Amor Mundi: January 15th, 2017

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

"The Rage of Corruption Unveiled"

Uriel Abulof argues that we are witnessing the retreat of the liberal project of individual individualism in the face of a more fundamental and more powerful human need for collectivist tribalism. The drive for tribalism is real; but to understand why it has emerged so vigorously, we need to comprehend how tribalism is a response to what Hannah Arendt calls “the rage of corruption unveiled.”

“Sartre, an ardent atheist, believed there was “no exit” from this hell here on earth. More than 70 years later, a plurality of voting Britons and Americans begged to differ. Brexit and the election of Trump have all the markers of our age: social media spats, clashes of civilizations and generations, urban cosmopolitans voting against rural nationalists. But underneath the apparent divisions, a deeper divergence lurks, a mismatch between philosophies of life — actual existential anxieties. When existentialism goes political, hell is not merely other people; hell is also other peoples. Populist leaders — like Recep Erdoğan, Nigel Farage, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump – get it. We cannot stop these pied pipers without first listening to their tune, and grasping its appeal.

In 1941, German-born Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt fled to New York from Vichy, France.. Twenty years later she arrived in Jerusalem to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann. In her book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” she depicts the Nazi officer as a thoughtless groupie, a man who sought refuge from critical thinking by joining social groups whose clichés he mindlessly practiced. The Nazi party just happened to be the deadliest one.

A more accurate subtitle to Arendt’s treatise, and to her lifework, might have been “the evil of banality” (that is, of thoughtlessness), but she preferred the reverse, which was enough for many to level against her the accusation of blaming the Jewish victims. One such accuser was her friend Gershom Scholem, a scholar of Jewish mysticism. In his letter to Arendt, Scholem deplored her “heartless” tone and denounced her for lacking “Ahabath Israel: ‘Love of the Jewish people.’” Arendt replied: “You are quite right… I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective… I indeed love ‘ ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons.” Scholem subsequently severed his relations with Arendt.

Arendt’s answer is a staple of late liberal thought. We should love people and loathe peoples. Collectives beget hate, not love, and love, we know, is what it’s all about. And so, as Aretha Franklin once said : “It’s not cool to be Negro or Jewish or Italian or anything else. It’s just cool to be alive, to be around. You don’t have to be black to have soul,” and Franklin knew a thing or two about soul. Still, though universal coolness might work poetically, can we have politics (or even just political philosophy) without particular identities?

Thus begins the liberal journey to square the circle. After using God as scaffolding to construct equal human rights, liberalism turned to imagine politicized people without “a people” and yet with groups in between. It’s almost as dim as it sounds. Just think of Hillary Clinton’s duo of slogans during the 2016 presidential campaign: the official “stronger together” and the popular “love trumps hate.” Who exactly will be “stronger” by being “together” remains opaque, lest it resonate explicitly with “America,” on whose behalf a claim for greatness seems like a fascist call for “hate” against all others — those who “love” people rather than peoples. Ultimately, for liberalism, it is in rational individuals, not the mindless collectives, that we should anchor our search for a healthy, wealthy, happy life.”

Abulof rightly opposes Arendt and Rousseau as the thinkers underlying the opposed camps of cosmopolitanism and collectivist nativism. Rousseau was a thinker of “the will of the people.” The search for a “General Will” is a search for that collective will which all the people in a nation must share; it is the rational truth, the necessary shared opinions and worldviews that unite a people. The problem Rousseau saw was that not every person would embrace the general will over his or her particular will. Which is why Rousseau famously concluded that freedom could only be secured when we forced the people to be free, when we coerced individuals to embrace the truth of the general will. Rousseau, for all his liberal dreams of protecting and legitimating individual freedom, imagined that true freedom could only exist in a collectivist fantasy united by either a lawgiver, a civil religion, or a demagogue.

Arendt recoiled at Rousseau’s collectivism, his justification of force as a means to ensure the free submission to a general will. But this does not mean, as Abulof writes, that Arendt turned to love to save us. While she valued love deeply, Arendt thought that love had no place in politics. Love erases the distance between people that respects their boundaries and their uniqueness. If politics is about unity, it is about a unity of people that preserves and respects their plurality.

Arendt also rejected the idea that freedom was founded upon free will, whether that will was collective or individual. To find freedom in the will is to equate freedom with self-control and thus with sovereignty, which means rule. Arendt rebelled against the traditional Christian and Western idea of freedom as sovereign rule. Instead, she argues that freedom is based in action—”to be free and to act are the same.” Since action is unpredictable and spontaneous, it evades all sovereign control. And since action is something that one only can do with and amongst others, action and freedom only emerge through acting in concert with others. Freedom is not found simply in the act of a sovereign individual; it comes to be when we act together with others.

Arendt surely saw that our modern politics was too fully influence by Rousseau’s collectivist and tribal political instincts. But she also saw that to oppose tribalism with a universal cosmopolitanism—to call for a world government or for a human tribe—was even more dangerous as long as we still imagine freedom as sovereignty.

Abulof ends his essay with a turn toward a kind of cosmopolitan universalism:

“But meaningful coexistence is not about toleration or about turning the other cheek; it is about looking deep into each other’s eyes, seeking interpersonal intimacy and intercommunal solidarity. Only by knowing the other can we transcend, if momentarily, the transient individuals that we are, and start living up to our humanity — making humanity our tribe.”

Arendt, however, was deeply suspicious of building a politics on “interpersonal intimacy and intercommunal solidarity,” on some universal ideas of what unites the human tribe. Politics, a human politics, is about plurality and difference. To establish one super-powerful sovereign to limit and bridle the various tribes risks having that super-sovereign dominate the world without opposition. A world government was, Arendt argues, even more dangerous because there would be no lesser governments to band together and oppose it.

Against Rousseau’s elevation of the sovereign and collective will of the nation as the solution to the problem of political unity, Arendt imagines a decentralized politics, a federalist politics, one in which many factions, many groups, and many institutions each pursue their own version of a meaningful life. Her politics does not set individualism against tribalism; Arendt seeks to empower constitutional and institutional traditions that allow tribalism and plurality to co-exist.

The modern version of tribalism has its root in the political claim of the “will of the people” that in turn has its origins with Rousseau. When the people appear in the streets and demand to rule as the people, they are rebelling against the hypocrisy of the elite. The people demand that we tear off the masks of those who falsely claim to rule in their interests. What drives the people is the claim of hypocrisy and the rage at corruption unveiled, the dawning realization that the powers that be have lied, cheated, and stolen. The problem with the drive to undo hypocrisy is that there is no one who doesn’t wear a mask. Which is why the political ambition to unmask hypocrisy so quickly can descend into terror and chaos, as happened in the French Revolution.

“When this force [hypocrisy] was let loose, when everybody had become convinced that only naked need and interest were without hypocrisy, the malheureux changed into the enragés, for rage is indeed the only form in which misfortune can become active. Thus, after hypocrisy had been unmasked and suffering been exposed, it was rage and not virtue that appeared—the “rage of corruption unveiled on one side, the rage of misfortune on the other.”

—Roger Berkowitz

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Amor Mundi: January 8th, 2017

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Patriots v.s. The Cosmopolitans

Greg Ip argues that the ideological battle of our time is between globalists and patriots.

“Late on a Sunday evening a little more than a year ago, Marine Le Pen took the stage in a depressed working-class town in northern France. She had just lost an election for the region’s top office, but the leader of France’s anti-immigrant, anti-euro National Front did not deliver a concession speech. Instead, Ms. Le Pen proclaimed a new ideological struggle.

“Now, the dividing line is not between left and right but globalists and patriots,” she declared, with a gigantic French flag draped behind her. Globalists, she charged, want France to be subsumed in a vast, world-encircling “magma.” She and other patriots, by contrast, were determined to retain the nation-state as the “protective space” for French citizens.

Ms. Le Pen’s remarks foreshadowed the tectonic forces that would shake the world in 2016. The British vote to leave the European Union in June and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November were not about whether government should be smaller but whether the nation-state still mattered. Ms. Le Pen now has a shot at winning France’s presidential elections this spring, which could imperil the already reeling EU and its common currency.Supporters of these disparate movements are protesting not just globalization—the process whereby goods, capital and people move ever more freely across borders—but globalism, the mind-set that globalization is natural and good, that global governance should expand as national sovereignty contracts.

The new nationalist surge has startled establishment parties in part because they don’t see globalism as an ideology. How could it be, when it is shared across the traditional left-right spectrum by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, George W. Bush and David Cameron ?

But globalism is an ideology, and its struggle with nationalism will shape the coming era much as the struggle between conservatives and liberals has shaped the last. That, at least, is how the new nationalists see it.”

The last time we witnessed a worldwide populist revolt against democracy was in the 1920s and 1930s. Then the populist movements in Europe were internationalist and imperialist. The populists of today are nationalist. In one sense that is comforting. As Hannah Arendt argued in the magisterial second part of Origins of Totalitarianism, totalitarianism is connected with internationalist and imperialist movements that seek infinite and totalizing expansion. It is in the nature of totalitarianism that it makes absolute and totalizing claims that are not limited to particular nations.

What needs to be understood is why, after nearly a half-century of world-wide consensus in favor of globalization, have the people around the world rejected the ideology of globalism. Ip argues that the backlash against globalism is less economic than cultural. There is, also, a third possibility, that the backlash against globalism is neither economic nor cultural, but is driven by the failure of political, cultural, and economic institutions at all levels. Whatever the cause, cultural movements—while they need not be racist and xenophobic—easily can be. As Ip writes, ” In short, there is ample reason for skepticism about whether the new nationalists can prove themselves a genuinely secular, democratic alternative to globalism.”

Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism has never been more relevant. The Hannah Arendt Center Founder and Director Roger Berkowitz will lead a 10 session online reading group on The Origins of Totalitarianism beginning on Friday, Jan. 20th. Learn more and register here.

—Roger Berkowitz

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Happy New Year! Amor Mundi: January 1st, 2017

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Turn This Off, If Only For a Day

Dhamma Dhara Meditation Hall, Shelburne Falls, MA

It is Sunday, January 1st‚—New Years Day. It is a holiday around the world. If you’re reading this on your phone (as about 35% of you are), what does that tell you? Young adults check their phones 85 times on average every day, for more than 5 hours. About 30% of our waking hours, we are checking our portable devices, and many of us use computers and tablets in addition to our phones. As Andrew Sullivan writes, “The interruptions often feel pleasant, of course, because they are usually the work of your friends.” Sullivan was, arguably, the first true blogger. His blog “The Dish” was the first true blog combining personal reflections, politics, and commentary. I read it frequently. He updated it more frequently, at first every 30 minutes. Later, more often than that. As he writes in a recent essay in New York Magazine,

I was, in other words, a very early adopter of what we might now call living-in-the-web. And as the years went by, I realized I was no longer alone. Facebook soon gave everyone the equivalent of their own blog and their own audience. More and more people got a smartphone — connecting them instantly to a deluge of febrile content, forcing them to cull and absorb and assimilate the online torrent as relentlessly as I had once. Twitter emerged as a form of instant blogging of microthoughts. Users were as addicted to the feedback as I had long been — and even more prolific. Then the apps descended, like the rain, to inundate what was left of our free time. It was ubiquitous now, this virtual living, this never-stopping, this always-updating. I remember when I decided to raise the ante on my blog in 2007 and update every half-hour or so, and my editor looked at me as if I were insane. But the insanity was now banality; the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone.

Sullivan knows better than most what living in the web can do to you. And what he found was that it could kill you. Yes, the pace of being a full-time blogger made Sullivan sick and threatened his health. But the real threat only became apparent once he quit the internet and checked himself into a meditation center.

“I arrived at the meditation retreat center a few months after I’d quit the web, throwing my life and career up in the air. I figured it would be the ultimate detox. And I wasn’t wrong. After a few hours of silence, you tend to expect some kind of disturbance, some flurry to catch your interest. And then it never comes. The quiet deepens into an enveloping default. No one spoke; no one even looked another person in the eye — what some Buddhists call “noble silence.” The day was scheduled down to the minute, so that almost all our time was spent in silent meditation with our eyes closed, or in slow-walking meditation on the marked trails of the forest, or in communal, unspeaking meals. The only words I heard or read for ten days were in three counseling sessions, two guided meditations, and nightly talks on mindfulness.

I’d spent the previous nine months honing my meditation practice, but, in this crowd, I was a novice and a tourist. (Everyone around me was attending six-week or three-month sessions.) The silence, it became apparent, was an integral part of these people’s lives — and their simple manner of movement, the way they glided rather than walked, the open expressions on their faces, all fascinated me. What were they experiencing, if not insane levels of boredom?

And how did their calm somehow magnify itself when I was surrounded by them every day? Usually, when you add people to a room, the noise grows; here, it was the silence that seemed to compound itself. Attached to my phone, I had been accompanied for so long by verbal and visual noise, by an endless bombardment of words and images, and yet I felt curiously isolated. Among these meditators, I was alone in silence and darkness, yet I felt almost at one with them. My breathing slowed. My brain settled. My body became much more available to me. I could feel it digesting and sniffing, itching and pulsating. It was if my brain were moving away from the abstract and the distant toward the tangible and the near.

Things that usually escaped me began to intrigue me. On a meditative walk through the forest on my second day, I began to notice not just the quality of the autumnal light through the leaves but the splotchy multicolors of the newly fallen, the texture of the lichen on the bark, the way in which tree roots had come to entangle and overcome old stone walls. The immediate impulse — to grab my phone and photograph it — was foiled by an empty pocket. So I simply looked. At one point, I got lost and had to rely on my sense of direction to find my way back. I heard birdsong for the first time in years. Well, of course, I had always heard it, but it had been so long since I listened.”

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Happy Holidays! Amor Mundi: December 25th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Facts and Politics

Masha Gessen suggests that facts are not the field on which politics is played, and starting from them is a mistake:

“Simple explanations, especially ones that assign blame to conspiracies and foreigners, threaten clear thinking. So does arguing about facts. Democrats, pundits and reporters put forth the evidence that Russia was behind the hack; Mr. Trump and his allies, even after using the hacked emails to smear Mrs. Clinton, repeat that it is “impossible to know.” The combination creates an extraordinary amount of noise at the expense of understanding.

Since the news broke, we have learned a fair amount about the facts on which the intelligence agency may have based its conclusion, while the C.I.A. findings themselves remain classified. This newspaper published a detailed story that synthesized new and previously known information. Readers learned that the bulk of the Democratic National Committee’s emails had been obtained by means of fairly low-tech phishing. Reuters published a story pointing out that the known evidence falls short of proving that Russian hackers intended to benefit Mr. Trump rather than simply cause havoc — and that the office of the director of national intelligence has not endorsed the C.I.A. interpretation. But this report got lost in a barrage of stories striving to prove that the C.I.A. is right and Mr. Trump is wrong.

The overwhelming amount of detail some of these stories supplied, and the sheer volume of reports on the Russian election-hack scandal over the past week have created the illusion of rich public discussion. But this discussion has focused on something that should not be a matter of argument at all: The question of whether Mr. Trump is right to disregard C.I.A. conclusions, which are based on information unavailable to the journalists. Editorial and opinion writers have repeatedly condemned Mr. Trump’s denial and called for a full investigation into the hacking. This should go without saying. But when journalists are busy proving the obvious, they ignore the important questions. Arguing about facts is, in fact, the ultimate distraction.

If there is one trait that Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia share over all others, it is their understanding of the power of separating facts from truth. By denying known and provable facts — as when Mr. Trump denies making statements he has made — or by rejecting facts that are not publicly known, as with the C.I.A.’s information on Russian hacking, Mr. Trump exercises his ever-growing power over the public sphere. The resulting frenzy of trying to prove either the obvious known facts or the classified and therefore unknowable facts — two fruitless pursuits — creates so much static that we forget what we are really talking about.

Let us imagine the conversation we would be having if we were not preoccupied with Mr. Trump’s denial of the C.I.A.’s conclusions. We would now be discussing the appropriate response to the hacking. We would be talking about consequences for the American electoral process in general and for the results of this election in particular. We would be asking why it matters if Russia’s hacking efforts were intended to benefit Mr. Trump. But in the heat of arguing about facts, journalists and pundits have acted as though the answers to these questions are obvious. They are not.”

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Amor Mundi: December 18th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Trump's Threat to Public Discourse

Roger Berkowitz is interviewed by Courtney Tenz in Deutsche Welle about how Hannah Arendt helps make sense of the rise of Donald Trump. Read it in German here.

“There is a real danger that we face in Trump’s utter disregard for reality and his utter disregard for the meaning of words in the sense that he can say one thing today and then say another thing tomorrow and deny that he said what he said yesterday. That risks creating such a cynical attitude towards public discourse and a shared public world that after Trump, there’s a possibility of someone much worse than Trump emerging. The real challenge from an Arendtian point of view over the next four years is to insist on the meaning of public discourse and on the importance of public institutions and not allow cynicism to take over.”

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Amor Mundi: December 11th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The End of Democracy?

David Runciman asks the question: “Isn’t this how democracy ends?” But the answer he offers is not so simple.

“It is not to belittle the crisis facing the American republic, and indeed the world, to say that these are the wrong questions. The US is not a failed state. How do we know? Because that’s what Trump said it was during the election campaign and he was lying. He portrayed his country as a place of failed institutions and widespread corruption, its inner cities racked with violence and its political class interested only in enriching itself. It would be a big mistake to think that he won because people believed him. Had they believed him they would hardly have voted for him: putting a man like Trump in charge really would spell the end for American democracy, because it would have left him free to do his worst. People voted for him because they didn’t believe him. They wanted change but they also had confidence in the basic durability and decency of America’s political institutions to protect them from the worst effects of that change. They wanted Trump to shake up a system that they also expected to shield them from the recklessness of a man like Trump. How else to explain that many people who reported themselves alarmed by the idea of a Trump presidency also voted for him? The Clinton camp made a basic error in choosing to target Trump’s obvious character flaws as the reason to keep him out of the White House. It’s not as if those flaws were hidden. For his supporters they were already baked in: harping on them did nothing except make it sound like the Democrats were crying wolf. If this guy were as dangerous as they say, would he really be a serious candidate for president? Yet he must be a serious candidate for president for them to be saying he’s so dangerous. QED he’s not as dangerous as they say.

This is the crisis facing Western democracies: we don’t know what failure looks like anymore and we have no idea how much danger we are in….

The heart of Thiel’s case for Trump was that America has become a risk-averse society, frightened of the radical change necessary for its survival. It needs disruption. But Trump is not a disruptor: he is a spiteful mischief-maker. The people who voted for him did not believe they were taking a huge gamble; they simply wished to rebuke a system on which they still rely for their basic security. That is what the vote for Trump has in common with Brexit. By choosing to quit the European Union, the majority of British voters may have looked as if they were behaving with extraordinary recklessness. But in reality their behaviour too reflected their basic trust in the political system with which they were ostensibly so disgusted, because they believed that it was still capable of protecting them from the consequences of their choice. It is sometimes said that Trump appeals to his supporters because he represents the authoritarian father figure who they want to shield them from all the bad people out there making their lives hell. That can’t be right: Trump is a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime. The parent in this relationship is the American state itself, which allows the voters to throw a tantrum and join forces with the worst behaved kid in the class, safe in the knowledge that the grown-ups will always be there to pick up the pieces.

This is where the real risks lie. It is not possible to keep behaving like this without damaging the basic machinery of democratic government. It takes an extraordinarily fine-tuned political intelligence to target popular anger at the parts of the state that need reform while leaving intact the parts that make that reform possible. Trump – and indeed Brexit – are not that. They are the bluntest of instruments, indiscriminately shaking the foundations with nothing to offer by way of support. Under these conditions, the likeliest response is for the grown-ups in the room to hunker down, waiting for the storm to pass. While they do, politics atrophies and necessary change is put off by the overriding imperative of avoiding systemic collapse. The understandable desire to keep the tanks off the streets and the cashpoints open gets in the way of tackling the long-term threats we face. Fake disruption followed by institutional paralysis, and all the while the real dangers continue to mount. Ultimately, that is how democracy ends.”

Democracy is being challenged around the world. And in each case, the danger to democracy does not come from specific policies or from specific bad actors. The danger is that our disdain for government and dissatisfaction with the “system” continues to grow so strong that we, in the end, give our democracies up to someone who promises to fix it. Donald Trump is not that person. And the U.S. government is not yet so incompetent and disdained that it is ready to dissolve. But we should not ever believe that such a time is beyond belief. The reason Trump won is not that he is a racist or a xenophobe. It is because millions of people from all political persuasions have come to doubt the worth, character, and capacity of our political, journalistic, and economic institutions. We are already, long before Trump won, experiencing institutional paralysis. Many of those who voted for Trump did so not because they liked him, but because they saw no other choice to signal their despair and dissatisfaction. Trump’s victory is a symptom of our crisis of democracy. It is of course likely that his corrosive cynicism will only deepen the crisis.

Hannah Arendt knew that democracy is tenuous. She famously wrote, in 1970, “Representative government is in crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.” Arendt saw the weakness of democracy in encouraging citizens to turn over the time-consuming work of self-government to professional politicians.

Arendt rooted the crisis in democracy in the dissipation of public power. Most liberal-minded people today are fearful of public power. We say power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the insufficiency of this formula is lately all too apparent. We are scared of the power that emerges when people act together against the experts. And we prefer a government of experts, not least because it frees us to spend our time on private pursuits like consumption and family. The disempowerment of the people in representative democracy embraces our bourgeois preference to be freed to pursue our individual interests, to be relieved of the duty of politics and public virtue. Much easier to leave governing to the experts.

The power and authority of experts is waning. The rise of networks with access to infinite information means that the authority of any one source is diminished. The expertise of the press is challenged by blogs and social media. The authority of government is undermined by accusations of corruption and bias. And the hypothetical claim of science to truth is diminished by the infinite multiplication of information. In all realms, power has shifted from the shepherds to the sheep. And the sheep organize themselves in energetic and coherent communities based on eccentric beliefs impervious to wider standards of communal truth. What is potentially lost is a common liberal pluralist community, a meaningfulness unity amongst are real differences.

If we are to make it through our worldwide crisis of democracy, we need to understand it. We need to ask, how can we restore vigor and meaning to democracy? That is the aim of the Tenth Annual Hannah Arendt Center Conference: “Thinking in Dark Times: The Crisis of Democracy.” Save the Date: Oct. 12-13, 2017.

—Roger Berkowitz

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Amor Mundi: December 4th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Establishment Blues

Gerald Herbert/AP

Ian Buruma looks at the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit vote. He argues that both votes are in important ways responding to a similar distaste for certain kinds of citizens.

“So Farage and Trump were speaking about the same thing. But they have more in common than distaste for international or supranational institutions. When Farage, in his speech in Jackson, fulminated against the banks, the liberal media and the political establishment, he was not talking about foreign bodies but about the aliens in our midst, as it were, our own elites who are, by implication, not “real, “ordinary” or “decent.” And not only Farage. The British prime minister, Theresa May, not a Brexiteer before the referendum, called members of international-minded elites “citizens of nowhere.” When three High Court judges in Britain ruled that Parliament, and not just the prime minister’s cabinet, should decide when to trigger the legal mechanism for Brexit, they were denounced in a major British tabloid newspaper as “enemies of the people.”

Trump deliberately tapped into the same animus against citizens who are not “real people.” He made offensive remarks about Muslims, immigrants, refugees and Mexicans. But the deepest hostility was directed against those elitist traitors within America who supposedly coddle minorities and despise the “real people.” The last ad of the Trump campaign attacked what Joseph Stalin used to call “rootless cosmopolitans” in a particularly insidious manner. Incendiary references to a “global power structure” that was robbing honest working people of their wealth were illustrated by pictures of George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein. Perhaps not every Trump supporter realized that all three are Jewish. But those who did cannot have missed the implications.

When Trump and Farage stood on that stage together in Mississippi, they spoke as though they were patriots reclaiming their great countries from foreign interests. No doubt they regard Britain and the United States as exceptional nations. But their success is dismaying precisely because it goes against a particular idea of Anglo-American exceptionalism. Not the traditional self-image of certain American and British jingoists who like to think of the United States as the City on the Hill or Britain as the sceptered isle splendidly aloof from the wicked Continent, but another kind of Anglo-American exception: the one shaped by World War II. The defeat of Germany and Japan resulted in a grand alliance, led by the United States, in the West and Asia. Pax Americana, along with a unified Europe, would keep the democratic world safe. If Trump and Farage get their way, much of that dream will be in tatters.”

The demonization of any group of law-abiding citizens is a dangerous form of identity-based populism. The populist may speak for the people, but who and what is the people? Identity-based populism imagines a fictional conception of a homogenous people. That fantasy of a defined “people” is powerful and deeply appealing. So when others appear who don’t belong to the fantasy, the easiest response for populists is not to revise and expand their conception of the people, but to eliminate or isolate those “enemies” of the people. Because populist movements are always tempted to prove the reality of their claims by achieving the purity they imagine, populism is dangerous and carries huge risks; under the wrong conditions (for example a major terrorist attack), populism can slide into authoritarianism. Vigilance is called for. But not all populism leads to authoritarianism. The recent outburst of populism in Europe and the United States is, at least in part, an illiberal democratic rebellion against an undemocratic technocratic liberalism. —RB

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Amor Mundi: November 27th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Lying World of Consistency

Arthur Goldhammer argues that Trump’s “farrago of falsehoods” threatens the common world that allows any society to exist.

“In his essay “The Decay of Lying,” Oscar Wilde refutes the charge that politicians are the consummate prevaricators. “They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation,” he ironizes, “and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind.”

Wilde would therefore have been flabbergasted by the spectacle of Donald Trump, who embodies “the temper of the true liar” like no politician before him. The full catalog of his superb irresponsibility need not be rehearsed here. Everyone knows about his excursions into the birtherist fun house, his phantasmagoric evocation of Jersey City Muslims cheering the destruction of the Twin Towers, his baseless insinuation that an opponent’s father abetted the assassination of John F. Kennedy, his contemptuous confidence that Mexico would pay for the wall he would build to cut it off from the United States, and his jaw-dropping assertion that President Obama was “the founder” of ISIS, to mention only a few of his lunatic ravings—the mind boggles at the merest enumeration. Yet this man is to become the President of the United States.

How could this have happened? What does the triumph of brazen fabulation portend for the future? What does it tell us about the state of the American psyche?…

His farrago of falsehood bespeaks an era in which the meaning of democracy has been debased to the point where every claim of truth, no matter how flimsy, is treated equally. Faith in independent authority has withered; the once “lamestream media” is now the Lügenpresse (lying press), a term tellingly borrowed from Weimar Germany, where the distinction between truth and falsehood was enforced by party discipline. Tocqueville foresaw what this vacuum of intellectual authority portended: “No society can prosper without common beliefs,” he wrote. Indeed, “none can survive…for without common ideas, there is no common action, and without common action, men may still exist, but they will not constitute a social body.”

Trump’s lies speak to this craving for a social body. His myth of past greatness, of a vanished glory that only he can restore, reflects a hunger for wholeness. Hungry Trumpians subsist on a diet of denial: They imagine a communion in which American supremacy is universally acknowledged, nonwhites and non-Christians know their place, and jobs long since forfeited to robots can be “brought back” by forcing China to its knees. As Tocqueville explained, each individual “retreats within the limits of the self and from that vantage ventures to judge the world.” Any dissent from this imaginary consensus is mocked. Such fables can survive only if never put to the test.”

As Donald Trump appoints people of color and women to his cabinet and as he flirts with a reconciliation with Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney, it is tempting to normalize Trump’s election, to argue that his extreme comments were simply PR, part of a campaign of bluster. It is likely that Trump will tilt to the middle for a time. Doing so will consolidate his power. But as Marianne Constable wrote for the Arendt Center last week, Trump’s “true” lies are based in his refusal to accord meaning to words. How are we to read Trump’s new moderated tone? Do his moderate words merit more weight than his extremist words? The problem, as Constable argues, is that “Dialogue and discussion, including civil disagreement, depend on words. All become impossible when words cease to matter.” Given the loss of dialogue, we are all thrust back on our individual hopes and personalized interpretations. There is an inflation of multiple and contradictory meanings that makes spurious all standards and truths.

To understand the damage Trump’s true lies may portend, it is important to see that he has set himself explicitly at the head of a movement. Movements need to move forward, which means that movements can never be satisfied with reaching a goal or upholding the status quo. Movements move by promising to fulfill a deep spiritual need. That is why movements mobilize masses who are longing for a “completely consistent, comprehensible, and predictable world.” There is what Hannah Arendt describes as a “desire to escape from reality because in [the mass of the people’s] essential homelessness they can no longer bear its accidental, incomprehensible aspects….” For Arendt, movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations.” In such a lying world, we are just one terrorist attack or war away from a mobilization in institutions are laid low and truth is finally abolished. This would be the full victory of cynicism, as I’ve argued elsewhere. —RB

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Amor Mundi: November 20th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Selfishness, Greed, and Identity Politics

Leon Botstein offers nine “Speculative Thoughts on the Trump Presidency.” Here are the first two.

“So for what it is worth, I have these speculative thoughts on the coming Trump presidency.

1. The Trump presidency is the consequence of dominant culture of selfishness and greed that has flourished in this country for decades, ever since the Reagan 1980s. In my view, even the collapse of communism helped discredit any value system capable of competing with an Ayn Rand style individualism focused on individual comfort and advantage and therefore money and wealth. Trump is the ideal symbol — the very essence of an American culture that holds that wealth is the only proper measure of human success and superiority. Kim Kardashian style super stardom and fame are close runner-ups. In the eyes of the electorate — particularly those without more than a high school education — Trump, falsely, of course, is the embodiment of the American dream.

One of the unintended consequences of the end of communism is the vacuum of any plausible value system that is not about wealth and mega-fame. The rise in executive pay, and the prominence of the so-called 1 percent have eroded any pride in middle class status, and in modest virtues such as character, service and learning. In a culture that justifies the notion that if one were truly smart, one would be rich, who else should be president other than a Trump, who passed himself as a successful entrepreneur. The consequences of radical inequality are cultural as well as material. Voluntary conformism — the absence of desire to use freedom — is one such consequence.

2. We have systematically eroded any sense of shared citizenship. We prize subordinate identities — by race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and religion — all at the expense of a common notion of the citizen in a free society. What goes along with that is an oppositional attitude to government as a necessary evil, not as an asset or a virtue. As a consequence, there is a decline in the quality of public servants, elected and appointed. Anyone with a career in the public sector is seen as inferior to someone in the private sector. So Trump’s having never served as a public servant, and never paid his taxes, was seen as a badge of honor.”

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Amor Mundi: November 13th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

What Comes After Denial? Thoughts on Donald Trump's Movement

the origins of totalitarianism

The Origins of Totalitarianism (Source: Amazon)

In writing about the evils of genocide and totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt insisted on the effort to understand. “To understand totalitarianism is not to condone anything, but to reconcile ourselves to a world in which such things are possible at all.” Understanding means making our knowledge of totalitarianism meaningful. Understanding is a “strange enterprise,” and an “unending activity” by which we “come to terms with and reconcile ourselves to reality, that is, try to be at home in the world.” But why should we make totalitarianism meaningful? Why reconcile with evil?

Arendt argues that by making totalitarianism “meaningful,” understanding “prepare[s] a new resourcefulness of the human mind and heart.” In understanding, we take the other person’s point of view. We don’t abdicate our power to judge, but we do seek to make sense of that view, to see the world from its perspective. When I seek to understand I broaden my own view of the world and come to know my own view of the world as partial. This is why “Understanding is the specifically political way of thinking;” in understanding I take “the other fellow’s point of view!” and thus enter into political dialogue.

The election of Donald Trump as President needs to be understood; we need to enter into a political dialogue with the people who are angry. We need to listen to them. Listening does not mean agreeing. We may find them wrong. But we need to listen and we need to reconcile ourselves to a world in which people who don’t like Trump, who find what he says offensive and rude, would nevertheless take the risk in making him President because they are desperate to break up and destroy the corrupt system of power. My remarks here are an effort at such an understanding.

Continue Reading Roger Berkowitz’s essay “What Comes After Denial?” on Medium

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Amor Mundi: November 6th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Generosity and The Real Evil

the origins of totalitarianism

The Origins of Totalitarianism (Source: Amazon)

Writers are turning to Hannah Arendt’s thinking about totalitarianism and fascism to try to understand Donald Trump. Last week Ingrid Burrington offered 14 quotations from Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism that she thinks shed light on Trump.

This week in the New York Times, Jason Stanley offers this quotation from Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism on his way to arguing that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian figure.

Like the earlier mob leaders, the spokesmen for totalitarian movements possessed an unerring instinct for anything that ordinary party propaganda or public opinion did not care to touch. Everything hidden, everything passed over in silence, became of major significance, regardless of its own intrinsic importance. The mob really believed that truth was whatever respectable society had hypocritically passed over, or covered with corruption … The modern masses do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience … What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.

Arendt did rightly see that a deep human need for simplicity and coherence lie as one of the foundations of totalitarianism. Such simplicity leads totalitarianism to adopt and push ideologies, pseudo-scientific truth claims that reduce the world’s problems to one basic cause. If there is poverty, it is because of Jews, or Africans; and it is because of the capitalists or the one percent. Ideologies insist that “one idea is sufficient to explain everything.”

The danger of ideologies is that logical coherence replaces free thinking. Ideologies free us from the messiness of reality. In offering truths that… continue this piece on Medium.

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Amor Mundi: October 30th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

The Confusion Between Discomfort and Abuse

At the Arendt Center’s “Real Talk” Conference two speakers (Erica Hunt and Claudia Rankine, both poets) recommended Sarah Schulman’s new book Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and The Duty of Repair. Schulman makes an essential argument, that we too often confuse the feeling of conflict or being uncomfortable with the experience of abuse or serious medical trauma. Looking at the way the police and also victims wrongly elevate claims of discomfort into arguments for abuse, Schulman argues that we must take up our “special responsibility to end shunning, facilitate communication, and do the work to reveal complex views of human behavior as we practice self-criticism and stand up to negative groups.” Hers is an important book. Megan Milks, offers a thoughtful meditation on Schulman’s project. ‑RB

“Schulman’s starting point is that normative conflict is too often mistaken for abuse, and that these false accusations of harm are often used to justify cruelty. Perhaps her most persuasive early example is police overreaction. The police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, for instance, encountered normative, nonthreatening resistance to their power and “saw threat gross enough to justify murder”; they “saw abuse.” More controversially, she relates these instances of police escalation to the behavior patterns of recovering victims of trauma. Because of the cruelty they have experienced in the past, she observes, victims in recovery may feel threatened despite the absence of threat, and respond by shunning, blaming, and/or projecting…. Making a historical link to the antiviolence movement, Schulman suggests that what she calls “the new victimology” is a distortion of that movement’s goals.

Schulman goes on to identify two patterns of behavior that she sees as closely related, naming them Supremacist behavior and Traumatized behavior. Those responding to conflict from a Supremacist position, she explains, “will not tolerate any opposition,” and so refuse knowledge. The Traumatized are similarly challenged by opposition, their “fragile selves” unable to bear it. Both seek control, Schulman writes, “in order to feel comfortable.””

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Amor Mundi: October 23rd, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Real Talk, Green Shoots

The Hannah Arendt Center had a spectacular Conference this week “Real Talk.” Amazing lectures and talks and conversations with Mary Gaitskill, Janet Halley, Alexandra Brodsky, Greg Lukianoff, Angus Johnston, Erica Hunt, Chris Lebron, Deroy Murdock, Jennifer Doyle, Annie Seaton, Goran Adamson, Judith Shulevitz, Claudia Rankine, Ariana Stokas, Carolyn Lazard, Robert Boyers, Uday Mehta, Bill Deresiewiecz, Wyatt Mason, Dina Toubasi, Mark Williams Jr., Sam Reed, Ken Marcus, Ken Stern, Dima Khalidi, Peter Rosenblum, Leon Botstein and our incredible members and audience. Thank you all.

Here is a transcript of Roger Berkowitz’s Introductory Talk. To read it in its entirety, view the piece on Medium here.

“Robert Gaudino was a professor at Williams College who developed an educational course in “uncomfortable learning.” Inspired by his experience in the Peace Corps, Gaudino would ship Williams students to live in villages and cities in India where they pursued independent projects with local communities. Above all, the students were encouraged to reflect about their work as an an experience that unsettled their worldviews. College, Gaudino argued, should “actively promote a range of experiences that have the creative potential to unsettle and disturb.”

Gaudino died in 1974 but his legacy lives on. In 2014 a group of students founded the “Club for Uncomfortable Learning” in Gaudino’s spirit. On a liberal campus, the club has a lecture series that aspires to host speakers who challenge left-wing verities. Greg Lukianoff, who calls himself a liberal defender of free speech and will be speaking later today, was one of the inaugural speakers in Williams’ Uncomfortable Learning Series. Inspired by the Uncomfortable Learning lectures, the Arendt Center has started a new lecture series at Bard, “Tough Talks,” which picks up the challenge of inviting speakers whose views are bold, challenging, and uncomfortable. Bill Deresiewiecz, who will speak tomorrow, will inaugurate Bard’s Tough Talks Lecture Series on November 7th. Camille Paglia will be speaking in the Spring.

Paradoxically, the Williams club dedicated to uncomfortable learning last year disinvited two speakers. First, the club uninvited Suzanne Venker, the author of many books including “The War on Men” and “The Two-Income Trap.”

Just months later, the “Club for Uncomfortable Learning” uninvited John Derbyshire, a mathematician and part-time columnist for The National Review. Derbyshire calls himself a “race realist,” which means he thinks statistics show the average black American to be more dangerous and less intelligent than whites. Students protested. This time, the Club held firm against protest. But when they refused to disinvite Derbyshire, William’s President Adam Falk stepped in and banned Derbyshire from campus. Falk wrote in a letter to the campus, “Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech.” He wrote, “free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard.” But he added, there is a line that cannot be crossed, and Derbyshire had crossed it.…

How has this happened? How has the act of listening to somebody with an opinion foreign to one’s own now seen as dangerous? Is this Group Think? Political correctness? Neo-totalitarianism? Or something new?

To answer that question, we must listen carefully to the disinviters.”

To read the rest of this talk, come on over and visit us on Medium. Or view the conference here.

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Amor Mundi: October 16th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

It's About Race, Stupid

Dylan Matthews contests those who say that those voting for Donald Trump are from the economic fringe. In fact, 50% of Trump voters are simply Republicans, and vote Republican in every election. The average income of the Trump voter is $72,000 per year, well above the average in the United States. So why are these voters supporting Trump? Matthews says its simple: Race.

“So what is driving Trump supporters? In the general election, the story is pretty simple: What’s driving support for Trump is that he is the Republican nominee, a little fewer than half of voters always vote for Republicans, and Trump is getting most of those voters.

In the primary, though, the story was, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp has explained at length, almost entirely about racial resentment. There’s a wide array of data to back this up.

UCLA’s Michael Tesler has found that support for Trump in the primaries strongly correlated with respondents’ racial resentment, as measured by survey data. Similarly, Republican voters with the lowest opinions of Muslims were the most likely to vote for Trump, and voters who strongly support mass deportation of undocumented immigrants were likelier to support him in the primaries too.

In April, when the Pew Research Center asked Republicans for their views on Trump, and their opinions on the US becoming majority nonwhite by 2050, they found that Republicans who thought a majority nonwhite population would be “bad for the country” had overwhelmingly favorable views of Trump. Those who thought it was a positive or neutral development were evenly split on Trump.

By contrast, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 got less primary support from voters with high racial resentment and anti-immigration scores than they did from less racially resentful or anti-immigrant voters. Those two primaries were lost by the white nationalist wing of the Republican Party at a time when that wing was gaining in number. As New America’s Lee Drutman has found, Republicans’ views of blacks and Latinos plummeted during the Obama years: The white nationalist wing was gaining in strength, and due for a win. It got one in Trump.

Even in the general election, while support for Trump is correlated most strongly with party ID, the second biggest factor, per the analysis of Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner, was racial resentment. Economic pessimism and income level were statistically insignificant.

The message this research sends is very, very clear. There is a segment of the Republican Party that is opposed to racial equality. It has increased in numbers in reaction to the election of a black president. The result was that an anti–racial equality candidate won the Republican nomination.”

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Amor Mundi: October 9th, 2016

Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.

Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.

Against Trump, But Not All Those He Has Inspired

For the third time since 1857, The Atlantic Magazine has endorsed a candidate for President of the United States.

“Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

The Hannah Arendt Center is not only bi-partisan. It seeks to be beyond partisanship. The very premise of Arendtian thinking is the embrace of plurality. Plurality means that… continue this piece on Medium here.

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