Freedom and Servitude: Why We Rattle Our Hidden Chains

“The populace consists of individuals and free men, while the state is made up of numbers. When the state dominates, killing becomes abstract. Servitude began with the shepherds; in the river valleys it attained perfection with canals and dikes. Its model was the slavery in mines and mills. Since then, the ruses for concealing chains have been refined.”
—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

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Freedom and Servitude: Why We Rattle Our Hidden Chains

“The populace consists of individuals and free men, while the state is made up of numbers. When the state dominates, killing becomes abstract. Servitude began with the shepherds; in the river valleys it attained perfection with canals and dikes. Its model was the slavery in mines and mills. Since then, the ruses for concealing chains have been refined.”
—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

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Sklar: Islamic Imperialism

This is the fourth in a series of posts that introduce the thought of historian Martin J. Sklar, as a prelude to a print symposium on his life and work in a future issue of Telos. Earlier excerpts of Sklar’s writing appear in the first, second, and third posts. For a fuller introduction, refer to the head note to the first TELOSscope post. As a researcher, Sklar was a historian of the United States, including its role in the world, particularly (from the late nineteenth century) as a promoter and guarantor (on balance) of a global system of expanding economic and political freedom. As a reader and informed commentator on international affairs, he was also deeply interested in broader issues in world history, particularly insofar as they shaped contemporary global conflicts. (Among the several dozen of Sklar’s books that I inherited are heavily marked and annotated copies of the following: John Yoo, War by Other Means: An Insider’s Account of the War on Terror; Philip Bobbitt, Terror and Consent; Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History of 2,000 Years; and Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire.) The following excerpts from a letter to John Yoo reflect Sklar’s evolving understanding of what he understood as an ongoing U.S. (and Western) war against Islamic imperialism. Of particular interest is his conceptualization of various sectarian, and even nominally secular, movements as sometimes-competing branches of an expansive, totalitarian movement.

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Sklar: Hegel and History, Part One

Martin J. Sklar, who died in 2014, was a historian, left-wing activist, and original thinker. As a scholar/journalist-activist, he founded Studies on the Left, co-founded Socialist Revolution and In These Times, and was a founding member of The Historical Society. As a historian, he originated the influential concepts of “corporate liberalism” and “disaccumulation” and shaped the thinking of historians of the Progressive Era, the Jefferson–Hamilton divide, Lincoln’s revolutionary role in ending slavery, the sources and consequences of U.S. imperialism—and more.

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When Freedom of Expression Says “No”: The Case against Academic Boycott

It is this article’s assertion that calls for academic boycott contradict with the classic rationales of the right to free expression and with the peculiar features of the right to academic freedom. Freedom of expression is about developing a dialogue between two opposing opinions, wherein each claims to be the right one. Calls for academic boycott promote monologues rather than dialogues, thus creating the illusion that they represent the truth because they are not challenged. Moreover, protecting the right to academic freedom of individual academics is necessary for their fulfillment as researchers who can respect academic standards exclusively rather than institutional mandates. The self-fulfillment for an individual academic is enacted through the ability to convey messages that can compete against other views.

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Security, Secrecy, and the Liberal Imaginary

Western societies increasingly imagine, plan, and even rehearse their own destruction. This cultural habit reflects a growing contradiction in democracy. On the one hand, liberal societies laud the ideals of participatory democracy, free speech, individual liberty, and governmental transparency. On the other, they grow ever more committed to the biopolitical regulation of life, the mitigation of threats to public health and safety, and the restriction of liberties as a way of securing liberty itself. How do we understand the inexorable growth of a security paradigm in liberal democracies? The answer lies partly in the cultural imaginary that shapes public contemplation of citizenship, liberty, and security. This imaginary reflects both the growing influence of biopolitics and the legacy the Cold War covert action. Paradoxically, the Cold War state’s growing commitment to covert action was itself increasingly public; as a result, public culture has became obsessed with, and enamored of, covert affairs. Despite state secrecy, most citizens believe they know the “kinds of things” their government is doing in secret—yet they cannot know in detail, and they receive most of their knowledge in the form of melodramatic fiction. The result is a growing irrationality in the democratic public sphere.

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