Stick It To The Man
A Year Of Anglo-American Populist Revolt Against A Changing Culture And An Obtuse Political Establishment
By Guillaume A.W. Attia (Editor-in-Chief)
January 20, 2017 Picture: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.
President Trump and other up-and-coming populists are now promising to give back genuine power to these “forgotten men and women” in a way that previous elected career politicians have demonstrably failed to do. Yet, the question many resented pundits and worried citizens are asking, is whether electing these unconventional leaders will in fact help the losers of globalization, or will it in the long-term endanger not only the aggregate economic and social well-being of most citizens, blue and white collar workers alike, but also the moral standing of liberal democratic societies in a world of increasing authoritarian radicalism?
Experts from various academic fields have offered their opinions on these pressing questions, but few publications have highlighted the analysis of academic philosophers. The essays included in this exclusive issue attempt to offer the reading public a broad overview of the various talking points usually associated with the rise of contemporary ethnic and economic populism. Included in the collection are the opinions of those who deplore the return of this kind of populism, as well as those who could not be more delighted that this movement is finally gaining global traction. Exposure to the thinking on both sides will hopefully help readers get a better understanding of the ideological struggle behind the current political upheaval, as well as procure the basic information they need to talk more sensibly with those with whom they disagree.
Article #1:“Standing Together If Apart: What To Do About Globalization” by Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton University)
2016 election focused on important issues: inequality, globalization, immigration, race and the problems with the US political system, but Trump’s victory was not due to a cultural revolt of poor white men. Rather, it was white people, in general, who voted for Trump and rich white people, in particular. White people in this country may feel like they are not getting what they deserve but, especially from the desert-based moral perspective many Trump supporters endorse, the problem lies primarily in these expectations. White people in the US are amongst the global, as well as local, elite; they are amongst the best off in this country and the world. Manufacturing declined in the 1970’s and the fact that a college education is important for economic success is well-publicized. It is only if we care about people, irrespective of desert, that we should care about poor white men (along with poor people of other races and sexes). If we do care about everyone, however, we should not support Trump’s proposals. Constraining globalization across the board, or even pursuing it only insofar as it promotes US interests, will likely harm many people (including poor white men in the US). Of course, we have been pursuing globalization without concern for wider distributional consequences for a long time. The results have been devastating. Many Trump supporters recognize this. Moreover, Trump’s supporters have many other legitimate concerns. Our political system has serious issues that are difficult to fix. We should not gloss over, or try to suppress, the deep moral and political disagreements that do divide our country. But we should care about all people irrespective of their views and work to make globalization fair for all.
Nicole Hassoun is a residential fellow with the Hope & Optimism Project at Cornell University and an associate professor in philosophy at Binghamton University. From 2006-2012 she was an assistant professor in philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, affiliated with Carnegie Mellon’s Program on International Relations and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law. In 2009-2010 she held a postdoctoral position at Stanford University and visited at the United Nation’s World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for Poverty Research in Salzburg, The Franco-Swedish Program in Philosophy and Economics in Paris and the Center for Advanced Studies in Frankfurt. She has published more than fifty papers in journals like the American Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Development Economics, The Journal of Applied Ethics, The American Journal of Bioethics, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Public Affairs Quarterly, The European Journal of Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, the Journal of Social Philosophy, Utilitas, and Philosophy and Economics. Her first book Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations was published with Cambridge University Press in 2012 and her manuscript Global Health Impact: Extending Access on Essential Medicines for the Poor is under contract with Oxford University Press. Professor Hassoun also heads the Global Health Impact project intended to extend access to medicines to the global poor (Global Health Impact). The project launched at the World Health Organization in January 2015 and has been featured on National Public Radio (New effort ranks drugmakers by impact). The Wall Street Journal (A New Index Measures Impact Pharma Has on Infectious Diseases) and Capital New York (SUNY professor indexes pharma companies’ impact). The project is intended to assist policy makers in setting targets for and evaluating efforts to increase access to essential medicines”.
Article #2: “The Dark Side Of Disruption: Inequality, Silicon Valley’s Ethos, And Our Future” by Zac Cogley (Northern Michigan University)
Silicon Valley companies will play an outside role in shaping the coming years. In this piece, Zac Cogley discusses The Valley’s ethos, how it could affect inequality, and what effects it may have on our future.
Zac Cogley’s interests include ethics, social and political theory, blame, emotion, technology, and machine learning. Much of his published work concerns how, why, and when we should blame each other for wrongdoing. He is an Associate Professor at Northern Michigan University where he enjoys hiking, trail running, and gazing across Lake Superior toward the void.
Article #3: “Trump Cannot Stop The Advance Of The Machines: Reshoring And The Social Relations Of Globalization And Technological Innovation” by Mark Howard (Monash University)
President Elect Donald Trump promises to “bring home” manufacturing, and with it, production labour and capital. This article argues that by focusing on the effects of “offshore” labour on American workers, Trump overlooks the effect of technological innovation on the future of employment. Technological displacement of work is already happening in the U.S, and coercing an accelerated program of “reshoring” is likely to exaggerate technological adoption. This poses the question: If the aim of new industrial and trade policy is to address the decaying social relations of production through targeted employment, should the government regulate the displacement of labour through technical innovation in the same way it plans to contain globalisation? If so, then there is a need for a progressive re-imagining of the relation of society, technology, work and wealth that identifies the potential risks and benefits of a low-employment society. Vitally, it is concluded that the consequences of “reshoring” for the social relations of production may be more radical than first thought. That is, securing the future prosperity of all Americans may require the democratising of the ownership of technology and the redistribution of wealth.
Mark Howard is an early career researcher precariously employed within the Philosophy Department of Monash University, Australia. His teaching is focused on political philosophy and the ethics of global conflict, while his research concentrates on the intersection of the radical subject and political institutions in western democracies. Mark’s recent publications investigate the epistemic value of the theory and practice of radical communities.
Article #4: “Don’t Build A Wall: Leaving The Door Open For Open Borders” by Christopher Freiman (College of William & Mary)
Donald Trump wants to build a wall on America’s southern border to restrict immigration. He argues that tightening border controls would increase American wages, create jobs, and ensure that incoming immigrants will “share our values and respect our people.” Trump’s plan is indefensible on economic or ethical grounds. Immigration enriches, rather than impoverishes, the American economy. It raises the wages of the average American worker and immigrants tend to be a net fiscal benefit to the countries they enter. What’s more, Americans have moral obligations to prospective immigrants. It’s morally wrong to forcibly deprive people of the opportunity to compete in the American labor market and thereby escape from poverty. In short, closing the border is a policy that takes unethical means to a destructive end.
Christopher Freiman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of William & Mary. He is a graduate of Duke University (B.A. in Philosophy) and the University of Arizona (M.A., Ph.D. in Philosophy). His research interests include democratic theory, distributive justice, and immigration. Freiman’s forthcoming book, Unequivocal Justice, criticizes the role of idealization in contemporary political philosophy. His work has appeared in venues such as the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, and The Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy. His website is www.cfreiman.com and he blogs at www.bleedingheartlibertarians.com
Article #5: “Trump’s Immigration Policies: A Path To Resistance” by Javier Hidalgo (University of Richmond)
Trump campaigned on a pledge to lower immigration and deport many immigrants, although it is still unclear whether he will actually implement these policies. In this article, I evaluate Trump’s proposed immigration policies. I argue that these policies are terrible. Trump’s policies would harm immigrants and American citizens and this is a strong reason against them. Moreover, these policies lack a good countervailing justification. I conclude by arguing that people should resist Trump’s immigration policies, should they be implemented. Citizens and immigrants should refuse to help the Trump administration carry out its plans and they should obstruct it whenever possible by, for instance, disobeying the law.
Javier Hidalgo is an assistant professor in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. He specializes in political philosophy and applied ethics with a focus on the ethics of immigration. He earned his PhD at Princeton University in 2011.
Article #6: “Fixing The Cracking In The Global Liberal Order: Thoughts On Making The Case For Progressive Immigration After Brexit And Trump” by Matthew Lister (University of Pennsylvania)
The election of Donald Trump, coming close on the heels of the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union, came as a shock to people hoping for and working towards more just and humane immigration policies. Both votes drew on explicit prejudice against non-citizens and immigrants. Both Trump and the most vocal supporters of “Brexit” claimed that they would put in place strong and illiberal immigration policies. These developments suggest that the consensus on liberal, democratic, and cosmopolitan values assumed by many normative theorists of immigration were not, in fact, widely or deeply shared. In this article I provide suggestions for those of us who favor just and humane immigration policies, backed by liberal, democratic, and cosmopolitan values. I argue that we should first seek to limit the damage caused by this upsurge in vicious nationalism by focusing on protecting especially vulnerable and potentially sympathetic groups, while resisting the imposition of explicitly racist and even unreasonably mean immigration policies. I then provide a map for going forward by ensuring that immigration policies can be seen as ensuring reciprocity among all parties.
Matthew Lister is a lecturer in the department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow in the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research. He has previously taught at Penn Law, Villanova Law School, and the University of Denver, Sturn College of Law, and was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of International Trade and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He has written extensively on immigration law and policy, and writes on legal and political philosophy more generally.
Article #7: “Anti-Immigrant Populism And Climate Change Denial: An Unstable Combination” by Steve Vanderheiden (University of Colorado, Boulder)
On the basis of his rhetoric during the general election campaign and early cabinet appointments prior to his inauguration, president-elect Trump can be expected to further restrict U.S. immigration while also rolling back Obama administration climate change mitigation measures and jeopardizing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which depended on those programs being enacted. Together, these would likely speed and intensify the environmental changes that are projected to displace millions of people from territories rendered uninhabitable by climate change while undermining the securing of adequate options for resettling these environmental migrants. Here, I explore the problem of climate-induced displacement along with the obligations of states to accept environmental migrants, speculating on how the incoming Trump administration’s climate and immigration policies that are a product of the insular populism that swept him into office may initially further fuel that populism, but will eventually face a reckoning as their combination exacerbates a crisis that it will be unable to resolve.
Steve Vanderheiden is Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a member of CU-Boulder’s Center for Science and Technology Policy. Along with numerous articles and book chapters on various topics in environmental political theory, he is the author of Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change (Oxford, 2008).
Article #8: “Du Bois, Afro-Pessimism, And The Wages Of Whiteness: On White Betrayal And The Betrayal Of Whites” by Shannon Sullivan (The University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
Situated in the context of Afro-pessimism and racial realism, this essay confronts the obstinacy of white superiority and white priority over people of color in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Using W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of the public and psychological wages of whiteness, I argue that the racist deal made in the nineteenth century between the elite class of white people and working class white people has been largely broken by white elites, which helps explain why working class white people sought revenge against them at the ballot box. I also use Du Bois’s insightful analysis of race and class to explain why middle-to-upper class white people might have voted for Trump. I conclude with Du Bois’s grim claim that for the sake of the world’s salvation, he must lie about the trustworthiness of white people, asking what might happen if he and we—meaning people of all races—no longer believe in the lie.
Shannon Sullivan is Chair of Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy and Health Psychology at UNC Charlotte. She specializes in feminist philosophy, critical philosophy of race, American pragmatism, and continental philosophy. She is the author of four books, most recently Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism (2014) and The Physiology of Sexist and Racist Oppression (2015). She also is co-editor of four books, including Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance (2007) and Feminist Interpretations of William James (2015).
Article #9: “Name-Brand Populism: Donald Trump’s Political Legacy” by Suzanne Dovi (University of Arizona)
President-Elect Trump’s form of politics forges an unhealthy alliance between America’s consumerism and its populism, what the author calls “Name-Brand populism.” American consumerism reduces citizenship simply to “shopping” for candidates while American populism offers a vision of democracy as an exclusive club whose greatness depends on keeping others out. This form of politics understands political freedom, not as political behavior consistent with Constitutional principles, but as an act of choosing in ways that increases one’s status. The appeal of Name-Brand populism can be partially explained by the extent to which Americans understand their political lives almost exclusively in the language of the marketplace. Name-Brand populism allows us to account for why Trump’s erratic behavior and offensive comments did not alienate more voters: Americans were buying a brand, not voting to advance particular policies.
Suzanne Dovi is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Arizona. Her work focuses on democracy, the representation of historically disadvantaged groups, and the concept of accountability. She is the author of the book, The Good Representative and her work has appeared in the American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics as well as in the L.A Times and the Washington Post. She is currently working on a book project entitled “A Theory of Non-Presence.” This project explores the different ways that disadvantaged groups can be missing or absent in representative processes.
Article #10: “Populism Is Not The Problem. It’s Part Of The Solution: How Best To Contain The New Wave Of Aggressive And Missionary Nationalism” by Torbjör Tännsjö (Stockholm University)
The words ‘populist’ and ‘populism’ have in many contexts turned into slurs. They appear in these contexts heavily loaded with negative emotive meaning, but with either little or no descriptive sense. However, within democratic theory they have a well-recognised and clear descriptive meaning. In a populist democracy the people rule. The will of the majority is decisive for the political decisions. A way of approaching the populist ideal is through a political system where the parties are represented in the parliament in proportion to the support they gain and where the parliament is sovereign to legislate and to elect a government. Populism can be contrasted with elitism, where the role of the people is restricted to the choice of its rulers. I argue that populism provides us with the best means to contain current aggressive right-wing nationalism. Part of my argument is my presentation of what I call ‘the paradox of elitism’: if the people are not considered good enough when it comes to political decision-making, and therefore not trained in political thinking, then it is highly likely that they will choose the wrong person as their leader.
Torbjör Tännsjö is Kristian Claëson Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University. He has published extensively in moral philosophy, political philosophy, and bioethics. His most recent book is Taking Life. Three Theories on the Ethics of Killing (Oxford University Press, 2015), available directly from Oxford University Press. See also a recent interview at 3:AM Magazine.
Article #11: “Populism, Elitism, And Democracy: Authority And Expertise In The Age Of Brexit And Trump” by Andy Hamilton (Durham University)
In 1920, H.L. Mencken predicted that the voice of the people will ensure that the White House is eventually occupied by a “downright fool and complete narcissistic moron”. That day has now arrived, the result of an international rage against elitist politics. The idea of political leadership as the articulation of people’s desires has been replaced by the direct democratic principle: the fact that a policy is voted for by the majority of the electorate is of itself a reason to implement it, even if it appears to be against the national interest. Elitism is now commonly contrasted with populism – whose central sense is denial of the possibility of better judgment in moral, political, aesthetic and cultural matters. This article explores the implications of that position, and defends a qualified elitist view that can be described as “meritocratic”. A meritocratic conception of authority insists that even if, as elitism asserts, some people are more penetrating judges of political, cultural and moral questions than others, each individual ultimately decides these questions for themselves. The article concludes by rejecting populist claims that they are “giving people what they want”, whether in the media, politics or the arts.
Andy Hamilton teaches Philosophy at Durham University, UK. He specialises in aesthetics, philosophy of mind, political philosophy and history of 19th and 20th century philosophy, especially Wittgenstein. His books are Aesthetics and Music (Continuum, 2007), The Self in Question: Memory, the Body and Self-Consciousness (Palgrave, 2013), and Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty (2014). He also teaches aesthetics and history of jazz at Durham, and published Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser’s Art (University of Michigan Press, 2007).
Article #12: “Bewitched, Bothered, And Bewildered: Brexit And The Logic Of Referendum” by Terrell Carver (University of Bristol)
The United Kingdom (UK) ‘Brexit’ referendum of 23 June 2016 was more interesting than most, though mostly for the wrong reasons, and not simply because of the unexpected and wholly indeterminate outcome. My approach here is start with the logic of the referendum within democratic practice, and rather more importantly, democratic principles. I will then briefly reflect on the indeterminacy of the outcome to date, and conclude with some mordant reflections on ‘how to do better next time’.
Terrell Carver is Professor of Political Theory in the School of Sociology, Politics & International Studies at the University of Bristol, UK. He has published extensively on Marx, Engels and Marxism, and on sex, gender and sexuality, as well as on more general topics in political theory and contemporary politics. He is working on an ‘accessible’ book that links Marx conceptually to current political issues and concepts, to be published in 2018, the bicentennial of Marx’s birth.
Article #13: “Against Epistocracy: For True Democracy: Why The Political Upheavals Of 2016 Point To A Need For Compulsory Voting” by Lisa Hill (University of Adelaide)
Jason Brennan says that the rise of Trump and the Brexit vote should make us question democracy. On his account voter ignorance is an unavoidable consequence of the universal franchise; electoral democracy is fatally flawed because the decisions of the multitude inevitably lead to bad government. Brennan proposes epistocracy as our best bet for better government. Here the decision-making power of the ‘ignorant’ masses’ would be reduced, either by restricting the right to vote to those able to pass a political competence test, granting an educated elite “additional voting power”, or else allowing panels of experts to overturn bad policy decisions. Yet Brennan’s proposal is based on a misguided interpretation of the whole purpose of modern democracy. Democracy emerged, not as a ‘correct decision’ mechanism, but as a system for power-sharing so as to avoid conflict and political instability. Those who fought for representation and the diffusion of political power throughout the polis saw it as an exercise, not in truth, but in conflict accommodation, power-sharing, and equality- and liberty-enhancement. Brennan’s claim that political engagement incentivises the demos to ignorance is also flawed. Under ideal democratic conditions—where voter participation is very high—political knowledge is not only enhanced but spread more evenly throughout the electorate. Therefore, concerned democrats should seek more rather than less voter participation. The best way to do this is by requiring people to vote.
Lisa Hill is a Professor of Politics at the University of Adelaide. Prior to that she was an Australian Research Council Fellow as well as a Fellow in Political Science at the Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Her interests are in political theory, history of political thought and electoral ethics. Recent publications include: An Intellectual History of Political Corruption, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Bruce Buchan) and Compulsory Voting: For and Against, (Cambridge University Press, 2014), with Jason Brennan). She has published her work in Political Studies, the Review of Politics and the British Journal of Political Science.
Article #14: “Does Trump’s Election Represent A Failure Of Democracy? Rousseau, Machiavelli, And Civic Duty In America” by S.A Lloyd (University of Southern California)
Distinguishing Machiavellian from Rousseauian conceptions of democracy, this article argues that the conditions required for democratic justifiability on the superior conception—acknowledgment of equal status, commitment to fair decision procedures, privileging of public values over private interests, and possession of accurate information– were not met in the case of Donald Trump’s election. It concludes that his election represents a failure of democracy, and in light of its analysis suggests measures to improve the democratic justifiability of future elections.
S.A. Lloyd is Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Political Science at the University of Southern California. A political philosopher specializing in the history of modern political philosophy and in contemporary liberal feminist political philosophy, Lloyd is author of Morality in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and Ideals as Interests in Hobbes’s Leviathan, and is editor of Hobbes Today, and The Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes. Lloyd co-founded USC’s Center for Law and Philosophy and served on the editorial boards of Philosophy & Public Affairs and The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
Article #15: “The Open Society And Its Friends: With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?” by Gerald Gaus (University of Arizona)
In 2016 the two great Anglo-American democracies shocked themselves and the world by apparently turning their backs on diversity, tolerance, innovation, and openness to the world. Karl Popper and F. A. Hayek agreed that the open society’s perennial enemy is the natural human proclivity to seek out a closed, “tribal” society: 2016 witnessed a resurgent tribal outlook, a yearning for an homogenous, stable, controlled society. Although Popper and Hayek concurred in defending the diversity and tolerance of the open society, they ultimately disagreed in their understanding of its nature. For Hayek the open society is an evolving moral, legal and economic framework that encourages toleration, trust, mutually advantageous interactions, and the flow of information that, over the last few hundred years, an increasing number of individuals have embraced. For him the core of the open society is free and willing cooperation of strangers on the basis of rules that allow each space to effectively pursue her aims and values. In contrast, Popper advocated what I shall describe as a “sectarian” perspective on the open society, focusing on secular values, science and rationality. This essay argues that this vision of the open society has helped spur the tribal backlash we are witnessing.
Gerald Gaus is the James E. Rogers Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, where he directs the program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law. He is also a faculty in the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. He is the author of a number of books, including Value and Justification (CUP, 1990), Justificatory Liberalism (OUP, 1996), On Contemporary Theories of Liberalism (Sage, 2003), and The Order of Public Reason (CUP, 2011). His most recent book is The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society (Princeton, 2016). He is currently writing on Hayekean self-organization and complexity in morality, to be published by Oxford University Press.
Article #16: “Democracy, Deliberation, And The Owl Of Minerva: The Malaise Of Argumentation Via Technological Mediation” by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse (Vanderbilt University)
In this essay, Aikin and Talisse outline what they call the ‘Owl of Minerva Problem’ for the deliberativist view of democracy, the view that democracy’s legitimacy depends on an healthy argumentative culture. The problem is that the particular tools for healthy public argument, in particular, the shared vocabularies of fallacy-identification and argument repair, are developed in hindsight and are often abused when used in heated exchange. The problem, then, is that deliberation must be forward-looking, but the tools for its healthy execution are backward-looking.
Scott Aikin is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in theory of knowledge, informal logic, and ancient philosophy. He is the author of Epistemology and the Regress Problem (Routledge, 2011) and Evidentialism and the Will to Believe (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Robert Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Political Science, and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in democratic theory, with particular interest in the intersections of political philosophy and social epistemology.
In addition to their individual work, Aikin and Talisse have co-authored three books: Pragmatism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2008), Reasonable Atheism (Prometheus Books, 2010), and Why We Argue (And How We Should) (Routledge, 2014).
Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has been accused of lying more frequently and more egregiously than most politicians. Many Americans are unconcerned. All politicians lie, they say. What difference does it make if Donald Trump lies more frequently than most? I argue that it does make a difference. Donald Trump is not just another politician. And his lies are distinctively dangerous to American democracy. Disagreement is inescapable: we do not have the same experiences, interests, or values. Democracy is how we organize ourselves socially despite those disagreements. We argue about policy instead of fighting about it. But for argument to work, there have to be prerequisites. Following Hannah Arendt, I present two: first, we agree that there are such things as facts. And, second, when we argue, we strive to be truthful. Donald Trump lies in ways that undermine these prerequisites. First, he is not merely a liar; Donald Trump is a bullshitter. His lies manifest a rank indifference to the truth. Second, Trump is a gaslighter: he lies with such confidence and combativeness that he makes people doubt what they know to be true. I conclude by outlining how Americans should respond to a Trump presidency.
Christopher Beem is Managing Director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author or co-editor of five books, including most recently, Democratic Humility: Reinhold Niebuhr, Neuroscience and America’s Political Crisis (Lexington Books, 2015). He received his PhD in Ethics and Society from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Article #18: “Donald Trump And The End Of Liberalism: Some Hard Truths About The Degradation Of American Democracy” by Mark Reiff (University of California, Davis)
Contrary to the conventional view, the election of Donald Trump is not best characterized as a misguided revolt by those who rightly felt that the economy was leaving them behind, for such an explanation is not supported by the facts. What the election of Donald Trump actually represents is a rejection of the liberal values that America was thought to pre-eminently represent—a rejection of tolerance and neutrality between competing but reasonable conceptions of the good, a rejection of engagement and debate in favor of bullying and bluster, and a denial that all of us are persons of equal moral worth. It is a choice to give authority priority over liberty and security priority over the rule of law. It is even a rejection of the idea that facts matter in deciding what we should believe and what we should do. It is, in effect, an abandonment of the principles of liberalism that advanced societies have been moving toward since the Enlightenment in favor of something closer to the perfectionist ideals favored by the Plutocrats of the ancient world. And that, I am afraid, is very bad news indeed.
Mark R. Reiff is the author of On Unemployment (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and Exploitation and Economic Justice in the Liberal Capitalist State (Oxford University Press, 2013). Reiff has taught political, legal, and moral philosophy at the University of Manchester and the University of Durham in the UK, and most recently at the University of California at Davis. In 2008-09 he was a Faculty Fellow at the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
Article #19: “Liberal Understanding For Troubled Times: Isaiah Berlin’s Insights And Our Moment Of Populist Revolt” by Joshua L. Cherniss (Georgetown University)
Isaiah Berlin’s work as a political theorist and historian of ideas was prompted by, and sought to understand and provide an antidote to, the violent ideologies and political upheavals of the twentieth-century – above all, the violence, terror, and tyranny inspired by Communist and nationalist visions of transformation. Although Berlin did not focus as much on the dangers of authoritarian populism – and did not see the revival of such populism in the wake of Communism’s evident demise and liberalism’s apparent triumph – his thought also has much light to shed on our present political situation. Berlin was a sensitive, sympathetic (but hardly simply approving) analyst of the psychological roots and ideological development of both nationalist and populist sentiment and doctrine, as well as a thinker who reflected deeply, and reacted sharply, to the psychology and logic of intolerance and extremism more broadly. He was aware of, and warned against, the blind spots and vulnerabilities of an overly complacent, elitist liberalism – while affirming the value of a liberalism more sensitive to human desires for belonging and recognition, and opposed to all forms of fundamentalism and authoritarianism.
Joshua L. Cherniss is an Assistant Professor of Government at Georgetown University, and a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton for the academic year 2016-2017; he has also taught at Harvard and Smith College. His teaching and research centers on the history of political thought, especially political thought in the twentieth century and the history of liberalism; and on political ethics, with particular emphasis on the moral problems of violence and ruthlessness. He is the author of A Mind and its Time: The Development of Isaiah Berlin’s Political Thought, and of articles and book chapters on Berlin, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Max Weber. He is also the co-editor (with Steven B. Smith) of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin. He is currently working on a book examining the challenges to and defense of liberalism as a political-ethical outlook in the twentieth century. He holds a D.Phil in history from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University.
Article #20: “The American Cicero: Mario Cuomo And The Defense Of American Liberalism” by Saladin Ambar (Lehigh University)
With progressive forces still in a state of bewilderment after Donald Trump’s election to the American presidency, this article argues that Democrats and those on the left may be well served by revisiting the governorship and political thought of former New York Governor, Mario Cuomo, for a way forward. It was Cuomo’s governorship that best articulated a form of progressive politics that at once spoke to the interests of the white working class while also laying assault to that constituency’s sense of racial entitlement. As the most serious, long-standing voice against the politics of Reaganism, Cuomo’s rhetoric and governance remind us of what is missing from American politics today – and how the past may impart some wisdom for these trying times.
Saladin Ambar is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University. He is the author of Malcolm X at Oxford Union (2014), and the forthcoming American Cicero: Mario Cuomo and the Defense of American Liberalism (2017), both published with Oxford University Press. He was recently named Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Senior Scholar at the Center on the American Governor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, beginning July of 2017.
Article #21: “A Philosopher’s Brief Comments On The Election” by David Schmidtz (University of Arizona)
In this essay David Schmidtz offers his brief comments on the election.
David Schmidtz is Kendrick Professor of Philosophy and Eller Chair of Service-Dominant Logic, at the University of Arizona. In political philosophy, Arizona is ranked as the world’s #1 graduate program by the Philosophical Gourmet. (Arizona is the only school in “Group 1.”) David’s fourteen former doctoral students all hold faculty positions. Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton University Presses have published their books. David also is editor-in-chief of Social Philosophy & Policy. He has been Visiting Professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown, the Political Economy Department at Kings’ College London, Philosophy & Economics at Hamburg University, and the Florida State College of Law.
Article #22: “Religion By Another Name: How Liberal Fury Over Trump & Brexit Is Reminiscent Of Calvinism” by John Haldane (Baylor University/University of St. Andrews)
In this contribution, John Haldane discusses the recent influence of religion in American politics and considers secular liberal arguments in favour of restricting the appeal to religious beliefs in public deliberation and debate about values and policies. He then explores the deeper history of the relation between religion and politics in Europe following the religious wars, and among early Calvinist settlers in North America. He argues that while one would have expected the legacy of the 1960s counter-cultural movement to have been an increasing tendency towards toleration and an awareness of the dangers of ideological establishment and of sectarianism. In fact, the movement of thought and practice has been towards factionalism, division and denunciation. One virulent manifestation of this is the tendency among liberals to denounce social conservatives first as stupid and then as wicked. Both denunciations represent a move away from the idea that ‘man is basically good’, but the latter in particular is indicative of a revival of Calvinism, be it in a secular idiom. He concludes that the struggle for freedom of belief and its conscientious expression was long fought and the need of it is ongoing. Fear of strife, and of the need of toleration to limit the risk of it, is the beginning of political wisdom.
John Haldane is the J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, USA; and Professor of Moral Philosophy and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He is also Visiting Professor in the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue at the University of Birmingham, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Chair of the Royal Institute of Philosophy London. Apart from his academic work, he is a frequent contributor to press and broadcasting in the UK and more widely. From 2005 to 2016 he was a Consultor to the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture.
Article #23: “Why The Alt-Right Is Right: The Case Of Sex And The Border” by Daniel Gordon (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
The article takes alt-right thought seriously as a critique of a tendency toward “borderless” thinking on the Left. Two apparently unrelated issues, immigration and transgender bathrooms, illustrate the alt-right’s concern about the erosion of traditional boundaries and identities. There is indeed a peculiar tendency to idealize border crossing and self-transformation in contemporary left-liberal thought. Radical ideas have migrated from the academy to the Department of Education as one can see through a case study of Catherine Lhamon. At the heart of the discourse of Trump, Bannon, and Breitbart is a serious concern with a philosophical question: How far can we push the frontiers of transgressive thinking and action without destroying our own liberty?
Daniel Gordon is professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research is on the history of social and political thought since the Enlightenment. Publications include Citizens Without Sovereignty (Princeton University Press, 1994), translation of Voltaire’s Candide (Bedford Saint-Martins, 2nd edition 2016), and “From Act to Fact: The Transformation of Suicide in Western Thought” (Historical Reflections, 2016). Gordon’s article, “Civilization and the Self-Critical Tradition,” which is a critique of post-colonial theory, will be the center of a published symposium later this year, in the journal Society.
Article #24: “This Is Why As A Philosopher I Voted For Donald Trump: Trumpism And The Future Of The American Democracy” by Daniel Bonevac (The University of Texas, Austin)
The Solomon Asch experiments offer a window into Donald Trump’s electoral victory. We Trump supporters, like Asch’s subjects, found ourselves surrounded by people who insisted on things we could plainly see to be false. Trump, unlike the other candidates, generally told the truth about the problems facing the United States. Criticisms of him were based on lies and misunderstandings. His extreme statements, even when we disagreed with them, showed him to be a courageous fighter and enabled us to say what we thought.
Daniel Bonevac is Professor of Philosophy and Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin. Author of six books and editor of four others, he has published more than sixty articles in philosophical journals, most recently “Quantifiers Defined by Parametric Extensions” (Journal of Philosophical Logic, with Hans Kamp), and “Defaulting on Reasons” (Noûs). His article “What it’s like to be a college professor who supports Donald Trump” appeared in the Washington Post and many other newspapers.
Article #25: “Disposition Not Ideology: Michael Oakeshott’s Unheeded Conservatism” by Luke Philip Plotica (Virginia Tech University)
The British philosopher Michael Oakeshott characterized being conservative in terms of possessing a sceptical disposition of thought and action, manifest in a tendency to prefer the imperfections of what is already enjoyed to the promised perfection of utopia to come. In recent decades American conservatives have by and large fallen away from this understanding and have embraced conservatism as an ideology, doctrine, or substantive policy agenda. From faith in the organizational and moral superiority of the free market to robust conceptions of national identity, they have gravitated towards the technical, ideological turn of mind that Oakeshott termed ‘rationalism,’ which seeks to reorganize the world according to an unassailable ‘master science’ of human affairs. Despite its unexpected outcome, the 2016 election is further evidence of this general trend. Long overlooked in America, Oakeshott furnishes a critical perspective on contemporary American conservatism and its slide towards the style of thought and politics it had once staunchly opposed. Viewed from his perspective, on many of their favored issues the Republicans may not be the conservative option after all, but merely one more brand of political rationalism.
Luke Philip Plotica is assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech, where he researches and teaches in the areas of political theory and public law. He is author of Michael Oakeshott and the Conversation of Modern Political Thought (SUNY Press, 2015), as well as several articles and a new book project on American political thought.
Article #26: “Political Loyalty After Trump: From ‘Never Trump’ To ‘Vote Your Conscience’ To ‘Endorsing The Nominee’” by Simon Keller (University of Victoria, Wellington)
In the course of winning the Republican nomination and then the presidency, Donald Trump railed against the Republican Party, refused to guarantee support for his party’s candidate or to accept the outcome of the election, and was the target of a sizable “Never Trump” movement from within his own party. Meanwhile, the Independent Bernie Sanders ran a strong insurgent campaign for the Democratic nomination. Standing assumptions about the nature and importance of party loyalty were a casualty of the 2016 election. In light of the strange 2016 election, this article asks whether loyalty to a political party makes any sense, and whether a party may be a victim of disloyalty. A political party is not like a family, and does not merit the loyalty we give to our friends and loved ones. Nevertheless, a political party cannot succeed if its members value it merely for its usefulness, and to that extent, a kind of loyalty to party is necessary and sensible. Among the various complicated attitudes to party exhibited during the 2016 campaign, some count as loyal and silly, some as loyal and justified, some as disloyal and all the better for it, and some – including Trump’s – as disloyal and wrong.
Simon Keller is a Professor of Philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published widely on topics in ethics and political philosophy, with a focus on the moral issues raised by relationships of love and loyalty. He has also published on topics in metaphysics and the history of philosophy. He is the author of The Limits of Loyalty (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Partiality (Princeton University Press, 2013), and a co-author of The Ethics of Patriotism: A Debate (Wiley Blackwell, 2015).
Article #27: “Patriotism, Polarization, And The End Of American Exceptionalism: Why A Divided America Won’t Be Great Again” by Stephen Nathanson (Northeastern University)
In “Patriotism, Polarization, and The End of American Exceptionalism”, I focus on the impact of the 2016 election on the three elements in the title. I take for granted that Donald Trump’s victory will increase political polarization in the United States and explore questions about the other features of U.S. political culture, patriotism and “American exceptionalism.” Regarding patriotism, I discuss what it is, how Trump might affect levels of patriotism and whether patriotism can unite people with different beliefs and values. One challenge to patriotic solidarity occurred in 2016 when football player Colin Kaepernick refused to rise for the national anthem to protest police killings of black men. I discuss the role of race in responses to Kaepernick’s protest, the charge that he was unpatriotic, and the view that patriotism is declining in the U.S. Regarding “American exceptionalism,” I discuss criticisms that Barak Obama rejected “American exceptionalism,” Obama’s actual view, and argue that “exceptionalism” is neither possible nor desirable. I also discuss Trump’s apparent views on this issue and consider what impact the loss of exceptionalism might have on patriotism in the U.S.
Stephen Nathanson is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University. He is the author of six books and numerous articles, most of which deal with ethics and political philosophy and their relevance for public issues. Among his books are Patriotism, Morality, and Peace (Rowman and Littlefield, 1993); Economic Justice (Prentice-Hall, 1998); An Eye for an Eye?–The Immorality of Punishing by Death (Rowman and Littlefield, 2nd ed., 2001), and Terrorism and the Ethics of War (Cambridge University Press, 2010), was named the 2010 Best Book in Social Philosophy by the North American Society for Social Philosophy. In 2015, he was given the Hugo Adam Bedau Award for Scholarship on the Death Penalty by the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty.
This article uses Nietzsche’s perspective in order to warn the enlightened world about the imminent threat that Donald Trump carries against the most cherished values of Western civilization: its humanist culture and liberal freedom. A diametric opposition prevails between Nietzsche’s authentic Übermensch, endowed with positive spiritual and generous power (Macht) and the inauthentic and shallow image of the Superman who manifests the negative power and exhibits a considerable amount of physical force (Kraft) that eventually leads to acts of aggression and to violent abuse and exploitation of the weakest. One who hates, molest and abuses his wealth or political power cannot be regarded by Nietzsche as belonging to the small elite of people endowed with positive power patterns. Sadly, Trump’s victory indicates that the mass culture and its cultural lowest common denominators that mobilize primitive instincts for cynical manipulations have got the upper hand in the eyes and votes of many Americans. Finally I draw a table of two respective power patterns that describes in a nutshell Nietzsche’s anthropological dichotomy between the two existentialist profiles or persons: one endowed with positive power and the other devoid of it. Reading this table, one becomes pretty sure to which column Trump and his followers surely belong.
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