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The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College

The Journal of the Volume 3/2015

Annandale-on-Hudson, New York www.bard.edu/hannaharendtcenter

Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College

Volume 3/2015


Editor Associate Editor Assistant Editor

Roger Berkowitz Wyatt Mason David Bisson

Editorial Board

Jerome Kohn Patchen Markell Thomas Wild

ISSN 2168-6572 Cover: ©Estate of Fred Stein, fredstein.com Page 139: Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Published by The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College Printed by Quality Printing, Pittsfield, Massachusetts ©2015 Bard College. All rights reserved. “What Does It Mean to Educate Citizens?” by Leon Botstein was previously published as “Are We Still Making Citizens?” in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #36, Spring 2015.


The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College


Foreword Volume 3 of HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is a jam-packed double issue. It includes talks and essays given at the Hannah Arendt Center in 2013 and 2014, including at two of our annual conferences, “Failing Fast: The Educated Citizen in Crisis” and “The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Values Worth Fighting For?” The essays manifest the Hannah Arendt Center’s unique approach to thinking about politics today, one inspired by Hannah Arendt’s bold and provocative embrace of the humanist tradition to illuminate pressing political issues. While you’ll find essays from across the political spectrum, what distinguishes these contributions is neither ideology nor partisan leaning but rather the effort to think about important political questions from out of and through the humanities. Our fall 2014 conference, “The Unmaking of Americans,” asked whether the idea and values underlying the United States, and thus of American exceptionalism, are still pertinent. We did not seek to defend or decry American exceptionalism but rather to understand the ideas that have and might still unite the country as a common political project. The conference was inspired first by Hannah Arendt’s sense of politics as speaking and acting in public in ways that surprise and inspire. In this view, public actions create a common, shared world that gathers individuals together into a single political project. Second, the conference took off from Arendt’s account of the United States as distinguished by its constitutional foundation. For Arendt, the specific innovation of the United States is its constitutional foundation of freedom, something she locates in the country’s federal institutions that deny any single locus of sovereign power. By fostering competing power sources within a decentralized system, the U.S. Constitution succeeded where France, the USSR, and other modern revolutions failed—in founding a free political system. It is this ever-threatened idea of freedom supported by the U.S. Constitution that Arendt insists is the unique meaningful idea of America. Building upon and challenging Arendt’s view, David Bromwich, Anand Giridharadas, Charles Murray, George Packer, and Zephyr Teachout explore in this journal the importance, possibilities, and pitfalls of continuing today to speak about an exceptional American idea. Our essays arising from “Failing Fast: The Educated Citizen in Crisis” also emerge from an Arendtian insight: “Education can play no part in


politics because in politics we always have to deal with those who are already educated.” At a time when democracy is in retreat, we need to ask the following: How should we educate democratic citizens? Are most attempts to promote “civic education” thinly veiled attempts to proselytize? Arendt concludes that democratic politics means that no one has the authority to teach others what is right. Some are libertarians, and others are aristocrats. Some may be sexist, and some may hate pedophiles. Whatever our private feelings, in politics we encounter each other as citizens on the field of equality. Politics for Arendt is allergic to truth claims. It is about opinion, and for this reason, it is about respectful and reasoned debate. But for this reason, Arendt insists that democratic education must avoid politics and civic mandates. Instead education must be conservative, aimed at leading young people into a shared common world; then, when as adults they stand on their own in the public world, they can act to conserve, improve, or revolutionize the world they inherit. Essays by Elizabeth Beaumont, Leon Botstein, Jerome Kohn, John Seery, and Roger Berkowitz explore the ways that education in the 21st century can help strengthen democratic citizenship. Volume 3 of HA also includes Peter Baehr’s courageous and honest rejection of popular arguments accusing others of Islamophobia; Ann Lauterbach’s powerful prose celebrating Marilynne Robinson’s particular kind of faith in politics; Eyal Press’s talk on the moral and political importance of courageous actors; Charles Snyder’s review of Kathryn Gines’s Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question; and Roger Berkowitz’s account of how the Sassen papers detailing Eichmann’s activities in Argentina affect our understanding of Arendt’s thesis of the banality of evil. Finally, we reprint five of the favorite Quotes of the Week from the Hannah Arendt Center Blog, by Kazue Koishikawa, Laurie Naranch, Ian Storey, Hans Teerds, and Thomas Wild. —Roger Berkowitz


About the Hannah Arendt Center

The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is an expansive home for thinking in the spirit of Hannah Arendt. The Arendt Center’s double mission is first, to sponsor and support the highest quality scholarship on Hannah Arendt and her work, and second, to be an intellectual incubator for engaged humanities thinking at Bard College and beyond, thinking that elevates and deepens the public argument that is the bedrock of our democracy. The Arendt Center cares for and makes available the Hannah Arendt Library, with nearly 5,000 books from Hannah Arendt’s personal library, many with marginalia and notes.


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The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Values Worth Fighting For?

Failing Fast: The Educated Citizen in Crisis

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America: What Are We Fighting For? Roger Berkowitz

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Nations Are Not Exceptions David Bromwich

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What Is a True American? Anand Giridharadas

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Is There Still an Idea of America that Can Inspire People to Sacrifice for the Common Good? Charles Murray and George Packer

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Can We Restore American Democracy? Zephyr Teachout

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Democratic Education and the Open Inquiry Imperative Elizabeth Beaumont

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Is There a Crisis of Educated Citizenship? Roger Berkowitz

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What Does It Mean to Educate Citizens? Leon Botstein

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Here on Earth, or the Erotics of Learning Jerome Kohn

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The Gold Standard of Educational Reform John Seery

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Essays and Miscellany

Quotes of the Week

One to Avoid, One to Engage: Unmasking and Conflict Pluralism as European Heritages Peter Baehr

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Did Eichmann Think? Roger Berkowitz

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Faith in Politics Ann Lauterbach

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Photograph: Hannah Arendt and John U. Nef Jr.

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The Courage to Refuse Eyal Press

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Blinded by Her Own Pertards Charles Snyder

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Arendt, The Body, and The Self Kazue Koishikawa

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Hannah Arendt and the Narratable Self Laurie Naranch

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Undodged Bullets and Broken Eggs: Seeing Homeless Mortality Ian Storey

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Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior Hans Teerds

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Revolutions Thomas Wild

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Contributors

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America: What Are We Fighting For? Roger Berkowitz

The Hannah Arendt Center Conference “The Unmaking of Americans: Are There Still American Ideas Worth Fighting For?” posed a simple yet controversial question: Is America an exceptional country? In other words, Is there an American Idea? And if yes, what is the idea on which America is founded? Those of us who care about the collective American project— the idea of building a common constitutional democracy—have an imperative to ask: What is the American project? Is there still anything left of a common American idea? And if not, what, if anything, can we as a body of citizens imagine to be a common idea around which we can unite and for which we can fight? About a year before the Arendt Center’s 2014 Conference, one of those weird confluences happened in which a number of books I was reading coalesced around a particular topic. First, I picked up Lawrence Lessig’s Republic Lost. In the beginning of the book, Professor Lessig writes: There is a feeling today among too many Americans that we might not make it. Not that the end is near, or that doom is around the corner, but that a distinctly American feeling of inevitability, of greatness—culturally, economically, politically—is gone. . . . That the thing that we were once most proud of—this, our republic— is the one thing that we have all learned to ignore. Government is an embarrassment. It has lost the capacity to make the most essential decisions. And slowly it begins to dawn upon us: a ship that can’t be steered is a ship that will sink.1 That book came out in 2011. Shortly after that, I read Coming Apart, which was released in 2012. Charles Murray uses the introduction to explain his book’s significance: This book is about an evolution in American society that has taken place since November 21, 1963, leading to the formation of classes that are different in kind and in their degree of separation from anything that the nation has ever known. I will argue that the divergence into these separate classes, if it continues, will end what has made America America.2

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Finally, I read a book that came out in 2013 by George Packer entitled The Unwinding: The Unwinding is nothing new. There have been unwindings every generation or two: the fall to earth of the Founders’ heavenly Republic in a noisy marketplace of quarrelsome factions; the war that tore the United States apart and turned them from plural to singular; the crash that laid waste to the business of America, making way for a democracy of bureaucrats and everymen. Each decline brought renewal, each implosion released energy, out of each unwinding came a new cohesion.3 Lawrence Lessig, Charles Murray, and George Packer are three very different people occupying wildly divergent parts of the political and cultural spectrum. Yet these three books all start with the assumption that there is something meaningful, something exceptional about America, and that that quality is being lost. It is coming apart. It is being unwound. Some people say that there is no American exceptionalism. They say it is a myth or a fiction that never was. David Bromwich, in his essay in this volume, argues that American exceptionalism is dangerous. The idea of America, in this telling, is a self-justificatory veil that hides the ugly truth of a country built around slavery, genocide, and imperialism. And this critique of American exceptionalism is both right and necessary. The idea that America is in some ways meaningful and important is not a claim that America lives up to its ideal, but that the ideal is, in the words of Seymour Martin Lipset, a double-edged sword, one that can be wielded both for justice and for justification. To rethink American exceptionalism as meaningful today, it is important to understand a bit about history. We begin with John Winthrop, who came over on the Arabella with the Pilgrims and who was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In his famous sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” from 1630, he uttered these lines: For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are upon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee haue undertaken, and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.4 Winthrop’s argument is that America was this new beginning in the eyes of God that could serve as an example for the world. And this idea

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lasted. The speech’s text was first printed in 1838—a fair bit later after Winthrop first delivered it—and it acted as the foundation for John F. Kennedy’s “A City Upon a Hill” speech in 1961. Echoing Winthrop’s claim of America’s exceptionalism, Thomas Paine in his book Common Sense in 1776 writes: We have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months.5 Here we have a secular individual—Thomas Paine was a raging atheist—who more or less translates Winthrop’s religious idea about America’s special place in the world. And around the same time, Philip Freneau, who is now known as the poet of the American Revolution, takes Paine’s secular paean to American exceptionalism and turns it into verse: So Shall our Nation, formed on Virtue’s Plan, Remain the guardian of the Rights of Man, A vast republic, famed through every clime, Without a kind, to see the end of time.6 Then a half century later, as some of you may know, Alexis de Tocqueville of France came to America and in 1835 published Volume One of Democracy in America. Tocqueville traveled to the United States in 1831 posing the problem of how freedom and free institutions could survive in democracy. He worried that the tyranny of a democratic majority and also the degradation of souls in a world of equality and thus shorn of distinction and greatness would spell the end of freedom. While Tocqueville found much in America that worried him, he also saw that American democracy, in distinction to rising democracies elsewhere, had developed institutions and ideals that at least to some degree protected against the loss of freedom that elsewhere accompanied the rise of democracy. In his book, he famously writes: The situation of the Americans is therefore entirely exceptional, and it is to be believed that no [other] democratic people will ever be placed in it.7

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Toqueville pointed to America’s puritanical origin, thus American’s love of religious liberty and independence, entropic qualities that are mitigated by the centripetal forces of religious communalism that draws unique individuals around a central and common virtue. Above all, Tocqueville saw what he called the “dogma of self-government” as practiced in the New England Town Hall meetings to be the animating of a spirit of freedom in America that could, if cultivated, inoculate American democracy against the twin tyrannies of mass opinion and mass democracy. Ultimately, America’s uniqueness is perhaps most famously defended by President Abraham Lincoln later in the 19th century. Lincoln mobilized the idea of American equality partly to argue against slavery, but more explicitly he mobilized the idea of American self-government to argue for the importance of the American idea and thus of the Union itself. It is from this idea of America’s importance as a model of democracy that the Gettysburg Address took its rhetorical power: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.8 Time and again, throughout American history, this dream of American exceptionalism has been mobilized by those in power to justify America and its actions. But this dream was also used by many out of power in America, to call the nation back to its highest and best ideals. In 1935, Langston Hughes wrote a poem, “Let America be America Again.” One of the key verses reads: Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.)9 A few decades later, that dream about which Hughes wrote became the foundation of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

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And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal.”10 For Hughes and King, the idea of America found in the Declaration of Independence and also in the United States Constitution—in spite of its compromise on slavery—remains a powerful force for the pursuit of racial justice. Indeed, throughout American history, voices from excluded groups, including Native Americans, black slaves, African Americans, women, and immigrants, have found in the American idea both a dream and a sword. These various examples of the idea of America together illustrate the constancy of this idea that America is called to justice, called to equality, called to individualism, and called to freedom because of its unique place in the world, something we might want to call American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism can be used to mean that America is “better than” other nations, but it doesn’t need to be. We can also use it as an appeal to American difference or uniqueness. How does Hannah Arendt fit in to a discussion on American exceptionalism? Why is it that we are asking the question of American exceptionalism at a conference sponsored by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College? In 1963, the same year that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, Arendt published her book On Revolution. On Revolution is a book about America, about the way the American Revolution and also the American system of government are unique and important in the world. In other words, Arendt’s book is an expression of her own, her unique view of American exceptionalism. It is important to remember that Arendt had escaped from Nazi Germany and had then come to America, where she fell in love with her adopted country. She came to be a deeply American thinker in her life and worldview. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t critical of the United States. In fact, she was highly critical of it. She protested against McCarthyism and she spoke out against the rise of a secret national security state during the Cold War. But Arendt embraced the United States as the one unique country in the world that was not a nation state. While most states were

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centralized governments built around a majority national group that would in the end either oppress or assimilate all others, the United States, as Arendt understood it, was a country that in both its cultural and its political foundations was pluralistic and without a central authority. It was not a nation-state because Americans were and could be all people and all people could, at least in principle, become Americans. Arendt developed her argument about American pluralism in On Revolution, which is her effort to explore the uniqueness of the American Revolution in the history of revolutions and the uniqueness of the American constitutional democratic system that she so loved. She begins the book by emphasizing the difference between rebellion and revolution. The end of rebellion is liberation. In that sense, if you overthrow a dictator, that’s a rebellion by which you liberate yourself. By contrast, the end of a revolution represents the foundation of freedom, and that’s much harder to realize. In the United States, she argues, there was not only a rebellion against Great Britain; there was also a revolution that founded a new idea of political freedom. The American rebellion only became a revolution with the passage of the U.S. Constitution. What makes America unique to Hannah Arendt is the revolutionary freedom first established and confirmed by our constitutional tradition. As she writes: For in America the armed uprising of the colonies and the Declaration of Independence had been followed by a spontaneous outbreak of constitution-making in all thirteen colonies—as though, in John Adams’ words, “thirteen clocks had struck as one”—so that there existed no gap, no hiatus, hardly a breathing spell between the war of liberation, which was the condition for freedom, and the constitution of the new states.11 Arendt’s argument is that as soon as the American Revolution occurred, all 13 colonies immediately remade their constitutions. They didn’t start just with legislatures. They didn’t begin passing laws. They asked: Who are we? What do we believe our politics are about? How do we give ourselves the power to rule? This practice had started with the Mayflower Compact, where in their new home, the first American colonists said, “We’re going to give ourselves a government.” And this tradition of Americans feeling they have a right to give themselves government, to constitute themselves, is at the very core of what makes America unique and special.

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In her book, Arendt quotes Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, which offers a definition of a constitution that is very different from our understanding of the term today. Nowadays we conceive of a constitution as a limit. It says what you can’t do, what the government can’t do. Thomas Paine had a different understanding of the word. In fact, he said that constitution is a verb: as Arendt cites Paine, he writes, “A constitution is not an act of a government but of a people constituting a government.” In Paine’s mind, a constitution is an act of making, an act of constituting ourselves. Arendt takes this incredibly seriously. She believes that our Constitution is what’s at the center of the American experience of freedom. She even goes so far as to suggest that it forms what she calls “a new system of power,” a whole new idea of power: The Aim of state constitutions [after the revolution] was “to create new centres of power after the Declaration of Independence had abolished the authority and power of crown and Parliament.”12 Too many people today think of power as something dangerous, something bad that needs to be eliminated. We say: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There is a truth in that cliché. But Arendt also thought of power as something salutary. Power is what people enact when they act together for a common end or civic purpose. Arendt understood that while power may corrupt, governance depends on power. And she argues that the American founders appreciated this viewpoint; the Americans used their new experience of freedom following their Revolution to create lots of new centers of power. Constitutions in all 13 states were institutions of power; town councils and town governments were institutions of power; the legislatures in counties and states were institutions of power; governors were institutions of power; the three branches of the federal government were institutions of power; even the many civic and political associations Americans formed were institutions of power. Her point is that local power centers sprung up all over America and the American Constitution gave these multiple power sources a formal institutional home. The institutionalization of multiple sources of power in America was, for Arendt, deeply important to the American experience of freedom. This is because, as she writes, “Power, contrary to what we are inclined to think, cannot be checked, at least reliably, by laws.”13 That is one of the most important insights Arendt offers us, and it’s one that we simply don’t understand today. We think that laws and the constitution can check

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power, but they don’t work that way. If people in a democracy really want to do something, in the end they will just do it. Please do not misunderstand me. Laws and written constitutions are important. But in the end, there’s more to democracy. John Adams and the American revolutionaries similarly believed this. John Adams wrote: “Power must be opposed to power, force to force, strength to strength.”14 Power is a force of its own reckoning. It cannot be checked by laws alone or by pieces of paper. What the Americans did is to create this new idea of power, which was a structure within which they could, and did, act in concert and thereby exercise their freedom. After the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation were considered too weak. But the Founders did not simply substitute a federal government for the unruly governance of the many states. They were convinced that they didn’t need a model affirming that the states were bad, that the federal government was good, and that ultimately we needed to surrender states’ power to make the federal government stronger. We needed to make the federal government strong as a balance to the states: ‘Not the states ought to surrender their powers to the national government, rather the powers of the central government should be greatly enlarged….’ Clearly the true objective of the American Constitution was not to limit power but to create more power, actually to establish and duly constitute an entirely new power centre, destined to compensate the confederate republic, whose authority was to be exerted over a large, expanding territory, for the power lost through the separation of the colonies from the English crown.15 This willingness to multiply powers and institutionalize a true contest of power is what has made America different from France and almost all other modern governments that seek to centralize power. According to Arendt, “The American revolution brought the new American idea of power and the American Experience of Power out into the open.”16 To further elaborate this American experience of power, Arendt quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, who, famously, wrote: “The American Revolution broke out, and the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people came out of the townships and took possession of the state.”17 Her point is that this American experience of self-government in the townships, as well as on the Arabella—this feeling of the right to make our own government—created a unique idea of American power, one that not only could

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protect freedom but also make freedom what it is, in its American manifestation: self-government. And so she concludes: The great and, in the long run, perhaps the greatest American innovation in politics as such was the consistent abolition of sovereignty within the body politics of the republic, the insight that in the realm of human affairs sovereignty and tyranny are the same.18 What made America unique for Arendt was that there was no one sovereign, there was no one place where sovereignty was held. There were many power sources. The focus wasn’t even the people or the nation because there were many peoples and many nations, and each one could have power. All of this seems like a pretty happy story. But as most of you who have read Arendt know, she rarely tells a story that ends so happily. On Revolution is no different. Arendt called the last chapter of her book “The Lost Treasure.” In it, she talks about how Thomas Jefferson was the American Founder who most understood the failure of the American Constitution and its attempt to found a new freedom. In Jefferson’s telling, the U.S. Constitution had failed to provide a space where everyday Americans could exercise and practice their freedom. “Jefferson knew, however dimly, that the Revolution, while it had given freedom to the people, had failed to provide a space where this freedom could be exercised.”19 We had legislators in the federal government, and we had legislatures at the state level and the county level. And we had mayors. But we didn’t have places where people could come together and experience the freedom of acting together in self-government. At one time, Jefferson had put forth a proposal for wards. He suggested breaking counties into wards and having each ward act as a miniature self-government. On the model of town council government, the wards would offer a space for all Americans to engage in the act of free self-government. But the fact that the ward system—or something like it— was left out of the U.S. Constitution meant that the American practice of self-government lacked a constitutionally instituted public space. The failure of the Constitution to include institutions small enough to ensure active political participation led in Arendt’s telling to the loss of the treasure, the loss of the multiplication of powers, the loss of the American experience of power and freedom. For what eventually happened, she argues, is that as America became bigger, the practice of government became more complicated and time consuming; it was convenient, there-

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fore, to outsource the practice and activity of governing to others. That is, to bureaucrats and elected politicians. The American people began to let the governors begin to govern. And as the governors began governing, the people began to say, “It’s not my responsibility. All we have to do is vote every couple of years.” The people got corrupted. When Arendt talks about corruption, she means the word in its most fundamental sense. There is of course a connection to the way we use corruption today and the way Zephyr Teachout uses the word corruption, in her essay in this volume and in her book Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United, to name the corrosive influence of money in politics. But for Arendt, corruption is the social tendency of everyday people to privilege their private and individual interests over and above the common good and the public interest. Here is how she describes the fact of corruption in the United States: What could happen, and what indeed has happened over and over again since, was that “the representative organs should become corrupt and perverted,” but such corruption was not likely to be due (and hardly ever has been due) to a conspiracy of the representative organs against the people whom they represented. Corruption in this kind of government is much more likely to spring from the midst of society, that is, from the people themselves.20 The people have become convinced that the American government is there to serve them. They now buy the government, or they expect services from the government. That is the connection with our more usual sense of corruption. But the core of corruption is that the people have stopped governing themselves. Governing takes work and effort. It requires courage insofar as one must speak in public and risk censure, if not ostracism and even violence. We are living at a time when the public sense and public commitment has been vitiated by a single-minded focus on individual or, at best, group interests. That is the ultimate corruption. One example of what I mean by this can be found in a 1958 book, Small Town in Mass Society, by Arthur J. Vidich and Joseph Bensman,21 about a small town called Candor (interestingly named), near Ithaca, NY. The book studies the small-town people in the 1950s and finds that they all think of themselves as superior to urban dwellers. They are the proverbial “root” of America. They’re independent. They’re not big. They have their own little ways. They’re “good folk,” they say. And they can also govern themselves in a small-town, good-American fashion.

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But as the writers study the people, the town, and the politics, what they find over and over again is that every time the town wants to solve a problem, they either outsource it to the county or state, or follow the regulations set forth by the state or federal government. As a result, “Solutions to the problem of fire protection are found in agreements with regionally organized fire districts.” Over and again, “The town prefers to have its road signs provided in standard form by state agencies ‘without cost to the taxpayer[s].’” For Vidich and Bensman, “Springdale [the pseudonym for Candor, NY] accepts the state’s rules and regulations on roads built and maintained by the state. It works with the foreman of the state highway maintenance crew to have his teams clear village roads, thus saving the expense of organizing and paying for this as a town.” And “State highway construction and development programs largely present local political agencies with the alternative of either accepting or rejecting proposed road plans and programs formulated by the state highway department.”22 Vidich and Bensman conclude that far from their self-image of smalltown independence, the people of Springdale are highly dependent upon the money and values of mass society. Indeed, there is a pattern of dependence on state and federal agencies: There is a “pattern of dependence,” according to which the “important decisions are made for Springdale by outside agencies.” [e.g. State police, the Department of Education, state welfare agencies, state highway department, the state conservation department] Though such agencies and their representatives are frequently resented by the community, their services are accepted and sought because they are free or because acceptance of them carries with it monetary grants-in-aid for the local community… they accede to the rule of these outside agencies because the agencies have the power to withhold subsidies.23 In Republic Lost Lawrence Lessig defines corruption as dependence. And dependence is clearly evident in “Springdale.” Indeed, Vidich and Bensman conclude that the people of Springdale are bought. They sell their self-government. They sell their right to freedom to subsidies and, in kind, to payment, as observed by the writers in the book’s conclusion: “Psychologically this dependence leads to an habituation to outside control to the point where the town and village governments find it hard to act even where they have the power.”24 In other words, in American towns as

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well as in American cities, we have given up our power, our right to selfgovernment, and we have done so over and over again. Self-government isn’t the only thing we’ve lost. Senator Paul Douglas, who represented Illinois for 18 years, had this to say: Today the corruption of public officials by private interests takes a more subtle form. The enticer does not generally pay money directly to the public representative. He tries instead by a series of favors to put the public official under such a feeling of personal obligation that the latter gradually loses his sense of mission to the public and comes to feel that his first loyalties are to his private benefactors and patrons. What happens is a gradual shifting of a man’s loyalties from the community to those who have been doing him favors.25 This is how the private interests of the people corrupt the political. We lose not just self-government and local governments. We also lose an idea of national government. For what does national government now do? It does what local government was supposed to do. It gives out favors. It helps people with welfare. It helps people with quotidian things. Meanwhile, the original role of the national government was to act as the sense of what holds different peoples together. Robert Pranger, one of the most perceptive political thinkers of the 20th century, argues that we have witnessed a massive change in the role and understanding of the U.S. national government. There are, Pranger writes, two ideas of liberty.26 One is the “liberty of self-fulfillment, the freedom to follow one’s ambitions.” The second is “toleration or the liberty to deviate unimpeded by peremptory claims of others,” the toleration that enables people living together in a world in which we don’t always agree with one another, but where we see ourselves united by a common purpose. In Pranger’s insightful account of American ideas, the United States has undergone a transformation from the liberty of toleration to the liberty of self-fulfillment. We have witnessed a “decline of the national government” in which the public perceptions of the national government have shifted. Once the national government was the “zealous umpire responsible to the community as a whole,” designed to promote and preserve the freedom of individuals and communities to govern themselves. Increasingly, however, the federal government has become the “ultimate preemptor,” the sovereign ruler that imposes a common national will on pluralistic conflicts. The federal government, Pranger rightly sees, has come to look more and more like a bank or a micro-regulator; it picks and

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supports winners to whom it offers financial and institutional support. But as we lose the sense of the national government as an embodiment of the general idea of American freedom, that government is corrupted and becomes instead simply a tool for the pursuit of private interest. What happens when liberty is redefined as self-fulfillment and government is encountered not as an activity but as a tool useful for individual self-fulfillment? Rational voters eventually decide not to vote, especially in local elections. In 2013, an off-year election, the New York City mayoral election—not an unimportant post, some would say—seduced only 24 percent of the voters to cast a ballot. That’s pretty good actually, because in Los Angeles it was 16 percent; in Durham, North Carolina, 10.49 percent; and in the 2013 Texas municipal elections, only 8.1 percent of registered voters bothered to vote. The point is that as local government has lost its role and become dependent on large state and federal bureaucracies, the American idea of power that emerges from engaged self-government has withered. And individuals have turned their focus ever more from the common good to the self-fulfillment of personal interest. This turn from the common to the self is what Hannah Arendt names corruption. It is the corruption of small towns, towns that were once selfgoverning local institutions, but which increasingly are insinuated within mass society in such a way that they have given up their powers to govern themselves. It is the corruption of politicians, who become dependent on enormous amounts of cash and thus take their eyes away from the common good and toward the good of those who can provide them with the money they need to run for office. It is the corruption of government, which increasingly cares more about keeping itself in business than about solving problems. Every four years, every president runs on the notion of reforming government. It never happens. Jonathan Rauch, in a great book called Government’s End: Why Washington Stopped Working, makes this point: government is a bipartisan effort that wants to keep itself in business. It doesn’t actually want to change.27 Closer to home, we witness the corruption of education. William Deresiewicz has explored this corruption in his book Excellent Sheep, about the myriad of ways we corrupt young people who are going to college. We teach them to be excellent, to be top students, to be super smart, but we don’t teach them values. In Deresiewicz’s words, we don’t teach them a “soul.” This is part and parcel of the corruption of our moral imagination, a term that David Bromwich writes about in his essay in this journal. Today when we are speaking about American exceptionalism, we are increasingly

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not talking about our highest values—the American idea of freedom and the American idea of non-sovereign power; our moral imaginations are weak. Instead, American exceptionalism today means justifying imperialism or justifying actions that are certainly not what Arendt and Tocqueville would say makes America great. What Arendt teaches us is that there is an idea to America. It is up to us to preserve that idea.

1. Lawrence Lessig, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Politics—And a Plan to Stop It, (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011), 1. 2. Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960–2010 (New York: Crown Forum, 2013), 11. 3. George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), 3. 4. John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity (1630),” Hanover Historical Texts Project, accessed July 17, 2015, https://history.hanover.edu/texts/winthmod.html. 5. Thomas Paine, Common Sense (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 120. 6. Philip Freneau, “On Mr. Paine’s Rights of Man,” Louisiana Tech University, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www2.latech.edu/~bmagee/212/freneau/rights_man.htm. 7. Alexis deTocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Harvey Mansfield (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), II.1.ix. 8. Abraham Lincoln, “The Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln Online, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm. 9. Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again,” poets.org, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again. 10. Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream . . .,” (1963) accessed August, 2015, http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf. 11. Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (London: Penguin Classics, 2006), 141. 12. Ibid., 149. 13. Ibid., 152. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., 153–4 (citing James Madison). 16. Ibid., 166. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid., 153. 19. Ibid., 235. 20. Ibid., 252. 21. Arthur J. Vidich and Joseph Bensman, Small Town in Mass Society: Class, Power, and Religion in a Rural Community (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1958). 22. Ibid., 99. 23. Ibid., 113, 99 24. Ibid., 100. 25. Lessig, Republic Lost, 110. 26. Robert Pranger, “The Decline of the American National Government,” Publius 3, no. 2 (1973): 97–127. 27. Jonathan Rauch, Government’s End: Why Washington Stopped Working, (New York: PublicAffairs, 1999).

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Nations Are Not Exceptions David Bromwich

Is American exceptionalism a force for good? The question shouldn’t be hard to answer. To make an exception of oneself is as immoral a proceeding for a nation as it is for a person. When we say of a person (usually someone who has gone off the rails), “He thinks the rules don’t apply to him,” we mean that the person is a danger to others and perhaps to himself. People who act on that belief don’t examine themselves deeply or write a history of the self to justify the belief that they are unique. Very little effort is involved in their willfulness. Indeed, exceptionalism comes from an excess of will, unaccompanied by awareness of the necessity of self-restraint. Such people are monsters. Many land in asylums, more perhaps in prisons. The category also encompasses many high-functioning autistics: governors, generals, Wall Street corporate heads, owners of professional sports teams. Nations, on the other hand, do write their own histories. They keep and exhibit a record of their doings, a chronicle of justified conduct and actions worthy of celebration. Exceptional nations therefore are compelled to engage in some fancy bookkeeping, which exceptional individuals can avoid (or at least delay until they are put on trial or subjected to interrogation under oath). The exceptional nation will claim that it is not responsible for its exceptional character. Its nature was given by God or history or destiny. An external and semi-miraculous instrumentality is invoked to explain a prodigy that defies merely scientific understanding. To support the belief, variants and synonyms of the word providence often get slotted in, a word that picked up its utility at the end of the 17th century, which marked the beginning of the epoch of nations formed in Europe by a supposed covenant or compact. Providence splits the difference between the accidents of fortune and purposeful design—a handy piece of verbal machinery if you are bent on deception. Why is it immoral for a person to treat himself as an exception? Because morality, by definition, means a standard of right and wrong that applies to all persons without exception. Yet to shorten the answer in this way may be to oversimplify. The word exceptionalism, as well as the idea, in the popular press and in demagogic minds, is at once resonant and ambiguous. Three separate senses are in play, each with a different apol-

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ogy backing it. The glamour of the idea owes something to a confusion between them. First, the nation is thought to be exceptional by its very nature, a nature so consistently high, worthy, and enviable that these qualities shine through all its works. One can’t imagine not justifying and admiring and (if one is a foreigner) wishing to belong to such a nation. “My country right or wrong” becomes the proper sentiment, once this picture has captured us, because we can’t conceive of the nation being wrong. A second sense of the word may seem more open to rational testing. Here, the nation is supposed to be admirable by reason of history and circumstance. It has demonstrated its exceptional quality by adherence to certain ideals peculiar to its original character and broadly appreciable as part of the human inheritance. Not “my country right or wrong” but a more thoughtful sentiment is evoked: “we love our nation not for what it is but for what it can be.” The evidence of what it can be forms a historical deposit with a rich residue in the present. The third version of exceptionalism derives from the commonest sort of affectionate feeling about living in a community, community here being defined on the small scale of neighborhoods, townships, ethnic groups and religious sects. Communitarian nationalism takes the innocent-seeming but illicit step of applying this sentiment of community to the nation at large. It is, in fact, the mingling of the local sentiment with the nationalist and the high-minded idealist senses of the word that has made “American exceptionalism” into such an intoxicating brew. My nation is exceptional to me, this rationalization says, just because it is mine; its familiar habits and customs have shaped the way I think and feel, beyond any wish to extricate myself from its demands. The nation, in this view, is like a family, and we owe it, just as we owe the members of our family, “unconditional love.” This presents itself as the common sense of ordinary feelings. How can our nation help but be exceptional to us? Athens was an exceptional nation, or city-state, as Pericles described it in his oration for the first fallen soldiers in the Peloponnesian War. He meant his description of Athens as exceptional to carry both normative force and hortatory urgency. Athens is the greatest of Greek cities and shows it by its works, by the greatness of its deeds, by the structure of its government, and by the character of the citizens who are themselves creations of the city. At the same time, Pericles is saying to the widows and children of the war dead: “Resemble them! Be like these brave dead! Do more of what

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they have done! Seek to deserve the name of Athenian as they have deserved it!” The great oration, recounted by Thucydides in History of the Peloponnesian War, begins by praising the ancestors of Athenian democracy who by their exertions have made it exceptional. “They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valor.”1 Yet we who are alive today, says Pericles, have also added to that inheritance. He then goes on to praise the constitution of the polis, which “does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves.”2 The foreshadowing of American exeptionalism is uncanny here, and the shadows lengthen as the speech proceeds. “In our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same person.”3 And again: “As a city we are the school of Hellas,”4 by which the orator means that no representative man from another city will be so resourceful as one of ours. Athens, alone of all cities, is greater than her reputation. We Athenians, says Pericles, risk our lives by carrying a difficult burden, rather than live by submitting to others. Indeed, the greatness of the city is proved by our very willingness to die; and he turns now to the surviving families of soldiers after the first great battle, with words that admonish and exalt. “You must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts,” he says to the widows and children. “Then when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must recognize that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this.”5 So stirring are their deeds that the memory of their greatness is written in the hearts of men in faraway lands: “For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.”6 Athenian exceptionalism at its height, as the words of Pericles show, took the deeds of war to prove the worthiness of all that the city had achieved, apart from war. Athens here is placed beyond comparison; no one who knows Athens and knows other cities will fail to recognize Athens as the exception. This is an overmastering sensation that carries conviction. The greatness of the city is like a vision that “breaks upon you.”7 To bring us a step closer to America at present, compare that praise of an exceptional political order with a partly similar invocation of a national past by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was speaking not

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of a war against a rival city-state but, as he described it, against part of one’s own nation that had broken away. The common commitment that he recalls found expression in a single document that codified the high idealism of the state and inspired a framework of laws that would allow those ideals to be realized over time. Athens for Pericles is what Athens has always been. The Union, for Lincoln, is what the Union still is going to be. Lincoln associates the greatness of our past intentions—“We hold these truths to be self-evident”—with a resolution he asks his listeners to declare at the present moment: It is [not for the noble dead, but] rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. Artificial weights will at last be lifted from all shoulders, and after the war there will be a popular government and a political society based on the principle of free labor, and slavery will be brought to an end. He asks his listeners to love their country for what it can be. In this way, the sacrifice we make on behalf of a future serves as corroborating proof of our greatness. There is a detectable evasion in the speech, but it declines to cover its own tracks. This was one of the reasons why Lincoln was called honest. He doesn’t hide the slave constitution under his resolution for freedom; the imperfection of the American founding is confessed between the lines. But the fulfillment of his prayer for freedom is trusted to show that the Constitution all along was pointed in the direction of our fight to make the Union free. Notice that the logic of the argument for the exceptional city, which we saw in Pericles, has been reversed by Lincoln. The future is not guaranteed by the greatness of the past; rather, the tarnished virtue of the past is scoured by the purity of the future. Exceptional in its reliance on slavery, the first American Revolution is here redeemed by the second. Through the sacrifice of nameless thousands, the nation will become truly exceptional by overcoming slavery from within. The argument would be plainer but less effective if Lincoln hadn’t begun with an allusion to a deep past: “Four score and seven years ago . . .” We would be less liable to be wrongly moved by it if the speech had begun: “Two years from now, perhaps three, our country will see a great transformation.”8 But an exceptional character,

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whether in history or story, needs an exceptional plot; so the speech commences with a biblical cadence evoking the length of the life of one man and goes on to ask the implicit question: Can a free people survive longer than this? Belief in the nation that simply is exceptional (like the Athens of Pericles) or in the nation that will soon justify its claim to be exceptional (like the America of Lincoln) is hardly an incidental exertion. It calls for extraordinary arrogance or extraordinary hope in the believer. But exceptionalism, in our time, has been made less exacting by an appeal based on the resemblance of national feeling to the feeling we have for neighborhoods or small communities. In particular, identity is claimed between the nation and the smallest and most vivid community that most people know: the family. Many people—everyone from presidents to political theorists to high school principals—say that we should treat our country, “our people,” the way we treat members of our family. If the nation does wrong, it is an error and not a crime. We can’t help seeing it that way because we owe our nation, as we owe our children, unconditional love. I pass over the obvious difficulties about the truth of the analogy: a family has nested us, cradled us, nursed us from infancy, as we have perhaps done for later generations of the same family, in a sense far more intimate than the sense in which a nation can be said to have fostered or nurtured us. We know our family with an individuated depth and authority we can’t bring to our knowledge of a nation. This may be a difference of kind or a difference of degree, but the difference is certainly great. There is a delusion in the analogy between nation and family, but a subtler theft and transfer of feeling is involved with the idea of unconditional love. What do we mean by unconditional love? What do we mean by it even as applied to a family? Suppose my delinquent child robs and beats an old man on a city street and I learn of it by accident or his own confession. What exactly do I owe him? Unconditional love, in this setting, surely does mean that I can’t stop caring about my child. I will regard this terrible act as an aberration, and I will think about the act and the actor quite differently from the way I would think about such a crime if anyone else committed it. Does unconditional love also require that I make excuses for him? Shall I pay a lawyer to get him off the hook and back on the streets as soon as possible? Is it my duty to conceal what he has done, if there is a chance of keeping it secret, and never speak the truth about it in the company of strangers or persons outside the family?

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The argument for exceptionalism as a form of unconditional love actually follows this train of bad insinuation to the end. One must never speak critically of one’s country in the hearing of other nations, never write against its policies in foreign newspapers, and always, above all, assume the good intentions of our own people when they do things that are vicious and wrong. The argument suggests that we ought to protect our country from the “misunderstanding” of strangers even when that amounts to the same thing as a right understanding of justice. This appeal to the nation as a family rests on a reversion from moral argument to habitual sentiment. It may be a less fertile source of belligerent pride than the exceptionalism of “my country right or wrong.” It may be less grandiose, too, than the exceptionalism that asks us to love our country for ideals that have never properly been translated from resolution into practice. And yet, in this familiar last resort of exceptionalism, there is the same renunciation of moral knowledge, a renunciation that if followed would render inconceivable any social order beyond that of the family and its extension, the tribe. Unconditional love of our country is the counterpart of unconditional detachment and even hostility toward other countries. None of us is an exception, and no nation is. The sooner we come to live with this truth as a mundane reality, the more grateful other people and other nations will be to live in a world that includes us, among others.

1. “Thucydides (c.460/455–c.399 BCE): Pericles’ Funeral Oration from the Peloponnesian War (Book 2.34-46),” Fordham University: Ancient History Sourcebook, accessed August 10, 2015, http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pericles-funeralspeech.asp. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings 1859–1865 (New York: Library of America, 1989).

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What Is a True American? Anand Giridharadas and Roger Berkowitz

Roger Berkowitz: Let me begin by introducing our guest for this panel, Anand Giridharadas. I first encountered him a couple months ago when I read his book The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas. I had known very little about the book when it came out, but it’s one of those that you read very quickly with gratitude for the author. It is a real pleasure to have Anand here. He writes the “Admit One” column for the New York Times arts pages and the “Letter from America” feature for the New York Times global edition. Anand was born in Cleveland and raised there and in Paris, France. He has been a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and today he appears regularly on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and The Daily Show. He is ABD (all but dissertation) at Harvard in the Government Department; instead of a degree, he has a Daily Show degree, which is worth more, I am sure. One of the beauties of The True American—which has been made into a film—is that it tells a beautiful and compelling story. There are at least two main characters in the book. Anand, could you talk to us about the character Rais and give us a sense of what he is about? Anand Giridharadas: Thank you for having me. This book is a true story, a work of book-length journalism. I say that because what I am going to tell you sounds untrue, but it indeed happened, and it happened in America. Additionally, I think it has a lot to tell us about what it means to be American today. It is about two men, and you have asked me to introduce the first of them. Raisuddin Bhuiyan, who goes by Rais, is like so many of the people who came to this country over the generations. He is a striving immigrant who is from Bangladesh originally, and he came to America in 1999. Let’s remember that people came for various reasons over the generations. Some people came here out of desperation, some people came here fleeing persecution, but a lot of people who came here were fleeing perfectly decent circumstances, decent to everybody else around them except them. And that is actually a big part of the American story. We are peopled by people who couldn’t stand things that their brothers or sisters often could. Rais was one of those.

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He had a great life. He was an Air Force officer in his country, which is a top position in his homeland. Bangladesh is a big peace-keeping country, so he would have been a fighter pilot, made good money, and ridden in chauffeur-driven cars for the rest of his life. But something kind of nibbled on his ear repeatedly and always pushed him to the next thing. That is how he got into the Air Force. And once he was in, the whisper was, “You got to get out, and you got to go to America. If you want to do anything, you got to go to America.” In a time when we are very depressed about our country, it is worth remembering that in most countries in the world, a lot of people still get that whisper. So he came here any way he could. And now you have to imagine an Air Force officer who begins working at a gas station in Dallas in the summer of 2001. He has a tough existence; he is working many hours every day, but he has these very clear pictures. He is going to work here a few more months, he is going to save up just enough money to enroll himself in community college, he is going to study IT, he is going to marry his fiancée by the end of the year in 2001, and he is going to become a big-time IT guy. Then 9/11 happens, and he meets Mark Stroman, who is the other character. Mark comes from a very different world. Mark Stroman grows out of a white working class around the Dallas area that in his family, but also in many families, has progressively been worse off each of the last three generations. His grandparents kind of owned a construction business and had a pretty big house. His parents seemed to sort of work and have a home. There was a lot of alcoholism, a lot of abuse, but they kind of had the rudiments of a stable life. And he grew out of this environment, a world where there are a lot of guys like him. From age nine, Mark is in and out of the law, getting arrested for things that involve sling shots at first and then graduate to chrome nunchucks, to stealing a guy’s pickup truck, to wielding a knife at some Mexican kids in high school. Eventually, he ends up where a lot of American boys are ending up right now, which is first juvenile detention and then prison, where he serves time on two different offenses. For each time, he is let out after a few months on six- and eight-year sentences. Mark is kind of a deadbeat, but he is not part of the welfare story. He works as a stonecutter and in a body shop. This is a drift man who had never been able to hold down a kind of decent life, and who lived, as his wife put it, by the doctrine of hurt-or-be-hurt, who had grown up with immense trauma within his family. After 9/11, this man became convinced that 9/11 was the purpose of his life and that the U.S. government was

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going to do nothing. He felt that only he, Mark Stroman, could avenge these attacks, so he drove around three gas stations in Dallas, and he shot the clerks behind these three gas station counters, all the while thinking that they were Arabs and that he was fighting back and defending his country. He called himself the true American. Two of his victims, an Indian and a Pakistani clerk, died immediately. But in one of the three shootings, he used a bird-hunting gun and shot a spray of pellets, 39 of which went into the face of Raisuddin Bhuiyan, the Air-Forceofficer-turned-gas-station-clerk. They went through his eye, 2 millimeters from his brain, and through various other parts of his face. But they did not kill him. So that is the setup of the story of two men who met by accident. I think the thing that intrigues me most about Rais and Mark is that they were living two very different ideas of what it means to be an American. Rais was in that encounter in the gas station because of a belief that no matter where you are in the world, no matter how good your circumstances, you can be better off if you go to America. Mark Stroman was living in a different America, where no one around him seemed to hold that belief or behave that way. Living in these different Americas, the two men collided that day in the shooting. I then spend much of the book talking about the next 10 years. Mark Stroman goes to trial, is charged with one of the three shootings as a murderer, is sentenced to death, and goes to death row, the Polunsky Unit in Texas, for the interminable wait. Rais Bhuiyan, a fledgling immigrant who does not understand the system even in good times, now has to deal with the system with one eye that won’t open and a mouth that is shut. He is let out of the hospital the day after the shooting with his right eye still not opening because he did not have insurance and because being shot in the face is a preexisting condition. And so, from just day two of the shooting, Rais has to begin navigating the health-care sector and other American bureaucracies. (Let’s remember that many of these companies do not work even if you are not born as an immigrant.) He has to try to convince the Red Cross that he is one of the 9/11 victims in Texas, but the Red Cross says, “There are no 9/11 victims in Texas.” He has to try to navigate his fear, but he does not understand the sociology of this country. He saw a bald white guy with tattoos attack him. Now everywhere he goes in Texas, he sees a lot of guys who look like Mark Stroman. It took him a long time to understand that there was only a single crazy guy. In the beginning, he felt that there must be some sort of squad who has this agenda, and he just didn’t know when more mem-

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bers of this squad would pop up. By now, however, Rais does see everyone as individuals, and he is remarkable that way. He is now doing human rights work and sees people for their humanity. Over the years, both Rais and Mark evolved, and that is why there is the book. Mark evolved by coming to terms with himself a little bit in the solitude of death row, by reconciling himself with the story of how his own failure and the failure of others helped create someone as angry as himself. Meanwhile, Rais rebuilt his life, got a job at the Olive Garden, got a job in IT, pushed his way up, and 10 years after the shooting, Rais went to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. He finally had money to go, so he went and took his mother along with him. This was his promise to his mother. They both cried the whole time. They did not think he would survive everything he did, let alone fulfill his sacred obligation. And when he was in Mecca, he had this epiphany that God saved him that day in the gas station, when he was sure he was dying, and that he never repaid God because he was so busy surviving. His visit to Mecca was his time to repay God, so he decided to do that by publicly forgiving the man who shot him. As if that’s not enough, Rais began fighting a legal campaign against the State of Texas to save his attacker from the death penalty. He sued the Texas establishment in court, citing, among other things, the precepts of mercy and compassion under Sharia law to argue the case that it was unconstitutional to execute his attacker. Roger: An amazing story. You spent a fair amount of time with both of these men, right? Anand: No, I couldn’t spend time with Mark. The accounts of Rais and Mark are two very different types of testimonies. In the book, I interweave the stories; each chapter alternates with the other. One Rais chapter, one Mark chapter, another Rais chapter, another Mark chapter. Writing about Rais was like writing normal nonfiction about a contemporary person. It was a reporting thing. Writing about Mark, by contrast, was almost like writing a biography of a historical figure in terms of the evidence base. It was basically like a paper. I have 4,000 pages of documents on Mark, and then I interviewed everybody who knew him. I had to kind of put him together through others. Roger: One of the most moving chapters is the one about Rais getting a job at the Olive Garden restaurant. Tell us why you spent so much time writing about the Olive Garden and the culture that Rais had to navigate there.

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Anand: There were two reasons. One, because just writing about the Olive Garden is funny, and fun, and the book needed some comic relief, so that’s in the Olive Garden chapter. Two, things happened at the Olive Garden that were very important for the story. First, Rais is looking for a job. He has basically been in his house, hiding, until this point. And he finally says, “I got to get over this fear,” and he thinks, “What job could I do that will keep me safe, that would not expose me the way I was exposed in the gas station at 11 o’clock at night, that would help me overcome my trauma?” So he thinks, “I need to do a thing with a lot of people, and I need to overcome my fear of white people,” and he just figures that the Olive Garden is a remarkable place to get over his fear of white people. And so there he is. Sure enough, there were people who came in as a table of four, and to him they looked identical to Mark. They had the same tattoos, as far as he could tell, as the man who shot him, and he sometimes went back to the kitchen and cried. There were two events that were significant parts of his evolution. The first was where Rais, who was a very pious, very devout Muslim, started to become an American pragmatist. This happened because of a substance called wine. At the Olive Garden, he quickly learned that wine. beer, and cocktails account for half of your tips. He had not known that. It is not the same where he comes from. So he realized he was stuck in his Islamic notion that you should not even touch the stuff physically. He was going to earn half of what everybody else was earning, and that was not working at $60,000 in medical debt alone. So he reasoned with himself, and he said, “God wouldn’t want me to starve.” So he was like, “I am still not going to drink this stuff, but I will sell the stuff.” He starts selling wine and he thinks, “I shouldn’t sell just if they ask. If I am going to do it, I might as well be good at it.” So he starts going to all the fellow servers, and he says, “Tell me what this wine tastes like to you?” And he kind of boiled it down to this impression that wine really has only three tastes: crispy, chocolaty, and spicy. So he would just go to a table and say, “Welcome to the Olive Garden, and you know, with your Bolognese pasta I would really recommend this very crispy wine. I think you will like it.” And at the Olive Garden in Mesquite, Texas, that sort of worked. Also, he learned to say little things like, “Welcome to the Olive Garden. Are you going to the rodeo today?” which is not an abstract question because a lot of people were actually going to the rodeo right afterward. So that was learning to play the game, and years later, when he would take on Rick

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Perry and try to take on the entire Texas establishment, his ability to hustle, to play the game, and to understand the media became important. The other part of the Olive Garden was how it taught him about Americans whom many middle- and upper-middle-class Americans never get to know. A lot of immigrants from educated backgrounds like his—I would say that this is true about the family that I grew up in, as well—can kind of leapfrog from a privileged position in a very poor country into a kind of middle- and upper-class existence in this country without being aware of how a lot of Americans actually live. This unawareness stems in part from the fact that you never went to school here. If you arrived when you were 25, there were a lot of things you just didn’t study and about which you were unaware because of the way we live geographically. If you live in a suburb 45 minutes north of New York or west of Washington, D.C., for instance, and you do your IT job or whatever, you don’t really know about the suffering. That probably would have been Rais’s path had he gotten his IT thing, but because he was shot, he became exposed to the American underclass in a way that a lot of people of his background aren’t. This exposure made him think of these types of Americans as people, but he also realized when he looked at the people he was working with at the Olive Garden, native-born Americans of various races, that people born in this country of that demographic completely lacked access to the American dream. For him, by that point in the story, the American dream had started working for him again, despite his being shot in the face. And while a lot of different things were going on, partly the bad economy and those kinds of things, what he saw in these other Americans was an intense solitude. A lot of us don’t see it because we have been here too long, but Rais, with fresh eyes, was able to see things that were appalling to him and should be appalling to us. For example: Rais, by that point in his life, though in debt had got a friend to co-sign a lease for him to get a car. A lot of his colleagues at the Olive Garden—he saw these women, sometimes pregnant women—walking home on the sides of the highway in 110-degree heat. He was wondering how it could be, in this country, where everything is so affordable, why these people didn’t have cars. They were making decent money, working the same job as he was, and it turned out that they had the money to lease cars, but almost everybody who worked there didn’t have anybody in their lives who could or would co-sign a lease for them. And he was

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thinking, “What is going on in the richest country in the world, where they don’t have a brother or sister, or uncle, or aunt, or parent who could co-sign a lease?” People like Charles Murray and Bob Putnam have talked a lot about this, this loss of social capital. But Rais was not an academic theorist. He was living a life and seeing that this dream for which he had come to America was starting to work for him but was not working for a lot of people born and raised here. Roger: He came up with a theory to describe this phenomenon, correct? Anand: Yes. He called it “the SAD life,” and this was his diagnosis, which I think had some truth to it despite not being the full picture. He was particularly obsessed with how a lot of people were beholden to a life of sex, alcohol, and drugs. I think you can set aside the sex part a little bit because of his own views, although a lot of people today do bear unintended children and never grew up with parents. But when Rais got into the stories of his colleagues, they were tragic stories. And I think this is a narrative that we are not really comfortable with, or comfortable with it only in evangelical churches. We are not comfortable having a mainstream conversation about the fact that a lot of people in America are living extremely chaotic, precarious lives. Rais saw the connection between his Olive Garden colleagues and the man who shot him. He understood that there was a kind of disease in the country, and he wanted to start doing something about it. Roger: Your book comes to be about a number of things, one of which is this sense that there is an America that functions and an America that doesn’t, which is, to a certain degree, what Charles Murray and George Packer were talking about yesterday. As spoken of by Packer, there are unaccountable institutions today that don’t work. Also, from Murray’s point of view, there is a bubble on the top that really works, even though the people on the top are hollow, whereas there is a bubble on the bottom that doesn’t work. Please tell us a little bit about what you came to see about America while writing this book. Did you discover something, and if you did, when, in writing the book, did you come up with that idea? Anand: I had the kernel of the idea before, which was what attracted me to the book. My first book was a much more general book about India,

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where I was a foreign correspondent, and I had never thought about doing a book on a single story, at least not this way. What drew me to this story was that I felt it was a way of exploring a larger idea that had been with me for a little while, which was that I found myself surrounded by two different story lines. One story was “this was kind of the worst time in American history ever, and everything was horrible,” and there was a good amount of evidence for it. The other story line was “this is the best time in American history, apps are going to change everything,” and there was a lot of evidence for that, too. I think we are living, in some ways, in the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression at the same time. The people who want to tell us that we are living through the Depression only don’t acknowledge that it is not just one percent of us who are doing well. A lot of us are doing well. I don’t know what the number is, but a quarter or a third of Americans live and work in great places for some of the world’s best institutions, where they are the best at what they do. That is not true in France, or Spain, or in a lot of other Western countries. At the same time, however, a lot of us live in conditions that are already deeply Second World, and the people who want to talk about how this is the Roaring Twenties and say everything is great don’t want to acknowledge that a lot of people are living through the Great Depression. I feel that both are deeply true, so the book moved back and forth between both worlds and showed that neither of them is permanently fixed. The immigrant who came for the world of the Roaring Twenties fell out of it and tried to reclaim it, whereas the killer who grew up in a failing America came into contact with the America that works through visitation, letters, and pen pals while on death row and actually started to become a better guy. Roger: Two questions before we end. First, I’d like to have you read a paragraph on page 121 of your book. You bring up a thesis that we talked about yesterday on a panel on freedom, “Is America the Land of Freedom?” A discussion on that panel asked whether freedom is the idea of America. George Packer begins his book The Unwinding with the idea that we are living through a time of almost too much freedom, an idea you raise in your book, that we might need to return to kind of “un-freedom” or sense of family and other constraints. From what I could gather, your book becomes, at least in its discussion of Mark Stroman and his world, a meditation on the problem of excess freedom in America. Can you please comment on that idea?

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Anand: Yes, but before I read this paragraph, I want to give a little bit of context. As I mentioned, my first book was about India. I grew up in the United States, the son of Indian immigrants, and I moved to India after college to reconnect with my heritage. I moved to a place where I had never been before, and I lived there for six years, when I had originally planned on staying for only six months. During my time in India, I became a newspaper correspondent and wrote a book about the extraordinary change that was happening not just in India but also in a lot of the developing world. At the heart of that change was a celebration of the idea of freedom and the idea of the individual. There are things in India that have been conspiring against the individual for eight centuries now, if not millennia . The caste system, class, economics—a lot of different things, which in various ways have limited individuals from finding their voice and becoming their fullest selves. I wrote this great celebration of the idea of the individual coming to India, and then I came back here and I started telling the story. Then I realized in a strange way what I was doing. The uncharitable version was that I was contradicting myself, but what I was doing was chronicling a society at the very other end of that arc of individualizing, and that at the other end of the arc, it became something much less worthy of celebration. I saw that a lot of the people who are not doing well enough in America are people who suffer as much from the excess of individualism as people do in India from a lack of individual freedom. This is a passage in the Olive Garden chapter in which Rais makes that connection, about how people were imprisoned back home, versus how they were imprisoned at the Olive Garden. What Rais was perhaps discovering was that the liberty and selfhood that America gave, that had called to him from across the oceans, could, if carried to their extremes, fail people as much as the strictures of a society like Bangladesh. The failures looked different, but they both exacted the toll of wasted human potential. To be, on one hand, a woman in Bangladesh locked at home in purdah, unable to work or choose a husband, voiceless against her father; and to be, on the other, a poor, overworked, drug-taking woman in Dallas, walking alone in the heat on the highway’s edge, unable to make her children’s fathers commit, too estranged from her parents to ask for help—maybe these situations were less different than they seemed. What Rais was coming to see, through his Olive Garden immersion, was the limits of the freedom for

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which he had come to America—how chaos and hedonism and social corrosion could complicate its lived experience. Roger: I think that point is really beautifully put. We, as part of the leadup to this conference, recently had a debate here at Bard. The discussion featured mixed teams from Bard and West Point and revolved around the question, “Is individualism an American ideal worth fighting for?” We started with this idea of Tocqueville, who actually is pretty much the inventor of the word individualism. The word is first used in the English language in 1827. Not 10 years later, Tocqueville writes Democracy in America Vol. 1, in which he gives the first definition of individualism as different from selfishness. Selfishness is a passion to do good for yourself. Individualism is a thought to focus on yourself and not on the common, not on what is meaningful in the world. It is the focus on your family, on yourself, on your wants and not on the common good. What he says is that the great danger of American democracy is individualism, and the only response to that danger that is not dangerous to freedom is more individualism in the sense of self-government, not to mention individuals who are reengaged in the public sphere. It struck me that that this train of thought is something that very much aligns with what you’re doing in your book. Anand: You’re correct. It’s important to note, however, that I don’t come at the issues I discuss in my book with an ideological framework. That’s not what I do. I do a lot of deep reporting and interviewing, and I try to figure out the story of what is going on in people’s lives. I therefore pay a lot of attention to the language people use to describe what they feel is going on. Ultimately, the big conclusion I came to was that a lot of the people who are hurting are falling between the cracks of the Left and the Right in America. And what I mean by that is this. The Left is very eloquent at caring about the most vulnerable among us, the weak among us—people for whom the system is not working. It is also very eloquent about some of the causes of that failure, as well as about the lack of economic opportunity, the way big companies operate, structural racism, and other kinds of things. But the Left is silent on a lot of things that the people I was writing about will tell you are the biggest problems in their lives, including the complete lack of family in many quarters of America. In the demographics I wrote about, hardly anybody has a dad. These are what I call fathers until conception. This is not the inner-city hood that we tend to associate

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with this problem. This is really becoming an every-race reality, an everydemographic reality. Not just that, but there are a lot of social corrosions that the Left is very uncomfortable talking about. The Right is more comfortable talking about some of those issues. However, it is not comfortable talking about the economic and the structural racism issues, and it doesn’t care about the most vulnerable people. And so those people, and their lived experience, falls in between the cracks of the Left and the Right. I find that very frustrating, given the amount of pain that you see out there. This isn’t just what’s evident in Texas. I was in a Wal-Mart in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago, and you can see what meth has done. Meth is happening everywhere. You can drive half an hour from here in any direction, and you will see what meth is doing. Meth is happening, just one little example of meth— you can see it in the teeth in the Wal-Mart in Lancaster. And who is speaking to that? No one. Why is that? Because it doesn’t really fit in anybody’s agenda. That is really what I wanted to try to put on the table. Roger: One last question: Did you have an answer of who is the true American, or what is the true American? Anand: It would have been a much shorter book if I did. I mean, there is no doubt who I, and who anyone reading the book, will think is the better guy, but that is not what is important. I think both of them represent claims in American life to what is a true American, what is the true American spirit that will always be with us, and that is more un-resolvable. They both represent one side of an opposition between a certain settledness of American life and the constant change of immigration, between the idea of individualism and of community, between the idea of everybody doing what they want and there being certain fixed values. These two characters fit on very different sides. It is not neat, but what ends up happening in the book is that so many of the important claims as to what it means to be American end up being embodied by so many of the characters who come along; they compete and joust in fascinating ways.

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Is There Still an Idea of America That Can Inspire People to Sacrifice for the Common Good? Charles Murray and George Packer

Charles Murray George Packer and I have about the same relationship to this panel’s topic as do the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. I am a libertarian, and, like the Tea Party, I derive much of my energy from an animus toward big government. By contrast, George and Occupy Wall Street operate according to an animus toward big business and finance. These differences of perspective are only secondary in importance, however. The fact is that both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have a sense that the game has been rigged. The sense is that the elites are separated from ordinary people, that something is deeply wrong, that there is a structural problem in the United States. Both George and I have written about various aspects of this phenomenon. In particular, I discuss the new lower class and the new upper class in my book Coming Apart. Today, I will focus on the latter in my remarks, because George’s book The Unwinding is an evocative statement of some of what I would say about the new lower class. The new upper class is different from the upper middle class. It’s a much smaller group, comprising the small group of people that runs the country. We need to distinguish a broad elite from the narrow elite. The broad elite consists of the people who are the most important physicians, attorneys, college professors, and local television station owners; the narrow elite is the people who run the nation’s politics, control its economy, and influence its culture. The people who belong to the narrow elite are overwhelmingly located in just a few population centers—New York City; Washington, D.C.; Hollywood; Los Angeles; and their surrounding areas, and now, increasingly, in Silicon Valley, which exerts its own unique influence on the culture and the economy of the United States. What I want to do here is give you a quick sense of where the new upper class came from. I don’t think the new narrow elite is a problem that’s been created by government policy. Rather, it is a function of the

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way the world works and has been working over the last half-century. Furthermore, this elite way of life isn’t going anywhere. Which is why we need to understand it. Once I have established the origins story, I will turn very briefly to the problems I associate with the new upper class. How did the new upper class come about? Essentially, this narrow elite owes its emergence to two broad phenomena that occurred over the 20th century, especially over the last half of the 20th century. The first of these phenomena is that cognitive ability—plain and simple brains and intelligence—became a lot more valuable in the marketplace than ever before. For instance, consider the case of someone who has very high visual-spatial skills that translate into mathematical and programming skills and who has no social grace whatsoever. You would not immediately trust this guy to go across the street and convince the guy at 7-Eleven to sell him a loaf of bread. He is, nevertheless, gifted in engineering and computer coding. Let’s look at the job prospects of our subject. How could he make a living in 1920? Well, he could become an actuary. He couldn’t become a teacher of mathematics even if he wanted to because he has little in the way of social skills. By contrast, what can he do in 2015? For a start, he has to juggle the job offers from Google in Silicon Valley and from quantitative hedge funds in New York City. He has these types of high-paying options because he and his skill set are worth a fortune to them, and these prospective employers don’t care if he lacks social skills. The same increased valuation of intellectual skill is palpable throughout the whole economy. Consider, for example, the change in how lawyers are paid. For most of the 20th century, lawyers spent most of their time writing wills and attending to the ordinary affairs of life for which individual clients paid on a semi-regular basis. Lawyers were well compensated, but they were rarely wealthy. Even corporate lawyers who made corporate salaries, which were good back then, were not fabulously wealthy. Today, it’s different. Lawyers armed with an intricate knowledge of arcane regulations are key players in the world of high finance and corporate buyouts. If a lawyer can secure a deal involving billions of dollars on favorable terms, that lawyer is worth a commission of a couple of million dollars. You can make a huge difference to the bottom line of multinational corporations if you can get a regulation worded in their favor. Those skills make a lawyer worth four figures an hour. The same is true for all the other ways in which the economy simply got much bigger, along with the amounts of money that companies are willing to pay for a combination of creativity, imagination, and perseverance.

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I’m not saying that intelligence and IQ are the only things that matter in the new economy. I am saying that if you are lucky enough to have a really high IQ, you can make a lot more money than you used to. Our current economy simply rewards raw brainpower more directly than in the past. The second phenomenon to which the new upper class owes its origins is the change in higher education admission standards so that admission is increasingly a factor of intelligence rather than connections and status. To illustrate, the incoming Harvard class of 1952 had a mean verbal SAT score of around 578. (Everyone in this room knows exactly what 578 means in the verbal category. It is nothing to brag about.) By 1960, just eight years later, the mean verbal SAT score of the incoming freshman class was in the high 600s. There had been a full standard deviation in change in less than a decade, meaning that the average incoming Harvard freshman in 1952 would have been in the bottom 10 percent of the class in 1960. That was a conscious decision—and a good one—to transform Harvard from a place that had a lot of rich kids, some of whom were smart, to a place that had a lot of super-smart kids, some of whom were rich. This change happened at the other Ivies too. It also happened at state universities, whose honors programs by this time were essentially competitive with the Ivies in terms of expected academic skill level on the part of the students. All of this was good. Unfortunately, as so many good things do, this concentration of an academically qualified elite had unexpected collateral effects. One of those was that it brought together academic talent as never before at the same time that the economy was becoming more hi-tech and at a moment when difficult and high-paying jobs called for high-level cognitive skills. As a result, we started to see a new elite culture take form where it hadn’t existed before: a culture built upon educational, economic, and cultural affinities. I’ll give you an example. Today, television sets in the average household in the United States are on for 36 hours a week. Among the new upper class, the television is hardly on at all. Some of them will say to you, “Actually, we don’t have a television,” and if they do have a television, they will use it to watch movies or maybe Downton Abbey, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. That’s a huge difference from mainstream America. It’s not to say that everyone should watch TV 36 hours a week, but rather that the new upper class is completely out of touch with a popular culture that they never even see. Another example of the distance of the modern elite from the rest of America can be seen in state of marriage. Basically, marriage is alive and

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well in the upper class. If you take whites ages 30 to 50, about 84 percent of them are married and an increasing number of these are first marriages. I would also submit to you that a lot of them are good marriages. This I can’t prove, but I will tell you what my life looks like. I’ve been divorced in the past and married for 31 years subsequently. And as I look around at my friends, all of whom cover a wide age range, I realize that many of them have never been divorced. They are married, and they look as if they are in really good marriages. If you in the audience are thinking about your friends and are saying, “Well, actually, most of the people I know are married and are in pretty good marriages,” I think that would be a positive thing. Indeed, in the upper class in this country, you see marriages that are more equal, last longer, and are happier. The working class is a different story. Among whites aged 25 to 50 in the working class, 48 percent are married, compared to 84 percent in the upper class. Not only that, but the working-class figure is down from 84 percent in 1960. That decline, from 84 percent to 48 percent in marriage among the working class over 50 years, is a huge and negative change. The reason these differences in marriage between the elite and the rest of Americans are so important is that the nature of the family has so many reverberating effects on the ways in which communities and institutions are organized. A school with a lot of married parents involved has a completely different situation than a school with overworked single mothers trying to help out at the PTA. And there are many other reverberating effects in communities. In Coming Apart I attempt to convey the extent to which the new upper class is isolated from the rest of American life by including a quiz of 25 questions. Those who opt to complete the quiz can receive a maximum of 100 points. The higher you score, the less you are living in an elite bubble; get a low score, and you’re really in a bubble. The quiz has some good social science questions, like, “Have you ever lived at least a year of your life in a neighborhood where approximately half of your neighbors didn’t have a college degree?” But it also has other questions, such as, “Have you or your spouse ever purchased a pickup truck?” and, “Have you or your spouse ever purchased a mass-market American beer?” The disdain of the new upper class for American beer like Budweiser, Coors, and Miller is palpable. If their beer has not been brewed by Belgian elves, they just won’t drink it. If I were going to identify the two most important questions on this test, I would say that one is: “Have you ever walked on a factory floor?”

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Not, “Have you ever worked in a factory?” but, “Have you ever even seen one?” Almost everything we use every day has been made in a factory, so what does it say if you don’t have any idea what a factory floor smells like, or sounds like? And the most important question on the test is: “Have you ever held a job that caused a body part to hurt at the end of the day?” Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t count. At the very least, your feet have to ache. Better if something else aches, too. Because that’s a common reality—for a great part of the American population, something hurts after work every day of their working lives. To have never experienced that recurrent sensation demonstrates in an important sense an inability to empathize with their lives. Let me respond to a question I’m often asked: why I wrote only about whites in Coming Apart. That was partly so I could isolate a lot of these economic and class issues and demonstrate that even after you take away the impact of race and ethnicity, you still have extremely disturbing trends about the coming apart of America into a class society. Whatever problems we have with race in our society, the incredible rise of an elite class that is increasingly separated from the rest of America cannot be blamed simply on race. It is, of course, true that a variety of indicators demonstrate that African Americans are a whole lot worse off than they were in 1960. But alongside that truth is another truth: if you look only at whites, then the problems with inequality and the rise of classes of the elite and the poor that George Packer and I are talking about have grown immensely. If you want to say these problems are even worse when you consider race and add in everyone, there is some truth to that. But even without all the racial aspects, you still have a big problem that has less to do with race and more to do with a multitude of distinct life experiences. This cultural isolation and this large gap of insulated life experiences are now magnified by the degree to which the new upper class has clustered together. Consider for example Washington, D.C., one of the great geographic bubbles with a dense concentration of a socio-economic elite. Almost everyone who is a mover and shaker in Washington lives in northwest Washington; McLean, Virginia; Bethesda, Maryland; or Potomac, Maryland. Basically, they all live in just 13 zip codes. As part of my book’s findings, I ranked all the zip codes in the county according to a combination of education and income, and of those 13 zip codes in and around Washington, 11 of them are not only in the top 1 percent of all the zip codes in the country, but also they are in the top half of the top 1 percent.

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And the others are right behind. Surrounding these zip codes are others that are in the top 3, 4, or 5 percent. This means that overall, a million people living in contiguous zip codes in the Washington, D.C., area are in the top five percentiles of zip codes in the country; this pattern is evident in New York, Los Angeles, and other big cities. This trend bespeaks a scary isolation of the elite from everyone else. I’m not going to go too deeply into my critique of what is wrong with the new upper class and why it is dangerous, but let me begin to wrap up my thoughts. In the past, we were rescued from a lot of problems by the fact that most Americans had grown up in a small town, or in a workingclass neighborhood in a city. They still remembered what that was like, even after living on the Upper East Side in New York. Now, however, people coming to power were, increasingly, born into the elite bubbles. They’ve gone to good K-12 schools, private or otherwise very good public institutions. They’ve gone from those elite schools to selective colleges like Bard, and during the summer, they’ve not worked construction but have had internships at the New Yorker and AEI. After graduation, they’ve gone to law school or public policy schools until, ultimately, they settled down and lived in their idea of the real “public” world. But at the end of the day, they have no idea what the rest of America is like. Because of this, I don’t use the word meritocracy in my book. I avoid referencing “meritocracy” in any of my works because I don’t believe that success is a product of objectively measurable qualities like merit. I like to believe that human beings can effect their own success through perseverance, resilience, and industry. In other words, I call myself a libertarian because if I call myself a classical liberal today, no one knows what I’m talking about. I am a follower of Adam Smith, not just The Wealth of Nations but also The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Self-government, starting with government of the self, is absolutely essential to freedom, and in The Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith talks about the way people are interconnected. To believe in freedom isn’t to say that we’re going to live alone on our mountaintop. It is to say that we are free to live our lives as we see fit, as individuals, as families, and as communities, not according to some preestablished meritocratic structure. Some in the new upper class believe they should separate themselves from the rest of society because of their high IQs. But when it comes to this peculiar thing called “cognitive ability,” to which I referred earlier, that’s a pure gift. None of us earn our IQ. And one thing that bothers me most about the new upper class is that increasingly, those who have high

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scores on these tests don’t seem to understand that it’s a gift about which they should feel humble. Is the “meritocracy” working? One way of asking that with regard to governance is, “Do we have the right set of people making decisions in these positions?” My answer is no, and these decision-makers are getting worse. As I write in my book, it doesn’t make a difference if a truck driver can’t empathize with the priorities of a cabinet secretary, but it makes a big difference if a cabinet secretary can’t empathize with the priorities of a truck driver. I think we’re increasingly ruled by people—I will put it pejoratively, and I understand that I’m am making a generalization for which there are many exceptions—who think that they are smarter than ordinary Americans, and that ordinary Americans need their help in making the right decisions. And that elitist attitude is a bad thing. The trajectory of American history has been progress. We started out with the almost Shakespearean tragic flaw of slavery, which for a time compromised the moral authority of the Constitution. But over time, we made progress. We were constantly moving in the right directions. However, since the 1960s—and although there have been certain dimensions, especially those involving minorities and women, within which we have seen great progress—American ideals of freedom have degenerated. It would be nice if we could make progress on freedom and on questions of economic and racial equality, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. We have abandoned the American ideal of middle-class virtues. America was once premised on the idea that you don’t get too big for your britches, that you are proud of being an American and that you identify more with being an American than you do with any socio-economic class. That is now changing, and the catastrophic consequences of that change can hardly be exaggerated.

George Packer In earlier years, Charles Murray had a reputation in circles I traveled in as being the prince of darkness. But things have changed. The title of Murray’s book is Coming Apart, but he and I are now coming together because there’s a tremendous amount of overlap in what we write. As I chronicle in my book The Unwinding, I traveled to different parts of the country after the financial crisis and the election of Barack Obama. Among the places to which I traveled were Youngstown, Ohio, an old,

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hard-pressed, dead steel town; Rockingham County in North Carolina, situated deep in what was once vibrant tobacco and textile country; and Tampa Bay, one of the epicenters of the housing boom and bust. Let me be clear that I’m not a social scientist. I’m a journalist. I spent some time getting to know people and following them to see what happened in their lives. By consequence, and rather randomly, a few things kept coming up in all of these places. First, I kept hearing something along the lines of, “There’s no more middle class here. There’s just rich and poor.” Really what everyone meant was, “There’s just poor.” It was difficult to identify who exactly was rich in some of these places. Second, people were alone. They overwhelmingly didn’t have spouses, and some of them didn’t have children. Every one of the major characters in my book was pretty much on their own. They lacked family. What is more, they also lacked institutional support. There were no civic associations on which they could depend. There was no church to which they belonged. They were not members of a union. There was no government agency they connected with and no company they could count on to realize their middle-class aspirations. All the people I met were alone in the sense that they made their way as they went along; there was never a conviction that they could turn to family members or to a local institution if they failed. The isolation I found was also connected to the loss of specifically local communities. For the duration of time that I followed my subjects, local media-based institutions were especially missing from their lives. They had the world’s information at their fingertips, but they had no local newspapers that reported on the issues that mattered to their lives. Instead, they had cable news stations and websites reporting national issues in a partisan way that divided rather than united local communities. These national news outlets might have been informative in a global sense, but they did not help the people I met navigate their daily lives. Third, I saw a lot of corruption. The people I interviewed and came to know felt that business and government were in collusion together. The game was rigged, at least in their minds. You had to be the right person, have the right amount of money, know the right people, and be in the right place in order to make policy work for you. It wasn’t working for them, so they reasoned that they were out of the game. And fourth, if the people I met did have children, they thought their children would not do as well as they were doing. Their pessimism offers a striking comment on what I call the “unwinding” in America. There are

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many ways to define the American Dream, and certainly the success of your children is one of the most important. But today, confidence in that success is missing. Polls show that between 75 and 80 percent of Americans now say that their children will not do as well as they are doing, a dramatic reversal of the polling results of earlier years. Our topic at this conference on “The Unmaking of Americans” is the future of the American ideal. So, what are the ideals and values threatened by the state of affairs I describe? To answer this question, let me just say a little bit about three individuals I met. One is Tammy Thomas, a woman living in Youngstown, Ohio. Tammy, in a way, is a Youngstown success story, because she survived despite having had every card imaginable dealt against her. On a personal level, she overcame a number of familial struggles. Her mother was a heroin addict, her father wasn’t around, and her brothers were in jail for drug and gang offenses. On an institutional level, she overcame changes that were occurring in Youngstown. A few decades ago, the steel industry disappeared almost overnight. In five years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, 50,000 jobs disappeared from a relatively small area. This was around the time that Tammy was just leaving high school. You would think that this would have been a death sentence. But it wasn’t. Despite being a single mother of three, Tammy got one of the last good jobs and went to work on an assembly line at an auto parts factory just outside of Youngstown. For 20 years, that position allowed her to raise her kids and get them educated. The blight of Youngstown kept following Tammy, so she had to keep moving. From the east side of Youngstown, she relocated to the south side and then to the north side, all the while one step ahead of catastrophe. Amid this chaos, her kids all graduated from high school, without ever joining a gang or getting pregnant. They went to college. They’re all doing very well. But they’re no longer in Youngstown. They live in North Carolina and Florida instead, no doubt because Youngstown didn’t have a future for them. After the financial crisis, the job that had financially sustained Tammy disappeared; Delphi Auto Parts shut down its operations in Canada and the United States, tore up its contracts, and moved all the remaining jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries. Those were the last good jobs in Youngstown. It was quite a blow for Tammy, but she eventually got back on her feet and went to school and became a community organizer. That gave her a whole new and analytical perspective on Youngstown, showing

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her the larger forces behind Youngstown’s decline. She came to see that the problems in Youngstown were not simply the result of poor decisions by individuals. She learned through her experiences that when industry after industry abandoned Youngstown and its citizens, bad decisions by individuals had outsized consequences. The problems in Youngstown were, at least in part, the result of the failure and decline of institutions— governmental, corporate, and civic. Tammy is a remarkable woman because her story is about self-reliance, about not giving up. It’s about being rooted to a place despite everything about that place dying around her; it’s about reinventing oneself in the middle of one’s life. Finally, Tammy’s life is a story about how she became an activist and took agency for the problems she saw building around Youngstown. She did not try to shake them off. She tackled them head on. The second main character of my book is Dean Price, a small business owner in rural North Carolina. He too had kind of a reckoning in the middle of his life. Between 2006 and 2008, his chain of truck stops on Route 220 began to go under. It was the same time that housing prices were collapsing, as the financial crisis was getting under way. And Dean faced intense competition from large corporations like Walmart, Exxon, and Sheetz, Inc., gas stations. As his business was failing, Dean decided to change direction and go into the production and marketing of biodiesel fuel. This meant making the fuel that he sold at his truck stops out of canola oil and cooking oil. To some, biodiesel is sort of an obvious thing, especially in those parts of the country where people wave “bio” as a flag of honor as part of the new upper class. In Dean’s part of the country, however, it was revolutionary, and he had to do a lot of convincing to get others to accept biodiesel. This did not go well for Dean. His business partnership ended, and ultimately, he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Dean’s life is a story of a guy who was flat on his back several times and kept getting up. As with Tammy, Dean’s story is about persistence, the determination to meet adversity with energy and optimism. Dean did not expect Washington to come up with solutions. He did not turn to Silicon Valley for salvation in new technologies and shiny new things. His approach is about fixing things himself, using his own enterprise and his own connections to improve his situation. But I don’t want to make Dean’s story sound like an optimistic tale. It’s really an account of someone who repeatedly came very close to defeat and righted himself, but who still struggles to exist at the margins of a middle-class lifestyle.

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The third main character of my book is Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider and former Joe Biden Senate aid who became disenchanted with government and particularly with Joe Biden. Fed up, Jeff did what everyone in Washington does: he went through the revolving door and became a multi-millionaire lobbyist. Jeff once said to me, “There are lots of people like me around Washington whom you’ve never heard of, who are making millions of dollars because they once served in government.” Jeff ’s right. A lot of people who serve in government do so in order to go through the revolving door. Jeff was genuinely interested in politics going in, but he too ended up pursuing his private interest in the private sector. After becoming a lobbyist, however, Jeff had a moment of reckoning. In this case, he became disgusted with lobbying. Partially motivated by the loss of a portion of his net wealth in the financial crisis, he went back into government and became chief of staff to Ted Kaufman, who took Biden’s Senate seat when Biden became vice president. In this capacity, Jeff thought he and Kaufman would enact really sweeping Wall Street reform. But that didn’t happen. A few years later, Jeff retired, essentially. He lives in Savannah, where he wrote a memoir. Before he left Washington he burned every bridge—something that people in Washington never do. Connaughton’s story offers us a picture of Washington as an industry concerned with sustaining itself, not about the public good. It’s about individual success and the revolving door. Jeff is the most cynical of my book’s three protagonists by far, and I think that’s partly because he was an idealist who tried to change Washington and the country through ambitious national legislation. That course of action doesn’t work these days. People like Jeff still have a lot to offer this country, but I’m most hopeful when I’m thinking about people like Tammy and Dean. Beyond these main three protagonists, The Unwinding tells a number of interlocking stories about America. First, there’s a Silicon Valley tale of Peter Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal. Out there in Silicon Valley, you feel as if you’re living in a completely different America because everything is working, and money just seems to appear overnight. Those socially graceless 24-year-olds sell their companies to Facebook and become billionaires. If you think there are bubbles in New York City, Washington, and Denver, Silicon Valley is the ultimate bubble. A question I like to ask people out there is, “Why does the age of the information revolution coincide almost exactly with the age of growing economic inequality? Do you think there’s a relation?” It’s not that the

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people whom I ask do or do not have an answer. They just have never thought of the question, and I think it’s because the fact of inequality doesn’t occur to them. To be fair, Peter Thiel is a bit different. He’s a hard-core libertarian who’s quite aware that Silicon Valley has failed to solve our problems. But he’s the exception. My book also focuses on just how deep the black hole of failure goes in contemporary America. For instance, I met the Hartzells, a family of four in Tampa who essentially did most of the right things. The family stayed together. They raised their children with tremendous love. The children are respectful. There are no drugs. There’s no drinking. There’s no beating. There’s no philandering. In some ways, they’re moral paragons. In other ways, however, they made huge mistakes. Both of the parents dropped out of high school. Danny Hartzell, the husband, supported the family for years as a welder and then went to work in a packaging plant. But when those blue-collared jobs disappeared from Tampa, the only jobs were at Walmart and Target. Danny took those jobs, which were part-time, with ever-changing schedules, and which paid only $8.25 to $8.50 an hour. What’s more, these corporations cut his hours so he could work only 20 to 25 hours per week. Surely these were challenging jobs for inadequate pay. But they were jobs. Did Danny hang in there and work two jobs to feed his family? No. He would walk off a job or mouth off to his boss and get fired. Those were catastrophic mistakes because the family fell into homelessness, and they lived in their car for four months in 2014. What does the story of the Hartzells tell you? It says that given certain circumstances, if you make mistakes, there will be no bottom. The fall will not be broken. That’s a story of one family that I am confident is repeated many times in many different locations across the country. To conclude, I’ll just say this. I graduated from high school in 1978, the year my book begins. Since then, and to paint with a very broad brush, our country has become more free and less fair. It has become more tolerant and inclusive, and also more stratified and exclusive. It has become more socially equal and economically unequal. It has become more about the lonely individual and the gigantic, distant corporation or government. But something else is also going on today. I see more idealism. When I graduated from high school, the kids I knew were cynical. Our cultural heroes were Richard Pryor, Saturday Night Live, and The Ramones. It was a time of utter disbelief in anyone who claimed to be doing things out of higher motives. Today, I don’t see that. Teaching and being around people in their teens and 20s, I sense a true spirit of volunteerism, of wanting to

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make the world a better place, of believing in joining a cause. So the question is, how does that fit in with the decline I am talking about? Could the next generation atone for our sins? I want to leave you with one bit of hope. Zephyr Teachout, Roger Berkowitz, and I were talking about what was happening to America 100 years ago, at the turn of the 20th century and into the Progressive Era. Back then, there was a lot of despair about corruption, about big corporations, about corrupt governments, and about the decline of virtue. This was the theme of politics for which the Progressive Era was imagined to be an answer. There was no single top-down solution to these problems. It happened all over the country, in a muckraking newspaper here and in a crusading candidate there. It didn’t happen quickly, but many reforms ended up creating a great period in American history—the period essentially from Roosevelt to Reagan. Since then, I feel like we’ve taken some bad turns. But history can provide some answers if you know where to look for them.

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Can We Restore American Democracy? Zephyr Teachout

I’ll try to answer the question of this panel briefly: Can we restore U.S. democracy? Yes! The question, of course, is not whether we will but whether we can, and so it is a question not about what is likely to happen but what is possible to happen. It’s a question in some ways about the difference between hope and optimism. Václav Havel says, “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world.” Hope is not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not the belief that something is likely to happen, but it is worth pursuing for itself. For me, the answer to whether we can pursue and restore American democracy is that there is a chance. My hope is a kind of gambler’s hope. It is necessary, because very much like Lawrence Lessig, I think we in the United States are in terrible shape. We have extraordinary traditions, but we’re in very bad shape, considering the fundamental non-responsiveness of those in power to those who live and vote in the United States. Part of the problem we now face is the question of how ordinary Americans can impact a political system that is increasingly dominated by immense amounts of money contributed by a small percentage of the population. We need to take seriously a study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page from Northwestern University, which argues that we no longer live in a responsive democracy. In their study, Gilens and Page write, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”1 In other words, a small group of wealthy donors impacts public policy while the vast majority of American voters have minimal impact. I call this the “Oligarchy Study.” How do you respond to a humble little study that comes out and says that our great American democracy has become an oligarchy? First, I think that the people protesting for democracy in Hong Kong had the right idea. If people in Hong Kong dared to protest against their lack of democracy, or if Pussy Riot dared to protest against the lack of democracy in Russia, then we have no right to say, “It is too difficult to imagine returning to a system that is more responsive.” At any event, the

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first step is to establish ourselves in the position of hope and not optimism. We’re not talking about unlikelihood here but possibility. The second step comes from Gandhi, who urges us to tell the truth. The first thing to tell the truth about is the state of the world; the second is the state of politics. With regard to the latter point, I’m so happy that Anand Giridharadas brought up teeth in his panel. Teeth in so many ways exemplify what is wrong with modern politics. How often do you hear politicians talking about teeth? Not very often. However, teeth are essential to everything. First of all, the dental industry has done a wonderful job of lobbying so that the mouth is not part of the medical education of physicians. When you go to the hospital, for instance, you can’t be treated for diseases in your mouth. That is one problem. But also, teeth are essentially connected with our appearance and thus with pride—the comfort of smiling, the ability to get a job. Unfortunately, most people don’t have access to dental care, yet you don’t hear politicians talking about dental care because they aren’t talking to donors who have any problems with their teeth. Someone who can give $100,000 to a campaign does not wake up every morning worrying about how to pay for dental care. There is a radical inequality in our society in so many areas, but I think teeth are one of the areas in which inequality is seen most vividly. This arena that is so intimate and personal, one inherently connected to our health and our pride, is absent from our current political discussion. I’m someone who went through a lot of braces, so I think all the time, “What would have happened if I didn’t have a good orthodontist?” It’d be a lot harder to run for governor of New York, that’s for sure. There are a lot of ways to describe what’s wrong with government today. One way that interests me in is to connect the problems we see today to some of the issues from the time of our founding, the problems we fought a revolution to resolve. For example, right now we have “The Problem of the Revolving Door.” This refers to people who go into public office just to get another job, people who go to work for a member of Congress so that they can get a job as a lobbyist. Often it’s an unconscious path. Someone might go into office thinking they’re going to stay, but many ultimately decide to leave, and now over 50 percent of those who leave go into lobbying. I guess it demonstrates that you can’t help serving your future master. Think about your own lives for a second. If you are going to switch your job, you are going to begin thinking favorably toward the new job into which you will be moving. I think of it as serving your future self. This is a very normal attitude.

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At the time of the American Revolution, one of the things we were fighting was “The Problem of Place Men” in England, which was something similar to “The Problem of the Revolving Door” as it exists today. Back then, people would go into elected office and Parliament so that they could eventually get an office given to them by the King. This practice was featured at one of the most focused conversations during the Constitutional Convention. Our Founding Fathers asked, “How do we avoid this problem of people going into elected office so that they could get an appointed office?” Eventually, they wrote our Constitution to avoid “The Problem of the Revolving Door.” They did so by regulating the acceptance of gifts, even when the gifts are given without any special deal; the founders understood that gifts, even innocent gifts, can change the psychology of the receiver. My book Corruption in America: Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United explains how 18th-century Americans were concerned about Benjamin Franklin receiving a gift from the King of France, a gift with no strings attached. They worried that he would have different foreign policy tendencies because he had accepted a diamond gift. To put the founders’ concerns into perspective, think about how you might respond to the organizers of this conference if they gave you a gift. Even a small gift. Even a couple of cookies from a bakery in Rhinebeck. How easy will it be tomorrow, after this wonderful conference, to rail against what you see wrong at Bard? What I’m driving at is a good human tendency, a tendency to be grateful for a gift. This tendency toward gratitude is what the founders of America were concerned about; that this positive human tendency to be thankful to the gift-giver could be turned into a corrupting force if our diplomats were allowed to receive gifts from foreign powers. As a result, we have this very severe provision in the U.S. Constitution that forbids gifts unless the recipient asks permission of Congress. This prohibition was so severe for the time, that when we barred gifts from the Netherlands, many international scholars said, “Who do they think they are? Are they trying to build Plato’s Republic in the marshes and fens?” At the time, giving gifts to diplomats was a common practice of statecraft. But the founders were determined to break off from the culture of corruption in which the best parts of human nature could be turned by governments to serve the few instead of serving all of us, the poor as well as the rich. And so they included this severe provision in the Constitution.

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Besides junkets and campaign contributions, gifts can sometimes be independent expenditures. I am not ashamed to tell you that after someone gives you a campaign contribution, you feel very warmly toward her or him. That’s obviously true. But you also feel warmly toward people who are spending independently on your behalf. When I learned that a few groups were doing some work on my behalf, without charge, of course I felt warmly toward them. You don’t need a bribe to create a dependency or an unfortunate psychological relationship between candidates and people making independent expenditures. Part of restoring American democracy is restoring our memory that we are at core committed to this anti-corruption fight. It’s who we are. It’s how we were founded. To be fair, a lot of things were wrong with how we were founded, and with the first 200 years of this country. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the best parts of our history. One of the best parts is the fact that we have this reformer’s soul in our history, in our foundations. I think we should call on that and recognize that when we are acting with hope—not merely optimism—for change in how campaigns are funded, we are not following in just the tradition of the post-Watergate era. We are also following in the tradition of our national history. This panel is about truth telling. An important idea is needed to tell the truth about where we are. Where we are, is here: we are in a largely oligarchic world where a few concentrated powers are at work. At the same time, we also have a democratic culture. There’s a schizophrenia here, and we see that schizophrenia all the time in political reporting. I notice it in articles by Tom Kaplan, who writes for the New York Times. One day he’ll write a story that says Andrew Cuomo or Hillary Clinton seems to be resonating with voters on a particular issue, and there will be no mention of money, politics, or power. The next day, a political story by Kaplan covers only money, politics, and power. There’s this weird schizophrenia. One kind of reporting assumes that we live in a responsive democracy, and that the reason why Hillary Clinton is doing so well is because people like her stance on issue x or y; the other reporting assumes the exact opposite and subscribes to the belief that we are living in an oligarchy. Looking ahead, part of the challenge of telling the truth will involve fusing together those two different kinds of reporting, as well as fusing the reporting found on our newspapers’ business pages with that on the politics pages. If we’re going to tell the truth about our politics, we need to tell the truth about where power lies, not just where elected office lies.

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You in this room are in a special position. You are the lead gamblers in this gambler’s hope because one of the things that I believe we can do to help restore American democracy is change the way campaigns are funded. One of the ways we can do that is change the way campaigns are funded in New York State, and this can happen if the contested State Senate races lead to a Democratic Senate in New York. You don’t need to be a Democrat or a Republican to look at what is actually happening. You have the contested Senate races right here. So the path to the future, the path to grabbing control of the wheel, is here in the Hudson Valley. You want evidence that this is where the fight about power and the future of this country is happening? Look at where Danny Loeb is spending money. Danny Loeb is a hedge fund manager. He is an incredibly powerful icon on Wall Street, and he’s spending a million dollars making sure that citizens of Peekskill watch one kind of TV ad and vote Republican because if we pass the a system of publically financed elections, he’ll lose his power. Over a million dollars is being spent in these tiny Senate races to which nobody’s paying attention but over which you have unique power. So when we ask, “Can we restore the American democracy?” I hate to break it to you, but it’s on you. Another essential feature of restoring U.S. democracy is our language. How we describe ourselves. In a marriage or in a relationship, even with family members, you operate on the assumption that language matters. You don’t say, “Well, this works for me, and this works for you, so I guess we should get married.” Marriage is not simply transactional. We don’t get married just because we happen to fit on paper. Similarly, you don’t have a transactional relationship with your children or with your parents. Yet so much political science and so much political language has become unabashedly transactional. Political language has moved away from the deeply moral words that I think are essential to describing American democracy. To be clear, I use the family as a model to discuss the importance of language in restoring American democracy not because I think we should base politics on community and family but because the family analogy sounds familiar and possible to people. It can sound impossible if you come from a radically isolated, political experience to imagine empathy beyond a very limited sphere. So I use the moral understanding of the family as an analogy to politics. My goal, however, is not simply to reinvest America with the best parts of its history. I’m also interested in investing the Democratic Party with

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the best parts of its history. This is partly because what I believe helps spur radical social change has to deal with identification, or the way in which people identify with a larger social movement. People respond to particular clubs or parties, which means that for someone like myself, we need to radically reform the Democratic Party as it currently exists and pull out its best strands. We must ask ourselves whether to try to reinvest in the big-“D” Democratic tradition, in the best part of its populist and progressive history. If we do so, I believe, the Democratic Party can lead both to campaign finance reform and to the kind of coalition building that would move the Party outside and beyond its traditional constituency. My personal tendency is to work within an institution and then to aggressively reach out to Republicans as individuals, not institutionally, because I think there is an extraordinary hunger for honesty in politics. That itself can cut through policy differences from time to time. Whether you’re talking about political change within parties or the American system at large, however, I think we can all agree that the moral word corruption must come into play. One of the reasons I believe the language of corruption is so powerful in American politics today is because of the resonance of the opposing ideal, dedication to the public good. I hear people yearning for politicians who say, “You have an obligation when you are in public office to love the public.” That is a personal demand between a politician and his or her voters. It’s not a transactional one. We want to use the language of the founding era in some way, and that language is very much a language of emotion, love, and the ways in which we can create sympathies and identities between those who represent us and the public at large. Extraordinary is what we need at this moment in time. When I was saying, “What do you do when you read the Princeton study on American oligarchy?” I meant to ask: Do you keep organizing the way you were organizing in 1996 if you read a study that says government is not responsive? In 1996, you would try to get the polling up there among the young people. If we could just get the polling to 80 percent, we’d get there. We’d be done. But if you’re in Hong Kong, you don’t think, “Let’s get the polling up.” There is no functioning democracy that you can use to even entertain this idea. You have to do something big instead. We need to risk a politics of the extraordinary. I wrote my book Corruption in America as a letter to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom I believe doesn’t understand the moral

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language of politics. He doesn’t understand the meaning of corruption. He believes, as a majority of the Court now believes, that corruption is only quid-pro-quo bribery. But I also wrote it as a letter to ourselves, to remind us of the best parts of American history. We’re in for a hell of a fight. We’re going to need all the ballast we have, and all of the best history we have, to win it.

1. Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014): http://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf.

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Failing Fast: The Educated Citizen in Crisis


Democratic Education and the Open Inquiry Imperative Elizabeth Beaumont

Today, most people consider propaganda corrosive to both education and democracy. As Roger Berkowitz notes, Martin Luther King Jr. urged Americans to recognize this danger while also insisting that the foremost purpose of education is to support critical and active citizenship.1 During his undergraduate years at Morehouse College, King warned: To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of halftruths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. . . . If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close[d]-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, brethren! Be careful, teachers!2 His worry was that there while there were plenty of “educated” Americans in his era, too many of them accepted uncritically the biases that sustained white supremacy and Jim Crow. As King suggests, propaganda can be conceived as antithetical to genuine political education. Propaganda paralyzes free thought, distorts politics, and diminishes civic life. In contrast, education in the name of democracy seeks to enlighten and empower us as citizens living in a complex world. How might we undertake this type of education? Within King’s writings, as well as those of Hannah Arendt and other critics of indoctrination and propaganda, we discover resources for imagining an education that not only avoids these risks but also helps inoculate against them. Such an education helps us learn to think for ourselves and to develop political judgments, relations, and commitments to act. I draw on these ideas to illuminate the theoretical underpinnings of an open inquiry imperative that must guide any legitimate effort for civic education. I also summarize my research on some efforts designed to promote such learning. This research shows that when civic education operates from an open inquiry imperative, it can help students from many walks of life become more politically engaged without pushing them into any particular political ideology. 60

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Education as/vs. Propaganda: Historical Perspectives When we hear the term propaganda, we typically imagine pejorative connotations: the promotion of false, misleading, partial, or one-sided ideas and information. Illustrative synonyms include disinformation, hype, newspeak, and proselytism. And certain images may come to mind, including Orwell’s Big Brother or the “public service” campaigns that accompanied the First and Second World Wars. As framed by King and Arendt, propagandizing seeks to propagate the views held by narrow-minded conformists who cannot or do not think or act for themselves. Propaganda has not always been a suspect concept, however. Until the 20th century, it held a largely neutral connotation of mere persuasion. Indeed, education and propaganda were often treated as synonymous terms, and there was no sustained debate over risks of propaganda in education. Many prominent thinkers within the western canon proposed forms of “benign” propagandizing, so much so that today one could teach an entire course on the topic. For instance, in his Republic, Plato suggests that a utopian state can best educate its children by removing them from their parents and censoring dangerous views—including poetry and fiction—while promulgating a “Noble lie” designed to persuade each citizen to accept his place in the state’s ruling order.3 Centuries later, Machiavelli suggested in The Prince that rulers should deceive and manipulate the public to encourage militaristic nationalism,4 whereas Rousseau, praising Plato’s model, advocated censorship and nearly complete control over students’ environments, including with whom they could interact and what they could read.5 (Robinson Crusoe was an exception, permitted at age 16.) These and other thinkers suggested that lying and controlling access to information, i.e. propagandizing, could sometimes benefit citizens and political communities. So how has propaganda come to be considered a threat to education and democracy in our times? History has demonstrated the dangers of deceit and manipulation—however philosophically or patriotically garbled—when it comes to modern democratic life. Important events, including both world wars, McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, the Pentagon Papers scandal, and others, have revealed the extent to which the promulgation of what King termed “legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda”6 can fuel human violence, injustice, and abuse of power.7 In Mein Kampf, Hitler championed propagandizing as a vehicle for deluding and subjugating democratic publics: “By the clever and continuous use

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of propaganda, a people can even be made to mistake heaven for hell, and vice versa.”8 He went so far as to identify propagandists’ success with their abilities to avoid rational argument in favor of simplistic slogans and to manipulate instinctual reactions such as anger, fear, and in-group biases.

The Possibilities for Education to Foster Critical and Active Citizenship: The Idea of an Open Inquiry Imperative The crises borne of those and other manipulations have provoked the criticism that all forms of propagandizing—benignly intended or not—violate truth-seeking, healthy debate, and the project of self-governance. This critique is potent. As Arendt,9 King, and George Orwell10 all recognized, propaganda is not limited to the messages of totalitarian regimes. In any society, those with power—parties and leaders, the press, civic groups, corporations, cultural or educational institutions—can use propaganda to distort democratic politics when they convey messages that encourage, among other things, uncritical acceptance of the status quo, blind patriotism, xenophobic nationalism, racial or cultural prejudice, or rampant consumerism and materialism.11 So what should the role of education be in our 21st century world—a world in which citizens face many variants of propagandizing, from political spin-doctoring to push-polling, to well-financed political groups and beyond? Can civic education avoid propaganda and instead provide us with tools for navigating and confronting it? Teaching for political engagement does entail certain risks,12 but while some concerns about biased educational institutions are warranted, often they are hyperbolic.13 I suggest that we can illuminate some of the deeper theoretical and ethical groundwork for civic education premised on an open inquiry imperative by drawing creatively on thinkers such as King, Arendt, and John Stuart Mill. Their ideas help reveal the importance of critical thinking and political judgment, acceptance of diversity, and an ethic of responsibility and mutual respect.14 These are essential to the ability of democratic citizens to counter propaganda; they are no less essential for the ability to act effectively and with integrity in public life.

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Free Discussion, Critical Thinking, and Political Judgment In her writings, Arendt highlights the importance of certain types of thinking, learning, and discussion that foster political judgment.15 In her mind, propaganda, which promotes censorship and intellectual paralysis, is the polar opposite of learning experiences that involve free discussion and intellectual stimulation. For, as Arendt and King both observed, the growth of German National Socialism in the 1930s was enabled in part by citizens who lacked independent minds and spirits. This stunting stands in direct contrast to the essential goals of a serious liberal education: to help “liberate” us from superstition and prejudice so that we may develop our capacities for critical thought and action. To encourage such academic and ethical learning, factual knowledge must be complemented by a deep capacity for critical judgment. Or, as King urged: To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.16 While traditional civics courses often focus primarily on imparting factual knowledge of influential leaders, institutions, and events in American history, King and Arendt help explain why this is insufficient. We must also learn approaches for evaluating the political information, evidence, and arguments that we encounter. Free discussion and critical thinking can turn our learning about the world into a dynamic and personally relevant enterprise, one that encourages informed political judgment. This type of engagement with received knowledge, traditions, and controversies can help us interpret “what is” and act in the present, both of which are essential, Arendt notes, for thoughtful political conservation or change.17

Grappling with Diversity and Plurality of Opinion Additionally, Arendt identifies our need for social settings and educational climates in which students can explore a plurality of experiences and viewpoints, thereby giving way to the formation of new perspectives and sympathies. Informing this recommendation is her opinion of Eichmann, who

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was deeply flawed in Arendt’s mind by “his almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view.” She subsequently diagnosed this deficiency as being “closely connected with an inability to think.”18 For Arendt, to fail to incorporate pluralism and a multiplicity of perspectives into one’s own viewpoint is to be unmoored from thinking, politics, and society. In essence, such insularity rejects the entire world, replete with its “web of human relationships, with its innumerable, conflicting wills and intentions” that shape interests and agency and that can bind together or separate individuals, groups, and communities.19 Some of Arendt’s attention to pluralism aligns with John Stuart Mill’s arguments for open-mindedness and diverse points of view. He too emphasizes that without the opportunity to seriously consider and debate a variety of views, even a reasonable position is likely to be held blindly or “in the manner of a prejudice.”20 Truth-seeking and understanding, especially in the political realm, both require a rich intellectual context in which to view and debate problems through different lenses (methodological, cultural, historical, etc.) and perspectives. Thus, Mill’s and Arendt’s dedication to modern civil liberties simultaneously operates to identify educational preconditions necessary for citizens to develop, exercise, and refine their capacity for political judgment and action.

Self-chosen Responsibility, Commitment, and Action Finally, Arendt and others convey overlapping concerns for the relationship of education to political responsibility, commitment, and action— including capacities to hold leaders to account, influence institutions, and pursue reform. Arendt’s very account of the human condition is predicated on the importance of amor mundi—love and care for the world— which depends on citizens’ freely or personally chosen political commitments and actions. She also holds that a valuable education should provide knowledge and understanding of the world, its historical developments, and its challenges so that future generations may assume personal responsibility for the world they inherit: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.”21 The role of political educators, she suggests in these types of discussions, includes helping students relate to a complex world such that they may come to embrace their citizenship for themselves.

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Examples from the Political Engagement Project Dialogues with these thinkers help convey just how important is open discussion, critical thinking, grappling with pluralism, and embracing a sense of responsibility to the project of democracy. It also indicates how much these learning processes and experiences differ from propaganda and being taught what to think. What might an education that incorporates these elements look like? There is, of course, no “one-size-fits-all” mold. But as my Carnegie Foundation colleagues and I explored in our first book, Educating Citizens, a variety of efforts support students’ civic and political learning in classrooms, the “co-curriculum,” and broader campus life. In a second national study, Educating for Democracy, we offer three further contributions to these debates: first, we argue that education is deeply connected to the challenges of democratic citizenship and politics; second, we identify a framework for civic education premised on an open inquiry imperative; and third we show that this type of education provides measurable benefits for students’ political engagement.22 I now offer a few relevant examples from Educating for Democracy and summarize some of our research findings. We closely studied 21 courses and programs on a variety of college campuses across the United States. These ranged from a semester in Washington, D.C., to a Model UN program, from an extracurricular group focused on campaign finance reform to courses covering topics in U.S. and comparative politics, economics, public policies, and democratic theory. At the most general level, the efforts we surveyed were designed to help students hone their ability to make informed political judgments grounded in concrete knowledge. Most of the efforts also helped to humanize politics and convey the importance of commitment and motivation for political engagement, such as by inviting guest speakers to discuss their political experiences. Finally, all of the programs used at least one “active pedagogy” to promote political learning, such as internships and placements in community groups, research projects, speaker series, intensive discussions, or student-run projects. These types of active pedagogies are sometimes termed “pedagogies of engagement” because research suggests that they have powerful abilities to engage students intellectually, personally, and socially. In many of the initiatives we studied, students took what they learned in an academic setting and applied it to the complex world of politics – to arenas of community debate, policy work, or group initiatives and collective action

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around particular issues. As they did so, participants often connected with people who were interested in similar political issues. Those relationships can be inspiring, often helping to demystify and personalize otherwise abstract issues and strengthen support for a common goal. Trying to provide this type of education is inherently challenging. As educators, we hold our own political views, yet must respect the open inquiry imperative. We are also torn between helping students find political issues they care about and encouraging them to think critically, consider competing perspectives, and keep an open mind. Additionally, these projects would be naïve or useless if we didn’t ask students to grapple with the adversity involved in politics. But it is equally important to avoid focusing so overwhelmingly on problems and critical perspectives that we fail to help students consider examples of civic actors’ influence on politics.23 Unrelenting criticism can intensify immobilization, apathy, and disengagement. Those risks notwithstanding, we found that most of the high-quality civic education efforts we surveyed benefited students. Participants from less advantaged backgrounds as well as those with more advantages made significant gains in their political learning, including their sense of political efficacy and agency for political involvement. Of special note, those who were less politically interested or advantaged at the outset often made the largest and most consistent gains. Equally crucially, the study showed no significant changes in participants’ political ideologies or party affiliations.24 These findings are important because they demonstrate that certain forms of political learning can be consistent with an imperative of open inquiry and related academic and ethical values, such as intellectual integrity, mutual respect, tolerance, and a willingness to listen to and take seriously the ideas of others. Our study shows that, far from propagandizing, many civic educators are particularly outspoken in emphasizing the value of open inquiry and vibrant debate in their classes and on campus. In fact, many deliberately sought to ensure that their students encountered a wide array of political views via guest speakers, discussions, and other activities. To enhance students’ experiences, many educators also worked to establish an open, civil atmosphere as well as a sense of mutual respect, community, and good humor.25 To be clear, an open inquiry imperative does not mean giving equal time to all ideas, nor does it involve moral relativism. Rather, as Arendt urges, it requires that alongside our own deeply held views, we must hold a strong commitment to pluralism and an ability to seriously engage with competing viewpoints, remain open to thoughtful criticism, and avoid

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demonizing opponents. In our study, we saw that it is possible to combine passionate concern and commitment with openness to views different from one’s own. For instance, many students discussed how much their political learning was shaped by meeting and talking with people of different political persuasions. These experiences were of course a source of difficult disagreements in some situations, but more often than not, they helped create a space for sympathy, common ground, and shared concern. This heightened sense of respect, tolerance, and community allowed many students to develop their political convictions in a way that reduced the balkanization and stereotyping that can accompany ideological differences. Understanding how democratic education can operate from the open inquiry imperative is vitally important. This is not simply because political bias is a sensitive topic on campuses and in public debates, but also because the validity of civic education vis-à-vis norms of democracy and academic integrity depends on honoring this imperative. As Arendt and King suggest, engaging in open inquiry is a necessary element of learning to think and judge for oneself and an enlightening, empowering education. It is equally important for assuming joint responsibility for the world. We sorely need such an educational model if we are to build a more engaged citizenry, a more inclusive polity, and a healthier democracy.

1. Roger Berkowitz, “MLK and the Purpose of Education,” Hannah Arendt Center Blog, February 8, 2013, Accessed 7/1/2013, http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=9326. 2. Martin Luther King Jr., “Purpose of Education,” first published in The Maroon Tiger, reprinted in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. ed. C. Carson. Vol. 1., 123–124 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1947/1992). 3. Plato, Republic, trans. F. M. Cornford (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941). 4. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. H. Mansfield (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or On Education, trans. A. Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1969). 6. King, “Purpose of Education.” 7. Brett Gary, The Nervous Liberals: Propaganda Anxieties from World War I to the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). 8. Joachim Fest, The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970/1999), 95. 9. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, 1968/1973). 10. George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” Collected Essays (London: Secker & Warburg, 1946/1961), 337–51. 11. Edward Bernays, Propaganda (Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 1928/2005). 12. Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, Elizabeth Beaumont, Jason Stephens, Educating Citizens: Preparing America’s Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).

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13. Elizabeth Kiss and J. Peter Euben, Debating Moral Education: Rethinking the Role of the Modern University (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). 14 For a discussion of the ethics of democratic relations and civic friendship, see Danielle Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), as well as Allen’s keynote address for the 2013 Arendt Center Conference. 15. J. Peter Euben, “Arendt as Political Educator,” Arendt and Education: Renewing Our Common World, Gordon, ed. (Oxford: Westview Press, 2001), 201–224. 16. King, “Purpose of Education,” 123–4. 17. Hannah Arendt, “In Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought,” The Crisis in Education (New York: Viking, 1954/1968), 173–196. 18. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Penguin, 1963/1994), 48–49). 19. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958/1998), 184. 20. John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. J. Grey (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). 21. Arendt, “In Between Past and Future.” 22. Anne Colby, Elizabeth Beaumont, Thomas Ehrlich, and Joshua Corngold, Educating for Democracy: Preparing Undergraduates for Responsible Political Engagement (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2007). 23 Elsewhere, for instance, I argue that there is need for scholarly and public attention to the civic groups and social movements that influenced American constitutional development. Elizabeth Beaumont, The Civic Constitution: Civic Visions and Struggles in the Path toward Constitutional Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). 24. Elizabeth Beaumont, “Promoting Political Agency, Addressing Political Inequality: A Multi-level Model of Political Efficacy,” Journal of Politics 73(1) 2011: 216–231. 25. Colby et al, Educating for Democracy.

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Is There a Crisis of Educated Citizenship? Roger Berkowitz

In the early years of our federal, constitutional, democratic-republican experiment, cobblers, lawyers, and yeoman farmers participated in town hall meetings. They would judge how much to pay in taxes in order to pay for the services of teachers and firemen. By engaging citizens in governance, town hall meetings imbued citizens in the habit of democratic self-governance. Today, few of us have the experience or even the desire to govern, and we have, it seems, lost the habit of weighing and judging those issues that define our body politic. Why is this so? Are we suffering an institutional failure to make clear that participation in governance is a personal responsibility? Or do the size and complexity of bureaucratic government mean that individuals are so removed from the levers of power that engaged citizenship seems rationally to be a waste of time? Another possibility still, do gerrymandered districts with homogenous populations insulate those elected to Congress from the need for compromise? Whatever the cause, educated elites today are contemptuous of common people and increasingly imagine that American people are no longer qualified for self-government. On the other hand, the American people increasingly distrust the educated elite that has consistently failed to deliver the dream of a well-managed government that provides social services cheaply and efficiently. It is against this background that we are here to think about “The Educated Citizen in Crisis.” Over the next two days, we will ask many questions, but above all, we will investigate the following: What would an educated citizen look like today? Maybe it’s the homeowner underwater on his mortgage who in 2010, disgusted with decades of failed policies that led to the largest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, was shocked to see Congress award a bailout to the very bankers who were responsible for the crisis. Maybe it’s a woman who told a pollster that the American people are mad about what has happened but that they are even angrier about “no one in Washington listening to them.” Maybe it’s an author who concludes: “If the business of America is business, the business of government programs and their clients is to stay in

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business.” That author was John Rauch of the Brookings Institute. He goes on to say that the American government has “. . . become what it is and will remain: a large, incoherent, often incomprehensible mass that is solicitous of its clients but impervious to any broad, coherent program of reform.” Or maybe it is a reader of Hannah Arendt who is struck by Arendt’s bracing claim: “The transformation of all government into bureaucracies . . . may turn out to be a greater threat to freedom and to that minimum of civility . . . than the most outrageous arbitrariness of past tyrannies has ever been.” In all of these personas, today’s concerned and educated citizen is angry at the betrayal of American democracy. He or she is dismayed at the power of money, the legal corruption of lobbyists, and a bureaucracy that seems impervious to popular control. Such a citizen might very well in 2013 look and sound a lot like Eric Cantor, the majority leader of the House of Representatives. To be clear, no claim is being made here that Hannah Arendt would be or should be a supporter of the Tea Party. She was not the type to join any movement, certainly not one with as much ugliness and racism circulating around it. But as we stare blankly upon the theater of the absurd that is occupying Washington, D.C., it behooves us to take Representative Cantor and his fellow House Republicans seriously—at least, that is, if we want to think seriously about what it means to be an educated citizen. First, let’s dispose of any elitist condescension that portrays Cantor and his fellow Republicans as wild children in need of stern parenting. This begins with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who enjoys describing the House Republicans as “vexatious,” “banana Republicans” who are engaged in “kids’ stuff.” “Anarchists” and “extremists.” Representative Cantor is a man who earned a B.A. from The George Washington University, a J.D. from The College of William and Mary, and an M.A. from Columbia University in New York. Interestingly enough, his website fails to say what that master’s degree was in. A little digging shows it was in real estate development. But I ask you, not to sit here at Bard and be snarky and condescending. Be relieved that Cantor’s master’s is not in something like political theory or philosophy. Okay, but isn’t Senator Reid right that Cantor and his ilk are churlish juveniles laying waste to the common good? President Barack Obama— another highly educated citizen—has put the matter clearly. The country had a debate about health care. The President and his party won. The Republicans lost. The Supreme Court upheld the President’s health care law. The President was reelected. The health care law is now the law of

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the land. It’s a fact. Given these facts, isn’t it irresponsible and petulant for a small group of Republicans to demand concessions in return for passing a budget, or a continuing resolution because Congress can’t even pass a budget? As the president says, if he negotiates with the Republicans now, every future president will be subject to the same kind of shakedown on any issue every time an important piece of legislation needs to be passed. This is hardly a recipe for good governance. Educated citizens must ask, though: Is the shutdown of government evidence of coercion instead of persuasion, as many have argued? Consider this quotation, reported yesterday from Cantor’s House colleague Steve King: “Now the pressure will build on both sides, and the American people will weigh in.” He is right. The American people will weigh in. And if Americans weigh in on the side of the president and the Democrats, the consequences for the Republican Party will be disastrous. Cantor and his colleagues are not actually threatening anyone. They are with utter clarity of purpose standing up for a principle, and they are taking a huge risk that they can convince the American people that the Affordable Care Act and other entitlements are part of the general overreaching and enlargement of government that has eroded the power of individual selfgovernment and thus brought about a crisis in educated citizenship. Cantor’s is an unpopular and uphill struggle. It is further corrupted by association with racist elements. Moreover, it is dishonest to the extent that it refuses to own up to the pain that his plans will cause. For all these reasons, it is likely that the House Republicans will fail. But I would suggest that success or failure here is beside the point. The educated citizen must ask himself today whether good governance is what is called for. Certainly, the Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement did not think good governance was called for. Nor did Texas State Senator Wendy Davis when she filibustered a Texas bill that restricted abortions. It will be easy to say that there is a difference between fighting for civil rights and fighting to take away health insurance. There is a difference. And yet both fights are waged in the name of freedom, albeit two very different ideas of freedom. Freedom is at the center of Hannah Arendt’s political thinking. To be free, Arendt thought, was to be human. Politics exists because it is in and through politics that human beings can build common worlds in which we can speak and act together in ways that are new and surprising. Arendt’s valuation of freedom, however, made her deeply suspicious of education, at least in its relation to politics.

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In “The Crisis in Education,” Hannah Arendt writes: “Education can play no part in politics because in politics we always have to deal with those who are already educated.” What Arendt means is that in democratic politics we are all equal, and no one has the authority to teach others about what is true or right. Some may be geniuses and others loved. Some are liberals and others conservatives. Some may be racist, and some may hate rich people. But whatever our private feelings, in politics we encounter each other on the field of equality and respect as equally educated citizens. Politics for Arendt is allergic to truth claims. It is about opinion, and for this reason, it is about respectful and reasoned debate. Arendt worried that when politicians, pundits, or people talk about educating voters—when they complain that other citizens are ignorant or condescend to speak and argue with those they demean—they are really seeking to use the rhetoric of education to achieve a unanimity that is foreign to politics. During the recent presidential election, the candidates frequently appealed to education as the panacea for everything from our flagging economy to our sclerotic political system. How do we solve poverty? Education. How do we address global warming? Education. How do we heal our divided country? Education. Behind such arguments is the unspoken assumption: “If X were educated, they would see the truth and agree with me.” But that is not the way human nature or politics works. Education will not make people see eye to eye, and it will not end political paralysis or usher in a more rational polity. What, then, is the value of education? And why should we have great schools and great teachers? Hannah Arendt saw education as “the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.” Whether we love the world enough to decide whether to assume responsibility for it. The educator must love the world and believe in it if he or she is to introduce young people to that world as something noble and worthy of respect. In this sense, education is conservative not in a political sense but in the sense that it conserves the world as it has been given. But education is also for Arendt revolutionary, insofar as the teacher must realize that education is part of that world and that it is young people who will change the world. We teachers don’t tell them how to change the world. We simply teach what is. We leave to the students the chance to transform it. For Arendt, education teaches self-thinking. Education propels us from the darkness of private life into the bright light of the public sphere.

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In short, education leads us into a common world in which we can take our place as equal, free, and already educated citizens. Over the next two days, we’re going to have many speakers here help us ask the questions, “What is an educated citizen?” and “Why is the educated citizen in crisis?” We might ask, then, why are so few on the left responding to the attack on the health-care bill specifically and entitlements more generally? Why is it that the only Americans upset enough at what is going on in Washington to protest, mobilize, and get involved are members of the Tea Party? Where is the new left that pundits like Peter Beinart argue is in ascent? Where is Occupy Wall Street? Are they biding their time? Are they waiting for the right time to pounce and to respond? In my world, they are kvetching on Facebook and Twitter. Or might it be that Americans on the left—especially younger Americans, many of whom are here—have grown up in an era of statesponsored capitalism and Occupy Wall Street, and harbor a deep cynicism toward the federal state and government, and that their true support for entitlements is deflated by their equally true disdain for government? We are witness today to a widespread distrust and disdain for government. Few people seem to care. On both left and right, government and politics no longer embody our collective aspirations to care for the common good. Government is administratively necessary, but it is an irritant to daily life. It is a set of services that we outsource rather than an activity in which we engage. Confronting unprecedented challenges, from the environment to terrorism and the decline of the middle class, we need to resurrect our political institutions. We need to inspire citizens to once more care about the common world that we—through politics—build together. New institutions are needed—political, technological, and social, maybe even educational— to bring citizens together to speak and act alongside those with whom we disagree but share a more fundamental commitment to a common good. Our goal over the next two days is to think together about what it means to be an educated citizen. In the most literate and technologically savvy society of all time, we have produced politically sterile citizens. What would it mean to reverse that trend? And how do we do so? These are the questions I ask you to keep in mind as you listen to the excellent speakers who have generously agreed to guide and provoke us over the next two days.

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Roger Berkowitz

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What Does It Mean to Educate Citizens? By Leon Botstein

Education—as well as its political consequences, or its place in society—is not a subject about which I know much beyond the experiences of trying to do it. I am to education what a volunteer combat officer is to war (in contrast to an officer who attended West Point to study the art, science, and history of war). I have merely fought in wars (an appropriate metaphor, given the conditions in which education is expected to occur). What I know comes completely from that point of view. It is interesting to consider what Hannah Arendt thought about education, given her understanding of what her own education had been like. A forewarning is in order. I come from an amateur point of view when it comes to the subject of Arendt and Arendt’s writings. Nonetheless, I share Arendt’s skepticism of the confusion created by using the personal narrative as a basis on which to discuss politics and, therefore, education. I think that is one of the primary dangers in the current debate about education: the ease with which we put I as the beginning point of general claims regarding the collective experience and institutions that constitute education as they seem to be and ought to be. Most individuals form ideas about education from an internal conversation with themselves about their own experience that is never subject to critical scrutiny. So it is as if we were to understand medicine primarily from a crucial yet mostly illinformed and frequently self-serving account of having been a patient. My own view is that the memory of the private experience does not locate what really took place in the past and it should not frame the norms of a public good, which is what education surely is. Personal experience— subjectively narrated— cannot be a basis by which we can judge what we are actually doing in education policy. In education, we must learn to subordinate our private memories and points of view (our sense of triumphs, slights, deficiencies, and virtues in our experience) in order to forge a conversation, using a shared language, with others. Our interlocutors, when we are in school as children and young adults, are going to be different from ourselves in many respects. We need to learn how to be empathetic without having to recognize a personal experience in others, without having to find a link between our personal encounter and the legitimacy of what is claimed by others or even argued as valid for the population as a whole. Education,

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at its best, and therefore its practitioners—educators—attempts, through schools, to create a basis for a larger political public conversation about the shared space we inhabit; a conversation about our common world—beyond family—whether understood as society, the nation, or smaller and often informal communities of work, regulation, and leisure. The challenge and the substance of education are defined by one question: How ought we to we live, side by side, not as lone individuals but as citizens? But how do we, through education, help individuals answer that question? Answering this is hard, particularly in the United States, where many seem to view citizenship as an unfortunate necessity. The rampant distrust of government and the public sector is overwhelming. We answer the question in purely economic terms, linking education to work and productivity. Nonetheless, citizenship is more than economic; it is a political fact of life that should not be eliminated. And it may be the indispensable foundation of individual happiness, justice, freedom, and civility. To return to the seeming inevitability of the personal as the basis of how we think about education. Hannah Arendt’s view of education in America was based on an imagined comparison with her own biography. Her generation of European émigrés came to the United States and developed a love affair, if not with America then with the political ideal of America, since it was a nation in which citizenship could be acquired by anyone and was defined by loyalty to a form of government and the rule of law, not blood or soil. Among those things that distinctly American émigrés liked most was the fact that the American public school system was not, by any reasonable comparison to Germany, fundamentally authoritarian. From early kindergarten, a child (so the American progressives who held sway in the 1930s and 1940s believed) should be able to think for oneself and to express him- or herself. Learning was achieved not by rote or spoon-feeding a set standardized materials, but by active trial and error—by doing. This approach, tragically, has been under attack for decades. That kind of learning does not happen as much anymore in public systems, having given way to teaching as drilling for high-stakes standardized testing. But in the progressive era, teachers learned to teach what was called a highly individualized “child-centered curriculum.” The child, who knew nothing and could do nothing, was nevertheless entitled to express himor herself under this pedagogy; it was believed that only though active exploration would thinking be inspired, ignorance discovered, the need to know cultivated, and ideas, methods, and information remembered.

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For all the European refugees’ snobbery about America as a land of Unkultur, the more thoughtful among them recognized the value of American pedagogy, if for no other reason than its merit as an instrument of political education. During the height of the progressive movement in American education, the notion of teaching how to “get along” with one another became an important output of education, equal to learning information or skills. A good education was neither purely cognitive nor subject matter–based. It was actually measured by how well one learned to live as a citizen. The nation, by its very self-definition, was pluralistic and diverse; citizens—in the best sense of Rousseau—were not born. They had to be made. Education made children into citizens. Clearly, Arendt encountered America in the 1940s, at a time where there was considerable hypocrisy about demographic diversity, particularly on the matter of race. Since the mid 1960s, the qualities and categories that people once killed each other about as differences (apart from skin color) have become less significant. The ethnic, religious, and national differences of the late 19th century and mid 20th century among whites that inflamed hatred and prejudice (e.g. being Italian, Irish, Jewish, Catholic) seem pale to us now. But in the 1940s these prejudices could not be so easily dismissed. Consider two 1947 Hollywood films, Gentleman’s Agreement and Crossfire, both about anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, in the midst of segregation and institutionalized racism in the 1950s, and in large measure because of it, white America appeared quite diverse and tolerant, from a European point of view. The country seemed bent on tolerance and intent on harmonizing the melting pot of immigrant white-skinned citizens through schooling. Once the prospect of racial integration and notion of breaking down the barriers of color dominated politics in the late 1960s, center-stage differences between and among whites began to fade and become benign by contrast. A much more threatening challenge to American conceits about tolerance and equal citizenship emerged. Although the public schools were placed on the front lines in the effort to end segregation and racism, they were never given the proper resources or political support to complete the task successfully. From the émigré perspective, the attractive substantive consequence of the anti-authoritarian and egalitarian character of American education was the premium placed on independence of thought, particularly as a child grew older. When it came to the university system, which was shocking to a European in terms of its one unique creation (unknown in

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Europe)—undergraduate education and the liberal arts college—the American university system otherwise seemed immensely flexible and open to new ideas. There was not a fixed hierarchy with one professor running each “faculty.” Young scholars did not have to wait for their elders to retire or die. The university was able to create new fields, and new positions. Not only was there less hierarchy and formality, but even less deference to authority than in the U.S. public school system. A graduate student who walked into a senior professor’s lab and challenged his findings successfully would not be surprised at being rewarded later with a job. The dissenter, rebel, and entrepreneur were prized more than in Europe. In terms of graduate education and academic career advancement, American university practice still stands in contrast to the European. Furthermore, the idea of a “private” university, and the absence of regional and national ministries of education governing universities were astonishing; even public universities in the United States were structured to maintain a striking independence. In those years, the most important defining factor in the American system was the idea of a single, unitary public school system in which everybody enrolled. All citizens went to the same sort of schools through to the end of secondary school. Private schools were an elite phenomenon and relatively insignificant. The European system, from which Arendt came, was intentionally segregated, into distinct groups, beginning at age eleven. The state, using examinations, cut the school population into varying categories, each of which maintained a different track. Most citizens never completed school beyond elementary school. Some went on to vocational schooling. A very small percentage of the population went either to a humanistic academic high school or a science-based high school and received a secondary school diploma, a Matura or Abitur, a document that permitted them to enroll in university. What these émigrés discovered was a reality that somewhat resembled John Dewey’s principles. They saw from the outside, as it were, a vital connection between how we educate our students and structure our schools, and our capacity to maintain a functioning pluralist democracy. For Dewey, the basis of the proper pedagogy was not primarily political; the shape of teaching and learning derived from an epistemological conceit. But for the émigré, the contrast between the school systems from which they came and the school system in the country to which they arrived was closely connected to the political character and consequences of American education. American education appeared to fit the idea that the nation

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and democracy were not tied to homogeneity, and that diverse constituencies could obtain equal legal status. Citizenship via a nominally nondiscriminatory and standard process accessible irrespective of birth, religion, or ethnicity—or even language—was unheard of in Europe, but it was possible in America. So the unitary public school that kept all children together until college and used the school to build citizens of character, devoted to democratic values and rarely segregated from one another by career path or vocation, was viewed by the émigré generation as a marvel. The émigrés observed an inherent relationship between the school system, its pedagogy, and the possibility of democracy. That was the good news. The bad news was that the academic standards by which the American common school system operated seemed horrifically low. The price paid, they concluded, for the democratic culture of the American school system was its low level of shared culture. The thinly veiled (at best) snobbery of this émigré generation, when its members came to teach American college students, simply exploded without much self-control. Freshman (what all firstyear students used to be called) could not read or write properly, and possessed little understanding of literature, art, philosophy, or history. Outside the realm of science and engineering, the Americans—students and professors alike (consider, for example, the depictions in Nabokov’s 1957 Pnin)—seemed provincial and disoriented; they seemed to get little right, displayed astonishing cultural ignorance, and merited condescension. The more forgiving émigrés were bemused, especially those in the humanities and the social sciences, and embraced general education during the undergraduate years—thereby redeeming the promise of the liberal arts— to set things right. Just for a bit of context, let us recall that this Arendt conference takes place at an institution that hired Hannah Arendt’s husband in 1951 expressly for the purpose of correcting the American gap in general “cultural” education among undergraduates. Heinrich Blücher, an autodidact who had never completed formal schooling, was hired by Bard president James Case to initiate something called the Common Course, which Bard now maintains as the First-Year Seminar, a “great” ideas and “great” books twosemester sequence designed to reverse the failings of the student-centered tradition of progressive secondary education in public schools that privileged self-direction and subjective expression over rigorous learning. The émigrés saw American undergraduates as uncommonly confident; students expressed themselves willingly and very well. But they were bereft of cultural references and the disciplined capacity to pierce clichés.

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What they had to say did not engage the grand historical intellectual tradition. They were hampered by ignorance, monolingual provincialism and, from the point of view of the émigrés, were materialistic, easily influenced, and tone-deaf to vulgarity. And so there was a perceived need to introduce them to the noble traditions of learning that seemed to have held little place in the curriculum of the American public school. For the émigrés, the absence of knowledge or cultural understanding was the result of a distorted progressive emphasis on a misleading separation of content from method. Since the 1930s, when a majority of Americans began to stay in school through high school, a fear that schools fail to provide sufficient basic knowledge has surfaced every few decades. The result has been a series of “back-to-basics” curricular movements. In the 1950s, the pride of place in progressive pedagogy assigned to method—ways of learning—was challenged fundamentally. The focus in public policy shifted to content, particularly in science. Educational reformers sought to define what all people ought to know, and when, during the process of schooling, the proper subject matter should be taught and learned. However admirable the connection between schooling and democracy was, the fatal flaw in American education was that people were encouraged to think for themselves, but they knew nothing. So what could they think about? They were taught how to express themselves, even though there seemed to be insufficient substance; this sustained a curious American innocence, a reductive pragmatic outlook, and a lack of skepticism, The perception of these deficiencies notwithstanding, after the Second World War German intellectuals in the West believed that the reform of the German educational system and university system was a priority, crucial to forging and sustaining a democracy. Despite their grave reservations about academic standards, the link between education and democracy that had become persuasive to the émigré generation between 1933 and 1945 was transferred back into the immediate postwar debate on how Germany might break with its past. The mid-century perspective on American education shared by Arendt and her contemporaries is not directly relevant to the situation we now face 50 and 60 years later. Until 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan, no one took seriously the prospect of dismantling the public school system. Now we do. One of the consequences of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was the creation of a charter school movement in the South as a means to evade integration. The popularization and

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legitimization of the idea that the American public school system ought to be differentiated largely through modes of privatization gathered momentum from the revulsion at the worst of the late 1960s and the counterculture of the 1970s. We therefore are living in the throes of an antigovernment movement that is 60 years old and that started with an attack, fueled by a fear of racial integration, on the notion that all children should attend a unitary public school system. Race and class interests, and the growth of suburbia as a refuge from an integrated inner-city school system, came to a head in the late 1960s. The 1968 teachers’ strike in New York City was a watershed in the decline of confidence in the historic role of public schooling as a key to fostering citizenship. The initial motivations for the movement challenging the monopoly of public schools were ultimately ones of prejudice: white parents did not want their children to attend schools that were attended by blacks. This logic was then sanitized by appeals to religious liberty insofar as parents fleeing integration attached themselves to religious movements. Evangelicals and “born-again” Jews did not want their children to go to schools that idealized acculturation and assimilation into a secular society, and whose character had “godlessness” at its core. The constituencies that wanted to circumvent integration allied themselves with those who resisted the separation of church and state. The end result of these twin forces has been the elevation of privatization as legitimate and the abandonment of the ideal of the common public school. Despite the troubled and defective promulgation of the idea of a “Common Core” for public schools on the part of the federal government, privatization and diversification have become the dominant objectives of school reform in this country, endorsed albeit indirectly (and somewhat ironically) by the first African American and perhaps best educated president of the United States. This is a bizarre turn of events. The nice way of looking at this development is to concede, “Well, privatization is a way in which we can actually confront the failings of the public schools.” I agree that American schools are not what they might be. But they never were. The reconciliation of excellence and equity was never achieved in the United States and certainly not after 1945, when the rates of high school completion climbed to 75 percent. From the point of view of a pre-World War II European standard of university-preparatory secondary higher education (although for a small elite), American schools never competed in terms of academic standards.

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But such academic standards had not been their primary purpose. Their purpose was basic literacy (essential for the economy) and the creation of a common national identity out of diverse groups. As the groups within America got more diverse, a significant sector within the electorate got uncomfortable with this ideal of socialization. In retrospect, one might legitimately ask whether the American public school system had been successful in creating a democratic culture. I’m not so sure. However, many immigrant groups—Irish, Italian, and Jewish—in the major cities have testified in the affirmative for the generations that went to school before 1960. At the same time, it is clear that the standards of the American schools have not fallen, if one considers that only since the end of the Second World War did more than 50 percent of 18-year-olds finish high school. Before that, only a minority earned a high school diploma. So the project of attempting to educate 70 percent, 80 percent, perhaps 100 percent of all Americans in a single system was never really tried until the 1960s. And when that was about to be actually tried, the public system came under attack, thereby proving that if one wished to make public schools really democratic and excellent, it was going to be very hard indeed. One of the uncomfortable truths in a democratic society is that equality of citizenship does not run parallel with actual equality: the ability to do any number of things—jump high, run fast, sing, approximate, visualize, remember, read, and learn. At the same time, a person who cannot learn as well as another person should not be disadvantaged, either as a citizen or as a participant in democracy. That political and participatory equality is at the core of the nation. As Arendt believed, everyone is capable of thinking. Nevertheless, it is hard to reconcile real differences in education with the equal power of one person, one vote. How does one reconcile academic inequalities with political equality? In that conundrum rests the contemporary discomfort, if not criticism, of the American school system and the ideal of the common public school. My view is that the common public school remains an essential element in American democracy. Our schools fail not because they cannot change the distribution of population measurable by any scale of capacity to learn. They fail because the range of that scale—the standards by which the inevitable distribution of educational outcomes is measured—is too low. That is to say, we fail the least advantaged pupils; we ask too little as a minimum standard. And we also fail those with the most talent; we also ask too little of them. We fail everyone, since the definition of the average sits, so to speak, on too low a standard of achievement.

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But the corrosively low construct of the sufficient average that results from this seems inherent in any attempt to create a democratic educational system. No large, heterogeneous, industrial nation with a diverse population has ever attempted the American ideal of a unitary democratic school system for all. Privatization is now popular because many are saying that we ought not attempt to create such a universal democratic system, and that it is a poorly conceived and implausible ideal. Not only that, since government is widely believed to be notoriously terrible when it comes to providing public goods, it may be better to deliver education through the private sector in a manner similar to market competition in commerce. I happen to think that the privatization of American education and the abandonment of public education is a blow at the very idea of democracy. It favors the rich. And the fact that there is so little opposition to it, particularly among the privileged, is frightening to me. Not surprisingly, the favorite charity of the “1 per cent” against whom Occupy Wall Street tried to protest is the funding of alternatives to ordinary public schools. That’s the idea that every hedge fund owner loves: the privatization of the American school. It has therefore become fashionable to attack teachers in the public system. They organized against maltreatment and low pay. But now union-bashing is popular. And the unions, in turn, have not distinguished themselves as advocates of educational excellence. But have we ever addressed the question, as a matter of public policy, of who in fact our teachers are? Who now goes into teaching? Who has actually tried to do something to change the quality of those who take on teaching in public schools as a career? Have we as a nation ever sought to recruit, train and retain gifted teachers properly? Looking ahead, the challenge that we face in education policy is twofold. First, we must ask ourselves: Do we still believe that American democracy requires a single unitary school system (with proper alternatives within that system, not outside of it) that is in the hand of the public instruments of government and not in the hands of private entities? For all the hand-wringing about public control of education, is it not true that fundamental government regulation, properly structured, can have good results? Even in the State of New York, distinguished private institutions of higher learning—Bard, for example—are regulated by the state. Private universities are actually part of a “state” university system under the New York State Board of Regents. This means that our accreditation process— just like for all New York public and private schools—is shared and over-

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lapping. The dangers of government regulation exist, but so, too, do the benefits. Refining, protecting, and strengthening that shared public political umbrella for our schools represent the first challenge. Our second challenge is that we are confronting the undeniable failures of education, both for the poor and the privileged, at a time when the nation cannot forge a constructive conversation about public goods in general. We are caught in a moment when a distorted version of the virtues of individualism is rampant and in which a banal conceit of the primacy of the personal reigns, despite the shocking uniformity in the content of what is regarded as personal and intimate. This is where I share Hannah Arendt’s distrust of private languages and the tendency to rely on one’s personal narrative as the basis for talking about politics, and education, in particular, understood as a political good. The personal narrative— if it is to assume any real distinctive substance—is always contingent on something beyond it. What I have to learn, as a child in school, is not only to formulate my personal narrative but also to set it aside; children need to listen, to observe others, and thereby to distinguish their personal narrative from those of others as each individual constructs a role as a citizen. The two imperatives—personal growth and citizenship—don’t necessarily overlap. I need to learn things that allow me to function in a democratic context. I need to learn to consciously set aside personal self-interest and contemplate the public good. Raw self-interest and the public interest must be—constructively—at odds, which is evident in the fundamental obligation of taxation. Taxation properly ought to affect each of us unequally, as a legitimate function of economic inequality. What a common public school ought to teach, therefore, is the capacity for disagreement, contest, and compromise. This is most relevant with regard to that basic and fundamental democratic process: free elections. For example, can I find a basis to talk about an election’s issues with someone whose personal narrative is radically different from mine, someone with a different ethnicity, religion, customs, resources, and mores? In principle we can agree—yes, of course! But my ability to have such a conversation with a person with differing circumstances and beliefs—one that even might lead to my changing my views—must be shaped by certain commonalities that we ought to share. After all, we partake of the same water system, we breathe the same air, and we drive down the same highway. We share in that we are obliged to pay our mortgage or our rent. We require the same electricity. We access

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the same Internet, albeit maybe on different sites. We have the same sort of appetite, though our foods may be different. We share our beds with different types of humanity, but the same sort of people are spying on us all and tracking all our cell phones. Ultimately, as these few examples illustrate, the personal narrative bleeds into common circumstances. A shared language that derives from a shared educational experience prior to adulthood might facilitate that essential public conversation. Could education help me find out what I need to know in order to make a conversation with individuals different from myself—equal citizens who share those spaces? If I think that public goods are irrelevant, that we can do without government, then I automatically subscribe to a kind of illusion of individualism difficult to criticize, since it rejects the point of having a discussion or debate—the creation of the public space of a shared participatory politics. The fact that the President and Congress are not in a productive political conversation not only has to do with issues of politics, ideology, or, most painfully for us, with race. Certainly, we can wonder whether the president would have been much better off if he were white; the failure to converse, contest, and compromise among professional politicians in Washington might have been less severe. If he had been an African American woman, matters may have been easier since far too many white men, even to this day, will not tolerate the blunt fact of a brilliant, competent, and successful African American male. The ugliness of this reality is incredible, but what is most incredible is the fact that even two white politicians can’t sit on the same platform and talk about ideas in a way that allows for give-and-take and some real flexibility. They can be socially friendly and go to the opera together as part of a private personal narrative (consider Justices Ginsburg and Scalia). But what good does that do us? None whatsoever. So the private friendship among the court justices has no consequence in the way we negotiate the compromises and exchanges that are essential in the public sphere. The project of public education is a fundamental aspect of the notion of public goods in America. The restoration of public education seems a precondition for making the public sphere operate properly. Education must be about something more than the personal happiness and benefit, economically defined; it has to map out the idea that there is more to the public good than the notion that through some free-market style calculus of aggregate self-interests the greatest good for the greatest number will

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emerge. In other words, public education is about educating the future citizen to consider a common ground in politics that can and will secure a more rewarding notion of personal security and tranquility. But in the context of today’s absence of any confidence in the public sphere, then what is a school-trained citizen to do? Merely succeed in the marketplace? Work for Google? What actually define the public sphere today are not politics, government, and Congress, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon. When I was young, conspiracy theorists pointed to the presence of socialists and communists who were said to undermine our system of values. Fear seemed reasonable in the Cold War and under the threat of nuclear war. The line between fear and paranoia was thin indeed. Fear was plausible. But the people that frighten me today are not terrorists and ideologues interested in overthrowing the government; they are not even those who work for the U.S. government within the NSA or CIA. Rather, the sources of my suspicion are the very large corporate giants that control our access to information, regulate our private lives by providing social networks (a deceptive platform for intimacy), and can monitor every move we make in life, and preserve a record of every message and e-mail, thereby rendering impossible secret-keeping and forgetting, two essential human experiences. Therefore our task is to forge the connection in contemporary life between education and a politically viable public sphere and the realm of public goods. Ultimately, I think we need first to reverse the extent to which in journalism, scholarship, and fiction we have privileged the personal voice. We overuse the word I. By locating beliefs in biography and framing ideas as subjective, we remove ideas from scrutiny and protect beliefs, rendering irrelevant the need for education and the capacity of citizens to argue, to criticize, to listen, and to learn. Dissent has become today an act of personal offense. The irony is that there is so much conformism in what all the Is think. In this regard, the ongoing information technology revolution has had many unusual consequences. Technology is not itself an independent causal variable in history, one of history’s shaping forces, as Jacob Burckhardt termed them. Technologies flourish as a consequence of particular historical contexts of value. The excessive privilege accorded the idea of a personal narrative—that is, the foregrounding of the subjective “my point of view”— preceded the success of social networks such as Facebook. The success of modern Internet technology comes out of an intellectual crisis within the 20th century about notions of objectivity and truth.

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From the Methodenstreit in German historiography and sociology—during the careers of Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, Erich von Kahler and Heinrich Rickert—to the era of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, the positivistic claims of the social sciences and the notion of objectivity and truth were eviscerated. The popular consequence was something that angry neoconservatives in the 1980s (Allan Bloom among them) feared and railed against: a moral and cultural relativism in which there was no consensus about truth. Neoconservatives fought the idea that in matters of culture there was no valid canon and the notion that everyone is therefore entitled to his or her own judgment regarding matters of quality. Indeed, for their part, the extreme critics of the idea of “truth” at the end of the 20th century seemed untroubled by the idea that there are very few things that one can come to some agreement about. The truth, at best, is provisional and in most things truly subjective. But why then seek to debate or come to an agreement in politics? The irony is that the early neoconservatives, the followers of Leo Strauss, believed that challenging an epistemological and moral relativism would restore a shared faith in the truth. But all the neoconservative critique has done is further the agenda of the skeptics they took on as opponents. Contemporary conservatism erodes the need for debate in a democracy, and the contest of ideas, by shutting off debate altogether. The defenders of notions of objectivity and the validity of truth have retreated into an enclave and rendered themselves immune from rigorous scrutiny. This defines the character of the Tea Party Republicans. The consequence of 1980s neoconservatism has not been consensus or a renewed sense of a common ground, but insularity, accelerated by technology, often at the expense of claims that legitimately can survive scrutiny and assume the mantle of truth, such as evolution and climate change. Internet technology allows people to segregate into insular communities of belief, without any need to test their beliefs against criticism. We can come to believe things to be true that are not, supported by a community of like-minded individuals through modern technology. Technology aggregates prejudices and dresses falsehood (e.g. the connection of vaccines to autism) with a veneer of respectability by generating a virtual community that shares the same distorted views. Technology has become the ultimate relativizing instrument, for it makes all claims look alike. So, how does one come to question something, understand something, relearn something, and revise one’s views anymore? Where is the motivation for public debate and discourse?

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Say there are five different think tanks that put out five different reports on the same subject. Each of the five asserts a different argument and conclusion supported by statistics. How does one evaluate which statistical facts and inferences are credible and which are not? As if this were not already difficult enough, the intrusion of technology makes the task more ideological, collective, and not simply personal. Supported by my like-minded blogs and websites, I can go forward avoiding any desire to negotiate two different reports, (let’s say one from the Heritage Foundation and the other from Brookings). With modern technology, there’s no need for engaged, reasoned dissent; the segregation of sites and the segregation of like-minded communications make sure that there is no direct overlap on a level playing field. Our new technological public space, our virtual utopia, now eliminates the need to have a conversation, in real time, with real people who may disagree, those whom we might interrogate in front of our ideological allies and opponents. The wonders of technology have also forced Americans to come to grips with the obvious common-sense fact that schooling and education are not, and never have been, the same thing. The amount of time that a pupil spends in school is ultimately trivial. We educate and learn mostly outside of classrooms, in part through child-rearing. That child-rearing involves more than parents. In the middle classes, experts from psychiatrists to counselors come into play; they have taken the place, notably in suburbia, of extended family and close-knit neighborhoods. By placing too great a burden on schools as the sole source of education, and by shedding our own responsibility as parents, family, and neighbors for the education of children and young adults day in and day out, we distort what can be reasonably expected of institutions. We ask too much. Schools have never been the exclusive source of education. They are but of a very minor influence. In a 24-hour day, and in a seven-day week, education comes from a multiplicity of sources, including the public arena; with technology, that multiplicity has grown, but without an easy dynamic and the context of self-criticism and dialogue. Schools are best at transmitting knowledge and fostering dialogue regarding well-defined subject areas; they are not set up to act as surrogates for parents and communities. But even within the narrow confines of academic learning, rightfully the province of schools, there are downsides to contemporary technology. Consider the Wikipedia phenomenon. In the “good old days” (which never existed), if one wrote a paper on Martin Luther King Jr. and cited an encyclopedia article, one got a C because the teacher knew that one had not

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done much work. Today, at least in our personal lives, Wikipedia, the Internet, Google, and the algorithms by which knowledge is searched for and located on the Web have given people access to what appears to be sufficient information, and therefore the illusion that what they find online is all they need to know. This illusion has wiped out any need for expertise beyond the level of Wikipedia, and little clue as to how to go further. My favorite Wikipedia article is on St. Augustine. A lot of committed individuals with competing viewpoints are adherents of this particular entry. Wikipedia’s St. Augustine is full of Catholics who have conflicting views. Embedded in the entry are classicists, who have various axes to grind. And then there are Protestants, mostly Lutherans, who read him in their own way. The composite result is confusing. It is very hard to figure out what Augustine thinks. And then one finds fanatics and proponents who seem to think that their views on the matter have not been properly heard by anyone except on the Internet. But there is no transparency about the competing claims and no sustained debate. Just like many a Wikipedia entry, St. Augustine’s page changes. People are constantly erasing and adding new content. This is all admirable. But in the end, the entry is incomprehensible, and exceedingly long. This is only one example of how the Internet has compromised the standards of research expertise and scholarly debate. It has leveled it. The original idea of the Web was that it would democratize expertise. Its unanticipated consequence is that it deflects from curiosity and research and has made the real expert irrelevant. It has also wiped away the need for, and substance of, scholarly controversy. Wikipedia appears sufficient. This is potentially dangerous. If you go to the doctor and the doctor says you have X, Y, or Z allergy, you can spend several days reading on the Internet about that allergy. But what you understand from what you read could be frightening, because unless you have a remarkably good education in science, you can get easily misled. So the mass of data, with its allure of easy access, creates a semblance of sufficient understanding. This has made the conversation about negotiating different points of view harder, not easier. It has also given a kind of intellectual respectability to purely personal prejudices. I can now gather material, data, even apparent colleagues, and presumed experts to defend a point of view that may be, in the end, indefensible. So, the question is, where does that bring us with regard to education? To close, I would say that as a practitioner of education, I still hold to the idea that the most difficult and yet most vital thing to do is to construct and

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sustain a language of public conversation. And that language of public conversation will inevitably be different from our several private languages. We cannot expect it to be the same. The conversation has to take place in real space and time. School is one source of that essential opportunity. One of the depressing aspects of American politics today is the extent to which our candidates think it is enough to be a personality and to recount their experience and rely on a private language in order to get elected. Even the president got elected not on ideas but on his personal story. Other candidates have done the same; they failed at the ballot box because their personal stories were so terrible, so obnoxious. We are more interested in the personalities of our politicians, as if they were our private neighbors or friends, than we are in what they think. Today’s politicians cannot speak a comprehensible language of ideas in public conversation, about the public goods, the matters at stake in politics. In order to confront this lack of public discourse in a democracy and leadership with ideas—ideas bolstered by claims and evidence subject to open scrutiny—public education needs to work. It needs to create a community of diverse citizens who, retaining their diversity, are able to occupy a public space in which they can negotiate and discuss matters of shared concern, from foreign affairs to domestic policy, using a shared language. The Internet does not offer such a platform, nor does the virtual space or Facebook or any other social media. I therefore happen to think that we need forcibly and forcefully to redouble the defense of a single system of public education to which our citizens have free access to schools. We therefore need to resist the privatization of schooling. That does not mean that every school should look alike. Our Bard High School Early Colleges, from which students are attending this conference, are very different from other schools. But they are public schools. They are not charter schools. There is no reason that there cannot be differentiation within a public school system. Since we will continue to be (I hope) an immigrant nation, as an immigrant nation we will have to champion a public school system if we are to reconcile increasing differences, inequalities of wealth, and class distinctions into a functioning, dynamic democracy. I share the émigré generation’s quite romantic optimism for the potential of a democratic school system, one marked by excellence and equity. I think such a system is worth fighting for. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There is evidence that we can improve schools. A welcome first step would be to instill in the best of our current college students and

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future generations of college students the value of public school teaching as a dignified, honorable lifelong career. That’s the first thing I hope we do to improve the American school system. The Austrian writer (and Nobel Laureate) Elias Canetti observed that the cruelest hoax we cling to is the claim that language actually communicates. That belief is made worse by the assumption of a coherent single language community within a nation, the claim that we all speak the “same” language. There is something witty in Canetti’s blunt observation. Yet I actually think that it is possible to create a shared language of conversation in politics about the public space that we share as citizens. That goal is the objective of education and one of the reasons why the relative precision of science is crucial to the curriculum. The methods and findings of science tell us that many of the public things that we face, whether they be related to health, the environment, or other topics, are matters where understanding something, however limited, about the world is indeed possible, and subject to agreement, rejection, discovery and constant scrutiny. We can agree as to what mutation is and what, for example, genetic engineering is all about. And what is provisionally true (as science progresses) is mostly not what Hollywood tells you about mutation and genetic engineering. Learning how science works provides a template for what might pass for certainty. It helps clarify what biotechnology really promises or what computers may really be able to do. Citizens need to know how degrees of certainty and doubt are established. They need to locate and understand the varied distinctions between fiction and fact. The rigor of thinking and argument, the rules of evidence, and the recognition of rhetoric and ignorance are part of the education we must provide children and young adults if we are going to retain our freedoms and encourage independent thinking and the courage to act accordingly. And the sooner we get down to business doing so through public education, the better off we will be as citizens, and the more we will be able to develop a protected space for our private languages and intimate lives.

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Here on Earth, or the Erotics of Learning Jerome Kohn

For Thomas Wild “. . . [I]f we wanted to judge objects . . . by their use value alone and not also by their appearance . . . we would have to pluck out our eyes.” —Hannah Arendt “We must suffer for those we love, we must endure their trials and their sufferings . . .” -—Dorothy Day When I was first asked to participate in this conference, the event was called “Hannah Arendt and The Crisis of Education.” Shortly afterward, as the concept developed, the name was changed to “Can Education Save Politics?” After that it was called “What Is an Educated Citizen?” Later it became “Failing Fast: The Crisis of Education” and now, finally (since it is under way), its name is “Failing Fast: The Educated Citizen in Crisis.” Since I am not qualified to discuss the subsequent titles, I will, with your permission, say a few words about Hannah Arendt and her essay “The Crisis in Education.” First I owe you an explanation as to why I find myself ill equipped to address the other titles. They all, more or less, call for educational reform aimed at improving citizenship, and in this country specifically, the recent history of educational reform has been pretty dismal. In her essay on education, Arendt discusses in some detail the general failure of experiments in modern or progressive education and pragmatic pedagogy to introduce children into a common world, that is, a world that lies between plural individuals, relating them to each other and keeping them distinct from each other. As children, their first steps into this world are supervised and secured by their parents and teachers; later, as educated adults, they will be equally responsible with their peers for the durability and continuity of their common world. To Arendt, this is where education leads, and we may recall that the word education derives ultimately from the Latin verb educere, which means to lead, as does the word for bringing up, educa ¯ re. Similarly,

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pedagogy, the art of teaching, derives from the Greek paed-agein, meaning to lead the young. It is of some interest, I believe, that what we think of as “teaching” derives from Greek and Latin verbs meaning “to lead.” In fact, from a structural point of view, public education in the United States has led almost nowhere in the past century. Despite talk of reform, political power is still concentrated at the top, with state and district officials providing money and pronouncing the goals. It is a “factory” structure that, however appropriate for the standardized production of almost any kind of commodity, is less equipped to cope with what Arendt calls “the actual experience of not-knowing.”1 All-important for these considerations is what Hannah Arendt calls “the end of tradition.” That is a complex matter, and I have said what I have to say about it in my introduction to Arendt’s Between Past and Future. All I will add here is the striking metaphor that Arendt employed late in her life when she spoke of the tradition’s end as “the breath of life whose presence, psyche-like, is noticed only after it has left its natural abode, the dead body of a civilization which is no more.”2 I will return to this a bit later, but already you may see how thematically close the end of tradition is to human rootlessness or worldlessness: the two phenomena, which are neither the same nor causally related, run in tandem throughout Arendt’s writings. Arendt herself was classically educated and therefore well provided with what for her were often useless categories of understanding. How else could she proceed in her thinking than by making distinctions, employing the distinguo, which since Aristotle has been the hallmark of thinkers who want or need to understand what has not yet been understood? A is not B. Totalitarianism is not tyranny. Force is not power. Action is not work. Work is not labor. The private is not public. The social is neither private nor public. Thinking is not willing. Willing is not judging. Pity is not compassion. Compassion is not empathy. And “I” am not “Thou.” These and many more of Arendt’s distinctions are not always easy to grasp, not even by educators who have become accustomed to using language in ways that cover over differences. As if the human world were deprived of its variety, or as if historical time were homogeneous, a single process progressing to a predetermined beat, both of which contravene the fundamental law of human plurality! On the other hand, I am convinced that for Arendt, teaching was not a question of theory and practice but—and this is entirely different—a relation between the activities of thinking and doing. I want to suggest that her distinctions may be closer to the nature of education when under-

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stood as the introduction, or leading, of newcomers into an old world, rather than as endless reforms once tried and failed, retried, and again failed. As remarked some time ago in the New York Times, such manipulations resemble nothing so much as “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”3 The distinctiveness of “introducing newcomers into an old world” is the true essence of education. Might education be too serious a matter to be left to professional educators? Let me pursue this line of thought by asking a few rhetorical questions. Who is generally considered the greatest of all philosophers? According to Alfred North Whitehead, an eminent philosopher of the 20th century, all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Now, what is generally considered Plato’s masterpiece, his most important work? The Politeia, of course, or Republic, as we know it from Cicero’s Latin translation. A huge work, in every sense. And what is at the very center of that work, which therefore may be the greatest passage in the greatest book by the greatest philosopher who ever lived? It is the “Parable of the Cave.” And, finally, what is the “Cave” a parable of? Of education (paedia). I mention Plato here primarily because he understands education as inspiring the love of wisdom, and Platonic wisdom stands at a very odd angle to a world in which so much always goes wrong. Yet it is that real world, appearing as an ever-changing cascade of contingencies, that Hannah Arendt sought to love in her journey through it. Of course, it is always hazardous to say what Plato himself believed, since he never speaks in his own name in any of his dialogues. Moreover, a more ironic writer than he never lived. Be that as it may, Plato is the fount of our centurieslong tradition, not only of scientific truth, but also, and which is of greater concern to us here, of endeavoring to improve the world through the love of wisdom—which in Greek is philosophia—as if the world would be a more perfect place if only it were made to reflect, visibly and palpably, the soul of the philosopher. Hannah Arendt, of course, stands outside of the tradition that stems from Plato, in education as in politics. The key term in Plato’s parable of education is periagōgē holēs tēs psychēs, a turning about of the whole soul, or, better, of the entire life. The living heart of Homeric religion, which still beat in Socrates’s breast, was the most apparent and irresistible beauty of the sensuous world; but now, in Plato’s parable, that radiant world is revealed as a sham, an imitation composed of shadows, and ultimately shadows of shadows, situated in a cave dug deep inside the true world. We who live in the cave are prisoners, though we do not know it; the only possibility of freeing ourselves lies in

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turning our whole being about, which Plato prescribes for philosophers, the lovers of wisdom who, in his parable of education, are likewise our only justified and justifiable rulers. As you know, the parable unfolds in stages. First, there is the unfettering of one of the prisoners, so he can turn about and perceive that things that had seemed real are nothing but images projected on a wall opposite the bound prisoners by an artificial fire in the rear of the cave. Next, the prisoner turns about to move in the cave itself, examining the projection apparatus, bypassing it, and climbing up a steep and rough path to the clear sky above. He enters upon a landscape containing no perishable things and no mortal beings. Here he sees the ideas as the true and eternal essences of all the images and shadowy appearances in the cave, which is now revealed, literally, as an underworld. The ideas themselves are illuminated by the Sun, the idea of ideas, which is the source of the light that enables the beholder to see and the ideas to be seen. As Arendt puts it, this is “certainly the climax in the life of the philosopher [the lover of wisdom], and it is here that the tragedy begins.”4 For the philosopher, who has beheld the eternal, is himself mortal; he is of the earth, and as such must turn about once again, this time to retrace his steps back into the cave and regain his earthy home. Blinded by the heavenly brightness of the Sun, the pure luminosity of the idea of ideas, he will be disoriented amid his fellow cave dwellers, having lost the common sense that relates him to mere mortals. The only way he can remain with them at all is as their ruler, the enlightened ruler of prisoners abiding in darkness. Plato seems to say that no one but the philosopher, by adjusting harmoniously each man’s share of the good, can achieve justice in the city of men. There are, of course, book-loads of material written about the “Parable of the Cave.” The benefits of an abstract education, such as years spent studying mathematics, have been questioned; as have the parable’s implied fate of families and family life; and also the possibility, or even desirability, of establishing an ideal city on earth. Suffice it here to note that the idea of ideas in the “Parable of the Cave” is the Good, not the Beautiful. The Sun, the source of seeing and being seen, is no longer— and please note how strange this is—what is most apparent. Both philosophically and linguistically, Plato turns the Homeric world upside down, and no further turning can ever set it right-side up. Great poets and artists perhaps still live in a version of the Homeric world, but they, too, from a practical or scientific point of view, are often considered topsy-turvy.

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There are many striking differences between Plato and Arendt, and perhaps the most striking in regard to education is the radical emphasis she places on natality—one of the more elusive human conditions she names in The Human Condition. In Plato’s ideal city, as in any utopia, newcomers (or natals) are denied an authentic political role. In Arendt’s words, every “new generation grows into an old world.” Therefore, to educate newcomers so as to have them fill pre-fixed places and perform pre-ordered functions, even in a perfectly just or adjusted city, one needs “to strike from the newcomers’ hands their own chance at the new.”5 The unavoidable confrontation between newcomers and an old world is, for Arendt, a condition of the present crisis in education. She sees clearly that “education belongs among the most elementary and necessary activities of human society, [because human society] never remains as it is but continuously renews itself through . . . the arrival of new human beings.”6 But the education of a child is complicated by the fact that a new human being is not yet a human person. Arendt speaks of the “double aspect” that the newcomer presents to the teacher. The child is a new human being entering a strange world, but he/she is also in the course of becoming a person, which is not, Arendt emphasizes, analogous to a kitten becoming a cat. As “the child,” she writes, “is new only in relation to” an old world—a world that was there before his or her appearance in it and will continue after his or her disappearance from it—the child is a worldly being in a sense that the kitten is not. For, Arendt continues, “[i]f the child were not a newcomer in this human world” but rather a natural being growing like a kitten into a cat, then “education would be just a function of life” concerned with “the sustenance of life . . . that all animals assume in respect to their young.”7 What opens the crisis in education to the reader’s eyes—and this is what relates it to the other crises in Arendt’s book Between Past and Future— is nothing other than what Arendt sees as the most multifaceted and pervasive aspect of the modern age. She sometimes speaks of it as “loneliness” or “worldlessness,” elsewhere as “world-alienation,” and here as “estrangement from the world.”8 In a time of world estrangement, the crisis in education may appear as a failure of a teacher’s authority if and only if authority is understood not as oppression but as the teacher’s responsibility to the world that he or she, as an older, educated person, represents to the child.9 I can think of no better example of a teacher’s authority than the responsibility to the world that Arendt represented to her students. This

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is, of course, not only in the words and images of Plato. It is appropriate to stay with him, however, for Plato, though a dead white male, is an exemplary author, the Latin root of which is auctor, meaning one who augments the world. Plato’s augmentation of the world was a reason-why of Arendt’s authority as a teacher, though not its end or telos. For a teacher to reject Plato on grounds of political correctness—as if he were outmoded, or because the teacher fundamentally disagrees with him, or disapproves of him, or because he is just too difficult—would negate that teacher’s responsibility to his students by having diminished the world that exists between them. That world is always what it has become, and because it is old the education of newcomers “inevitably turns toward the past.”10 Our crisis in education today should by no means be thought of as a disaster but rather, as Arendt says, as that “which tears away facades and obliterates prejudices.” A crisis is thus a turning point, and Arendt as well as Plato may be said to have achieved a number of turning points. Arendt’s turning points do not move away from our world toward a more perfect or ideal one, however. On the contrary, if we permit them, they will enrich our “worldless” world, so to speak, by distinguishing new meanings within it. In that sense, the crisis in education, according to Arendt, presents an opportunity to found, if not a new common world, then a common world anew. One may note, en passant, that the words crisis, critique, distinction, discernment, decision, and judgment all derive from the same Greek verb, krinein, a word that perhaps more than any other contains “in a nutshell,” as Arendt might have said, the development of her thought. At the end of the third and densest part of her essay, Arendt writes, “Exactly for the sake of what is new and revolutionary in every child, education must be conservative; it must preserve this newness and introduce it as a new thing into an old world. . . .”11 Does that first statement not sound odd, even paradoxical? Thomas Wild, a brilliant philologist, has pointed out that Arendt wrote this essay in German and that the word here translated (not by her) as “preserve”—to preserve the newness of the child—is in German bewahren. Since wahr in German means true, the sentence might be translated: “Exactly for the sake of what is new and revolutionary in every child, education must be conservative; it must make true this newness by introducing it as a new thing into an old world.” How does that help? Well, while educators in general, progressives no less than traditionalists, tend to identify the past with the tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation, Arendt does not.12 Indeed, the break in tradition, which for her is the most basic political fact

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of our times, is the opposite of detachment from the past. A student liberated from the tradition is free to discover a new past, to “read its authors as though nobody had ever read them before.”13 By being educated, the child ceases to be merely a human being. He or she becomes a human person, that is, not only a beginning but also a beginner, capable of bringing something new into the world that his or her peers may judge of sufficient depth to preserve. What is genuinely new will neither ever appear in the world as a reform of what preceded it, nor turn its back upon the past. On the contrary, it will make the past present through imagination and memory. At the end of her essay, Arendt writes the now much-quoted words: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it. . . .” The next and final sentence begins, “And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world. . . .” As noted, Arendt wrote this essay in German, and again led by Thomas Wild, I want to revise slightly the published translation of these last two sentences of the essay to emphasize the reflexive construction of entscheidet sich, which is missed in the phrases “the point at which we decide” and “where we decide.” I would say: In and through education we decide whether we love the world enough to take responsibility for it and by so doing save it from ruin, which, without renewal, without the arrival of the new and young, would be inevitable. So it is also in and through education that we decide whether we love our children enough neither to expel them from our world and abandon them to themselves, nor to strike from their hands their chance to undertake something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them for the exertion of renewing a common world. How? By loving the world—almost the opposite of loving wisdom—and loving our children as incipient worldlings rather than as potential philosophers. I realize I’ve made the argument circular, like all ethical arguments. Through being educated we discover the meaning of education, the leading of the newly arrived, under our protection, into the world that is there for them. The renewal of that world, however, requires the joint activity, mental and physical, of a plurality of adult persons. Today’s encroaching thoughtlessness, especially among politicians and intellectuals, makes this activity, which is always difficult and therefore rare, less likely to eventuate,

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to matter, than in the past. In our times, as Arendt was fond of quoting Yeats, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Thus, thinking about Arendt’s decisions and the increasing difficulty of realizing them in times of dwindling security, it occurred to me that Arendt’s decisions might, as in Plato, require a periagōgē holēs tēs psychēs, a turning about of the whole human being. This turning about would happen on earth, and it would open our eyes not to a kingdom somehow descended from heaven but to a world that reveals the splendor of the human artifice. My anticipated contemplation of such an apparent common world, however, was interrupted by the radio. I heard some words that led me to make up a story about them, which, in conclusion, I’d like to share with you. It is about reconciliation, and it is very short and inconclusive. “Knowledge meets inspiration” is the rubric under which public radio recently announced a program on elementary education. The intention was clear; a panel of experts would assemble to evaluate different methods employed by teachers to transmit knowledge to schoolchildren. However tedious that sounded, the words “knowledge meets inspiration” stuck in my ear, and I thought how fiercely children differentiate their early teachers—“I love Miss A! I hate Mr. C!”—well before they learn to conjugate verbs or multiply by fractions. Might that, I wondered, be due to a teacher’s inspiration or lack of it? And if so, does it imply a relation, causal or other, between love and learning, or between hatred and ignorance? Then I remembered that the Greek word for inspiration is enthousiazôn, which led me to observe that the phrase “knowledge meets inspiration” might better apply to what later students experience as a teacher’s contagious enthusiasm for a body of knowledge. The word “later” was bothersome—how much later?—and more bothersome was the fact that the word enthousiazôn literally denotes the presence of a god, not as an attribute of a person but as the god’s invasion of whomever he chooses to possess. If that were the meaning of inspiration, I wondered what its meeting with knowledge might actually produce. Who is to say what effect being possessed by a god, which more often than not the Greeks associated with madness (mania), might have on teachers intent to spread the wings of unfledged minds? At that point I heard a boy’s cries of love and hatred within me. I asked myself, does a child vent his passions because he realizes that what he’s taken most for granted has abandoned him? For it is obvious that his schoolmates do not see in him the same self he’s accustomed to seeing reflected in his parents’ eyes. Might not the boy evade attempts to teach

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him functions of verbal inflections in sentences, or numerical quotients in equations, as interruptions of his need to form an image of himself, which may turn out to be a first tentative step toward self-knowledge and personhood? If teachers who stuff his head full of grammatical or arithmetical rules frustrate his imagination, might not one who instills habits of sensibility—listening, entering the thoughts of others, seeing what is most familiar from new and unfamiliar points of view, uncovering something previously hidden to himself in himself—quicken his capacity to love? But above all, I thought, the teacher he says he loves appears to him as the embodiment, the corporeal there-ness, of an integrated and independent person, the same sort of person he wants to be and appear to be. But what exactly is it that appears to him in this teacher? Surely, I thought, not integrity. Perhaps it is the way she sits at the table between them, the way she turns her head to regard him, her tone of voice when she replies to him. Might such civilities, I wondered, prompt the boy to imagine that the teacher admits his love, at least to some extent? Might the teacher care for, safeguard, and preserve the boy’s love for the world she represents? However that may be, inducements to think are sparse today, and welcome wherever they turn up. Jerome Kohn ©2013

1. Hannah Arendt, “Philosophy and Politics,” (P&P), ed. J. Kohn, Social Research, Vol. 57, No.1 (Spring 1990), 98. 2. Hannah Arendt, “Remarks to the Princeton Advisory Council on Philosophy” (1973), forthcoming in H. Arendt, Thinking Without Bannisters, ed. J. Kohn (New York: Schocken Books). 3. “Will Common Core Improve Schools?” New York Times, June 12, 2013, accessed February 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/opinion/will-common-coreimprove-schools.html. 4. Arendt, “Philosophy and Politics,” 95. 5. Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Education,” Between Past and Future (London: Penguin Books 2006), 174. 6. Ibid., 182. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid., 188. 9. Ibid., 186. 10. Ibid., 192. 11. Ibid., 189. 12. Hannah Arendt, “What Is Authority?,” Between Past and Future (London: Penguin Books 2006), 93-4. 13. Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Culture,” Between Past and Future (London: Penguin Books 2006), 201.

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The Gold Standard of Educational Reform John Seery

Is education in crisis? And if it is, what should we do? Big questions. But what do I know? I’ve read a bunch of theory books, but I often lose sleep at night not knowing how to inspire my own teenage kids to do their algebra homework. I’m no educational expert, especially not about K–12 schools. Realize that as a college teacher I operate on a daily basis in a precious educational bubble, a rarefied environment. The kids who are attracted to and attend Pomona College are, to a person, wildly smart, humble, hardworking, thoughtful, friendly, service-minded, carbon-neutral, kind to small animals—in short, exemplary individuals in every respect. They scare me. They take advanced Arabic to supplement their Italian and German. They read everything I throw at them. They don’t steal glances at their mobile devices during seminar discussions. I enjoy reading their papers, and I learn from them. Academic stuff. Truly I do. Last year, I read a paper written by a freshman upending every reading of Dante’s infernal appropriation of Virgil that I’ve ever encountered. Knocked my socks off. These kids have aced every standardized test that has been put before them, but they explicitly disclaim the importance of such tests. They’re nice. They’re adorable. There’s not a jerk among them. They wear their intelligence lightly. Who are they? They come from all over the country, so there must be environments that produce or nurture or at least don’t screw up such students, even if they emerged as the local exceptions to the rule. Mind you, for the most part, they aren’t a privileged elite—20 percent are first generation in the family to attend college, and more than half are on ample financial aid, thanks to our need-blind admissions and no-loan policies. All of which is to say that, from my skewed perspective, not to mention my very limited and cherry-picked database, something is going on incredibly right, at some level, across the country, or parts of the country. From my vantage point, I don’t see a generation of slackers, zombies, and Twitter-heads coming into and out of the Pomona Colleges of the country. Instead, I see upstanding and creative Socratic citizens in the making. True, out of the 18 million undergraduates in the United States today, only 100,000 attend residential, small, liberal arts colleges in 100

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Pomona’s category. Still, because I see what I see and know what I know, facing the actual students who occupy those chairs around the seminar tables where I teach, I’m reluctant to engage in Chicken-Little-ish crisis narratives about the state of U.S. education. I’m no Pollyanna, nor am I an ostrich with my head buried in the national sands. But I think we could draw some lessons from success stories and build upon them, rather than acceding entirely to a cynical view of the prospects for education. Small liberal arts colleges typically attract a different kind of student, one who hasn’t sought out a big brand name university with a nationally ranked football team and a nationally televised reputation to go along with it. They have decided to fly under the radar; they have deliberately chosen a liberal arts curriculum against a national narrative loudly advising them otherwise. They have put some, really much, of their utilitarian anxieties about getting a job on the shelf for a good chunk of the four-year stretch of their time at college, which is what you have to do—put those concerns in abeyance, take those risks, proceed on faith—if you are going to spend a lot of time during your undergraduate years reading and discussing long novels, or performing in a theater production, or studying quite a few subjects outside your comfort zone and wheelhouse. Poring over the pages of a long novel doesn’t survive a cost-benefit analysis if you’ve construed the point and purpose of your education as delivering you to a high-flying, lucrative job (though it may do well so, albeit as a derivative and largely backdoor benefit). Which is to suggest, on my part, that I think we need to explore motivations and incentives for education that aren’t well understood from an economic standpoint. Or to put it differently, we need to consider educational environments that have lavishly granted students the freedom, the luxury, and the indulgence to suspend economic considerations as the main reason they are doing what they are doing. Today I want to project the Pomona College liberal arts atmosphere (as I’ve sketched it) backwards onto K–12 schools. What would it take, what does it take, to motivate students toward the free inquiry of the liberal arts? We don’t have good longitudinal data on which to base, with any confidence, our educational reform efforts, so I’m going to draw on one elongated case study that I know pretty well—namely, my own upbringing. Bear with me. Here it goes. My formative years were spent in Iowa. My parents were the first to split from scores of generations of farmers and settle, in their late twenties, in the city. They chose Cedar Rapids. But they didn’t attend college. No one in their families had ever attended college, and their expectations and

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hopes for their five kids were for vaguely upward mobility. To us, college was a remote dream, too far off to make it worth dreaming about, and it would have been fine, not tragic, had I remained the Teamster truck driver that I was from the age of 15 onward. Today I look back on my classmates, the people I grew up with, who came from similar backgrounds, a farm-manure-soaked primordial soup (sorry for that metaphor), and I see enormous success stories in conventional terms: award-winning musicians, engineers, CEOs, celebrated and uncelebrated poets, lots of professors and teachers, multimedia artists and filmmakers, sports figures, writers, entrepreneurs, and so on. Cedar Rapids, the land of Grant Wood, proved to be a wellspring of creativity. I say this because we weren’t at the time all that ambitious. Not outwardly so, at least. We weren’t locked into a national scheme of things that defined our activities and guided our aspirations. In fact, I think we were sheltered from such ambitions, intentions, and incentives largely because we were landlocked in Iowa, relegated to flyover territory. We were thus innocent and unassuming, and that allowed us to go behind the barn and throw baseballs into hay bales, becoming Bob Feller figures in the meantime. The public schools in that post-postwar period featured robust art programs, in-house sports programs, one-on-one music lessons, and in high school, shop class and home economics. In grade school, we had a lot of recess. We played a lot of games. Teachers were quirky characters that were regarded as pillars of the community. They had great leeway to do what they wanted to do in their classrooms, and they seemed to have great pride in what they did—and they had fun. Sure, there were a few duds in the schools, but you could survive a dud or two. I think I can still name the names of most of my K-12 teachers, and on Facebook today my classmates commemorate with tremendous gratitude those teachers’ lives 40-some years after the fact. And I think the feeling was mutual. The teachers had the freedom to get to know and to care for us as real persons rather than as merit-pay data points. But I don’t know how to re-create that halcyon atmosphere. That’s not my structural point here today. What I do want to submit for consideration is that back in those days, Iowa was the one state in the nation that opted out of the AP system at the high school level. We didn’t have those classes and those tests. We didn’t do much testing, even though Iowa was the home of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which was administered across much of the country. We too took that battery of tests once a year, which by the way included a test for map-reading skills. But those standardized tests didn’t have any consequences unless you bombed them.

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Instead of AP testing, Iowa developed its own writing program, emphasizing writing instead of testing. I don’t think it had anything to do with what became the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. But that’s part of the same landscape (or was). We wrote a lot from first grade onwards. Writing in those Cedar Rapids classes wasn’t a solitary or formulaic experience. We wrote our essays, and then we would read them aloud to the rest of the class, standing in front of everyone. Writing then was a frolicking group activity; when you put pen in hand you started to develop a sense of audience, because, well, you’d soon have an audience: Gary and Bill and Janet and the others in front of you, your friends. And you developed a voice, or tried out several voices, several ploys, to get reactions, to see what worked. We would try to be funny. Or wry. Or imaginative. Or highfalutin. It was creative. It was fun. Education was fun. Or maybe fun isn’t the right word. You felt alive, thinking and talking and writing and laughing and then working hard. But it didn’t feel like working. School was an inducement to life itself. It wasn’t boring. Let me sing you a song. “I don’t like you, I don’t like you, you stinky poo, you smell good, too, we are the Garfield Grade School band.” I remember my friends and I were singing that ditty quite a bit at recess during my sixth-grade year. It was silly. It was beneath us. But it was fun. Our bandleader in the school from fourth to sixth grade was Roland L. Moehlmann, who was founding director of the city municipal band and taught in the public schools from 1929 to 1972. He composed and arranged music, achieving a bit of renown for his Bach arrangements in particular, earning him the title Bach-Moehlmann on the larger band circuit. In that stinky poo song, he was trying to get us to learn a melody and a refrain via a lyrical mnemonic that would help us on our individual horns. Well, we learned it, with giggles. And the reason we went home and practiced our instruments was that we wanted to get better at school so that we could play that song and other songs better, and play it for a recital, bonding with our teacher and each other over our inside joke. And we found ourselves making music together. In contrast, you don’t get a bunch of grade school kids to play music, to work at their technique, to endure several formative years of squawks and squeaks and woefully out-of-tune honks—you don’t nurture that educational experience by a testing regime, or by playing the trombone in front of a laptop, or by insisting that playing music is a way to hone skills, or to get into college, or ultimately to get a globally competitive job. My music upbringing is still the ambient sound track to everything I do today,

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and I’m so thankful that I grew up in a musical city, where there was some kind of subterranean agreement that the schools, the colleges, and the city were to be unified by music, and sport, and writing, and art, and storytelling as part of an overall civic paideia. You want to talk about creating citizens? Check to see whether there’s a municipal band in town; better yet, check the arts programs in the schools. John Dewey told us as much in Democracy and Education, wherein he insisted that a viable education ought to combine work with play, or better, to break down that distinction. Otherwise schools would become places, he warned, filled with “drudgery and externally imposed tasks.” I see my earlier self in many of my Pomona College students. They’ve been lucky; they’ve been given the chance to flourish away from some national treadmill of economic anxiety. Yes, some are walking resumes, conforming to David Brooks’s cartoon description of today’s “organizational kids,” those kids who have checked all the boxes, who do what they’re told, who game their transcripts, and who eventually hedge their liberal arts bets by becoming econ majors. But most aren’t that way. Most come to Pomona receptive to broad-based and exploratory liberal arts learning. Still, this current crop has come up through the No-Child-Left-Behind testing regime. They haven’t written much. They haven’t had much recess along the way. They haven’t had much fun. They haven’t found their passions and their voices and their curiosities. We have to remind them that college affords them a huge opportunity: four years of freedom, utter freedom, and if they squander that freedom by trying to direct their education too deliberately toward the modern economy, they may well find themselves, at 40, a huge success in financial terms, but wondering how in the world, when given a chance to read and discuss Shakespeare or Toni Morrison with others when they were younger in college, or to perform in a play, or to throw clay on a wheel, or to conduct experiments in a biology lab, or to take up racquetball, or to brood in personal reverie, they cheated themselves out of those activities. How did that happen? How did the adults in charge of education, of institutions, of culture, of cities, allow that to happen? Who killed so many of the public schools in this country and made them so boring and joyless? Here’s my bottom-line point, if it isn’t already clear: the data-driven, standardized testing, outcomes assessment, robo-learning, MOOC-hyping, race-to-the-top classroom modality is squashing the joy, the pleasure, the fun, the meaning, the sociality, the serendipity, the integrity, and the importance out of learning. They’ve done it K-12, and now they want to do it K-

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16. Reducing college to getting a job is to go about educational reform all the wrong way. I know, to the bean counters, and to some wonks and pundits and efficiency experts, talking about the pleasures of the classroom, the joys of learning, sounds profligate. But most of those folks just don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about the classroom, or they just aren’t guided by an informed experience that works. Many of these educational reformers pay lip service to the notions of fostering critical thinking and independent judgment and maybe even creative innovation, but then they promote educational models that seem designed to spit out bored-to-death bots. And some are enthusiastic about decimating classrooms and in fact eliminating teachers, classrooms, campuses, and communities altogether. Coursea cofounder Daphne Koller said that we need to “release ourselves from the shackles” of “in-class teaching.” What poppycock. As if kids don’t need a bandleader. As if hands-on lab science can be taught over the Internet. Online education will supplant face-to-face education the day when online sex supplants face-to-face sex, though you do hear some lonely hearts claiming that new whiz-bang technologies will soon obviate actual human contact. Don’t let the for-profit brokers in pornography prevail. I say we need to remind ourselves of that distinctively American model of education, the small residential liberal arts college, and try to find ways and the money to make it available to more Americans so that we don’t end up with a twotiered system whereby rich students will still get to attend rich colleges that actually feature real teachers and real classrooms, while everyone else will have to be satisfied with receiving credit-badges by watching hour after hour of Khan Academy videos or the like. Let me quote John Dewey’s Democracy and Education again: Democratic society is peculiarly dependent for its maintenance upon the use in forming a course of study of criteria which are broadly human. Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. We know what the gold standard model of education is—small classrooms with dedicated teachers and real, three-dimensional human beings together pursuing broad, rigorous, and enticing subjects—and we ought to have the courage of our convictions to provide that kind of education widely, rather than settling for a cheap and dreary substitute.

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One to Avoid, One to Engage: Unmasking and Conflict Pluralism as European Heritages Peter Baehr

The author originally delivered this essay as a lecture at “What Europe? Ideals to Fight for Today,” a conference held at Bard College Berlin on March 27 and 28, 2014. More information on the conference can be found here: http://conference.berlin.bard.edu/. “It is the mark of an illiberal regime that conflicts of value are viewed as signs of error” —John Gray, Modus Vivendi, p. 39 In the 25 minutes available to me, I want to address the topic of this panel—What use are Europe’s heritages in looking to the future? —from a particular angle.1 My remarks focus on one European heritage we would be advised to avoid and another kind of heritage we would do well to engage or at least acknowledge. As for the invitation to look into the future, I will decline it in the same spirit, but more politely, as Ivan Illich did in one of his last interviews. “To hell with the future,” he fumed. The future’s “a man-eating idol.”2 Returning to the present, the heritage we need to avoid is a way of thinking about those who disagree with us on matters of fundamental moral and political principle—it is the heritage of unmasking. Describing this tradition will take up the bulk of my comments. The heritage to which we should attend is one that I shall call conflict pluralism: a theory of colliding modes of life and clashing estimates of the good that rational argument is unable to resolve but which a democratic polity must accomodate if it is to remain pluralist. Fittingly for a conference held in Berlin, the two figures best equipped to navigate these conflicting streams are both German: Hannah Arendt and Max Weber. No one equals Arendt in her understanding of the perils of unmasking as a style of thought, and no one rivals Weber in his grasp of the normality of principled disagreement and the impossibility of its rational transcendence.

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Unmasking Unmasking refers to a mode of exposure that accuses a person, argument, or way of life of being fundamentally defective. It may be claimed, for instance, that a person is an imposter. Or it might be said that an argument is delusionary. Or it might be contended that a way of life is harmful and irrational not only to others but also to the persons who practice the way of life concerned. Whatever its forms, unmasking is a style of thought that aims to reveal the twisted texture of human relationships and, frequently, the ambition to reshape these relationships on new lines. Unmaskers do not simply claim to see what others have missed; they claim to see through a person or object. “Things are not what they seem. They reveal their true meaning only when decoded in accordance with the knowledge of the initiated—at which point they make complete sense and everything falls into place in a universal scheme.”3 All ideas emerge in medias res, and unmasking is no exception. It first gained special prominence during the late 18th century, when the critique of dissimulation and insincerity—leitmotifs of 17th-century French and British moralists—mutated into a political program.4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the decisive figure in this movement, the Jacobins his selfconscious legatees. More brilliantly than anyone before him, Rousseau objected that the manners of the 18th-century salon and court—their modes of politeness and entertainment, and their characteristic human type, l’homme du monde—were a hive of deceit and moral turpitude.5 Rousseau’s paean to simplicity, transparency, and the unity of the self, his hatred of heartlessness and imposture, was more than a powerful critique of society, a word that Rousseau helped to redefine and substantivize; it was also a deliberate attempt to reshape the sensibilities of his readers.6 This ambition was not in vain. The contrasts that Rousseau forged between the public interest and private selfishness, virtue and corruption, sincerity and dissimulation were soon to be axiomatic among the Jacobins, prompting them to see the miserable ones—those who lived their life in squalor outside of society and were ignored by it—as a substitute for the natural man unsullied by the fakery of court manners. Like Rousseau, these lawyers and men of letters possessed an adamantine resolve to rip the mask of falsity from the court and its beneficiaries. But unlike Rousseau, the Jacobins were not simply faced with hypocrisy but immersed in crisis—foreign war, civil tumult, famine, conspiracy, and counterrevolution—that gave unmasking a particular rationale. The ter-

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ror that the Jacobins loosed was not an inevitable response to these exigent circumstances; it was a circumstance in its own right.7 But as terror unfolded, the full implications of the idea of unmasking were violently revealed. In a long tradition stretching back to the Roman Republic, the mask represented the notion of an artificial personality—first of an actor, later of a legal entity or corporation. The opposite of a person in the legal sense is a natural being. Personhood confers rights and obligations on individual and collective actors and invests them with powers of representation that do not exist in nature. It is the creation of a polity. But for the Jacobin revolutionaries, the mask possessed entirely different connotations. It signified not the legal protections of corporate personality and expanded powers of representation,8 but rather it embodied a contraption of pretense, cunning in disguise, a symbol of rottenness, a provocation and insult to the translucent general will in which all particularities have been expunged.9 Confronted by hypocrites who were also enemies of the people, the response was unequivocal. “Traitors,” Robespierre urged, “must be unmasked and struck without pity.”10 Jean-Paul Marat concurred. The French people owed the recovery of their rights “to patriotic writers who unmasked the selfish views of the privileged orders, jealous of perpetuating their domination.” Chief among these writers was Marat himself. “For four years,” he wrote in 1792, “I have exercised the functions of public censor for the safety of the homeland. I have unmasked a horde of traitors and conspirators.”11 The language of unmasking (démasquant; dévoilement) was ubiquitous within Jacobin ranks and common outside them; historians have voluminously documented its conditions, permutations, and effects.12 For our purposes, we may simply note that the rhetoric and logic of unmasking has never died, though its forms and the purposes to which it lends itself have changed over time. A core difference between 18th-century unmasking, for instance, and that of modern radical intellectuals is that while the Jacobins sought principally to expose deception, contemporary thought— where it is theoretical, and not simply polemical—is devoted above all to the unmasking of illusion.13 Deception and illusion are different things. While a deception suggests deliberate imposture or concealment, of, say, conspiracy, hypocrisy, and imposture, an illusion—Marx’s notions of “alienation” and “commodity fetishism,” Nietzsche and Freud’s views of religion, Pierre Bourdieu’s

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concepts of reproduction and symbolic violence—is something in which all, or most, parties can be guilelessly immured.14 The standard critical rejoinder to deception is to identify the offending object as a lie, a hoax, a conspiracy, whereas with an illusion it is to identify its foil as the product of fogged minds or twisted desires (ideology, false consciousness, neurosis). While the opposite of deception is transparency and enlightenment, the opposite of illusion is theoretical truth and emancipation. And what is theoretical truth as distinct from the quotidian truth that one discovers when exposing a lie or a fraud? A theoretical truth, at least as understood by modern theoretical unmaskers, is a decoding of signs; it is a statement, or set of statements, about impersonal, enduring, and constantly replicating structures of domination that are visible neither to actors nor observers and to which individual responsibility cannot clearly be assigned. This explains the curious combination among theoretical unmaskers such as Marx and Pierre Bourdieu of a passionate sense of anger at injustice (fully shared by Rousseau and Robespierre) with the desire to avoid “moralistic” judgments about individuals (an aversion utterly foreign to French and later revolutionaries). Theoretical truth monitors a distant and opaque universe—or “totality”—of pervasive domination to which only a few are privy. 15 Of the variety of unmasking techniques, one in particular has a privileged position because of its profound deflationary ambition. Let us call it interpretive inversion: the transformation of an argument or conviction into the opposite of what it purports to be.16 Nietzsche’s assertion that Christian compassion is in reality a sublimated will to power is an obvious example of this rhetorical trick. Another is the notorious accusation by Communist Party militants of the Popular Front that Social Democratic leaders in Germany, whatever their professions of sincerity and avowals of solidarity, were “objectively” in cahoots with the Nazis. The socialists were ultimately fascists by another name—social fascists and hence twins of tyranny—because their refusal to become communists or at least accept communist hegemony impeded the progressive wing of the working class, split the opposition to National Socialism, and enabled Hitler to become chancellor of Germany.17 Interpretive inversion was also a mainstay of the Russian show trials of the 1930s when veteran Bolshevik leaders admitted via a dialectical twist of logic that the Tribunal of History, incarnated in the Party, had pronounced them objective enemies of the proletariat. All this may seem a nightmare from which modern, rational, scientifically alert people have happily awoken. The opposite is true. Unmasking

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is today generalized on an unprecedented scale.18 Politicians routinely employ it. According to the French Socialist prime minister, the recent success of the French National Front in fully democratic municipal elections constitutes a threat to democracy.19 Feminism in the digital age is awash with exposure determined to root out the “intersectional” sins of the sisters. Subjective intentions are of no account. Indeed “if you offend someone”—a self-described victim—“and then try to explain that you were misunderstood, this is seen as compounding the original injury.”20 A veritable feast of unmasking is also served daily in the press, both tabloid and quality. Here is an appetizer from last weekend’s Financial Times. In an article on the so-called “Blair Disease”—a term denoting “the growing propensity of former heads of government to monetize their service,” either on the basis of contacts established with the immensely rich while still in office or as a result of delivering speeches to the wellheeled—author Simon Kuper lists a roster of individuals who have made a fortune from this particular malady. Aside from Tony Blair himself, Kuper mentions Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, and Nicolas Sarkozy. George W. Bush, on the other hand, has absented himself from this selfadvertising plutocratic club. Kuper asks why. A reader with no animus toward the former president might conclude that it has simply not occurred to him, as an independently wealthy person, to join the ranks of Blair et al. Or perhaps Bush the younger has a decent sense of his place post-politics and has thus inoculated himself from the Blair Disease. Kuper, however, considers none of these possibilities. The reason Bush has not joined the likes of Blair et al, Kuper opines, is because Bush is ashamed of his presidency and avoids the limelight for that reason. Hence what may just as well be an admirable quality of George W. is rendered a disguise for a bad one: Bush’s virtue is evidence of his vice.21 Hannah Arendt saw a similar rhetorical move operating rampantly in the social sciences. Citing an article “that evaluates the lack of resentment on the part of the working men as ‘fear of equality,’ their conviction that the rich are not happier than other people as an attempt ‘to take care of a gnawing and illegitimate envy,’” Arendt dryly remarks that the author manages “to turn every virtue into a hidden vice—a tour de force in the art of hunting for non-existent ulterior motives.”22 Conspiracy theorists, meanwhile, continue to find abundant plots where the rest of us see only unconnected events.23 President Barack Hussein Obama is unveiled as a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are unmasked

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as an inside job of the CIA. A United States–Shiite axis is exposed as a deliberate Middle Eastern policy, evidenced in the United States’ toppling of the Sunni Saddam Hussein in Iraq, its nuclear rapprochement with Iran, and its unwillingness to impose red lines on the use of chemical weapons by the heterodox Alawite al-Assad regime in Syria. Most informed observers look on such accusations as hallucinogenic. Yet they may be the very same people who indulge another kind of unmasking that in its formulaic ubiquity is even more damaging than the relatively sequestrated “truther” conspiracies just mentioned. I am referring to the illiberal sleight of hand that depicts currents of opinion with which bien pensant people disagree as “phobic”—hence homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ecophobia, and literally a hundred others. This language, a staple of respectable and polite society, unmasks because it transmutes one set of statements into another that negates the sincerity, probity, or rationality of the first. It converts an account that expresses a political or moral disagreement—the very kind of thing that conflict pluralism, soon to be described, construes as normal—into a shroud that obscures real and noxious motives or interests. To see what is wrong about describing a moral or political stance as phobic, let us now recall what a phobia is. Strictly speaking, it is an unwarranted, disproportionate, and hence irrational fear. Most people are not fearful of open vistas. Those who suffer from agoraphobia are. Most people can tolerate confined spaces. Claustrophobics cannot endure them without a mounting sense of panic. By extension, Islamophobia or xenophobia or homophobia amount to an unfounded and unreasonable dread of Muslims or immigrants or homosexuals based on misunderstanding or hatred. Phobic terms draw their plausibility from a therapeutic culture that defines almost all problems of modern people as ones of maladjustment and dysfunction. Note that with the exception of the term anti-Semitism, the “-phobia” suffix possesses a far stronger condemnatory force than the “anti-” prefix. This is because the imputation of a phobia extrapolates a clinical condition, typically studied by abnormal psychology, to the sphere of social-political relations: it thereby medicalizes the latter. Many people happily describe themselves as anti-fascists or anti-globalists. Anti-Americanism has been de rigueur for decades among French intellectuals. But phobias are always things ascribed to others rather than affirmed and conceded by persons themselves, and for a plain reason: to admit to a social phobia is to acknowledge not simply a viewpoint, a political stance, or even a straightforward

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prejudice, but, most fundamentally, an illness. It is to recognize an impairment of the faculties that produces, or is produced by, vilification and bigotry. The previous argument does not contradict the obvious: bigotry and prejudice are alive and kicking in the modern world, and they come from all shades of the spectrum. But phobic, I am claiming, is a word, abbreviating an idea, which is itself deeply prejudicial: it impedes or prohibits principled disagreements on many matters of legitimate and widespread public concern. The identification of dissent with illness, the latter understood either as mental impairment or as phobia, entails extreme anathematization. It also encourages “preference falsification”24 or fuels outright rage among those so painted because it treats fellow citizens as bad people outside the pale of civilized discussion. These peoples’ expulsion from respectable political discourse has a predictable terminus: attraction to more extreme and iconoclastic political alternatives in which they are offered a voice. There is nothing inherently xenophobic about people’s admitting that they are troubled by the impact immigration can have and, in some instances does have, on indigenous traditions, ways of life, and security.25 Robert Putnam’s massive study of diversity in the United States showed that the more ethnically mixed the neighborhood, the more withdrawn people tended to be, not only from other groups but groups similar to their own.26 Equally, it is not unreasonable or unsurprising that France decided to ban the burqa or niqab in public settings. Far from that prohibition being tantamount to an irrational spasm of Gallic Islamophobia, it was based on a principled notion of reciprocity, argued out in French forums that spanned the gamut of left and right, secular and religious.27 Nothing stops one criticizing the French version of republicanism and, say, contrasting it with the American type in which a similar ban would be unconstitutional. But “phobic” is not the right register for the debate because it transforms a political argument into a therapeutic diagnosis. Likewise, Christians, Muslims, and others who oppose same-sex marriage cite religious tradition—the font of moral principles until recently unmasked—or, from a secular viewpoint, the power such newly mandated unions gives the state to police moral practice. Hence the incidents of Catholic adoption services in the United States (for instance, Catholic Charities of Boston) being closed down because of their refusal to place children in homes other than those populated by heterosexual married couples.28 Again, one can debate the conflict between ideas of justice and conscience or between the dignitary claims of homosexuals against the religious

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claims of organizations. But the accusation of phobia is a great conversation stopper. Once the word is introduced into any topic, all debate evidently and all too conveniently comes to an end.

Conflict Pluralism My earlier description of phobic language as illiberal is in at least one respect misleading. Such rhetoric is actually encouraged and magnified by a mode of liberalism that has considerable purchase today among political philosophers, jurists, and human rights intellectuals. Associated with, but by no means restricted to, the ideas of writers such as Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls, the liberalism to which I refer assumes that a consensus on fundamental political and ethical issues is in principle conceivable if only people would reason correctly; if only ideological impediments to free discussion were removed; if only discourse was thereby properly communicative, transparent, and unconstrained; and if only norms and rules were properly grounded and precisely formulated. Habermas and Rawls do not use phobic language themselves. But the set of assumptions I have just summarized is highly conducive to the atmosphere of unmasking because it appears to divide political disputants into those who pursue rational consensus and those who irrationally disdain it or are insufficiently sage to understand its potential.29 Liberal rationalism effectively reduces politics to morality such that the distinction between left and right is transcribed into the register of good and bad, or it reconfigures politics onto the landscape of law. As John Gray points out, “the central institution of Rawls’s ‘political liberalism’ is not a deliberative assembly such as a parliament. It is a court of law.”30 In marked contrast to this European heritage is another in which unmasking is deeply uncongenial. We can call that heritage conflict pluralism, a name that describes both a putative existential condition and a theory that seeks to describe it. As a tradition of thought, it is associated with a variety of authors who otherwise disagree on many topics; chiefly, Max Weber but also Herbert Butterfield, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, John Gray and—in an intriguing neo-Marxist inflection—Chantal Mouffe.31 Like the liberals I described as rationalists, conflict pluralists are people committed to a democratic polity and to constitutional rules of the game, the most important of which are a respect for legality and compromise where this is possible (sometimes it is not).32 Such rules of the game

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are menaced and then destroyed by single-party rule, arbitrary governance, and all attempts to monopolize the political space with one ideology. But unlike liberal rationalists, conflict pluralists are convinced that “collisions of value”33 and clashes between rival conceptions of “the primary goods of life”34—liberty and equality, religion and secularism, conservatism and socialism—are inescapable. No universal consensus on values is possible (consider views of abortion or same-sex marriage), not least because values collide even within the human heart, as honesty so often collides with compassion and justice with peace. Similarly, conflict pluralists believe that political rationality is situational and thus is in good part incapable of stretching across human values or mediating between those “gods and demons” that hold the threads of a person’s life.35 Man, says Pascal, is a thinking reed, and our dignity consists in thought. But rationality is a weak reed in politics. The reasoning man is simultaneously a creature of passion and culture, and what is deemed to be rational is itself predicated on conflicting estimates of the primary goods of life. Rationalist models—either an Aristotelian “finalist” conception of the Good or a Kantian version that is today cashed out as “deliberative democracy”—are unpolitical for a simple reason: modern people do not agree on the authentic ends of politics and, short of violence and propaganda, will never agree. Nor do they concur about which values are the most important to defend. Accordingly, politics understood through the prism of consensual rationality and its antinomies (mental disease, phobia, irrationality, immorality) appear to contradict the nature of modern life.36 In the real world of politics, hostility is the other side of reciprocity, exclusion the other side of inclusion, and both are likely to endure so long as humans live side by side. For this reason, conflict pluralists avoid invoking the concept of Humanity in a political context because they are fearful of its dehumanizing tendency. On the flip side, those who claim to represent Humanity typically confiscate what it means to be human, conflating justice and the good with one appropriation of it, and seeking to impose one version of morality as if it were a universal code. 37 Conflict pluralists also have relatively low expectations of social solidarity; civil peace and the acceptance of the rules of the pluralist game are sufficient for democratic politics to operate. For conflict pluralists, such notions as deliberative democracy, or a transparent and unconstrained speech situation that is capable of eliminating partisanship, or a third way, or a state without enemies, or one nation politics, are all pipe dreams. They

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are also potentially dangerous where deemed normative by political and cultural elites.38 To the extent that politics is believed to have only one legitimate and rational shape, those who disagree with that shape must be irrational, perverse, or ignorant fanatics. In a recent article for The American Interest, Peter Berger cites the 17th-century jurist Hugo Grotius—a pious Dutch Protestant himself—as laying down a fundamental rule of international law: etsi Deus non daretur, which means “as if God were not given,” that is, “as if God did not exist.” Only such a formulation, Grotius believed, would enable regimes based on radically different religious convictions— Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim—to agree to certain common principles of restraint.39 In a similar way, conflict pluralists are persuaded that when discussing politics it would be better to behave as if Reason did not exist, or at least to eschew Reason as a trump card and arbiter of political and moral disagreement. Moreover, as already suggested, a political vision that emphasizes consensus and rational governance flattens the political landscape as parties become increasingly like one another, and offers no substantive alternatives to voters, inducing them to turn to more extreme alternatives. And extremism is, of course, dangerous for any democratic polity. For the conflict pluralist, a major purpose of politics is to keep it within the bounds of adversarial relations, to avoid it decaying into enmity and brute antagonism. Those bounds are both respected and strengthened when a variety of constituencies are able to voice divergent views without those views being depicted as irrational. Conflict pluralism, finally, is a tougher idea than diversity, now a magic word among European cultural elites. We have become habituated to the view that the more diverse populations are, the better and ultimately the happier and more enriched they are. It is a familiar and comforting argument. Conflict pluralist theorists are less sanguine about the nature of human intercourse, believing that diversity is just as likely to create conflict as to salve it. The divergence of values in modern life, bereft of a unifying religious cosmos of faith, is neither pathological nor conjunctural, nor is it likely to diminish. Indeed, globalization is likely to intensify this divergence as people rub up against rival views of life and alien communities to which they were never exposed before and which offend or threaten them. At the same time, conflict pluralism is not a condition in which every type of conflict is permissible. The boundary of conflict is that it takes place within pluralist conditions. In other words, a political movement that refused to share the political space with other groupings, and that refused to accept

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a legal order in which the rules of the game enable a defeated party to become a winning one in the future, would have transgressed the pluralist order. It would be tantamount to a fascist or totalitarian movement against which conflict pluralists would be engaged in a fight to the death. Upholding the dignity of disagreement, recognizing that partisanship is both normal and legitimate, and conceiving of one’s pluralist opponents as adversaries to fight rather than as enemies to destroy: these are the core elements of conflict pluralism. They in turn can all be contested, but hopefully not unmasked as one more lamentable chapter in the story of human irrationalism.

1. Part of the research on which this article is based was generously supported by a Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Committee. Fund Code: PF14A1. 2. The Rivers North of the Future. The Testament of Ivan Illich as Told to David Cayley (Toronto: Anansi, 2005), xix. 3. Tony Judt, “Arthur Koestler, the Exemplary Intellectual,” in Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (New York: Penguin, 2008), 25–43, at 26. 4. Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), 1–52. 5. Ruth Grant, Hypocrisy and Integrity. Machiavelli, Rousseau, and the Ethics of Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997), 70, 76, 84, 92–4, 98–9, 117, 120, 170. 6. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. and ed. G. D. H. Cole, revised and augmented by J. H. Brumfitt and John C. Hall, updated by P. D. Jimack (Everyman/Dent: London, 1993 (1913)), 6–7). Transparency is also central to Rousseau’s conception of himself. He proclaims the transparency of his heart, limpid as crystal, yet unseen by a corrupted society that throws a veil over reality. See the discussion in Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Transparency and Obstruction, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, with an introduction by Robert J. Morrissey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988 (1971)), 254. 7. “Situations of extreme national peril do not invariably bring a people to revolutionary Terror. And while the revolutionary Terror that gripped France at war with the European monarchies always conjured up that peril to justify its existence, it actually raged independently of the military situation . . . The truth is that the Terror was an integral part of revolutionary ideology, which, just as it shaped action and political endeavor during that period, gave its own meaning to ‘circumstances’ that were largely of its own making. There were no revolutionary circumstances; there was a Revolution that fed on circumstances,” François Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution, trans. Elborg Forster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981 (1978)), 62. 8. Hobbes delineates a tripartite classification of persons: “The natural, whose actions are his own; the artificial, whose actions are owned by another; and the fictitious, to whom the ability to own actions is granted by pretence.” Leviathan (1651) ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 111–12. See also David Runciman, Pluralism and the Personality of the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 7. 9. Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963), 107–108. 10. Quoted in R. R. Palmer, Twelve Who Ruled. The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941), 157. “These monsters must be

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unmasked and exterminated,” p. 163, was Robespierre’s policy toward the Girondist revolt in Lyon. 11. J-P. Marat. Les pamphlets, ed. C. Vellay (Paris: E. Fasquelle, 1911), quotes from p. 123 (1790) and p. 325 (1792). 12. For a synopsis of pertinent literature, see Henry C. Clark, “Unmasking in the Political Culture of the French Revolution: A Review Essay,” in Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques 17 (3) 1991: 307–324. 13. Compare Karl Mannheim’s distinction between “particular” and “total” ideology in Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, trans. L. Wirth and E. Shils (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1936 (1929)), 55–64. 14. All parties, that is, except the theorist. Peter Sloterdijk argues that one germ of “deception theory” during the Enlightenment was the discovery that everyone, including the informed observer, was caught up in “artfulness.” Such self-reflective ideology, as Sloterdijk calls it, unlike later theories of false consciousness, concedes that the opponent is of equal intelligence to his critic; it is just that “the enlightener outdoes the deceiver by rethinking and unmasking (entlarven) the latter’s maneuvers.” Critique of Cynical Reason, trans. Michael Eldred, foreword by Andreas Huyssen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987 (1983)), 29–30. This is not the way that political unmaskers think, least of all the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks. 15. Luc Boltanski, On Critique. A Sociology of Emancipation, trans. Gregory Elliott (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011 (2009), 2. When contrasted with what Boltanski calls “standard” sociological theories that study society in general, critical theories of domination investigate “social orders, integrating them into a ‘coherent totality’ and unmasking their contradictions,” p. 3. 16. Interpretive inversion is also capable of taking a very different form, which Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quntilianus, A.D. 35–100), the Roman rhetorician, called paradiastole. This form elevates an apparent vice into a virtue or at the very least a neutral action, for instance, presenting the vices of prodigality as liberality, avarice as scrupulousness, negligence as simplicity. Aristotle, on whom Quintilian drew, had made the same point and also argued that a reverse rhetorical technique could be employed “to depreciate the virtues, as when we denigrate the behavior of a habitually cautious man by claiming that he is really a person of cold and designing temperament.” Quentin Skinner, “Rhetoric and Conceptual Change,” Finnish Yearbook of Political Thought 3 (1999): 60–73. 17. Arthur Koestler, a member of the German Communist Party during the thirties, was an acute observer of this technique. He expressly referred to it as “unmasking.” See Koestler in The God that Failed: A Confession, ed. R. H. Crossman, with a foreword by David C. Engerman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001 (1950)) pp. 31, 34-5, 48, 55. For a similar recollection, see Sidney Hook, Out of Step. An Unquiet Life in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 276. 18. The mask remains a ubiquitous metaphor for insincerity and dissimulation. See, for instance, Walter Russell Mead, “Putin: The Mask Comes Off, But Will Anybody Care?” The American Interest, March 15, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2014/03/15/putin-the-mask-comes-off-but-will-anybody-care/. 19. Dominique Vidalon, “France’s far right makes local gains; voters punish Hollande,” Reuters, March 23, 2014, Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/ 2014/03/23/us-france-elections idUSBREA2M03W20140323. 20. Michelle Goldberg, “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars,” The Nation, February 17, 2014, pp. 12–17, at 14. See also Julie Burchill, “How Feminism Fell Apart,” The Spectator, February 22. 2014, Kindle version. 21. Simon Kuper, “Another outbreak of Blair disease,” Financial Times, March 22–24, 2014, Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/c1fc1f6a-afc3-11e3-9cd100144feab7de.html#axzz2wsgnm6pP. Kuper tell us, however, that even Bush has earned 15 million US dollars for his speechifying. 22. Arendt, On Revolution, 290 n. 16.

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23. Jonathan Kay, Among the Truthers: A Journey through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground (New York: HarperCollins, 2011). 24. Timur Kuran, Private Truths, Public Lies. The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995). 25. “Only 19 per cent of Europeans think immigration has been good for their countries. More than half (57 per cent) say their countries have ‘too many foreigners.’ The more immigration a country has had, the higher the antipathy to immigration grows. 73 per cent of French people think their country has too many immigrants, as do 69 per cent of the British.” Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. Immigration, Islam, and the West (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 14. For more recent data, see Paul Collier, Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 26. Putnam’s broader findings show that anomie and isolation, rather than social hatred, are the principal consequences of ethnic diversity in the American communities that have most of it. Living in a diverse area prompts withdrawal from collective life, as individuals hunker down and retreat into their shells like turtles. Even controlling for equally poor (or equally rich) and equally crime-ridden (or equally safe) neighborhoods, “greater ethnic diversity is associated with less trust in neighbors,” regardless of skin color (ibid. 153). Putnam also finds that the most tolerant communities, the ones that are most open to and positive about the value of diversity, are communities and neighborhoods that are the least diverse. So, for instance, “inter-racial trust” is relatively high in homogenous South Dakota and relatively low in heterogeneous San Francisco or Los Angeles. Robert D. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture. Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.aimlessgromar.com/wp-content/uploads/ 2013/12/j-1467-9477-2007-00176-x.pdf. On Putnam’s view of the benefits of diversity, see http://www.ncl.org/publications/ncr/98-1/Putnam.pdf. 27. On the different principles underlying the French debates on the headscarf and the burqa, see Peter Baehr and Daniel Gordon, “From Securalism to Reciprocity: Banning the Veil in France and Beyond,” e-International Relations, September 16, 2013. Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.e-ir.info/2013/09/16/from-secularism-to-reciprocity-banning-the-veil-in-france-and-beyond/. 28. “Catholic Adoption Services,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnightfor-freedom/upload/Catholic-Adoption-Services.pdf. 29. Chantal Mouffe, On the Political (London: Routledge, 2005), 12–13, 74–5. 30. John Gray, “Modus Vivendi” in John Gray, Gray’s Anatomy. Selected Writings (Toronto: Random House, 2013), 35; cf. 49. John Gray’s critique of liberal rationalism is indispensable. 31. Mouffe’s “agonal pluralism” is a version of what I am here calling conflict pluralism. I do not include Arendt among conflict pluralists because her view of the political hinges not on antagonism and value conflict—fundamental to conflict pluralists—but on discussion and freedom; she also expressly repudiates the Weberian idea of politics as turning on leadership and violence. 32. Raymond Aron, Democracy and Totalitarianism: A Theory of Political Regimes, trans. Valence Ionescu (New York: Praeger, 1969 (1965)), 47. 33. Isaiah Berlin, “The Pursuit of the Ideal” (1988) in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, ed. Henry Hardy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 13. 34. John Gray, “Modus Vivendi” in John Gray, Gray’s Anatomy. Selected Writings (Toronto: Random House, 2013), 37. 35. Max Weber, “The Vocation of Science” (1917) in The Essential Weber, ed. Sam Whimster (London: Routledge, 2004), 287. Weber offered the most extensive and radical version of conflict pluralism so far available. It encompassed the competing demands of great powers and small states, life orders or value spheres (aesthetic, erotic, political, scientific), as well as the common or garden variety of conflicts among political ideologies.

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Weber observed that attempts to stabilize the world on the basis of normative commitments deemed rational—a “cosmic ethical ‘rationality’”—are their own undoing because they attract the attention of intellectuals who are all too ready to show the “eternal and unresolvable conflict of ethical maxims” that all such grandiose rationalities conceal. See also Ahmad Sadri, Max Weber’s Sociology of Intellectuals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 29. 36. Aron, op.cit., 14–25. 37. The danger of this view at the international level was well articulated by Herbert Butterfield. In a series of lectures delivered shortly after the end of World War II, Butterfield offered a stern rebuke to statesmen, often committed Christians like himself, who prosecuted what he called “wars for righteousness” and which he dubbed the “last extremity of moral indignation.” A historian of the early modern world, Butterfield was well-versed in the religious wars that preceded the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and in which, according to the agents concerned, “wickedness demands utter destruction” (Christianity, Diplomacy, and War, 1952: 27). His fear was that such righteousness could turn even more deadly in a world equipped with nuclear weapons and other advanced technologies of mass killing. For an anticipation of Butterfield’s argument, see Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political, trans. and with an introduction by George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 36. A last war for humanity, says Schmitt, quickly degrades into a view of the antagonist as a moral monster to be exterminated, as distinct from an enemy who must be pushed back “into his borders.” 38. Mouffe, op.cit., p. 59. Anthony Giddens has described the European Union as a “community of fate,” by which he means “that citizens and political leaders across Europe have become aware”—as a result of recent crises—“of their interdependence.” “Turning the Union into a community of fate in a positive sense means building solidarity and feelings of belonging to the EU as a whole rather than only to its constituent nations or regions.” Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014). The mandarin formulation betrays the problem inherent in this idea. Solidarity and feelings of belonging emerge among like-minded groupings with sentiments in common; they are not something “built.” Even propaganda presupposes a basis of common recognition that can be manipulated. As Giddens frankly acknowledges, no one marches for “Europe.” 39. Peter Berger, “How to Live in a (Supposedly) Secular Age,” The American Interest, March 11, 2014, accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.the-americaninterest.com/berger/2014/03/11/how-to-live-in-a-supposedly-secular-age/.

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Did Eichmann Think? Roger Berkowitz This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on September 7, 2014. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=14259. Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer is the new English translation of Bettina Stangneth’s exhaustive history of the life of Adolf Eichmann. Her book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to try to understand Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi lieutenant colonel who was responsible for the logistics of the Holocaust. Stangneth has pieced together the scattered transcripts of the interviews Eichmann gave with the Dutch Nazi Willem Sassen in multiple archives; she has tracked down full essays and fragments of Eichmann’s own writing in mislabeled files that have never been considered before; and above all, she has pieced together the written record of Eichmann’s life with a diligence and obsessiveness that is uncanny and likely never to be repeated. Stangneth knows more about Adolf Eichmann than any other person alive and probably more than any person in history, past or future. Stangneth writes that her book has two aims. The first is “to present all the available material, as well as the challenges that come with it.” The second is to engage in a “dialogue with Hannah Arendt, and not simply because [she] first came to this topic many years ago through Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Stangneth traces her interest in Eichmann to Arendt’s book, a book that, in Stangneth’s words, “had the courage to form a clear judgment, even at the risk of knowing too little.” Her plunge into the depths of Eichmann’s soul is an effort to reckon with the power and provocation of Arendt’s judgment.1 Stangneth goes to great lengths to praise Arendt in interviews and in her writing, citing Arendt as an inspiration and model for fearless and critical thinking about difficult and horrible events. In the end, however, Stangneth concludes that as brilliant as Arendt’s book on the Eichmann trial is, Arendt herself was mistaken in her characterization of Eichmann as banal: “one of the most significant insights to be gained from studying Adolf Eichmann is reflected in Arendt: even someone of average intelligence can induce a highly intelligent person to defeat herself with her own weapon: her desire to see her expectations fulfilled.” In other words,

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Arendt expected Eichmann to be thoughtless; in concluding that he was banal, she was fooled by him.

II. One hardly recognizes Stangneth’s respectful and scholarly tone in the avalanche of reviews (already two in the New York Times) suggesting that her book “shatters” Arendt’s argument. Not all reviewers are as partisan as Richard Wolin is in the Jewish Review of Books. Wolin, who has spent a lifetime trying to discredit Arendt with ad hominem attacks that tar her with anti-Semitism by way of a youthful affair with Martin Heidegger, once again trots out the canard about Arendt blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. He also claims that Arendt thought Eichmann was not a criminal, citing out of context an interview she gave to the journalist Jürgen Fest. In that interview, Arendt says: [Eichmann] is a new type of criminal, I agree with you on that, though I’d like to qualify it. When we think of a criminal, we imagine someone with criminal motives. And when we look at Eichmann, he doesn’t actually have any criminal motives. Not what is usually understood by ‘criminal motives.’ He wanted to go along with the others. He wanted to say ‘we,’ and going-along with the rest and wanting-to-say-we like this were quite enough to make the greatest of all crimes possible. The Hitler’s, after all, really aren’t the ones who are typical in this kind of situation— they’d be powerless without the support of others.2 Wolin reduces Arendt’s effort to explain how it is that Eichmann was a new type of criminal without the usual criminal motives to the claim that “Eichmann had no criminal motives.” In doing so, he seeks to use Stangneth’s book about Eichmann as a Trojan horse to further his unending campaign against Arendt. Stangneth herself is more circumspect. For one thing, she argues that Eichmann’s words—even his words in Argentina—are never to be taken at face value. Citing Arendt and Shlomo Kulcsár, Stangneth argues that Eichmann did not write in a bureaucratic style and that his German language “was a roller coaster of thoughtless horror, cynicism, whining selfpity, unintentional comedy, and incredible human wretchedness.” As a result, his texts are deceitful and two-faced: “the reader must constantly

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exercise her judgment.” In other words, Eichmann lies and exaggerates and obscures. Thus, we cannot “simply present the Argentina Papers as evidence.” Even in Argentina, and not only on trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann wrote in such a way as “to hinder historical research.” He speaks to Sassen and writes “in order to justify himself.” He lies. Stangneth’s account is less simply a presentation of new evidence and more an attempt to parse that evidence, to see through it, and develop her interpretation of it.3 Thus, to simply claim, as Mark Lilla4 claims in the New York Review of Books, that had Arendt known the Sassen interviews, she “would have to concede” that her interpretation of Eichmann was wrong, is to mistake the content of the Sassen papers. One problem with Lilla’s argument is that Arendt was aware of precisely those quotes from the Sassen interviews that Lilla and others argue prove she was wrong. Partial transcriptions of the interviews—including the quotes Lilla cites—were published in two issues of Life magazine in 1960. Arendt read those interviews; she suspected they were not fully reliable but understood them to give a sense of Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, his boastfulness, and stupidity—all congruent with the 70 pages of Eichmann’s 1956 memoir written in Argentina that she also read. In short, Arendt had seen many of the damning quotes from the Sassen interviews and concluded that, if anything, they supported her interpretation. Lilla’s argument that the Sassen papers show that Arendt got Eichmann wrong must be made on its merits, not on assertions of her ignorance of essentials of which she was not ignorant. And Stangneth’s book in no way suggests that any straightforward reading of the Sassen interviews makes that case. On the contrary, Stangneth makes two key claims: first, Arendt did not have enough information available to her; and, second, that partly as a result of her lack of information, Arendt was fooled by Eichmann. Stangneth’s argument—while free of the hyperbole that mars the work of Wolin, Lilla, and Deborah Lipstadt—does support the dominant scholarly opinion among historians that can be summed up by Christopher Browning’s statement: “Arendt grasped an important concept but not the right example.”5 Eichmann Before Jerusalem adds a mountain of evidence to show that Adolf Eichmann was not merely an obedient clerk, a mindless bureaucrat, or a banal desk murderer. After this book, we can, one hopes, finally put such a silly argument to rest. Of course Arendt’s critics have long insisted that this was Arendt’s argument and thus point to Stangneth’s book as evidence that Arendt was wrong. But this is simply sloppy reading. As I have argued in the New York Times, this is based on a fundamental “Misreading

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of Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Arendt clearly rejects Eichmann’s portrayal of himself while on trial in Jerusalem as a mere cog in the Nazi machinery or as a humble bureaucrat simply following orders. The common misperception that Arendt thought Eichmann was either merely a bureaucrat following orders or simply a cog mindlessly carrying out his duties emerges largely from a conflation of Arendt’s conclusions with those of Stanley Milgram. The Yale psychologist was inspired by the Eichmann trial to ask test subjects to assist researchers in training students by administering what they thought were potentially lethal shocks to students who answered incorrectly. The test subjects largely did as they were instructed. Milgram invoked Arendt when he concluded that his experiments showed most people would follow orders to do things they thought wrong. After witnessing hundreds of ordinary people submit to authority in our own experiments, I must conclude that Arendt’s conception of the banality of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine. . . . ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.6 For Milgram, the truth of the banality of evil is that all of us have a bit of Eichmann in ourselves; put in a similar situation, most of us would act as he did. While we may want people to act differently, there is a deep-seated human tendency to obey those in authority. Normal people, Milgram concludes, will obey unjust and even fundamentally evil orders from a superior whom they trust. Arendt rightly insisted that Milgram never understood her. Against Milgram’s claim that obedience within bureaucratic systems carried diminished responsibility, Arendt argued, “obedience and support are the same.”7 Eichmann was not simply obeying orders; Arendt saw that he supported the regime and he did so willingly. It is because Eichmann was a willing participant in the Holocaust that Arendt argues he should be put to death for his inhuman crimes.

III. Stangneth knows enough not to conflate Arendt with Milgram; where Arendt goes wrong, in Stangneth’s telling, is in her argument that Eichmann was thoughtless. She writes:

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And although Hannah Arendt may have been right to point out the ‘macabre humor’ with which horror sometimes tips over into comedy, in light of the Argentine documents, her characterization of Eichmann’s ‘inability to speak’ and ‘inability to think’ seems insupportable. Eichmann’s words in Argentina, like those of the other participants, weren’t thoughtless drivel but consistent speech based on a complete system of thought. They were, we might say, judgments of excess.8 Stangneth is correct that Arendt argues that Eichmann did not think. This is the core of Arendt’s claim that Eichmann—undoubtedly an evil man who in Arendt’s judgment deserves to be killed and wiped off the face of the earth—represents a new way in which evil can appear in the world, one that is more dangerous and more terrifying than traditional appearances of evil. While Stangneth agrees with Arendt about the importance of this new form of banal and thoughtless evil, she argues that her interpretation of the evidence she has uncovered shows Eichmann to have been thoughtful, rather than thoughtless. Stangneth shows that Eichmann was, at least by the 1940s, an ideologically committed Nazi anti-Semite who energetically innovated in order to fulfill his role in the Final Solution. The most persuasive evidence for this claim is the long diatribe Eichmann unleashes in the last of the interviews with Sassen in Argentina, which took place in 1957. This is the only sustained quotation from the Sassen interviews that Stangneth provides in her book, and it is the best evidence for the correct claim that Eichmann was an evil Nazi ideologue. The quote runs three pages, but in part it goes: I tell you this as a conclusion to our matters—I, ‘the cautious bureaucrat,’ that was me, yes, indeed. But I would like to expand on the issue of the ‘cautious bureaucrat,’ somewhat to my own detriment. This cautious bureaucrat was attended by a . . . a fanatical warrior, fighting for the freedom of my blood, which is my birthright, and I say here, just as I have said to you before: your louse that nips you, Comrade Sassen, does not interest me. My louse under my collar interests me. I will squash it. This is the same when it comes to my people. And the cautious bureaucrat, which of course I was, that is what I had been, also guided and inspired me: what benefits my people is a sacred order and a sacred law for me. Yes indeed.

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And now I want to tell you. . . . I have no regrets! I am certainly not going to bow down to that cross! . . . It would be too easy, and I could do it cheaply for the sake of current opinion . . . for me to deeply regret it, for me to pretend that a Saul has become a Paul. I tell you, Comrade Sassen, I cannot do that. That I cannot do, because I am not willing to do it, because I balk inwardly at saying that we did anything wrong. No. I have to tell you quite honestly that if of the 10.3 million Jews that Korherr identified, as we now know, we had killed 10.3 million, I would be satisfied, and would say, good, we have destroyed an enemy.9 In large parts, these quotations were published in Life Magazine in 1960 and were thus known to Arendt. But Stangneth supplements them with other, unknown quotations and offers essential context from Eichmann’s previously unknown 1956 autobiography, The Others Spoke, Now I Want to Speak! As Stangneth writes, Eichmann speaks “with the self-assurance of a demagogue.” His basic form of writing and thinking is the monologue: “Eichmann’s preferred form was clearly the monologue, a speech with no interruptions. In a monologue, he could lay out his hermetic interpretation of the world and abandon himself to the pathos of his own language.”10 Eichmann reads books voraciously, but not to learn from them, just to support his own theories and justifications. “What Eichmann looked for between the covers of a book was not confirmation of his thinking but material to back up his lies.”11 His thinking and argumentation were immune to facts. In both Argentina and Israel, Eichmann engaged in endless and unending efforts of self-justification to claim and prove that he was “neither a murderer nor a mass murderer.”12 After all, “Eichmannism,” as the psychologists who examined him in Israel explained, “is essentially monologism.”13 In his writing and speaking, Eichmann found a feeling of power—there was a “sense of triumph” in his writing.14 But above all, his writing and thinking were subsumed in lying narratives and free from the reach of inconvenient facts. Eichmann will not apologize for working assiduously to eliminate the Jews from Europe. On the contrary, he berates himself for having been inadequate to the task: “I too am partly to blame for the fact that the real, complete elimination, perhaps foreseen by some authority, or the conception that I had in mind, could not be carried out.” Stangneth argues that “For Eichmann, the idea that the war had been a total, global one, in which

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the goal was to eliminate the enemy, was a simple statement of fact. His radical biologism led to the belief that a ‘final victory’ was imperative: the unavoidable war between the races would leave only one remaining.”15 Stangneth shows that Eichmann combined a super-nationalistic allegiance to Germany with a historical and biological determinism that saw the world as a “war between the races” in which only one could emerge victorious. He internalized the Nazi ideology that life was a struggle for survival among the races, that “the struggle among the races was in essence a struggle for resources,” and that the only thing “that mattered was one’s own people. ‘What is right, is what aids the people.’”16 Eichmann became, as a result, much more than the cautious bureaucrat that he always had been. He became a “warrior, fighting for the freedom of [his] blood.” In Stangneth’s telling, Eichmann thought quite hard, and his thinking was at the root of his evil deeds.

IV. As good as Stangneth’s nuanced and exhaustive picture of Adolf Eichmann is, she makes no effort in her book to understand what Arendt meant by thinking and thus by the thoughtlessness that is the root of the “banality of evil”—a term that Arendt used only once, on the final page of her book, and that, admittedly, is difficult to parse. Stangneth mentions Arendt on fewer than 10 pages in her book and never engages Arendt’s argument. Stangneth’s argument against Arendt proceeds on the assumption that Arendt’s thesis is simple, known, and clear. But this is hardly the case, and the reduction of Arendt’s complicated and subtle account of the banality of evil to a well-worn cliché is a grave disservice. It is important to recognize that much of what Stangneth writes accords with Arendt’s own account of Eichmann, so much so that Stangneth lauds Arendt for seeing with an insight others had not. It is worth rehearsing the similarities in their accounts before considering the differences. First, both Stangneth and Arendt insist that Eichmann is evil. This simple fact is too often forgotten. Arendt not only defends the Israeli Court’s decision to hang Eichmann, she also writes in her imagined judgment of Eichmann that he was so evil that, as she addresses him, “no one, that is no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you.”

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Second, Stangneth illuminates Arendt’s account of Eichmann’s enormous pride, that “bragging had always been one of [Eichmann’s] cardinal vices.” Stangneth’s account of Eichmann’s early Nazi career argues that he “claimed a place in world history for himself ” and that he cultivated the image of a “young god. . . . His pride is obvious.” Eichmann imagined himself the “Czar of the Jews” and the “Jewish Pope,” and he called himself a “bloodhound.” Both Arendt and Stangneth emphasize Eichmann’s fantasy of his own importance. Third, both Arendt and Stangneth insist that Eichmann is an inveterate liar. To take but one example that is frequently misrepresented, Arendt disbelieves Eichmann’s claims that he had not been an anti-Semite, and had begun his career by seeking to help the Jews. She never says he wasn’t an ant-Semite. (Such words are, however, put in her mouth in the movie Hannah Arendt.) At the same time, it is true that Arendt does not emphasize Eichmann’s anti-Semitism to the extent that Stangneth does, and that Arendt does not have as much evidence of his anti-Semitism. One virtue of Stangneth’s account is that she supplies important details that help understand Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, which, as was typical of many Nazis, was based neither on religious hatred nor a conspiratorial belief in Jewish world domination. Stangneth shows that Eichmann denied the “blood libel” (the false accusation that Jews had killed Christian children and used their blood in rituals) and rejected as a forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic tract (and a czarist forgery). Rather, Eichmann justified genocide and the extermination of the Jews by appealing to the “fatherland morality that beat within him.” He spoke of the “necessity of a total war” and relied on his oath to Hitler and the Nazi flag, a bond he calls “the highest duty.” Eichmann was an antiSemite because he was a committed Nazi, and Nazism was incomprehensible without anti-Semitism.

V. The true disagreement between Arendt and Stangneth is the following claim made by the former: “the trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were terribly and terrifyingly normal.”17 Arendt reported on the disturbing fact that struck her—and many others, including the Israeli judges—that Eichmann was decidedly

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average. The evil of Eichmann’s deeds was indisputable, and Arendt is fully convinced that he should be hanged for his crimes. Yet, notwithstanding what he had done, Eichmann’s motivations seemed to her to be grounded in typical bourgeois drives. He was ambitious. He sought the recognition that came from success and the affirmation that flowed from belonging to a movement. He was, she concluded, not a monster, not stupid, but thoughtless. And it was this “absence of thinking—which is so ordinary an experience in our everyday life, where we have hardly the time, let alone the inclination, to stop and think—” that Arendt came to see as the dangerous wellspring of evil in modern times.18 In some ways, Arendt overstates her case. Eichmann did not act simply from the bourgeois drive of safety and success. He was not a mere vacuum salesman who accidentally became a Nazi. Arendt sees in Eichmann the “déclassé son of a solid middle-class family.” She presents Eichmann as someone “from a humdrum life without significance and consequence” who joined the Nazi Party and found meaning and importance as part of a movement. She insists, probably rightly, that “he did not enter the Party out of conviction” and, probably wrongly, that he was likely not “ever convinced by it.”19 Stangneth argues, with good reason, that Eichmann was indeed a convinced Nazi. He believed that history was a contest of the races, that Jews had been successful for centuries because of their skill, and that for Aryans to survive and be victorious, the Jews had to be eliminated. “Eichmann completely rejected traditional ideas of morality in favor of the no-holdsbarred struggle for survival that nature demanded. He identified entirely with a way of thinking that said any form of contemplation without clear reference to blood and soil was outdated and, most of all, dangerous.” This was less a hatred of Jews than an ideological conviction in the racial ideology of a warrior race. Nevertheless, it was a firmly held conviction. And Eichmann believed that it justified his participation first in the emigration of Jews, then in their forced expulsion, and finally in their extermination. Over and over, he expressed his courageous willingness to die for his beliefs. He saw himself as a warrior, someone who was willing to sacrifice his human feelings for the greater importance of victory of the German Reich. He acted out of a strong and unwavering commitment to Nazis and a belief in victory. What is missing in Stangneth’s account is any real attempt to understand what Arendt meant when she wrote that Eichmann was thoughtless. To understand Arendt, we must first admit that she was aware of much of

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the most damning evidence that Stangneth has “uncovered.” Stangneth admits this in passing but suggests that Arendt didn’t take such evidence seriously. The facts, however, are otherwise, as Arendt clearly relies on the excerpts from the Sassen reports that she had read, including the most damning passages that Stangneth reproduces in her book and that I quoted above. Arendt’s argument about Eichmann’s thoughtlessness makes sense of the fact that she was aware of his deeply held convictions. When Arendt calls Eichmann thoughtless and banal, she means that the decisive “flaw in Eichmann’s character was his almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view”.20 Eichmann was not stupid. He was in fact quite skilled at working within the Nazi administrative hierarchy to enlist resources, develop creative solutions, and convince superiors to aid him in his assigned tasks. His banality was not stupidity. But it does have an element of what Arendt calls “Dumbness.” Here is how she explains Eichmann’s banality and thoughtlessness to the journalist Joachim Fest: During the war, Ernst Junger comes across some German peasants, and the peasant had just seen Russian prisoners coming out of the camps, of course completely starved, and the peasant says to Junger: “Ja, one can see clearly that these are sub-humans—like cattle: They eat the pigs’ food.” You see, this story has an outrageous dumbness. The man does not see that that is what people do who have been starved, isn’t that true, and everyone does it. This dumbness has something really revolting. Eichmann was very intelligent, but he had this dumbness. And that is what I actually meant by banality. There is no depth—this is not demonic! This is simply an unwillingness to even imagine what is actually up with another—is not it?21 Eichmann’s failure to think was a failure of imagination, a failure to see humanity in others, and a failure to see outside his own blinkered worldview. His thoughtlessness made Eichmann blind to the basic human fact of plurality. That is why Arendt’s final judgment of Eichmann is that he must be hanged and expelled from the earth. Such a failure to think from the perspective of others, such dumbness, is what allowed Eichmann to confide in and seek understanding from his Israeli interrogator, Avner Less. It is also what allowed Eichmann to justify the extermination camps with the cliché that it was war between the races

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and the self-serving belief that the Jews would have done the same to Nazis. It was his incapacity to see, from the perspective of others, the insanity of his ideological convictions that Arendt called his inability to think. It is this thoughtlessness, Arendt argues, that allowed Eichmann and people like him to carry out one of the greatest crimes in history. The greatest example Arendt offers of Eichmann’s inability to think from the standpoint of others was his account of his work in Vienna, where, in his words, “[h]e and his men and the Jews were all ‘pulling together,’ and whenever there were any difficulties, the Jewish functionaries would come running to get him to ‘unburden their hearts,’ to tell him ‘all their grief and sorrow,’ and to ask for his help.” From Eichmann’s monomaniacal point of view, he was there to help them because the Nazis had decided to make the German Reich judenrein. It was a great piece of good luck, Arendt notes ironically, that the Jews wanted to leave as well. And Eichmann’s job was to help them, even as he stripped them of property and dignity. Eichmann was thrilled that he “could ‘do justice to both parties.’”22 Arendt was shocked that at “the trial, he never gave an inch when it came to this part of the story.” It is this “empty talk” and his reliance on clichés that allows Eichmann to live in his hermetically sealed fantasy world that Arendt finds both shocking and also thoughtless. “The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected to his inability to think, namely to think from the standpoint of somebody else.”23 Eichmann’s inability to think from any but his own perspective helped create a fantasy world around him, one in which Nazis and Zionists were on the same team.

VI. If one takes seriously Stangneth’s challenge to Arendt, as one should, the real difficulty is reconciling Arendt’s view that Eichmann was at once a committed ideologue and thoughtless. Ideologues are hardly thoughtless, which is Stangneth’s point. The ideologue is convinced that one idea can explain the march of world history. Economic ideologues like Marxists believe that capital and class govern the path of history. Racial ideologues like Hitler are convinced that the eternal battle of the races is the key to history. For ideologues, a commitment to an idea, a dream, or a vision of an ideologically pure utopia drives them forward to ever more extreme

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efforts to actualize that utopia. Driven by an idea, such people are truly fanatical, capable of the most extreme and horrible means in the pursuit of an ideologically justified end. How does Arendt maintain that Eichmann was at once an ideologue and thoughtless? A clue can be found in “Ideology and Terror,” the concluding chapter that Arendt added to the second and all subsequent editions of her book The Origins of Totalitarianism. “Ideologies-isms,” she writes, “can explain everything and every occurrence by deducing it from a single premise. . . . An ideology is quite literally what its name indicates: it is the logic of an idea.”24 Ideologies are modern, she argues, because they pretend to scientific certainty but are in fact pseudoscientific, treating complex realities as conforming to the logic of a single idea. At the core of Arendt’s understanding of ideology is her claim that ideologies elevate logical consistency over all else, even over the content of the idea underlying the ideology. Hitler and his followers prided themselves on their “ice cold reasoning” just as Stalin boasted of the “mercilessness of his dialectics.” The ideologue, Arendt argues, “drive[s] ideological implications into extremes of logical consistency which, to the onlooker, looked preposterously ‘primitive’ and absurd: a ‘dying class’ consisted of people condemned to death; races that were ‘unfit to live’ were to be exterminated.”25 The force of Arendt’s argument is that the essence of the ideological totalitarian subject is Eichmann’s latching onto the “stringent logicality” of the movement, and his need to follow the movement’s logic to its darkest conclusions. In this sense, Arendt sees Eichmann as an ideologue. What matters to such ideologues is not specifically the idea for which they fight but the fight itself. “What distinguished these new totalitarian ideologists from their predecessors was that it was no longer primarily the ‘idea’ of the ideology—the struggle of classes and the exploitation of the workers or the struggle of races and the care for Germanic peoples— which appealed to them, but the logical process which could be developed from it.”26 In other words, for many ideologues, their commitments are less to a specific idea than to the need to belong to and find their meaning within a movement. When Arendt writes provocatively—and, I think, in a way that is overstated—that Eichmann had no motives, she does not mean that he lacked conviction. She means that his convictions were less attached to an idea than to the movement. “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist but people for whom the

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distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.”27 It is possible, Arendt argues, to be a fully convinced adherent of an ideological movement while also being thoughtless. It is true, then, as many have charged, that Arendt fitted Eichmann into her own theory of totalitarian action, but Arendt’s theory is not that Eichmann is a bureaucrat or a cog but that he was an ideologue in the totalitarian sense, someone who was ideologically committed less to a particular idea (the destruction of the Jews) than to the belonging to a movement that required the destruction of the Jews as its logical conclusion. What made such an ideological position so terrifying is that it allowed people who were otherwise normal to overcome their moral inhibitions by internalizing a rigidly logical belief system.

VII. The insight of Eichmann in Jerusalem is not that Eichmann was a basically good guy who got caught up following orders within a horrible system; rather, Arendt argues that Eichmann was a thoughtless, superficial, and banal individual. He was not stupid or dim-witted. When Arendt says he was thoughtless, she means that Eichmann could not and did not think from the perspectives of others. Locked in the logical coherence of his own simplified view of the world, Eichmann held fast to the truths that gave meaning to his fantastic version of the world. In short, Eichmann was a dedicated Nazi. He sought and worked for a Nazi victory, and he was willing to do anything and everything within his power to contribute to the cause. He did not think hard or at all about that cause; Arendt wonders if he really understood it. But Arendt understands that Eichmann’s thoughtlessness names his willingness to do anything for a cause. What drove Eichmann to become a dedicated mass murderer was less hatred than a deep need to serve the Nazi movement that gave his life weight and importance. Eichmann was a “joiner.” In his own words, Eichmann feared “to live a leaderless and difficult individual life,” in which he “would receive no directives from anybody.”28 Arendt insists that Eichmann’s professed fidelity to the Nazi cause “did not mean merely to stress the extent to which he was under orders, and ready to obey them; he meant to show what an ‘idealist’ he had always been.”29 An idealist, as she uses the word, is an ideologue, someone who will sacrifice his own

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moral convictions when they come in conflict with the “idea” of the movement that gives life meaning. What Arendt saw when she looked at Eichmann was that genocidal evil—perhaps the greatest evil in world history—was for the most part not carried out by fanatical monsters who seethe with hate. There were, of course, people possessed of a monstrous and unyielding hatred of Jews as well as Poles, Ukrainians, Roma, and homosexuals. Hitler too was not simply thoughtless in his obsessive drive to exterminate Jews. But Arendt argues that modern systems of administratively organized murder and criminality depend upon the collaboration and work of many people who are normal. But these collaborators are not simply bureaucrats, and they do not simply take orders. They are thoughtless ideological warriors who believe less in their ideology than in their need to believe in some ideology.

VIII. Whether Eichmann was, in the end, a rabid and fanatical anti-Semite committed to the idea of the destruction of the Jews—as Stangneth suggests but does not prove—or whether he was a lonely soul who found meaning in the Nazi movement and ideologically bound himself to the stone cold logic of its demands—as Arendt hypothesized—is a question that cannot be answered. The human soul is not an open book. Stangneth has given us a brilliantly researched book that makes Eichmann come alive in all his horror. But despite her own careful claims and the hyperbolic yelps of others, she has not shattered Arendt’s argument. And that is a good thing. For whatever the truth about Eichmann, Arendt’s argument deserves to be heard and considered. The hard truth of Eichmann in Jerusalem—one evaded by its critics and friends alike—is that modern evil has its source in the embrace of movements and causes, precisely the kind of commitments embraced by activists on both the left and the right. To embrace a movement is not simply to seek change; it is, too frequently, to find one’s own sense of meaning and purpose in the movement and, therefore, to prefer the coherence and victory of the movement to both factual and moral obstacles. Modern evil does not simply have its source in obedience to bureaucratic authority; evil today originates in the seduction of ideological conviction. In other words, evil originates in the neediness of lonely, alienated bourgeois people who live lives so devoid of higher meaning that they give

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themselves fully to movements. Such joiners are not stupid; they are not robots. But they are thoughtless in the sense that they abandon their independence, their capacity to think for themselves, and instead commit themselves absolutely to the fictional truth of the movement. It is futile to reason with them. They inhabit an echo chamber, having no interest in learning what others believe. It is this thoughtless commitment that permits idealists to imagine themselves as heroes and makes them willing to employ technological implements of violence in the name of saving the world.

1. Bettina Stangneth, Eichmann Before Jerusalem (New York: Knopf, 2013), xxiv–xxv. 2. Hannah Arendt and Joachim Fest, Eichmann war von empörender Dummheit, ed. Ursula Ludz and Thomas Wild (Munich: Piper, 2011) 38. 3. Stangneth, Eichmann Before Jerusalem, 196–8. 4. Mark Lilla, “Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth,” New York Review of Books (November 21, 2013). 5. Christopher Browning, “How Ordinary Germans Did It,” New York Review of Books (June 20, 2013). 6. Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009), 5–6.s 7. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, revised and enlarged (New York: Penguin, 1965, 1979), 279. 8. Stangneth, Eichmann Before Jerusalem, 196–8, 267–-68. 9. Ibid., 303-4. 10. Ibid., 231. 11. Ibid., 276. 12. Ibid., 203-204. 13. Ibid., 204. 14. Ibid., 205. 15. Ibid., 216. 16. Ibid., 218. 17. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 276. 18. Hannah Arendt, Life of the Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971, 1978), 4. 19. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 33. 20. Ibid., 47-48. 21. Arendt and Fest, Eichmann war von empörender Dummheit, 43-44. 22. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 48. 23. Ibid., 49. 24. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harvest/HBJ, 1951, 1973), 469. 25. Ibid., 471. 26. Ibid., 472. 27. Ibid., 474. 28. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 49. 29. Ibid., 42.

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Faith in Politics Ann Lauterbach

Ann Lauterbach originally delivered this essay during “A Panel Discussion on Faith and Politics,” presented by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College on April 9, 2014. In her most recent collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012), Marilynne Robinson argues for a form of ethical literacy. By this I mean that for Robinson, the link between faith and politics is an ethics, a teaching grounded in the close reading of texts, and an even closer obligation to think and act in relation to those readings. Robinson writes in the preface: “We now live in a political environment characterized by wolfishness and filled with blather. We have the passive pious, who feel they have proved their moral refinement in declaring the whole enterprise bankrupt, and we have the active pious, who agree with them, with the difference that they see some hope in a hastily arranged liquidation of cultural assets.” Prior to this stark assessment, she quotes Whitman’s “Democratic Vistas.” The locutions “wolfishness” and “blather” are of course his. During the course of the 10 essays in this book, Robinson constantly draws attention to language, both through quotation and in her scrupulous attention to linguistic distinctions that characterize her own writing, which often give rise to her contrarian ideas toward current assumptions and prejudices. She bemoans the loss of the word soul, which she takes to mean self-awareness. She interrogates the idea of liberalism and comes to an understanding of an ancient, historical mandate for generosity, repositioning John Calvin en route. Everywhere, she takes up received ideas as if they were living creatures that have grown impenetrable shells, and frees them from their prisons. An example: Like old Israel, the United States is often said to be legalistic. And for some reason this is taken to be a criticism and to identify a failing. It might better be thought of as an acknowledgment of the human propensity to sin and error, in tension with an active solicitude for human vulnerability to the effects of sin and error, the two embraced by an unusual awareness, as self-created and intentional societies, of a calling to be “good” societies.

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And, in another register, Words like “sympathy,” “empathy,” and “compassion” are overworked and overcharged—there is no word for the experience of seeing an embrace at a subway stop or hearing an argument at the next table in a restaurant. Every such instant has its own emotional coloration, which memory retains or heightens, and so the most sidelong, unintended moment becomes a part of what we have seen of the world. Then, I suppose, these moments, as they have seemed to us, constellate themselves into something a little like spirit, a little like a human presence in its mystery and distinctiveness. Elsewhere, she says, “The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world.” These quotes give you a sense of the unaffected clarity and daring of her writing, in which a delicate parsing and pleasure in nuance gives rise to what she calls, simply, “freedom of thought.” But perhaps my favorite passage comes in the essay “Austerity as Ideology,” in which she elucidates the ways in which we have come to collude reason with rationality. Since, as a poet, I think often about the notion that reason must include the affective dimension of experience, that is, be informed by it, I am particularly moved by Robinson’s articulation. In this passage, we see how what I am calling “ethical literacy” manifests how Marilynne Robinson’s “faith” in the efficacy of linguistic distinctions, her attention and care, might fold out into an accountable politics. She writes, . . . we have entered into a period of rationalist purgation. Rationalism and reason are antonyms, the first fixed and incurious, the second open and inductive. Rationalism is forever settling on one model of reality; reason tends toward an appraising interest in things as they come. Rationalism projects, and its projections typically fill it with alarm because of the inadequacy of its model, which, to the rationalist mind, appears as the perversity of the world. To this mind every problem is systemic, therefore vast and urgent. Rationalism is the ominum gatherum of resentment and foreboding, the ominum scatterum of everything of any kind that appears to stand in the way of a correction of reality back toward rational standards. Like paranoia, it all makes perfect sense, once its assumptions are granted. Again, like paranoia, it

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gathers evidence opportunistically and is utterly persuaded by it, fueling its own confidence, sometimes to the point of messianic certainty. Ideology is rational, a pure product of the human mind. I think that for Marilynne Robinson, “faith” might be the necessary component that undermines rationality and restores reason. Her writings provide a kind of conversion experience in which the secular mind is turned from its jaded hopelessness, its paranoia, wolfishness, and pious blather, toward a renewed faith in the great persuasions of the intimate and intricate readings of texts—books—both sacred and profane, which in turn inform relations between and among ourselves and our world. The obvious question “faith in what?” is, in my view, less important than the disposition Marilynne Robinson so valiantly espouses. She would want us, I think, to unfurl both words into their etymological banners: faith into trust, confidence, reliance, and credence, as well as belief; and politics back toward the Greek polis, the city, the community, as well as to the Aristotelian state of affairs, or governance, and so away from its current site as a venal blood sport, conscripted into the spectacle of faithless, rigid ideologies. I for one would want to change the title of this panel from “Faith and Politics” to “Faith in Politics,” where, following Robinson, the meaning of both words is understood to be in need of constant, vigilant, revision.

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Hannah Arendt and John U. Nef Jr. sit on a park bench on the Midway Plaisance in front of Harper Memorial Library at the University of Chicago, circa 1966. (Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago.)


The Courage to Refuse Eyal Press

Fifty-two years ago, in 1963, Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem, her seminal account of the trial of the Nazi official Adolf Eichmann. As Arendt concluded in the book, which was subtitled A Report on the Banality of Evil—a phrase that has since entered both popular and scholarly discourse—evil acts are not always perpetrated by abnormal madmen or perverted sadists. They are often carried out by people who are, as she memorably described Eichmann, “terrifyingly normal.” In the half-century since Arendt’s study appeared, the idea that ordinary people thrust into morally compromising situations are capable of doing terrible things has become painfully familiar, and painfully clear. The idea that equally ordinary people may find their courage in such circumstances is far less familiar. One reason for this, I think it’s safe to assume, is that such dissenters are comparatively rare: a lot more people, faced with evil and wrongdoing, fall silent and conform rather than find the courage to refuse. But I think another, arguably more important, reason is that in the literature on obedience and conformity, a kind of “situational reductionism” has come to prevail, whereby following malevolent orders is depicted less as a matter of choice and volition than as a product of situational pressures. This is the theme of the Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s bestselling book The Lucifer Effect, which describes the famous experiment Zimbardo oversaw in California in 1971, in which a group of college students was assigned to be guards in a mock prison and entrusted with unchecked power over their wards. As those familiar with the experiment know, within a few days these students started mercilessly abusing the volunteers in the experiment who were assigned to be prisoners. Take a group of seemingly decent people and put them in the wrong situation, Zimbardo concludes, and they will soon begin behaving like monsters, irrespective of their character traits. No doubt situational factors do exert a powerful hold over all of us. But I think we should be wary of the claim—often made, after the fact, by perpetrators and their enablers—that those who obey and conform merely did what anyone in their shoes would have; that on account of the circum-

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stances, they had no real choice, which makes it difficult to judge, much less hold accountable, those who invoke this claim. What do situational accounts fail to tell us? Let’s begin by considering a historical event: the massacre in Kafr Qassem, a small Arab village in a part of Israel known as the Little Triangle, which bordered the West Bank. On October 29, 1956—the first day of the 1956 Suez War—members of Israel’s border police were sent to this village to enforce a curfew that was set to begin at 5 p.m. They informed the village headman about the curfew that afternoon, only an hour or two before it went into effect, which meant that hundreds of Arabs still out working in the fields didn’t learn about it in time. When they started returning home later that night, the Israeli border police began dragging them out of their vehicles, lining them up and shooting them. Forty-nine Arab civilians were killed; dozens more were injured. News of the Kafr Qassem massacre soon trickled out and, some time later, the perpetrators were brought before an Israeli military court. Their defense rested on the claim that they were carrying out the orders of their superiors, a convenient excuse that happened to be true. Hours before being dispatched to the village, officers from the border police were summoned to a meeting where they were told that the curfew should be enforced “without sentiments” and that it applied to everyone. If you combine this with the fact that it was the first day of a war and that at the time, Arabs in Israel lived under martial law and were seen by many Jewish Israelis as an “enemy within,” it would seem like a textbook illustration of how situational factors and social pressures can turn ordinary men into callous, unthinking perpetrators. There is one problem with this explanation. That problem is that on the same day other members of the Israeli border police were sent to neighboring villages with the exact same orders—and did not follow them. They, too, were told to enforce the curfew without sentiments, but they didn’t shoot anyone. “I did not accept the order,” one platoon commander later said. Another said he was planning to accept it until he spoke to the head of the village and changed his mind. Some of the officers who refused testified about this at the trial. Their testimony clearly influenced the judge in the case, Benyamin Halevy, who held in an opinion still widely quoted today, that orders which are manifestly illegal not only can be disobeyed—they must be disobeyed.

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“The distinguishing mark of a manifestly illegal order,” Halevy ruled, “is that above such an order should fly, like a black flag, a warning saying: ‘Prohibited!’” That ruling was later cited by another Israeli court—the one that tried Adolf Eichmann. Halevy’s ruling affirmed a principle the Western world was understandably eager to champion in the aftermath of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials: that soldiers cannot simply defer responsibility to their superiors when given blatantly unjust orders. Being instructed to commit a flagrant atrocity doesn’t excuse doing so, even if we agree that the greatest blame belongs to those higher up in the chain of command. How should we label the acts of the soldiers who refused to obey the order to shoot the curfew violators? Some people would say we should call them acts of “goodness” or “compassion.” Simple acts of human decency, in other words. But I don’t think this illuminates much; exhibiting compassion when there is no risk of offending the authorities, when it comes at no cost to oneself, is fairly easy, and fairly ubiquitous. We can all be compassionate with our friends, with our fellow soldiers, in situations where it is socially approved. Extending compassion to the enemy, to villagers who are different from us, when the authorities and our fellow citizens may not approve, is much harder and requires something more than mere goodness. It requires moral courage—the courage to stand by a value or conviction when it is risky and inconvenient, when doing so could cost you your reputation, your career, and, in extreme cases, even your life. How does moral courage differ from other forms of courage? I thought about this a lot when writing my book Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times, and never more so than when composing the section about Avner Wishnitzer. The subject of Chapter Three of Beautiful Souls, Avner grew up on a kibbutz in central Israel, deeply patriotic, dreaming of serving his country by becoming a soldier, which he feared he wouldn’t be able to do because he was too skinny, too interested in books, too meek. At age 14, Avner poked his head into the recreation room on the kibbutz and watched a martial arts class taking place there. The martial art was Taekwondo, which Avner soon began to practice with fierce determination, in the hope of shedding his meekness. Three years later, at 17, he was anointed the junior national Taekwondo champion in his weight class. A year after that, Avner was conscripted to serve in the Israeli Army and, after making it through a highly selective training regimen, entered the ranks of Sayeret Matkal, the most

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elite commando unit in Israel. Serving in this unit was the ultimate validation of Avner’s toughness, his manhood, his courage. Or so Avner thought. A year or so after he’d finished serving in the Army, he attended a lecture at the invitation of his sister. There Avner saw images of Palestinian shepherds and farmers being harassed and mistreated by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories: their farmland burned, their water wells poisoned, their crops destroyed. Avner was sufficiently unnerved that, after the lecture, he decided to visit this place in the occupied territories. From that point on, he started going to the territories more regularly, and the more he saw and learned about the degrading conditions under which Palestinians lived, the more disillusioned he became. Eventually, in 2003, at the height of the Second Intifada, after being ordered to serve in Operation Defensive Shield, a massive incursion into the West Bank ordered by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Avner called the commander of his unit, whom he regarded as a father figure, to tell him that he could not bring himself to serve in this operation, or any operation in the occupied territories. He was joining the ranks of refuseniks, the Israeli term for conscientious objectors. Soon after he placed this call, Avner was kicked out of his unit. After a story aired on Israeli television identifying him by name, he was denounced and vilified, as a traitor, as a coward, as a yafeh nefesh, the Hebrew term for “beautiful soul,” which in Israel connotes being too pure, a bleeding heart. It is not a compliment but an insult. So how—in Avner’s mind—did the courage not to serve, to refuse, differ from the courage to serve? It was “ten times scarier,” he told me, because, when he was in the Army, even when he was taking enormous risks, Avner knew that his society was behind him. “Ha-ru-ach haya ba-gav,” he said—Hebrew for “the wind was at my back.” When he refused, by contrast, the wind was in his face, and its force completely upended him. Given how unnerving this can be, why would anyone do it? What sets apart people who display moral courage? I have no magic formula to answer this. There is something mysterious and ineffable about every such act, which is why, I think, many of us find the people who carry them out so intriguing. My book begins with a quote from Susan Sontag: “At the center of our moral life and our moral imaginations are the great models of resistance: the great stories of those who have said No!” They are great stories, in part, because there is something mysterious about them.

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That said, I do think we can draw some conclusions about what people who display moral courage in difficult circumstances generally are—and are not. One thing they’re not is figures of angelic virtue, as some of the literature on Holocaust rescuers, the so-called “righteous among nations,” suggests. In some of the more honey-coated contributions to this literature, what we get are sanctimonious portraits of saints. More often than not, these portraits are exaggerated or fanciful. Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II, was a manipulator, a womanizer and a briber, not a saint. Aleksander Jevtic, a Serb I wrote about in the second chapter of my book, risked his life to save Croats in the middle of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s, in an act of extraordinary courage. He would be the first to tell you that he is anything but a saint. Individuals who display moral courage can be bullheaded. They can be shortsighted. They can be reckless. They can also be disarmingly ordinary. We do them no favors by pretending otherwise. Indeed, the impulse to gloss over their flaws may be rooted in a less noble impulse: if we think that only people of unqualified virtue can display moral courage, then we let the rest of humanity off the hook. We relieve ourselves of even attempting to emulate their example. None of the people I wrote about in my book are saints. Nor are any of them rebels who, from an early age, were pining to break ranks. This may sound strange, since displaying moral courage almost invariably requires undertaking a rebellious act: defying one’s superiors, blowing the whistle, saying no. But think of Avner Wishnitzer. He didn’t grow up wanting to rebel against his society and the Israeli Army. He grew up desperately wanting to serve in an army he believed was exactly what the Israeli military claims to be: “the most moral army in the world.” Avner was not a rebel but a true believer, and this idealism was, ironically, one of the reasons he ended up becoming a refusenik. How could “the most moral army in the world” allow itself to be tarnished and corrupted by a brutal occupation, he kept asking himself. A similar streak of idealism was evident in the other people I wrote about, among them Leyla Wydler, a broker who blew the whistle on a massive act of financial fraud in this country. Originally from El Salvador, Leyla didn’t enter her profession with a cynical view of the American financial system. She entered it believing that it was a system in which, unlike in Latin America, corruption and fraud would not be tolerated,

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which is why she was sure the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would investigate her claims. Transparency, due diligence: Leyla believed unswervingly in these principles. Like Avner, her identification with the system, her investment in these principles, and her desire to see them honored, was what led her to report the shady practices of an institution that was violating them—an institution that happened to be her employer, at least until she blew the whistle. (The SEC waited six years before investigating Leyla’s claims, by which point the firm, Stanford Financial, had orchestrated the second largest financial fraud in U.S. history.) I don’t want to overstate the case. There certainly are idealists out there—true believers—who become dutiful conformists rather than principled nonconformists. Adolf Eichmann, a committed Nazi who firmly believed in the ideology of Nazism, was one such person. Beyond being idealists, another quality distinguishes the dissenters I wrote about: the ability to consider things from the perspective of others, more specifically from the perspective of the people whose lives they have been conditioned to dismiss and discount. This is what Aleksander Jevtic did when, in defiance of his fellow Serbs, he acted to protect a group of Croats trapped in a Serbian detention facility, at a time when Serbs and Croats were at war. It is what Avner Wishnitzer did when, in the middle of the Second Intifada, when a wave of suicide bombings led most Israelis to pull together against a common enemy—the Palestinians—he refused to serve in a mission he believed would victimize innocent civilians on the other side. What Avner and Aleksander exercised at these moments was their moral imaginations, a faculty the philosopher and economist Adam Smith described in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published more than 250 years ago, in 1759. Among economists today, Smith is best known for his writings about laissez-faire capitalism, in particular in The Wealth of Nations. But in his own lifetime, Smith was better known for Moral Sentiments, which begins with a rumination on what makes human beings feel discomfort when they see someone suffering—a person being “tortured on the rack.” Smith continues: How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the

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misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner.1 Let’s not be naïve. As the past century has repeatedly shown, the imagination can lead human beings to behave cruelly and callously: under the influence of fear, under the sway of prejudice, when the imagination is inflamed by the kind of group hatred that crystallized in Rwanda in 1994, when Hutus were encouraged to think of Tutsis as their enemies—to imagine them as subhuman, as cockroaches—and to exterminate them. This is how the genocide was unleashed that led to the slaughter of nearly a million Rwandans. But even then, at the height of the slaughter in Rwanda, as at the peak of the ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities that engulfed the Balkans in the early 1990s, some people did not allow themselves to imagine this, and instead imagined what it would be like to be among the victims. The dissenters in Beautiful Souls all use their moral imaginations in this other, transgressive way. They extend sympathy to outsiders, to those under threat, to the very people for whom sympathy was supposed to be cut off. Being true believers, exercising their moral imaginations—these are two of the qualities shared by the people I wrote about. A third shared trait is a willingness to assume responsibility for the consequences of their actions. This may sound like a fairly easy thing to do, but in fact, in the modern world, it is all too easy not to assume responsibility for the consequences of our actions. One reason for this is that many of us don’t see these consequences. Thanks to technology or the choices we make, we remain distant from the people affected by our actions. Another reason is that many of us end up working in large bureaucratic institutions where, if something goes awry, it’s easy to pin the blame on someone else, such as the boss who told us to do it or the subordinate who carried it out. This is the essence of modern bureaucracy, where the tasks are cut up and subdivided in such a way that an individual can easily shift responsibility to someone else when things go wrong. In a world governed by large, impersonal forces, where the link between cause and effect is increasingly unclear, resisting this temptation, as did the whistleblower Edward Snowden, is not easy. It is a choice. As Snowden’s story usefully reminds us, those who make such choices—particularly when doing so may embarrass their own government—are always easier to approve of from a distance, after the fact, rather than up close.

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We can see this in the profusion of harshly disapproving editorials and essays that have been written about Snowden in the past year or two, characterizing him as “a grandiose narcissist who deserved to be in prison” (Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker), a person “completely oblivious to his betrayals . . . and the damage he has done” (David Brooks, the New York Times), and “a dupe, a tool” (Fred Kaplan, Slate). Kaplan began his Slate piece by comparing Snowden to another famous American whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 released the topsecret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers, thus exposing the lies that various administrations had told the American people about the Vietnam War. “I regard Daniel Ellsberg as an American patriot,” Kaplan wrote, before going on to explain why he thought Snowden was anything but a patriot. It’s possible, of course, that Kaplan and others simply believe Ellsberg behaved more responsibly than Snowden and that the lies he exposed were far more serious. But it’s also worth noting that, four decades after the fact, it’s fairly easy to regard Daniel Ellsberg as a patriot. It was different in 1971, when the Vietnam War was raging and many denounced Ellsberg as a traitor for divulging secrets that embarrassed the U.S. government and bolstered the morale of America’s enemies. At the time, as Taylor Branch noted with Charles Peters in a 1972 book about whistleblowers, Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest, even many dovish critics of the Vietnam War believed Ellsberg was “crazy.” The debate about Ellsberg was actually not so different from the debate today about Snowden, who, I would hasten to guess, will be viewed more favorably 20 or 30 years from now. It’s a lot easier to admire people who blow the whistle or engage in acts of principled noncooperation when we share their principles, when we agree, in the case of Snowden, that mass surveillance is a grave threat to democracy and that this justifies releasing classified information. But what if we don’t agree with this? To take it one step further, what are we to make of individuals who take a risky and courageous stand for a principle that we find abhorrent? How do we distinguish their conduct from the acts of people who take courageous stands for principles we admire? In Beautiful Souls, I try to grapple with this question by writing about another group of refuseniks that has emerged in Israel in recent years: religious soldiers who disobey orders not because they oppose the occupation but because they support it. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the

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Gaza Strip, in the process ordering the Army to dismantle all the Jewish settlements that had been built there illegally and to evacuate the people living in them. During the disengagement, 95 Israeli soldiers were punished for disobeying this order, most of them religious soldiers who believed that Jews have a Biblical injunction to settle the land in Gaza, in accordance with God’s command. “A Jew does not evacuate a Jew!” proclaimed a soldier arrested during the disengagement. His name was Avi Bieber, and when I interviewed him, he cited the importance of consulting his conscience rather than obeying orders or following the law. To this day, Bieber is regarded as a hero by many Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Can we deny that what Bieber did took courage? Although I could not disagree more strongly with his view of the Gaza disengagement, I don’t think we can deny his courage. I also don’t think we can deny that he followed the dictates of his conscience, the “inner voice” that individuals consult when they refuse to obey a law or order based on deeply held personal convictions. In this country, during the civil rights movement, some men and women of conscience engaged in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters so that equal rights could be extended to African Americans. Others defied federal orders so that the privileged place of white Americans would be preserved in the segregated South. Both said no to a situation they regarded as unconscionable after consulting their consciences. Measured by the depth and sincerity of their convictions, perhaps there is little difference between the people who carried out these acts. Measured by moral content, there is a vast difference. One way to draw out this dissimilarity is to examine how much, or how little, those who “say no” have stretched their moral imaginations to extend sympathy to people who are different from them, to “the other.” Refuseniks in Israel who disobey orders that harm and humiliate Palestinians have made this imaginative leap. Right-wing refuseniks like Avi Bieber have not. The humiliation of Palestinians does not weigh on their consciences; only the perceived humiliation of their fellow Jews, just as the disgraceful treatment of African Americans prompted no reflection or remorse among racist Southerners who defiantly opposed efforts to end segregation in the 1960s. The fact that conscience is so personal and subjective is one reason that those who act in its name often spark controversy. An additional source of controversy concerns the goal of such acts. Is the goal to bring

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about social justice and create a better society? Or is it merely to make the individual feel better about himself? In the view of the philosopher Hugo Adam Bedau, it is the latter. The primary aim of conscientious objection, Bedau has argued, is “not public education but private exemption, not political change but (to put it bluntly) personal hand-washing.”2 Hannah Arendt articulated a similar view. Conscience, she wrote, “is not primarily interested in the world where the wrong is committed or in the consequences that the wrong will have for the future course of the world. It does not say, with Jefferson, ‘I tremble for my country’ . . . because it trembles for the individual self and its integrity.”3 Henry David Thoreau would seem to agree. After all, he is the author of “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,” an essay composed shortly after he was jailed for refusing to pay his taxes because he didn’t want to lend his support to a government that tolerated slavery and that was fighting what he regarded as an unjust war in Mexico. This would appear to be an act carried out in order to transform society. But that is not what Thoreau himself said. It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong. He may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.4 This is the creed of what Arendt called “the good man,” who thinks only about his own moral purity, as opposed to the “good citizen,” who thinks about the well-being of society and is therefore willing to make compromises so that society as a whole may benefit. Is Arendt justified in her criticism of the “good man,” the man, or woman, of conscience? I think she is partly justified. It’s true enough that some acts of conscience are carried out merely to preserve the purity and integrity of the individual, and that these acts sometimes do little to address the larger injustice purportedly at stake. Think of an Israeli soldier who is ordered to raid the home of a Palestinian family in the occupied territories. He doesn’t want to dirty his hands in such an operation, he thinks it’s unconscionable, so he tells his commander how he feels, and the commander quietly excuses him, assigning him to sit at a desk instead. The soldier sits at his desk, feeling a lot better about himself, and the raid goes forward as planned, with a different soldier taking his place, a soldier

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who feels no moral qualms about the operation and may, for this reason, carry it out more brutally. Had Avner Wishnitzer merely done something like this—quietly excused himself and done a desk job, which happens fairly often in Israel, so much so that the military has coined a term for it, gray refusal—he would have fit Arendt’s derisive description of the “good man.” But Avner did not merely do this. In addition to calling his commander, he also aired his views publicly, in a letter to Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon. This was an act of personal hand washing and an act of public education. And Avner didn’t stop there. He has continued to protest, to refuse, to air his views publicly about the injustice of the occupation, through an organization called Combatants for Peace, a group of Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters who have put down their guns and are now trying to convince their fellow citizens to do the same. What does this tell us? First, that the line between the “good man” and the “good citizen” isn’t always so clear. The person who feels compelled to wash his or her hands of a wrong may also, later, feel compelled to eradicate that wrong, as happened in Avner’s case. Second, it tells us is that the question of responsibility on such occasions doesn’t stop with individual dissenters. For whatever their aims may be, these individuals can’t possibly transform society on their own. Their power ultimately depends on the rest of us: on whether we choose to pay attention to them, on whether we are willing to look past the labels—“traitor,” “beautiful soul”—used to dismiss them, or whether, if we agree they might have had good reason to act, we may be willing to join them or try to change the unconscionable situation that led them to break ranks. Near the end of Beautiful Souls, I quote Darrel Vandeveld, a military lawyer who was the lead prosecutor of detainees in Guantanamo Bay— until he felt the flicker of conscience and became one of the more outspoken critics of the Bush administration’s detention-and-interrogation program. An individual dissenter cannot change society, Vandeveld told me: the only impact he can have is to bring pain on himself. As I go on to argue, this is true only to the extent that the individuals who undertake such acts remain isolated and unheard. Ensuring that they are not isolated and unheard is a responsibility that all “good citizens”— and for that matter “good men”—must share.

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1. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London: A. Millar, 1790), available online from The Library of Economics and Liberty, accessed August 9, 2015, http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smMS1.html, I.I.1. 2. Hugo Adam Bedau, “Introduction,” in Civil Disobedience in Focus, ed. Hugo Adam Bedau (London: Routledge, 1991), 7. 3. Eyal Press, Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 96 (quoting Hannah Arendt). 4. Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience,” in Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Stilwell: Digireads.com Publishing, 2005), 7.

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Blinded by Her Own Pertards Charles Snyder

Kathryn T. Gines, Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2014. xvi + 174 pp. ISBN: 978-0-25301171-8. Paperback: $25.00. The Bar Association of the City of New York organized a symposium in 1970 to query whether American law had died. Notable intellectuals and legal minds gathered. They delivered papers in response to the symposium’s hyperbolic cry of despair, “Is the law dead?” And there she was, political thinker Hannah Arendt, speaking in praise of American civil disobedience. One can imagine the incredulous reception of Arendt’s remarks by an audience of male jurists and lawyers. The scenario is ripe with material to inspire a modern dramatist. Envision Arendt’s fit of celebration resounding like Cassandra in Euripides’ The Trojan Women. In the background, we witness an association of hysterical men grieving at the impending calamity of political disintegration, even as they exclaim uncertainties about whether disintegration has already occurred. Rather than celebrate disobedience, the leader of the symposium’s chorus of men considered it time to lament the loss of the citizen’s moral duty to obey the law. But I shall want to leave hyperbole with the dramatists and the questions regarding moral duty with the moral philosophers. Instead, let me explain why it is important to clarify once more the actual political significance of civil disobedience for the future of the American republic. For Arendt, the spirit of American law still had life. Or so it appeared. Civil disobedience was the youngest child of a venerable tradition in the United States of voluntary association. The spirit that originally brought American law into existence continued to inspire the one system of government on earth with the potential to accommodate organized minorities in dissent against the opinion of the majority. Arendt believed that the people of the United States could remedy the many crises of representative government with a spirit that had its origin in the revolutionary experience of the colonists and carried within it a new concept of law based on the strength of mutual promising. Every social and political organization relied, in her eyes, on this capacity to make and keep promises. This capacity makes consent voluntary and grants power to the people. Free consent

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also comes with the right to dissent or disobey, in the event that the majority breaks promises. The peculiar strength of the original inhabitants of the United States cultivated the art of associating together through the powers of consent and dissent. The mutuality of promising implies, then, the power to rebuke or even revoke the authority delegated to institutions that fail to abide by the terms of the original agreement. Any serious engagement with Arendt’s “Civil Disobedience” finds her invoking the power of black Americans to amend through collective dissent the terms of that founding agreement known as the U.S. Constitution, an agreement that originally oppressed black Americans with legalized slavery and excluded them from the rights that accompany voluntary consent. Arendt reminds us, at least those who have studied her remarks on civil disobedience, that no other minority group in the United States has a greater claim to revitalize the spirit of dissent and disobedience than do black Americans, for whom it continues to be a white lie to say that the “welcome of the commonwealth is as wide as sorrow.”1 In Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question, Kathryn T. Gines presents a very different Hannah Arendt. A far cry from the clairvoyance of a Cassandra, Gines presents a socially conservative and backward-looking Arendt; on certain questions, Arendt’s thought resembles the position of white anti-black racists in the American South. Adorning Arendt with “profound blinders when it comes to racial oppression in the United States” (58) has helped Gines earn the acclaim of the American Philosophical Association. Her book won the inaugural Joyce Mitchell Cook Award. This welcome and honorable prize, established in 2014 by the APA’s Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers, commends the scholarship of a “trailblazing black woman philosopher.” Three of the book’s seven chapters are devoted to Arendt’s “Reflections on Little Rock,” originally written in 1957. “A Reply to Critics” was composed in 1965, along with Arendt’s “Preliminary Remarks,” which she would append to the original “Reflections” for a reissue. These three chapters marshal the bulk of Gines’s explosive arguments, depicting Arendt’s reflections on Little Rock, in particular, as representative of the dreadful position of white American racists. The arguments unfold as if Arendt had nothing to say regarding the political importance of mutual promising and civil disobedience, and how they function together in Arendt’s response to the American Negro question. Gines does not see or mention the social and political role of mutual promising first unveiled in Arendt’s 1958 The Human Condition, and makes no connection between

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that account and her return to the importance of promising in her 1970 remarks on civil disobedience, after the politically tumultuous decade of the 1960s. Such neglect disarms a central argument of the book: that Arendt consistently misjudged throughout her major writings the Negro question by taking the question to present a social issue, rather than a real political problem. The neglect is made conspicuous, not only by Gines’s summary dismissal of Arendt’s “pithy remarks” in “Civil Disobedience” (120–122) but in the basic misrepresentations of Arendt’s reflections on Little Rock. Arendt’s “blinders” come on as a result of the rigid distinctions she made between the public, the private, and the social. This tripartite schema distorts Arendt’s view of racial oppression and anti-black racism in the United States and abroad. Since Gines’s book tries to expose the consistent misunderstanding of racism in Arendt’s disparate writing—in books written late in the 1950s, short opinion pieces and long essays in the 1960s, and an interview she gave in the early 1970s—one should expect the author to produce if not a sophisticated, then at least a plausibly accurate, comprehension of Arendt’s thinking over the course of this period. But with this slim, 130-page volume of argument and 44 pages of extensive “Notes,” Gines echoes recent criticisms of Arendt’s mental “eye” by political theorists and feminist scholars, including the eloquent and critical responses to Arendt on Little Rock by Ralph Ellison. I will not rehearse or evaluate in detail the criticisms here. The interested reader can consult the “Notes.” I will say only that the book restages the criticisms in a new venue with a different theme. Now, and for the first time in the growing literature of Arendt studies, the priority is the “Negro question,” what Gines identifies broadly as the myriad controversies in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia that have arisen as the result of institutional anti-black racism across these regions. (1). In that sense, Gines’s book is an application of what others have said, not a direct engagement with the alleged “blinders” of Hannah Arendt. This is not to deny that Gines has smart things to say, even if they are not said for the first time. For instance, some of Arendt’s remarks about “oppressed minorities” (in her reflections on Little Rock) and “savages” (in Origins of Totalitarianism) are uncomfortably condescending; there are unbalanced criticisms of Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre on the reactionary violence of the colonized (in On Violence); and Arendt’s early Jewish writings ought to be explored for insights or blinders or anything that can illuminate her understanding of other oppressed minorities in varying

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historical and political circumstances, including the Haitian Revolution. Gines’s book, in the end, should act as a stimulant for further reflection on these issues. It is surely not the final word. In view of the regrettable smoke and haze—I hope the book generates further study on the political significance of the American Negro question—it is wise to expose the book’s fundamental failure to comprehend what Arendt actually argued in response to the American Negro question. Gines thinks of Arendt’s factual errors in the Little Rock reflections as evidence of an “assumption” about black parents, indeed about “all black parents” (21). The “assumption” is reprehensible, and it would be slipshod to ascribe it to Arendt without clear cause. Black parents, according to the assumption, subject their children to racist mobs for the sake of social climbing. For Gines, the “assumption” has Arendt misrepresent the problem of desegregation as a problem of black parents engaged in the misguided striving for social mobility. This Negro question is, then, a social problem for Arendt rather than political. Accordingly, the problem is a social problem for blacks rather than the anti-black racism of whites politically and legally enforcing segregation. Gines claims to know the dark reasons why Arendt confused the frontpage photographs in the New York Times on September 5, 1957. One photograph shows Elizabeth Eckford, a 15-year-old black female student, and the National Guard barriers that prevented Eckford from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, while a white female student walks freely past the barrier. The other photograph shows 15-year-old Dorothy Counts in Charlotte, North Carolina, arriving at school on the first day, the only black student eventually allowed to integrate Harding High School. Among other errors in the description of the photographs, Arendt thought she was describing Eckford in Little Rock while in fact she was describing Counts in Charlotte, surrounded by a mob of white children. Moreover, Gines would have us believe that Arendt made this mistake because she was already committed to the monolithic view of black parents, as well as the entire NAACP, as “neglectful and opportunistic” social climbers (18). To represent the perspective of the “profound blinders” that comes from the “assumption,” Gines writes the following, as if to transcribe Arendt’s thought: “all Black people want nothing more than to socialize with white people” (21). Gines is mistaken. Errors in Gines’s reasoning make the ascription of this “assumption” to Arendt fallacious. In the 1957 “Reflections,” Arendt says nothing—positive or negative—about “social climbing,” or about a desire for social climbing

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among blacks in the United States. From what Arendt does say, we can infer that she holds nothing against “social climbing” per se, only the attempt to legislate social climbing. She does make passing mention of “social climbing” in the 1965 “Reply to Critics.” There Arendt describes imagining herself as one particular Negro mother: “Instead of being called upon to fight a clearcut battle for my indisputable rights—I would feel I had become involved in an affair of social climbing.” When she does refer to this imaginary “affair,” it is not with respect to actual black parents, and nothing is said of the NAACP; the “affair” emerges as a concern Arendt would have if she were a Negro mother, not as a declaration that such “affair” is actually being carried out by black parents. The use of this imaginary exercise as an indicator of an “assumption” about all black parents—mothers, fathers, and those parents active in the NAACP—does not convince. The core of Arendt’s concern with the “affair of social climbing” is a controversial and provocative thought concerning the dangerous extension of equality. As equality permeates society, differences among individuals and social groups will become increasingly resented. This thought does not provoke Gines. Her book makes no attempt to consider this belief about equality, and we suffer from not knowing Gines’s reasoned stance on the issue. Instead, she blames Arendt for identifying the agents of this “affair” as the Negro people, when it should be clear that Arendt worried about the politics of Supreme Court decisions and the federal government mandating equality across the spectrum of society via legalized enforcement. Rather than unearthing the underlying cause of Arendt’s factual mistakes, Gines simply ignores Arendt’s thought concerning the dangers of equality. In Arendt’s “Preliminary Remarks,” there is reference to a “fight for social opportunity,” but the agents of this fight are spoken of in the generic terms of “oppressed minorities,” not as blacks themselves. Again, Arendt does not criticize in these brief remarks the desire for social opportunity, as such; she targets for criticism only the waging of the battle for social opportunity at the cost of the fight for basic political rights. Chapter Two begins with a brief overview of the legal campaign by the NAACP in the decades leading to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education. Gines provides a fuller historical context of the NAACP’s campaign for equal educational opportunity than Arendt’s “Reflections.” In this task Gines certainly succeeds, but only for a moment. The conclusion that follows from the fuller context of the NAACP’s legal campaign before the Brown decision cannot be the one Gines deduces. Arendt may have been unwilling in “Reflections” to acknowledge the polit-

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ical implications of the NAACP’s legal work leading to the Brown decision, but that context does not provide evidence of Arendt’s alleged “assumption” about the NAACP. The lack of historical context in Arendt’s composite reflections on Little Rock suggests that Arendt made no explicit claim regarding the legal campaign of the NAACP in the decades leading to Brown, unless of course we consider Arendt’s remark identifying the current strategy of the NAACP to battle legalized “discrimination in employment, housing and education” to include the legal campaign of the NAACP. To the extent that such a campaign fought against legalized segregation, there can be no doubt that Arendt considered the NAACP an organized society involved in a political battle for equality. Using Gunnar Myrdal’s explanation of white’s man rank order of priorities, Gines argues that there is a troubling alignment between Arendt’s condescending claim in her “Preliminary Remarks”—“oppressed minorities are never the best judges of priorities”—and the position of white racist segregationists in the South. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Myrdal’s rank order of priorities is of great strategic importance, the argument for alignment of priority does not demonstrate anything more profound than a difference of political strategy among those unequivocally against the legalized enforcement of segregation, Arendt being one of them. The aligned order of priorities, it is worth emphasizing, is an alignment of contraries: Arendt endorsed interracial marriage, white racists did not; Arendt rejected the legal enforcement of segregation, white racists did not; and the claim that Arendt belittled “discrimination in employment, housing and education” (37) as social issues is perfunctory at best, given her position against discrimination in these areas when it is legally enforced, in blatant violation of the freedom of association. Gines even makes the unscrupulous statement that Arendt “defends discrimination laws in education” (39) even though Arendt presented legal enforcement of discrimination as unconstitutional. Such basic misrepresentations expose Gines’s poor judgment with far more salience than the they do the alleged racist tendencies of Hannah Arendt. The arguments against Arendt in this book are explosive, but they backfire. I suspect Gines’s petards have for the moment left her blind to the visionary promise of civil disobedience for black Americans.

1. Hannah Arendt, “Civil Disobedience” in Crises of the Republic (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1972), 91 (quoting George Bancroft).

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Arendt, The Body, and The Self Kazue Koishikawa

This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on September 29, 2014. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=14468. “Every show of anger, as distinct from the anger I feel, already contains a reflection on it, and it is this reflection that gives the emotion the highly individualized form which is meaningful for all surface phenomena. To show one’s anger is one form of selfpresentation: I decide what is fit for appearance.” —Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind (Thinking) We are standing at a crossroads and are forced to make a difficult decision in our lives. Conventional wisdom says, “Don’t think too much, just follow your heart.” In other words, no matter how well-calculated and reasoned a possible choice might be, if you feel otherwise, you should take the path to which your heart is pointing. The assumption is that our emotions tell us who we really are, that deep down inside of us there is a true self. In feeling, we sense ourselves. Who is that self? Where does it reside? Arendt rarely talks about human bodies and/or sex. One of the reasons for the absence of discussions on sex in her work lies in her distinction between the “public” and “private” realms. The former is the space of disclosure through words and deeds, and the latter is that of concealment. Human freedom can be found in the public realm, a principle that cannot be reduced to the law of nature, i.e., the law of causality. If everything is explicable by causality, there is no room for human freedom, which by definition must be spontaneous. By contrast, that which is found in the private realm has a close affinity to the cycle of nature. This includes sex and the body. Not surprisingly, those who point out that Arendt lacks a positive treatment of sex and body find her distinction between public and private realms problematic. They argue that she refuses to acknowledge bodily issues as part of public discourse. They also worry about the absence of gender issues from her political discourse. But do we always have to start from sex or the body when we discuss gender? If body determines gender, how can we understand the difference

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between a gay man and a straight man, or a lesbian and a straight woman? Could it be that the mind determines what we desire? Or do our bodies fundamentally shape our desires? Additionally, there is a problem in approaching the issue of gender based on sex, as Judith Butler suggests. This has to do with the problem of sex functioning as a norm. Traditionally, sexual differences—male and female—were identified with heterosexuality. The presupposition in this tradition is that sex determines gender, i.e., the heterosexual male and heterosexual female. Thus, sex provides the particular thought framework used to define gender, making sex the norm against which non-heterosexuality can be understood as abnormal. In other words, the way we think about sex intrinsically creates a hindrance to our thinking about gender. Acknowledging that viewpoint, it is important to note that Arendt’s public/private distinction with regard to the biological body does not mean that we must remove gender from public discourse. Instead, it redirects us to Arendt’s account of feeling as a different way to conceive of gender and gender identity. She writes: Without the sexual urge, arising out of our reproductive organs, love would not be possible; but while the urge is always the same, how great is the variety in the actual appearances of love! To be sure, one may understand love as the sublimation of sex if only one keeps in mind that there would be nothing that we understand as sex without it, and that without some intervention of the mind, that is, without a deliberate choice between what pleases and what displeases, not even the selection of a sexual partner would be possible.1 Arendt doesn’t ask what sex is, nor does she say that sex (the body) determines how sexual desire is oriented. Instead, Arendt says that without love, we cannot understand anything about sex. Arendt points out that our emotions are intrinsically tied to our body. When we are sad, we feel an ache in our chest. When we rejoice, we feel our hearts warm up. While the intensity of emotional experiences and how they are caused varies, human emotions share commonalities across cultures; likewise, we have a common anatomical makeup in terms of our bodies. Emotion without speech remains merely bodily gesture. What makes a particular emotion uniquely mine and marks my individuality from yours is the expression

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of that emotion. Such expression is a deliberate choice as a result of thinking reflection, which involves speech. The peculiarity of thinking reflection, as proposed by Arendt, lies in the emphasis on speech. When I reflect, I have a silent dialogue in my mind, a dialogue between me and myself. Thinking and speech are inseparable. Without speech or language, the human person can’t think. But Arendt points out that first and foremost, speech aims to be heard and understood by others, i.e., to constitute communication. In reflecting on our emotions, we think about how we can communicate with others about our feelings. Also, speech always presupposes communication, so in this process we choose how we want to appear to others: “self-presentation.” How we appear isn’t the “outward manifestation of an inner disposition.” It is a choice with regard to how we want to be, in the community in which we live. (Those who are familiar with Arendt’s works will notice that what she calls “thinking reflection” here is the judgment of taste, a notion that Arendt lays out in Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy.) Whatever one’s physical makeup, social status, and/or gender, we as humans are social beings and, by extension, always live in a community with others. This means that “self-presentation” is a choice in regard to how one wishes to be viewed as a member of a particular community. Therefore, the criterion for selecting one’s appearance is pleasure, which is rooted in a group of others. We wish our appearance to “fit in” so that our appearance pleases members of the community. That is why Arendt says that our choices are predetermined by culture, “because we wish to please others.”2 However, she also mentions that we sometimes make choices in order to please ourselves or to set an example, one that “persuade[s] others to be pleased with what pleases us.” Feeling of pleasure is derived from our fundamental desire to be accepted and recognized as who we are by other members of a community. If a woman who loves another woman chooses to express her feeling and thus to appear as such, she chooses to be as a lesbian. Her “selfpresentation,” the product of her thoughts, mediates between mind and body and makes her appear as a whole person, a member of a community, who loves another woman. She wishes to be recognized by others as a person who loves another woman. She sees how the community is constructed based on heterosexuality and how non-heterosexual persons are marginalized. She wishes that other members of her community would be able to view how she views the community they share, and she wishes other

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members could recognize her feeling as valid in the community. Her expression of feeling invites other members of the community to see from her perspective and to examine the community they share. By doing so, her feeling allows her to open up discourses about her gender without reducing herself to sheer sex, a body, as a norm. The self we sense in our feeling suggests that we are communal beings, which means that our sense of existence ultimately and mutually relies on others.

1. Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1971), 35. 2. Ibid., 36.

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Hannah Arendt and the Narratable Self Laurie Naranch

This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on March 23, 2015. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=15660. In acting and speaking, men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities and thus make their appearance in the human world, while their physical identities appear without any activity of their own in the unique shape of the body and the sound of the voice. This disclosure of ‘who’ in contradistinction to ‘what’ somebody is . . . is implicit in everything somebody says and does. —Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition To be reduced to a “what” for Hannah Arendt is to deny the uniqueness of each individual. That individuality is disclosed through acting and speaking together. For Arendt, politics is about collective action rooted in and created through shared space. Acting and speaking together in the appearance of a public world provides the possibility for disclosing “who” one is. That is, while Arendt mentions that “what” somebody is may relate to “qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings,” we also know that “what” somebody is—just a Jew, woman, disabled, or disgusting—is a way of denying the uniqueness of a person with a proper name. Narration of the “who” is essential to both ethical and political life. Drawing on this insight from Arendt, the Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero argues for a vision of the self as a “narratable self.” In Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood (2000), Cavarero disputes the dominant vision of self-narration as emerging from the old idea of the independent will who writes his or her own autobiography without dependence on others. Instead, Cavarero argues for a fundamentally dependent view of the self, a view that shows how our autobiographies are given to us by others. This autobiographical-biographical practice is what Cavarero finds in women’s consciousness-raising activities in the 1970s. She also draws on other tales of “self ” disclosure, from Odysseus, Orpheus, and Scheherazade to those found in the settings of Milan and New York City bookstores.

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For example, Cavarero relates the story of Amalia and Emilia, two women in Milan who are enrolled in a 150-hour adult education class. (These types of classes started with trade union movements and became part of the practices of women’s groups as well.) As Cavarero notes, the story of Amalia and Emilia emerges in one of the most famous books of Italian feminism, Don’t Think You Have Any Rights (1987). Amalia reports the story of her friend Emilia, who dies prematurely at age fifty-three. Emilia was struggling to write her life story, which she never managed to tell or write in a beautiful or coherent way. Her friend Amalia, the one who could narrate more potently, realizes that following their exchanges in writing, she knows the story of her friend so well that she writes it for her. Emilia carries the typed story with her in her handbag: pulling it out, reading it, overcome with emotion at the recognition of her self. The episode “almost seems like a transposition of the Homeric Ulysses to the outskirts of contemporary Milan.” (55) There is the weeping with emotion at the recognition of one’s story narrated by another. But these are not strangers, and this is not a tale of heroism that may live on for centuries, tales that Arendt often praises. Instead, as Cavarero puts it: Of course, Emilia could have written her autobiography with her own hand—in fact she tried. Like Arendt, we nonetheless begin to suspect that what prevented her from successfully completing the undertaking was not so much a lack of literary talent, but rather the impossibility of personally objectifying the material of her own desire.(56). That is, “the who of Emilia shows itself here with clarity in the perception of a narratable self that desires the tale of her own life-story” (56). But it takes the other to recognize this desire. Therefore, “the political thought of Arendt, reinterpreted in light of feminist experience” helps us to better understand the ontological desire for a self that can come through the political act of narration among friends. This equality does not mean that each person is in the same position of expertise or that there is no recognition of power. Quite the opposite: yet through the relation of narration, each is dependent on the other. Although Cavarero doesn’t use this language explicitly, we can see this as a democratic exchange. This is particularly challenging when addressing situations of structural inequality based on colonization or class or racial privilege, as she herself briefly acknowledges. It’s also an open question as to where the act of interpretation or translation may be in this view

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of the “narratable self.” Nonetheless, the concept of the narratable self allows for a vision of the self that is different from the individualist horizon whereby we are “different or equal” to those in front of us with whom we “establish rules for living together” (88). Instead, the other “embodies the constitutive relationship of our inscrutable identity”(88). This intervention—in fact, we could say “invention”—of the self at the level of an embodied philosophy and political practice is also usefully drawn upon in the emerging practice of narrative medicine. At Columbia University Medical Center, the Program in Narrative Medicine revolves around these insights. As its mission statement says: Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness. Through narrative training, the Program in Narrative Medicine helps physicians, nurses, social workers, mental health professionals, chaplains, academics, and all those interested in the intersection between narrative and medicine improve the effectiveness of care by developing these skills with patients and colleagues. How can narration disclose the “who” of a person and not the “what” of a category? How does this lead to a philosophy, politics, and practice of health that is ethical and democratic? It is through the disclosure/creation of a “who” not a “what.” And we could ask both Adriana Cavarero and the executive director of the Program in Narrative Medicine, Dr. Rita Charon (M.D., Ph.D. in English) more about this idea of the narratable self and narration. If you are in the Albany area next academic year, both will be on Siena College’s campus as part of a yearlong symposium on the philosophy of Cavarero. Both are deeply inspired by and critically engaged with Arendt and narration—as we should be too.

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Undodged Bullets and Broken Eggs: Seeing Homeless Mortality Ian Storey

This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on February 2, 2015. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=15313. The trouble begins whenever one comes to the conclusion that no other “lesser” evil is worth fighting . . . all historical and political evidence clearly points to the more-than-intimate connection between the lesser and the greater evil . . . with the wisdom of hindsight, it is easy today to formulate what Stalin actually did: he changed . . . the proverb “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” into a veritable dogma: “You can’t break eggs without making an omelette.” —Hannah Arendt, “The Eggs Speak Up” Recently, a moment struck me; it literally made me dizzy with how perfectly it encapsulated a political problem that was, at that particular moment at least, also personal. An older gentleman sleeps near my stop on the subway most nights, and about a week ago, he told me the funniest joke about pigeons I will likely ever hear. Due to an oncoming blizzard, Boston had shut down its transit lines—in these winter months, one of the critical refuges of the city’s growing homeless population—and I had been preoccupied with wondering whether he had secured shelter. I sat down in a coffee shop, opened my laptop, and gave the BBC home page a half-hearted glance while I fiddled with other things. Suddenly, my fears for my friend and for the lives of several of the homeless in the Square I knew rushed in at once, all in the form of a simple contradiction. It was not the sheer cognitive dissonance of knowing that people would soon need to fight for their survival against a blizzard beneath Harvard, the wealthiest university in the nation and one of the most powerful educational institutions in the world. Harvard, as do many related institutions, does engage the issue of high rates of homelessness

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in its Squares, though certainly not without its failings. Neither was it fully the sheer reflection of my own privileges in my thinking and worrying, so emblematic of so many things. The contradiction that so struck me and sent my brain reeling was the headline there in front of me. “Mayor defends New York Snow Warnings: ‘We dodged a bullet.’” But my friend, and countless other homeless persons, were not so lucky. As the many, many groups and individuals who work and volunteer daily across this country will instantly attest, few endemic societal problems involve a more complex set of intersecting issues—economic distribution, mental health, familial dynamics, nutrition distribution networks—than homelessness. It is simply, as James O’Connell of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program writes, “a bewilderingly complex public health challenge that has long thwarted simple solutions.” But Mayor de Blasio’s comment, and the coverage of this storm, also highlighted one problem that is almost never counted in that “bewilderingly complex . . . challenge” when it is spoken about at the level of public policy, and it is perhaps the most important problem of all. The United States has a long and proud tradition of building responses to its problems by combining local networks with state and federal efforts. Above all, it maintains an intensely defensive (and rightly so) attachment to charitable giving as a force for social change and community improvement. The result in this case is that the array of organizations and charities and government agencies that address the many facets of homelessness is no less structurally bewildering and patchwork than the problem itself. Whether that is a sustainable and effective way of addressing the problem—and if it can even be otherwise—I leave to others more experienced to decide. But the enormously devoted yet nevertheless piecemeal nature of the country’s response to homelessness is reflective of the deeper problem that can be seen through this storm. When I say it, I am saying nothing more than what the homeless and their fellow advocates have known and spoken of for decades: that what we face in this moment is not just a question of allocation of resources, of institution– building and advocacy training, although it is all of those things. We face a problem of language and appearance, or more accurately, of language and disappearance. When we talk about these questions in the politically charged terms of a “right to shelter,” as New York’s sometimes controversial law terms it, or

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“the right to adequate housing,” in the language of the UN Commission for Human Rights, the abstraction of the language makes it easier to evade the reality that we are talking about here. Suddenly—and this is the danger that always comes with the promise of talk of rights—in that abstraction, the specters of “leeches on the taxpayer” and people “working the system” sound not just plausible but to many quite persuasive, boosting the instinct of some to decry government interventionism. To talk about a thing for what it is does nothing to make the truth any easier to fix, and calling a spade a spade cannot wish away the incredibly complex intersection of institutional problems that create and sustain this issue. But it does make a difference to the Eggs—the men and women of every age and vulnerability who bear the costs of our system’s failures—that while some of us collectively sigh with relief that we’ve “dodged a bullet,” we also call a crime the crime that it is: human beings freezing to death. Freezing to death, in the wealthiest society in the world. I will not criticize Mayor de Blasio’s claim, “we did what was necessary to keep everyone safe,” in the face of what was being called a “potentially historic” blizzard, by issuing strong storm warnings and provisionally imposing a transportation ban. That “better-safe-than-sorry” instinct, as he puts it, is laudable, as far a phrase goes. Nor am I implying that his city’s emergency response system lacks efforts to protect the poor and the homeless in extreme conditions. That would be false and denigrate the efforts of those individuals who work extremely hard, in just those extreme conditions, for exactly that purpose. Indeed, there is every indication that his administration will continue his immediate predecessor’s attempts to effectively reform the city’s shelter system and support for outreach work, though his particular methods for combating the city’s rising homelessness problem have proved controversial. It is a problem with which every metropolitan (and rural, no less) community will continue to wrestle, and I am not certain, even if it could be avoided, that a patchwork response is not potentially the most effective. That, I can’t say. But I will say without reservation and with little inclination to temperate my words that a confrontation must be had with the simple fact that de Blasio’s “we” did not mean everyone, not in the context of his utterance, and still less in each of the ears of the people who heard it. Our problem is with what we and everyone mean when we say and hear those words. The we that each of us hears is different, and as hands are wrung and brows furrowed about transit delays and productivity costs and electricity supply response times, many, many of those “everyones” would not even

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entertain an image of a homeless person, let alone any wish to attend to them. If this were not a problem of our very different “everyones,” then the United States would not have one of the highest rates of homeless mortality in the industrialized world. If we meant everyone when we spoke of the desire to protect “everyone” from the dangers of what they simply call “a killing cold” where I come from, our homeless problem would be quite different. If our “we’s” were truly a we, we would not have what those who study this call “zones of excess mortality,” or in less guarded moments, “death zones” (Boston has one; New York City, more), where rates of mortality exceed even areas where the federal government has declared “natural disaster areas.” If our response to this problem has been piecemeal and patchwork, it is because our understanding of the problem is piecemeal and patchwork, not for lack of awareness but for lack of the problem appearing for what it is. Perhaps, in Arendt’s terms, this is a very specific problem of the failure of many of our imaginations as our storms descend: that when the Weather Channel comes on and we imagine the impending problems and fiascos that “everyone” will face, we do not imagine those who most need to be seen. As of the evening I write this, there are no available statistics on the number in the Greater Boston metropolitan area who died of cold-related deaths beginning the evening of January 26 or in the extended health aftermath. When they come, if they come (they often don’t), the sheer difficulty of tracking deaths in a population that is already difficult to know from its outside means that a significant number of deaths will go uncounted and unnoticed except by a few in the community close to them, if they even have one—“we” will likely never read about them. And that is a death that is more, or less, than a death. That is a death that is not only a death but also a quiet, slow, and painful disappearance. And a world of disappearance has dodged no bullets.

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Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior Hans Teerds

This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on January 26, 2015. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=15242. The French have become masters in the art of being happy among “small things,” within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today’s objects, may even appear to be the world’s last, purely humane corner. —Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, p.52 During my first reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition, this particular quote attracted my attention, probably since I’m trained as an architect and sensible to these kind of imaginable, tangible examples. (I must also mention the very nice and almost poetic rhythm in the “construction” of the sentences quoted above.) The passage immediately reminded me of the famous text “Paris: Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” in which Walter Benjamin, among other things, links the importance of the domestic interior to the emerging impact of industrialization on working people.1 Through the mutability of modernity, as symbolized by the arcades with their cast-iron constructions, Benjamin argues that the interior comes into conscious being to the extent that our life, work, and surroundings change. The interior of domestic life originates in the need for a place of one’s own: a small but personal haven in a turbulent world that is subject to constant change. Acknowledging this development, the modern individual found himself confronting a new separation between living and working, between the (domestic) interior and the workplace. Here Benjamin stresses that in the workplace one deals with “real” life (although work is increasingly being carried out in bigger, virtual spheres), whereas within the dwelling’s interior one harbors illusions. With the change of work’s location from the 170

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home to the plant and factory, the very character of work also changed. Craftsmen became laborers, or in Arendtian terms, work merely became replaced by labor. And yet the domestic interior has always been understood as a safe haven, a familiar domain, in which one can cherish one’s personal history in an otherwise cold and threatening environment. “The interior is not just the universe but also the étui of the private individual,” Benjamin writes.2 The interior is so close to man that it is like a second skin—a perfect fit. It is geared to our rhythm (of life), and vice versa. But there is more to it. Benjamin observes that the interior also offers meaning through living; it accommodates a story of personal remembrances. “To live means to leave traces. In the interior, these are accentuated.” In other words, there is no escape from life in the interior. Whereas in the public space those traces inevitably fade, in the interior they remain visible and tangible for the occupant. And that is crucial: people hold the interior close precisely because of the memories that attach to it. To be at home is more than to merely eat, sleep, and work somewhere—it is to inhabit the house. That is to say, to make it your own, to leave traces. It is possible to describe the interior in this perspective as a flight from the “real” world “out there,” but this overlooks the importance of the interior for this “reality.” Arendt’s quotation cited at the beginning of this article—which might be invoked alongside the same Parisian experience that Benjamin analyzes—is part of her emphasis on the importance of the private realm vis-à-vis the public realm. A life lived exclusively in the bright glare of the public realm will fade, she states. It will lose depth, that is, its ability to appear into the world. It needs the private realm to recover, to reform, in order to reappear and once again participate in public. Although it may sound negative, darkness means first and foremost that something has been hidden from view. It is therefore shielded from the continuous maelstrom of public life. Set against this backdrop, Arendt stresses the importance of one’s own household—or more to the point today, one’s own home—as a necessary condition. This assertion is supported by the respect with which city-states once treated private property. The boundaries that separated each person’s space were observed most reverently: they were not understood as edges between public and private property but as spaces.3 The boundaries were sacred, Arendt writes, since they protected the private property of the citizen from public threats.4 The darkness of the house and the blinding glare of the outside depend on each other. Indeed, they are inextricably linked. Arendt also

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takes this to mean that distinct from family life with its protective and educational aspects, the private realm accommodates those things in life that cannot appear in public. She believes that the distinction between the public and private realms has to do with that which must be made visible on the one hand and that which must remain invisible on the other. What appears in public acquires maximum visibility and hence reality. However, there are some things in life that need to remain hidden: the intimacy of love and friendship, the experiences of birth and death. Both the physical and the romantic belong to the realm of necessity, Arendt claims. They are too closely tied up with the needs of the individual to be made a public matter. Put differently, the private realm provides space for the ineffable, the issues we cannot discuss or negotiate, or indeed the ones we cannot stop talking about. Those issues need a safe place, one among personal “things” and their memories. If the importance of the interior is manifest anywhere, it is in the appearance of homeless people, living like ghosts on the streets. Being homeless not only means living unprotected from wind and rain. First and foremost, it means not having a safe place where you can be more or less secure and sheltered, a place to which you can withdraw in order to recharge before re-entering the domain of uncertainty and danger. These four walls, within which people’s private life is lived, constitute a shield against the world and specifically against the public aspect of the world. They enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive. This holds good (. . .) for human life in general. Wherever the latter is consistently exposed to the world without the protection of privacy and security, its vital quality is destroyed.5

1. Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge, MA/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999). 2. Ibid., 20. 3. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999 [1958]), 63. 4. Ibid., 29, 64. 5. Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Education,” in Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (New York: Penguin Books, 2006 [1968]), 183

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Revolutions Thomas Wild

This essay was originally published on the Hannah Arendt Center blog on October 28, 2013. It can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=11874. When the Revolution [sic] devoured its own children like Saturn and was like a gigantic Lava [sic] stream on whose surface the actors were born [sic] along for a while, only to be sucked away by the undertow of an undercurrent mightier than they themselves. —Hannah Arendt, “Revolutions—Spurious and Genuine” (unpublished) This quote, whose telling typos will be addressed below, is from an unpublished typescript by Hannah Arendt written for a lecture in Chicago in May 1964. It is titled “Revolutions—Spurious and Genuine.” The first lines read: “Not my title. I would hesitate to distinguish.” While Arendt rejects the suggested binary definition, her talk offers different sets of distinctions. First, modern revolutions, like the French or the American, imply a change that is radical enough to be experienced as an entirely new beginning, one that no one can escape because it affects “the whole fabric of government and/or society.” This call for radical change doesn’t just protest bad government. Citizens who are in the streets for a revolution don’t limit themselves to the complaint, “We are badly ruled.” They also claim, “We wish to rule ourselves.” The revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989–1990, and, most recently, the revolutionary events in Egypt and other countries of the Middle East, are probably the most prominent events of this kind in contemporary history. At the time of Arendt’s talk, the Cuban Revolution was the most recent example; she thought it was primarily a coup d’état yet “most certainly” a revolution. Second, Arendt distinguishes between social and political upheavals, a distinction we know from her book On Revolution, which was published one year before the lecture in Chicago. In Arendt’s mind, revolutions like those in France in 1789 or Russia in 1905 came to be primarily about the abolition of social misery and inequality, whereas the American Revolution, for instance, was about building political liberty. Of particular interest, this

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section of the typescript is one of the rare occasions in Arendt’s work in which she addresses America’s “hidden social question,” i.e. the institution of slavery and its aftermath. Arendt is puzzled that America’s extremely mobile society and economy resisted change to the extent that it kept African Americans stuck at the bottom of society while many—often poor— immigrants were easily absorbed. Does the civil rights movement call for a revolution in response to this turmoil? No, Arendt says, for it doesn’t claim to change the whole fabric of the society. Rather, it is fighting for access to this society. There is a revolutionary aspect to the movement’s political fight “against those laws and ordinances of states which are openly discriminatory,” Arendt remarks, but changing the “whole fabric” isn’t on this agenda either, for the civil rights movement had the federal government on its side. In the final section of her talk, Arendt returns to the initially rejected distinction between spurious and genuine, thereby revealing that she does think it is productive when we ask, “Who are the revolutionists?” On the one hand is the concept of a founder, originating in the American Revolution, “a kind of architect” who builds a house that provides stability because those who inhabit it are fleeting, they come and go. “Freedom needs a space to be manifest,” Arendt notes. The “more stable a body politic is, the more freedom will be possible within it.” Whether the process of life housed by this founder is ruled by the law of progress or not is secondary. Yet the concept of progress is still central to how we usually conceive of politics. The conservatives tend to be against it, whereas the liberals tend to be for it up to a certain degree. The revolutionists, however, believe in it, and they believe that true progress requires violence. They’ve been holding onto this belief since Marx, Arendt recalls, with whom she competes for the metaphor of “birth.” Whereas for Marx, the pangs of birth must accompany every meaningful political development, for Arendt birth manifests the human capacity for a totally new beginning. The metaphors of infinite progress as an infinite process “were all born . . . during the French Revolution,” Arendt notes. They were born when not only the Jacobins around Robespierre, a figure who represents the cruelties of the rule of terreur, lost control, but also when the slightly more moderate Girondists around Danton did the same: “When the Revolution [sic] devoured its own children like Saturn and was like a gigantic Lava [sic] stream on whose surface the actors were born[e] [sic] along for a while, only to be sucked away by the undertow of an undercurrent mightier than they themselves.”

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The typos in this passage are maybe the most telling signs of Arendt’s deep struggle with this concept of progress. By having the actors being “born” instead of “borne” on the stream of revolution, she not only conflates the two Marxian ideas of ‘unstoppable progress’ that necessarily come with the ‘pangs of birth,’ but she also inscribes her critique into Marx’s concept by allowing the possible reading of actors being born—in Arendt’s sense of an individual new beginning within plurality—upon this process. Marx’s idea of the swimmer “controlling” the stream of history in Arendt’s eyes is an illusion, as she noted in her Thinking Diary. In the face of the totalitarian movements and their atrocities in the 20th century, the question would rather be “how to avoid swimming in the stream at all.” The undercurrents of Arendt’s typos reveal that her debate with Marx, despite the fact that the lecture is written in English, is simultaneously pursued in German, their shared native language. Arendt capitalizes Revolution like a German noun; she did the same earlier in the paragraph with Progress, and she does it again with the gigantic stream of Lava. I have outlined the significance of the “plurality of languages” in Arendt’s political writing and thinking in another “Quote of the Week” that can be found at http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=7066. Here, I’d like to show in conclusion how Arendt through the German resonances in her talk subtly invites a poet into her conversation on revolution. “The revolution devours its own children” has become a common expression, but the way in which Arendt quotes it “like Saturn” translates exactly the wording from Georg Büchner’s pivotal play, Danton’s Death. Arendt’s private German copy of the play—which is preserved in the special collection of the Stevenson Library at Bard College—is marked up in interesting ways. Among the sentences she underlined is, for example, Danton’s “We didn’t make the revolution, the revolution made us,” which reflects upon the intricacies of agency and intellectual leadership in political turmoil. Many intellectuals—even some of Arendt’s friends—were painfully oblivious to this sentence during the “National Revolution” of 1933, which troubled her for decades. We revolutionaries are “no more cruel than nature, or the age we live in,” says St. Just, Robespierre’s hit man, whose name literally means Saint Justice, in a passage from Danton’s Death that Arendt also marked: “Nature follows her own laws, calmly, irresistibly; man is destroyed wherever he comes into conflict with them.” Büchner’s dialogues are largely based on historical sources from the French Revolution. They flesh out Arendt’s fine allusions, e.g. to the fatal

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might of tropes like “the stream.” “Is it so surprising,” St. Just asks in the same passage, marked by Arendt, “that at each new turn the raging torrent of the revolution disgorges its quantum of corpses?” Echoing Marx’s metaphor of the irresistible stream of history and progress, Arendt is mindful of the date where these thoughts found their form. (The full document of Arendt’s lecture in Chicago was recently made available through HannahArendt.Net Journal for Political Thinking 7 no. 1, 2013, on www.hannaharendt.net.)

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Contributors Peter Baehr is chair professor of social theory and Fellow of Asian Pacific studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He is the author of Founders, Classics and Canons: Modern Disputes over the Origins and Appraisal of Sociology’s Heritage and editor of the Viking Portable Hannah Arendt. Elizabeth Beaumont is assistant professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She is the co-author of Educating for Democracy and Educating Citizens and author of the forthcoming book The Civic Constitution. Roger Berkowitz is academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College. He is the author of The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition and coeditor of Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and The Intellectual Origins of the Financial Crisis. Leon Botstein has been president of Bard College since 1975. He is chairman of Central European University, a board member of the Open Society Foundation, music director of the American Symphony Orchestra (1992– present), and author of Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture. David Bromwich is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Sterling Professor of English at Yale University. He is the author of The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence and Moral Imagination. He is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post and his essays have also appeared in the New Republic and New York Review of Books. Anand Giridharadas is a columnist for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. He is the author of two books, India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking and The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas. Jerome Kohn is trustee, Hannah Arendt Bluecher Literary Trust, and editor of Arendt’s unpublished and uncollected writings: The Promise of Politics, Essays on Understanding 1930–1954, and Responsibility and Judgment. He is coeditor, with Ron Feldman, of The Jewish Writings.

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Kazue Koishikawa holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Duquesne University. She is at work on a book in which she explores reading the political philosophy of Arendt as a phenomenological theory of imagination, particularly in Arendt’s interpretation of Kant’s aesthetic judgment. She specializes in phenomenology and political philosophy. Ann Lauterbach is Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College and co-chair of writing at the Milton Avery School of the Arts. She is the author of a number of poetry collections, including Under the Sign and Or to Begin Again. She was a MacArthur Fellow and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, New York State Foundation for the Arts, and Ingram Merrill Foundation. Charles Murray is a political scientist, author, and libertarian. He has been a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute since 1990 and is a former Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. His research interests include marriage, family, social mores, crime, and culture. Murray is the author of a number of books, including Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010, which explores the new ways in which classes are forming in America regardless of race or ethnicity, and the New York Times bestseller The Bell Curve. Laurie Naranch is associate professor of political science and director of the women’s studies minor at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. She has published in the areas of democratic theory, gender theory, and popular culture. Her current research focuses on debt and citizenship, along with the work of the Greek-French thinker Cornelius Castoriadis and democracy. George Packer is a staff writer for the New Yorker. He has written numerous articles, reviews, and essays on foreign affairs, American politics, and literature. He is also the author of several books, including The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which explores the sense of crisis and division in contemporary American politics; and The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, which was named one of the 10 best books of 2005 by the New York Times and won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award and an Overseas Press Club book award. Eyal Press is a writer based in New York. His work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, Nation, and


Raritan Review. He is the author of Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times (2012), and Absolute Convictions (2006), a narrative account of the abortion conflict. He is a past recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. John Seery is George Irving Thompson Memorial Professor of Government and Professor of Politics at Pomona College and is the author of America Goes to College and Too Young to Run? A Proposal for an Age Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Charles Snyder studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research (Ph.D., 2014). His current writing addresses the relationship between philosophy and political life in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, with particular interest in the philosophical schools of the Hellenistic period. He teaches broadly in the history of ancient philosophy, ancient tragic drama from Aeschylus to Seneca, and contemporary political theory. Ian Storey (B.A., Dartmouth College; Ph.D., University of Chicago) is a political theorist who is a lecturer on social studies at Harvard University. Some of his research interests include democratic theory in historical and comparative perspective, the politics of aesthetics, political theology, and the history of German political thought. Zephyr Teachout is associate professor of law at Fordham University. Her research interests include how laws influence the political behavior of different sets of actors, as well as the constitutional history of corruption. Her book Corruption in America was released in September 2014. Also in 2014, she ran in a primary against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic Party nomination for the New York gubernatorial race. Hans Teerds is an architect based in Amsterdam. He is currently writing a Ph.D thesis on the public aspects of architecture as understood through the writings of Hannah Arendt at the Delft University of Technology. Thomas Wild is assistant professor of German at Bard College and is a Hannah Arendt Center Research Associate. His publications include a monograph on Arendt’s relationships with key postwar German writers, an intellectual biography of Arendt, and an edition of poetry by Thomas Brasch.


About Bard College

Founded in 1860, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is an independent, nonsectarian, residential, coeducational college offering a four-year B.A. program in the liberal arts and sciences and a fiveyear B.A./B.S. degree in economics and finance. The Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a five-year program in which students pursue a dual degree—a B.Music and a B.A. in a field other than music— and offers an M.Music in vocal arts and in conducting. Bard also bestows M.Music degrees in curatorial, critical, and performance studies through The Orchestra Now, and at Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bard and its affiliated institutions also grant the following degrees: A.A. at Bard High School Early College, a public school with campuses in New York City, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Newark, New Jersey; A.A. and B.A. at Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and through the Bard Prison Initiative at six correctional institutions in New York State; M.A. in curatorial studies, M.S. in economic theory and policy, and M.S. in environmental policy and in climate science and policy at the Annandale campus; M.F.A. and M.A.T. at multiple campuses; M.B.A. in sustainability in New York City; and M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in the decorative arts, design history, and material culture at the Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan. Internationally, Bard confers dual B.A. degrees at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. Petersburg State University, Russia (Smolny College); American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan; and Bard College Berlin: A Liberal Arts University; as well as dual B.A. and M.A.T. degrees at Al-Quds University in the West Bank. Bard offers nearly 50 academic programs in four divisions. Total enrollment for Bard College and its affiliates is approximately 5,500 students. The undergraduate College has an enrollment of more than 1,900 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.


Editor Associate Editor Assistant Editor

Roger Berkowitz Wyatt Mason David Bisson

Editorial Board

Jerome Kohn Patchen Markell Thomas Wild

ISSN 2168-6572 Cover: ©Estate of Fred Stein, fredstein.com Page 139: Courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Published by The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College Printed by Quality Printing, Pittsfield, Massachusetts ©2015 Bard College. All rights reserved. “What Does It Mean to Educate Citizens?” by Leon Botstein was previously published as “Are We Still Making Citizens?” in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #36, Spring 2015.


The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College

The Journal of the Volume 3/2015

Annandale-on-Hudson, New York www.bard.edu/hannaharendtcenter

Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College

Volume 3/2015

HA Journal, Volume III  

Volume 3 of HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is a jam-packed double issue. It include...

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