely extinguished it would remain, and even be magnified as, the critical and unique determinant of political life. This isn’t my insight, but my rendering of one of Carl Schmitt’s key insights, possibly the central one of THE CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL – which is actually more a tract than a book, not long at all or terribly difficult to process, very worth reading if you take these questions seriously.

      Strauss’s critique of Schmitt’s thinking (the Strauss essay is included in the edition of CONCEPT OF THE POLITICAL linked in the sidebar) doesn’t attempt to attack this argument, but rather, almost Scott-like, puts into question Schmitt’s orientation toward his own observations: Schmitt not only attacks pacifism, but gives away his own preferences or prejudices. In other words, Schmitt seems to take satisfaction in the conclusion that pacifism is hopeless, because a world in which pacifism could triumph would also be a world in which the political was reduced to idle entertainment, no longer serious, you might say no longer exciting, no longer risky, no longer on a continuum with war – the extreme case that, again, doesn’t actually have to commence to continue to exert absolutely determinative influence on everything else.

      Strauss doesn’t have to come out and say that this all explains how Schmitt, a brilliant and far-sighted man, could end up joining the Nazi movement, but the implication is clear. Instead, Strauss turns in a different direction, suggesting that what Schmitt’s error or weakness reveals is that Schmitt’s thought is enclosed within the modern tradition of liberal thought whose broad horizon is defined by Hobbes – who also thought that the possibility of lethal violence was the key determinant for political order, what politics inherently refers to both as justification and as means to its unique ends. So politics is in this sense the more or less tenuous suspension of violence under the threat of violence, and that is the true “concept of the political,” and the only possible concept of the political given the inalterable nature of life: Put even more abstractly, life depends inalterably on death.

      What I think Strauss – whom I’m beginning to consider, referencing his popular profile as crypto-neocon, a vastly misunderstood philosopher – may have wanted to put in the place of liberal thought so defined was a philosophy, which he identified with the ancients, that was already intimate enough with death in effect to set it aside, simply to presume its arbitrary presence in life, the fact that the gods at any moment could take out Milton’s “dread shears.” If, as a pagan, you’re living with the prospect of instant, arbitrary, nonsensical death, it’s pointless to philosophize about it. You’ll never be able really to propitiate and predict the behavior of the gods, the immortals, because the immortals, being immortal, will never comprehend you. In that case, you can remain content as a philosopher thinking about a different, arguably just as inalterable and fundamental category: not life vs. death, or even freedom vs. its opposite, but the good.

      And that’s another reason why the Kojève-Strauss dialogue is so fascinating, and why, unable to find anything else worth reading, I’m re-reading ON TYRANNY these days, beginning with Kojève. Not sure where I’m going to go next.

      • Naturally, there are several other perspectives worth considering. We’d have to include ideas from feminist philosophers to even begin to be fair. But this is a boy’s blog, so scratch that. The father of New-Age philosophy, Joseph Chilton Pearce, proposed that humans relate to violence only because violence begets violence on a biological level. It’s a “reptilian brain” issue. When we even watch violence on TV we connect our neurology to the most primitive world view. With peace, we begin to link up with what Pearce calls “the biology of transcendence.” It’s not just frontal lobe stuff. The biology of transcendence includes “glial cells.” Pearce did his best to get the science world headed in the right direction in respect to there being “glia in the heart.” What that means is that our hearts have intelligence even on an actual biological level. If anyone wants a further explanation, I’ll provide it. Suffice it to say that the intelligence in our hearts is part of our spiritual inheritance. More importantly, if we stopped watching TV and started loving peace we might be able to link up with a kind of human nature that would fulfill our biological potential and render the philosophical ideas partial to violence obsolete. Right now, 15 years after Pearce began spreading the news, the science world has finally started revealing how wrong they were about glia–how it is far from being just “neural glue,” and how much it does that science can’t explain.

        • I do have a book filled with feminist responses to Wilber’s philosophizing. As a “neo-Hegelian,” Wilber wrote some things similar to what CK has written here about violence, so a group of feminists took the time to compile a whole book of peaceful feminist rebuttals. Wilber debated back, but I think he might have been better served to admit that his testosterone had mixed with Hegels to some degree. It’s a very powerful chemical.

          • It’s not an argument about the true nature of human beings, but about the nature of nature, that is of existence at all. (Whether Hegel’s views are essentially in agreement with Schmitt’s is a different question.) You can think of it this way: In a world in which everything that we today call war or physical violence was removed, expunged without a trace, from the affairs of humankind, then a grimace or a harsh word would be experienced as a mortal blow.

            Or: You can’t eliminate death without eliminating life. Or: You can’t eliminate violence without eliminating the will.

            The most you can achieve is to eliminate specific forms of violence, for a time, but the more rare you make it, the more valuable, in the political sense, those specific acts become. It’s the problem with un-inventing nuclear weapons: The premium on cheating rises the closer to total elimination that you get. The one country that successfully maintained a secret stockpile would rule the world – or take over or reveal itself to be invulnerable at the moment of its choosing (calling its success actual proof of the superiority of its culture, morality, etc.). Knowing that, every other country would strive to keep a secret stockpile or latent capacity.

            Or suppose you imagine a vast, harmonic renunciation of material wealth, comfort, security, consumption – of life itself – against any resort to violence to preserve and protect one’s own possessions. The last holdouts would be in a position to realize that renunciation for the others in fact: That is, annihilate everyone who was in their way, enslave the others, and, for their own purposes, define that selfsame “renunciation of life” as the great immorality for them, for any would-be member of the master race. In a way that scenario merely repeats the master-slave dynamic that Hegel idealizes as the beginning of “history.”

            Not saying any of these things would actually happen: They are just different versions of the extreme and probably impossible “cases” that circumscribe and define the actual much messier and more complex real existence of human beings in time.

            Schmitt seems to take pleasure in constructing similar scenarios specifically in relation to political pacifism. Considering where he ended up, there is tremendous, and I mean truly tremendous, irony in the scenarios he constructs, both as paranoid projections of what the militarism-fascism eventually did to the militarist-fascists, but also as prophetic rehearsals of contemporary war rationales.

            • It’s the nature of nature being perceived through the nature of male philosophers whose ideas are happening on a certain level of consciousness. Raise the consciousness and things are perceived differently. I realize it’s a little odd for me to be promoting a materialistic understanding of how we can perceive things less mechanically, but all the ideas here take place on a certain level of consciousness in connection with a certain kind of biology. The view is prejudiced. It is influenced by the nature of certain human beings who are not well positioned to perceive Reality well. That’s why the first thing we have to do to unleash the great philosopher in you is to change the vessel and then raise your consciousness. Again, I know it’s a little odd to think that what’s happening on a lower level in connection with the material can be shifted to a higher level and connected to better matter and still retain its material gifts (your talent as a writer and your brain matter’s philosophical get-it-ness) but that’s what I believe. Again, stranger things could happen. When Saul became Paul things would have gone better for Paul if he had been more talented as a philosopher to begin with. When he spontaneously realized, his consciousness elevated but he was still a bit of dummy. He was a dummy realized being. I think if you spontaneously realized it would be really cool. You’d be the anti-Paul. You really would get-it. We just have to help you be not partial to violence ahead of that, and since it might be several lifetimes before you spontaneously realize there’s no rush. You can keep on killing Christians for now.

              • Non-responsive.

                The notion of a biologically determined truth (not the same as a valid description of biologically determined prejudices or affinities, etc.) is either a contradiction in terms or nihilism, possibly both. Either a logical conclusion is presumed attainable, or logic is irrevelant. If logic is irrelevant, then you have no way of showing, to anyone else or to yourself, that it is not your prejudice, possibly tied to the same malfunction that leads to believe you know and can know that your position is valid, that causes or compels you to maintain your position.

                Put simply, you want to believe that your position is correct, and it’s part of your position to discount anything that would deny you your heart’s desire. You already know where you are going to end up.

                How do you know that murder is wrong, that violence is a bad thing?

                • It is the New-Age issue, true. If you read Pearce, it becomes easier to understand. You frame the contradiction incorrectly, however. The truth is not mine. The truth is that Paradox exists. Ultimate Paradox is what explains the paradox that the Relative View (Truth) is as relevant as the Ultimate View (Truth). You cling to Relative Truth out of fear and that fear inspires your beliefs so far. That will change. Once you realize the Ultimate Truth (not claiming anything for myself in that reqard) then you will see how your belief in Relative Truth has created a bias that only seems okay in connection with believes held by other men who have not realized Ultimate Truth either. The Relative Truth contains the biological determinism. The Ultimate truth transcends that, but does not end its relevance. Form is Formlessness and Formlessness is Form. So you can’t frame an understanding of that the two interrelate as a contradiction in terms or nihilism. That is, as the Buddhists would say, incorrect view. The last time we got into this, I did send your ideas to a Lama. His response was quite negative. I never mentioned it because I thought it was defensive. I think your ideas succeeded in making him defensive. As I stated, I think you have great promise as a philosopher because the later philosophizing you do will come out on the Relative Truth side. You’ve just allowed the Relative to take over and manifest in the way the Relative manifests. It will meet its match some day.

                  • You impute to me – repeatedly – a partiality to the one side because I refrain from embracing your side. That’s a coercive, one might even say violent, approach. In your view, it’s justifiable. You are absolutely sure that it’s justified. That’s how all violent people think – to the extent they think, the precise extent, no more no less, since violence is to thoughtfulness as war is to politics, the suspension of the condition that as such is the actuality, the determinant essence, of the condition.

                    • The Ultimate side is not my side. We all relate to both sides. It’s a bit easy to claim what you’re claiming regarding “violence” don’t you think? It justifies your defensiveness so nicely. Out of respect for you, I will not immediately retreat. The easy thing would be to apologize like a good little New-Ager. I think you can handle it. I think you can handle this easier than the positivity I shower you with. You directed this away from the positivity. It was your choice to focus on the one negative point I made. You focused on it and then cried foul. That’s a bit childish don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be sadder for me to make no effort at all at working things out the way you like to work things out, which is through discourse. We could meditate instead. That would help more in respect to setting up favorable conditions for a “correct view.” But that’s not an option so I’m working with what you’re willing to do and like to do. You like this. I know you like it, so you’ll have to do better than the easy dialectical reversal. It doesn’t apply.

  7. Schmitt was too clever by half, he thought he could ride the Tiger, but the same could be said for those in Iraq, who got on the Baathist bandwagon, after the ad man Eichelberger and the bandleader Copeland did their thing, it was a death cult, somewhat like the Thuggee, premised on driving the Shia, the Kurd and the Jew out of public life, in a way that the Golden Square didn’t manage to do,

    We down here is South Florida, are fairly acquainted with the backwash of violence, from the similar clique that has ruled in Haiti, to the consequences of the pretensions of those fatigue wearers in Havana, Managua, and Caracas, to cite three examples.

    • It’s true that she was the only presidential candidate for either party going back for many years, if ever, that I found sexually attractive – despite what everyone always assumed about men who found Palin interesting – but in the end I’m not so sure that’s a positive, so, small loss, very small loss.

  8. But to resume the prior dialogue, or at least to attempt to sort it out, I don’t think the argument regarding the continuum of violence, and the relationship of the extreme case to the normal experience, is easy or trivial, and my point in raising it again, was not to aim for a dialectical reversal, but to clarify the terms of a possible discussion, and to examine the idea of the eventual inversion of the pacificist project within any truly “political” context.

    I don’t take offense at any of this. I find it very interesting. Gives me something to think about as I go about other business. The only things I find distressing are the sense of being misunderstood and the possibility of my offending or repelling you, or of putting you in a position to act with a wrong idea about me. I was also disappointed that you glossed over the Strauss response to Schmitt, even after I compared it to your response, and that you instead preferred to associate me with Schmittism. Perhaps I deserve to be associated with Schmitt now, in light of all the time I spent on the Schmitty side of the street, and maybe if you appreciated more what “Strauss” stands for in contemporary political chit-chat you would have found the association more interesting (and appalling, at least initially). Instead, you swooped in and did the quasi-Strauss thing on me, without acknowledging my (more important, my discussion’s) rhetorical self-inoculation against it.

    This isn’t primarily a personal thing: For me, it made for an unnecessary digression, a loss to the potential for the discussion. What I was trying to suggest, and maybe I should have been more self-abasing about it, is that the fault in Schmitt (and potentially in Hegel, Marx, and many others, but only potentially – I consider this yet to be demonstrated) would have been the prejudiced insistence on the primacy of violence. (However, the individual who enters politics as a pacifist may be doing the same thing.)

    Strauss I think correctly suggests that Schmitt’s discourse turns into mere polemic (merely political language, language as instrument of violence) at just that moment – fails to approach the philosophical, and, to put things crudely, that’s why Carl ended up a Nazi instead of watching the baby like a good dog, and, maybe, by a process of extension, that could have something to do with why Heidegger also ended up a Nazi, but, finally, might also explain why any insistence on turning to those historical-biographical facts would on some level also repeat the same error, and all this might have something to do with the Marxist cases, too.

    What I was thinking about as I was leaving the supermarket, though, had to do with the inevitable contradictions of a pacifist politics, and how they parallel the difficulties of the philosopher who might hope to remain secure from politics, or, if not secure, might cope with unavoidable entanglement in the political – the main subject of ON TYRANNY.

    • Well, now I do have to apologize and my apology will probably make you as sad as your statement about me possibly being “repulsed” by you made me. You are so not repulsive. I’m sorry for swooping. It’s true that I swooped in and created a digression that made for a loss to the potential for the discussion. I thought my timing was okay because no one was going to play with you the way deserve. You deserve better playmates. I know how that feels. No one plays with me in the yoga world because they can’t. Even the professors — Chapple and White –can’t really be good playmates and as soon as they realize that, they go play elsewhere. They don’t understand me when I’m really cooking on the things I really love and get really into. You understand me yoga-wise better than them and it isn’t even your thing. I appreciate that. I would like to be a better playmate in respect to Strauss and Schmitt. I tried. I read ON TYRANNY for you. I didn’t like it much. But I’m going to try here again in relation to the idea of . I’m going to re-read what you’ve written in the last comment and see what happens. Wait here.
      Okay, first, I only kind of understand that you had made a rhetorical self-inoculation against “it.” I understood that the support of Robin was you being on the side of light to some degree. That’s what inspired my positivity. I knew the way I expressed it wouldn’t mean much to you because it would come from my New-Age sensing, rather than a real intellectual understanding. I sensed that. But at the risk of seeming silly, and sycofantic, I went there anyway and then maybe I swooped in the way my mother swoops in when she doesn’t really understand something but senses only somewhat correctly that there is room for her to coerce old divisions to her side. I also know how that feels. Sorry. Back to what you wanted to discuss. Philosophers can’t avoid entanglements. You know that. You’re going to get entangled in something. You don’t want to get caught in the repeating the same error. Oh, wait, there I go making it personal again. But it is personal. The only way this feels relevant to me is to point out how Strauss seeing what Schmitt did is the same as me seeing what you did. The only problem is that I suck at discussions about Strauss and Schmitt so there’s no reason for you to listen to me being coercive. You should anyway, though. There’s no real reason you should, but it’s all I got for now. You might be interested in what Chogrum Trungpa Rinpoche says about entanglements. He says the issue is that we correctly recognize our gloriousness and our wretchedness, but fail to accept that both things are happening at once and will continue happening at once. So I hear you about pacifist politics. There is always an entanglement. We can avoid ending up as Nazis however if we always error on the side of pacifist politics. Right?

      • I think the rule is that whichever playmates you have, those are the right ones for you at that time.

        No, I’m sadly not sure at all that we can avoid ending up as Nazis just by erring on the side of pacifist politics. In a mass democracy as Germany was before the Nazis finally eradicated it, there were very likely people whom you might have expected to err on the side of pacifist poiltics, and who thought they were erring on the side of pacifist politics, when they looked away from, or failed to resist, or even supported while holding their noses, or foolishly or mistakenly supported the Nazis. The “mistake” you made in supporting Obama may not have been a very different mistake in the final analysis. You have your individualized, self-conscious identity, and would never give the order for a drone strike or a drone strike program that would kill a lot of innocent people in the process of killing mid-level Al Qaedas, but you voted for someone who can and does give that order, and who, if you were listening closely and critically, pretty much said he was going to. Maybe you did hear him saying that, but quickly made the calculation overall that he’d still be a lot better than McCain, would move the country in a better if imperfect direction – but that means that the only difference between his ordering the civilian-killing drone strike and your voting for him or rooting for him or hoping for him and encouraging others to hope is proximity to the decision, not moral willingess to choose the lesser of two evils, to withstand the deaths of innocents in the interest of moving the richest and most powerful country in the world in a better, probably more life-saving and -affirming direction, or maybe really just moving along with the rest of the human herd in the direction it cannot help but go anyway.

        • You’re right about all that. What you’re describing though is a second hand relationship. I didn’t put on the uniform. We’d have to see what I would do if Obama’s SS came to my door and push came to shove. I like to think that strong convictions can translate into courageous refusal to go along with the herd when the herd is actively engaged in the killing. There’s responsibility in any case, I agree, but if enough people refuse to go along with the active part of the engagement, then it ends Gandhi-style.

      • But anyway I think you grok the Strauss-Scott parallel, and there are a lot of people burdened with doctorates and major publications and thousands and thousands of Tweeps who wouldn’t.

        Strauss and Kojève were excellent playmates for each other… a little… but disagreed in fundamental ways… Kojève withdrew, published realtively little, seemed to have ended up rather depressed and isolated. Strauss had a lot of interesting playmates – or a circle of admiring students – who went on to be held responsible by elite opinion for a mass murderous criminal atrocity of a foreign policy botch.

  9. Now that’s just silly, the Drone strikes are one of the few things he did right, comparing that to the Nazis is Level 3 Goodwin,
    It would be nice to think that there was an Abbottabad version of Cops, where he could have been taken in by the local authorities, but that was not to be, in fact, the constabulary ’rounded up the usual suspects’ being the folks who served as spotters for us, Similar with Awlaki, the son of a former top Yemeni cabinet figure, could only be reached that way. Of course,
    both are just symptoms of the problem, which has much deeper roots in Arabian and/or Pakistani society. They deliberately
    target civilians, we strive to avoid that as much as is practical. I really thought Scott’s oevre in the ‘imagination business’ would
    make him understand this circumstance, but I guess not.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

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The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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