After weeks (years, really) of debate on the subject I realized I’d never really committed to writing my argument about why I think it’s appropriate to talk about fascism in regards to Trump and Trumpism. I do not think it’s so straightforward that Trump or the preponderance of his followers are self-conscious fascists. …


The Chad Gramscian vs. The Virgin Sorelian (or what have you)

Writer Jacob Siegel made an observation to the effect of “The American Right has left its Grasmscian period and entered its Sorelian Period.” I think what this means is that the Right is no longer seeking hegemony over cultural and political institutions, like it pursued during most of the history of the conservative movement, but has now shifted to a model of political action centered on myth and the redemptive power of violence.

Georges Sorel, an unorthodox French socialist writing around the turn of the last century, believed that…


A little more on Romantic Irony, this time focusing on Kierkegaard’s interest and use in the romantics’ aesthetic pose — K’s dissertation was “On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates.” He adopts Hegel’s notion that irony is “infinite absolute negativity.”

To recap from last time, this means that the ironic subject, if truly dedicated to irony, must negate, diminish, parody — must treat ironically — everything. But this is not the same as thoroughgoing skepticism.

According to K, doubt wants to know the truth of what’s going on, but cannot settle on one; Irony wants to deny…


“Romantic Irony” might sound like a strange idea: we normally associate romanticism with the sincere expression of emotion and also with the ideal of naturalness as opposed to artifice. But the early German romantics at the beginning of the 19th century were obsessed with irony as a literary trope and aesthetic principle. They even raised it to the status of existential attitude and metaphysical category, closely related to their idea of genius. In their effort to make irony an organizing principle of life, they anticipate 20th century the avant-garde movements and later subcultures like “hipsters.” …


The Irishman comes out at a particularly interesting moment when we’re reassessing the history of the past century. The tendency recently has been to denigrate the boomer generation’s self-indulgence and narcissism, and look back farther to older ideologies and institutions of solidarity and collectivity as ideals: organized labor, Keynesianism, socialism, the anti-fascist effort of WW2, etc.

The Irishman complicates the nostalgic picture of post-war prosperity and its institutions. Sheeran deflates the greatest generation myth: Rather than being forged by the War, he’s emptied out by it. He’s made to kill and made to obey. He finds meaning in larger institutions…


Something about Kanye West’s latest breakdown (or “breakthrough” as he puts it ) made me think of Hegel. In Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit, forms of consciousness attempt to make themselves Absolute, to give themselves a basis for knowing and acting that isn’t relative to some other being, to win freedom. The book, in a very abstract and hazy way, tracks the course of history: from primeval struggles for domination to Greek tragedies to witty conversations of 18th century salons to the guillotines of French Revolution to Romantic artists losing themselves in ironic detachment and moral narcissism. …


There have been several criticisms of my piece on Murray Rothbard for the Baffler. I did not, it is alleged, fully address the diversity of the man’s own thought. True enough—I felt like there was a case to be made that he had a coherent thrust to his conceptions throughout his life, eccentricities aside. Another criticism is that I glossed too rapidly over his New Left period, and also didn’t address in careful enough detail the time after his New Left period, when he was at the Cato Institute and then at the Mises Institute. Instead, I gave too much…


About a month ago I published a piece in The Baffler about the Hannah Arendt Center’s decision to invite Marc Jongen of the Alternativ für Deutschland Party to speak. I was critical of his invitation, the way his talk was presented, and how the Center and its director defended their actions in the aftermath. (I also broadly sympathized with the scholars who expressed alarm that the Center had made such a decision, although it was more of an expression of dismay than a practical step.) I can now add to this a criticism of Ian Buruma’s response to the matter.


I’ve been following with interest Will Wilkinson’s writing about libertarian democracy skepticism and the reach of its influence on the Republican party today. Wilkinson believes, I think correctly, that many of the pathological features of the contemporary right have their closest origin in the libertarian movement.

If I understand him correctly, Wilkinson’s central idea seems to be that libertarian hostility to majoritarianism is a relict of the rise of Communism and the Cold War, and that without its functional role in defending against the Red Menace any longer, libertarian democracy skepticism become a sort of inflamed appendix of American political…


The morning after Trump was elected, President Barack Obama told his daughters, as a way of reassuring them that, “Societies and cultures are really complicated … This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy.” It’s clear what point he was trying to make —that the vagaries of human affairs are not predictable, but perhaps his words carried more meaning than he intended. The conception that societies are something like a living organism is one of the oldest metaphors in political thought. …

John Ganz

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