Books
19th Century Populism

19th Century Populism

The centralized state power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature – organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and hierarchic division of labor – originates from the days of absolute monarchy, serving nascent middle class society as a mighty weapon in its struggle against feudalism. More»

Returning to Capital

Returning to Capital

If I had a dime for every time some knowledgeable pundit has declared Marxism to be dead, well, I could spend a lot less time writing about capital and a lot more time enjoying it. The frequency of assertions of the irrelevance of Marx’s work varies directly with periods of calm in the global economy such as the so-called Great Moderation of the quarter century before 2007. More»

The New Dystopia

The New Dystopia

I have, from time to time, been wont to quote the opening passage of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. It is perhaps the most compelling statement of the deeply unsettling character of the modern world. “Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters.” More»

The Downfall of American Democracy

The Downfall of American Democracy

Verso has recently published a collection of Lewis Lapham’s essays under the title Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy. If a book more apposite to our current situation has been published in the last 18 months I am unaware of it. More»

‘Burn it to the Ground’

‘Burn it to the Ground’

It is well-known that there are currently 2.4 million people in US prisons and jails. What is less-known is that they write and are producing a new wave of American literature. More»

Konsumterror

Konsumterror

I’ve been reading Alexander Sedlmaier’s Consumption and Violence: Radical Protest in Cold War West Germany. I picked it up after seeing it in the Cambridge University Press catalog, and only subsequently did I realize that I’d seen Sedlmaier give quite an interesting presentation at a German Studies Association conference in New Orleans long ago. More»

Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall

As a practical matter, it seems to be very difficult to write a book about the Frankfurt School (or any of its related figures) which is not hagiographical, impenetrable, interminable, or some combination of the three. I can count on one hand the number of titles on this topic that did not prompt me to the immediate consumption of alcohol or some sort of stimulant. More»

Asian Caricatures

Asian Caricatures

In his magisterial War Without Mercy, John Dower convincingly describes how prewar anti-Japanese feelings were driven by populist American fears of Japanese immigration and actual military contingency planning, though military planners consistently underestimated the Japanese in racist terms. More»

Civilization Versus Ideology

Civilization Versus Ideology

The United States has always approached political Islam in a contradictory manner. Since the 1950s, when Washington first made common cause with anti-Communist religious leaders, US policy towards the Mideast has been characterized by a disconnect between rhetoric and politics, particularly in matters concerning Islamist mobilization. More»

The Fifth or Sixth Human

The Fifth or Sixth Human

Der dritte oder der vierte Mensch, by the German sociologist Alfred Weber, hardly qualifies as a classic of the literature. It was published in 1953 as the first phase of the Cold War was winding down and much of the value that it retains is due to the way that it reflects the mindset of a particular moment in history. More»

Framing the Foreign

Framing the Foreign

In his first edition of Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy, Yale’s Michael H. Hunt hoped that in describing the primacy of ideological assumptions in foreign policymaking, he could contribute to the post-Vietnam critique of American overreach in world affairs More»

Origins of American Globalisation

Origins of American Globalisation

Spreading the American Dream is about the folklore of capitalism on a global stage. Or as an article in The National Interest once pithily described the mentality: “the multilingual, globe-trotting, advanced-degree holding, CNN-watching, Hilton Hotel-staying, international organization-employed cadres who go from trouble spot to trouble spot imposing the neoliberal state- and nation-building agenda on recalcitrant and often ungrateful natives.” More»