Simply to assert, as Hart very much seems to, that the truth of a religious tradition is utterly severable from every particular element of that tradition, that it is essentially irrelevant to the inquiry into religion what the mass of believers believe or say they believe or are asked to believe, is, for the atheist, bad faith: a mere changing of the subject if not a deception.
As for Heidegger, Schmitt, their defenders, and all those suspected of actual or parallel “sympathies,” they will, of course, be denied the protection we extend to the last great and very German, very Jewish philosopher-theologians of the pre-Zionist or Diasporetic Age. The thought of identifying oneself with the Nazis and fellow travelers will be the thought of leaving normal life in liberal-democratic societies behind. We remain defined morally – to ourselves, concretely – by the justice of the physical and ideological destruction of the perverted culture-state that Heidegger and Schmitt literally stood up for in public, and that privately they supported more in spirit than post-war apologetic exercises led some to hope.
“…the odd paradox whereby Bakunin, the greatest anarchist of the nineteenth century, had to become in theory the theologian of the anti-theological and in practice the dictator of an anti-dictatorship.”
(longer version of a comment left at a typically impossible discussion of Carl Schmitt at the Crooked Timber blog.) the single most interesting question he raises, if not uniquely, then signally, is the constitutional paradox of the constituting/constituted power. That…
The Roosevelt-Marshall welfare-warfare state and the global regime it fought and worked into existence remain intact but under pressure. They still depend on an ability to project beyond themselves, both economically as well as militarily, and both morally as well as practically.
Hirsch produces the form of an argument that, to whatever extent it is understood on its own terms, as accurately attributing to Zionism an un- or anti-Christian as well as illiberal essence, may make the Zionist position more difficult to sustain politically in a Judeo-Christian and broadly liberal national political culture: Zionism appears in Hirsch’s claims as an affront to the liberal-universalist commitments that define the United States of America aspirationally, and at the same time, for Americans who understand their Americanism as a nationalism, as a geographically concretized proxy ethnicity, as a fatally alien interest, subject to continual re-weighing in whichever balance.
Its notion turns the whole world upside down, since the ideal state-nation is the universal homogeneous state, the world state or the democracy whose demos would be all of humankind, not any particular state within history but the action of history itself under a declared progressively “federative concept.”
A difficulty with the question of the public intellectual at this time, a sense of a non-integral and irrelevant public discourse or discourse of discourses seems to typify the present conjuncture or global moment of the disappearance of a political-cultural concept in its own hyper-extension.
All the other guys and gals, the losers and the second-raters, the backworldspeople, are the ones who need policy and strategy: The Neo-Empire or Empire of Liberty is its own strategy and is by “being there” already the final determinant of every policy and politics. Hegemony is. It simply “lives hegemonically.” All else on Earth if not necessarily in Heaven (nor necessarily not) is secondary, though perhaps usefully diversionary, since an achieved new consensus, as we occasionally set out to remind ourselves, would be counterproductive compared to the actual, virtually inarticulable but pre-eminently successful one, and possibly the sole true danger to it.
As a matter of history, the administrative state, the FDR state, that the Tea Partiers are glad to shut down temporarily, and that some would like to shut down permanently, is the same state that arose contemporaneously with the fall of the Weimar Republic, in relation to common and overlapping challenges, and that was consolidated in political competition and eventually at war with its immediate successor (which technically still functioned under the Weimar constitution). A serious discussion of an actual or potential crisis of liberal democracy in the leading liberal democratic nation-state, and on the system level – the level of basic responsibilities and assumptions of government – cannot help but take into account prior, concretely related crises, even if particular circumstances initially appear vastly different.
The world's chieftain cannot serve the general interest effectively and reliably unless convinced that serving the general interest also serves "his" self-interest - that the two interests are finally the same or non-severable. When the chieftain falls into a depressive state - of apathy, or aboulia, or neurasthenia; doubting all, negating itself to negate all - the system fails, and the will to stasis is realized, or hypostatized, as crisis.
If the subject of democracy - the demos, the mob - has proven itself, as always expected by those not taken in by the hustle, unworthy of respect or responsibility, then what basis do Berman, Scialabba, or any of the rest of us have for deeming whatever "Fahrenheit 451- or Blade Runner-style" authoritarian oligarchy to be "catastrophic"? Catastrophe becomes just another name for life on Earth as ever, and authoritarian oligarchy, with space set aside for the New Monks, looks like the best anyone ever could have expected. How else are we supposed to keep billions of ignorant, violent, etc., people from destroying themselves?
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.
For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.
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.
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.
[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.