Friday, June 23, 2006

"Santorumism"
















Scott P. Richert has some interesting comments on his blog The Rockford Files on "Rick Santorum’s WMDs" and the issue of Just War.

And here is my addition to American political vocabulary
Santorumism: "Making fool of yourself while operating under the assumption that you can fool all of the people all of the time." But, hey, who knows? Maybe this is going to work. Your Average American "reads" a headline "Senator: WMD Discovered in Iraq" and that piece of "info" gets absorbed into his "mind." He mentions is to his buddy, Average American II and before you know there is the following headline: "According to new polls: More Americans now believe that Saddam had WMDs." Average Americans III, IV, etc. read that headline and the "Faith Based Community" wins another victory.

And apropos Average Americans and democracy, I just finished reading Democracy and Populism : Fear and Hatred by one of my favorite authors, John Lukacs, and I noticed that The Rockford Files mentioned the book an earlier post
under "The Invincible Ignorance of Jonah Goldberg, Part II"

When will Jonah Goldberg learn? First, he spouted off about Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the context of Montenegrin secession and was roundly spanked by the redoubtable Daniel Larison. Now, he’s trying to identify himself with the foremost historian of the 20th century in America, John Lukacs, by ascribing his own neocon views to the decidedly anti-neocon Lukacs:

Nationalism V. Patriotism [Jonah Goldberg]
For the record, John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil—while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example.

Posted at 2:51 PM
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Goldberg could not be more mistaken, both about Lukacs’s understanding of patriotism and his understanding of nationalism. Considering that this has been one of Lukacs’s chief preoccupations (if not the chief preoccupation) of his 60-plus years of professional historianship, there is simply no excuse for Goldberg’s ignorance. It is, after all, the chief theme of Lukacs’s 2005 book, Democracy and Populism.

Let’s assume for the moment, though, that Goldberg is behind in his reading. Surely, as an admirer of Lukacs, he’s familiar with “About Historical Factors,” the fifth chapter of Lukacs’s magnum opus, Historical Consciousness (first published in 1968, with new editions in 1985 and 1994). If not, perhaps he’d like to pick up a copy of ISI’s Remembered Past: John Lukacs on History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, a remarkably inexpensive 900-plus-page reader which reprints “About Historical Factors,” as well as 66 other major essays.

There, he’d find that Lukacs quotes George Orwell on the definition of patriotism:

By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one . . . has no wish to force upon other people.
In other words, patriotism is rooted in a particular place, and the people who live there, not in “adherence to a creed or doctrine.” By “a particular way of life,” Orwell (and Lukacs) mean just that: not abstract credal principles but the real life of real people in a real place—their language, their food, their religion, their manners, etc.

Nationalism, on the other hand, is, for Lukacs (and Orwell), an ideological phenomenon. It subsumes man in the nation; it divorces the nation from “a particular place and a particular way of life”; it defines the nation at least in part in terms of its opposition to the other. And, as Orwell continues (in the passage that Lukacs cites):

Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he had chosen to sink his own individuality.
Again, all of this is obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Lukacs’s work. What may be less obvious, however, is what is wrong with this part of Goldberg’s statement:

nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil
Here, Goldberg seems to be implying that consciousness of the nation, in any form, goes hand in hand with nationalism. Again, nothing could be farther from the truth. As Lukacs explains:

[I]deological nationalism is a secular religion. And in Europe at least, the era of ideological nationalism may have come to an end: its attractions declined steeply after the last world war. Still, the factor of nationality . . . continues to prevail, in Europe as well as all over the world. And this is the reason why I found it necessary to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism . . . My argument is that nations are one thing and nationalism another. The former not only preceded but they survive the latter. Nations and national consciousness are enormously important historical factors even now . . . Thus, nationality is still the most formative historical factor in our democratic times, despite powerful influences and technological institutions working against it.
And finally:

The sovereign and independent national state may have had its day: but nationality continues to function, perhaps in a novel manner, corresponding to the change in the texture of history.
Agree with him or disagree with him (and, it should be clear, I agree), John Lukacs is most emphatically not a kindred soul of Jonah Goldberg. Which raises the rather interesting question: Since Goldberg could so easily point to many, many people who are his kindred souls, why is he suddenly so anxious to identify himself with such decidedly anti-neocon writers as Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Lukacs?


I totally agree that that is the way that Lukacs defines/describes "patriotism" and "nationalism." Goldbergs either didn't read the book or didn't understand it or just tried to impose his wishful thinking on reality (a familar neocon MO).

Which brings me to a pal of Goldberg, David Brooks, and my earlier posts on his proposal to describe those opposed to the Iraq War as "populist nationalists" and those who supported it as "progressive globalists." In fact, based on Luckas defintions of "populists" and "nationalists," he regards President Bush and his entire pro-Iraq-War orchestra as "populist-nationalists." Goldberg, Brooks and other neocons have been trying to portray their opponents on Iraq as nativists/racists/provincial/xenophobic etc. etc. That explains why they could have problems with anti-Iraq-War and anti-neocon Lukacs who is none of the above and, if anything, is one of the most cosmpolitan American intellectuals (and an immigrant).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Memory recalls shortly after 9-11 when Lukacs poored cold water on Bush's post atrocity reaction. Lukacs has just published a book about Churchill - (the Elijah of the modern GOP) and his creds on the right were impecccable - So when he went sour on Dubya, it hurt. Not that many neoconservatives didn't agree - they saw Bush's weak initial response - but they were hoping no one, esp. people like Lukacs, would make saying so a form of acceptable speech. Have you noticed that since 9-11, the ideologues are continuing to try to re-write the narrative so that it forgets to mention how weak and indecive Bush was in the first 48 hours. Lukacs noticed.

Anonymous said...

RE: "According to new polls: More Americans now believe that Saddam had WMDs."

The proper headline, in a sane world - should be: "According to new polls: More Americans now believe falsehoods about Saddam and wmds"

Regarding Jonah - He is not as bright as he thinks - most of his ideological soulmates wait to someone is dead before they try to co-opt them or their image.