Defend Political Institutions09-30-2017
Defend Political Institutions
"First of all, there’s a danger in separating intellectual and political history, where intellectual historians are concerned with ideas that are interesting, and political historians are not concerned with ideas at all. Often ideas that are most significant are bad ideas, i.e. ideas that are not interesting in and of themselves, but nevertheless exert psychological, sociological, and political power. And we don’t have to go all the way back to Hitler to see an example of this. In our own societies, we know perfectly well at least a few ideas that are significant, although they may not be good ideas. An intellectual historian 80 years from now may not be concerned with them, but they are nevertheless powerful. That said, to understand Mein Kampf I think you have to have a certain amount of intellectual history background to realize how Hitler is working from Biblical traditions, from traditions of Victorian science, Darwinism etc. Not so much because he needs to be classified as a thinker, but in order to see and comprehend how Mein Kampf makes sense, how it holds together. You’re right, it is very unusual to spend as much time on Mein Kampf as I do at the beginning of Black Earth. I put it at the beginning of my book because Black Earth is a book about the Holocaust of the Jews, and the history of the Holocaust of the Jews has to be understood as a realization of a particular worldview. The worldview, a vision of the world without Jews, is stated in Mein Kampf, and is realized in the history of Germany and also in the history of German actions towards states and societies beyond Germany. I don’t think you can understand the Holocaust without analysing the worldview. There are many ways you can make this argument. One is the classical question of the different forms of extermination policies applied to Jews and Slavs. If one ignores the ideology one easily falls into questions of comparison rather than questions of origins. The difference between how Germany treats the Slavs and how it treats the Jews is ideological – it goes back to the difference between colonizing the Slavs and a world without the Jews. You can have massively murderous policies towards both groups of people, but at the end of the day there is a difference, and the difference is ideological. Slavs were to be colonized and Jews were to be removed from the planet because Slavs were seen as an inferior race whereas Jews were seen as a non-race that prevented the racial struggle from getting underway. Or, in a case of my own central argument, I am saying that the Holocaust happened because of a certain kind of politically generated anarchy, in the course of which German power was used to get rid of traditional political institutions, and that created an environment that made mass killing in these stateless zones possible. It is easier for me to see that when I read Mein Kampf and realize that Hitler is not a German nationalist, that he is not a state-builder. Instead, he is someone who is trying to restore the world to its natural condition of being which is precisely a competition among races. Competition among races is not a political-institutional idea, it’s some other kind of idea. And so then it’s easier to see the German campaign in the East with its destruction of institutions as a normal part of the destructive process. If you ignore the ideas and start from the premise that it’s all about institutions and what institutions do, you cannot understand the destruction of other institutions as part of the argument."
A Public Life Without Politics
Bonnie Honig shows how the alt-right marchers in Charlottesville were seeking the very kind of public belonging and public happiness that Hannah Arendt imagines is the treasure of public life. But because the alt-right wants to be able to belong together in public even as it excludes Jews, blacks, and others, Honig argues that the alt-right makes the mistake of wanting a public existence without politics.
"Images from the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville depicted scenes of a different kind of public care: one man poured milk over another’s face to counter the effects of Mace, then gently tilted his fellow Nazi’s chin in his hand as if to ask: was that better? One of the things that drew the alt-right marchers to gather was the desire to enjoy such care in public. The Unite the Right organizers noted the importance of coming out, being seen, working together in real life. “We don’t have the camaraderie,” one alt-right marcher said, “we don’t have the trust level that our rivals do . . . and that camaraderie and trust is built up through activism.” Describing themselves as “showing up,” being “part of a larger whole,” and “having a great time,” the marchers made clear their desire to create the conditions for mutual care rather than private isolation: they wanted to see and be seen, together, in public. Claiming camaraderie, they were building trust, care, and concern. The public they want to be part of is exclusively white and so the busy, messy, conflicted space of public life and activism now does not answer to their need, though it does offer some of what they crave. It is full of care for others, and care for the world we share with others, as the political theorist Hannah Arendt would put it. But to belong to that world, you have to be willing to take your place among others. And this, the alt-right marchers were not willing to do. Chanting “Jews will not replace us,” the men at that march in Charlottesville wanted the world without the share. They wanted a public just for themselves. This is the dangerous dream of all ethno-nationalists: they want the public, without the politics. The alt-right demand for public life is part of a quest to retake the public they or their parents abandoned a few decades ago. After integration or desegregation, white disinvestment and abandonment of public things often comes next. One example, explored by Jeff Wiltse, author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, is public swimming pools, which were racially-desegregated in the late 1940s and the 1950s and then abandoned by whites. “In city after city after city . . . the overall attendance to the pool would plummet,” Wiltse says. Whites “didn't stop swimming . . . They built private club pools, which were able to . . . legally discriminate against black Americans. Or they built at-home residential pools, so they could really enclose themselves off from the larger public and truly exercise control over who they were swimming with.”"Form more information visit: http://bostonreview.net/politics/bonnie-honig-who-cares
[caption id="attachment_19221" align="alignright" width="300"] By Steve Jurvetson - Flickr, CC BY 2.0[/caption] Seyla Benhabib introduces a series of photographs by Espen Rasmussen who has been documenting the rise of fascist movements throughout Europe.
"In part, the rise of far-right nationalism is a reaction to the European Union, which sparked a backlash from an older generation of people who fear the loss of their identities as white Christians. As refugees streamed into Europe, those diffuse sentiments for a vanishing past have found easily identifiable targets. Pundits and politicians on the right have placed Islamophobia firmly at the center of the new movements. In Italy, the journalist Oriana Fallaci popularized the phrase “Eurabia” to demonize the continent’s growing population of Muslim immigrants. Even in Germany, which has engaged in an exemplary reckoning with its fascist past, the economist and politician Thilo Sarrazin wrote a runaway best-seller called Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab — Germany Is Destroying Itself — arguing that the upsurge in immigration has created a lower class that is dumber and more dependent on the state. That outlook laid the groundwork for the swift rise of Germany’s far-right populist party, the AfD: Four years ago, it earned less than five percent of the vote in the country’s elections. Last weekend, it won nearly three times that, an astonishing coup that throws the growing power of nationalism and Islamophobia in Europe into sharp relief. Photographer Espen Rasmussen has spent almost two years documenting the rise of far-right extremists not just in Germany, but all over Europe, from the Golden Dawn in Greece to neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Some, like the National Front in France and Britain First in the United Kingdom, have entered the political mainstream. Many sit in the EU Parliament, using the funds of an organization whose destruction they seek. And all draw from the memories of Europe’s fascist past, in the period between the two World Wars, seeking answers to Europe’s contemporary problems. By putting the Nazi paraphernalia of these groups so vividly on display, Rasmussen’s photographs force us to confront the reality that there are forces that want Europe to fall apart rather than pull together. It is sobering to realize how far and fast such hatred can travel."Form more information visit: https://newrepublic.com/article/144954/return-fascism-germany-greece-far-right-nationalists-winning-elections