“Old Bubba” Got It Right

The public opinion pollsters have failed four times in the last 18 months. They thought that Netanyahu would be defeated in the contest for Israel’s prime ministership. They did not foresee the defeat of the peace referendum in Colombia. They were sure that Brexit would be defeated in Great Britain, and they were equally sure (with the exception of a few outliers like the LA Times longitudinal poll) that Hillary would be our 45th president. In all four cases the surveys reflected the pollsters’ attitudes but not the public’s. Like the New York Times, which has been eating crow over its election coverage, the pollsters need to get out in to the countryside more. The same holds true for the Hillary operatives who were caught by surprise. As a DNC source explained “it was all about analytics with them. . . . They were too reliant on analytics and not enough on instinct and human intel from the ground.”

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Brexit and Deep Structures in Anglo-American Politics

Political analysts have a tendency to consider political events within a relatively short time frame. This tendency has become worse over time as the study of political history has declined, and the historical memory of many analysts is often quite short. Despite this, the case for looking at the politics of a country or civilization in terms of its longue durée is quite compelling, as there can be deep structures underlying politics that are not apparent until they are investigated. Brexit provides a good example. For many people Brexit is viewed in terms of the last twenty-five years and the impact that globalization has had on Britain, as if such things have only taken place in recent times. There are deep structures in the politics of any country that shape its political culture, and hence its response to changing circumstances.

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Europe after Brexit

Walk around Berlin these days and you will find that you will hear almost as much English being spoken on the streets as German. While some describe this situation as a sign that Berlin has now become a cosmopolitan city, this very interpretation reveals precisely the attitude that has led to the rise of English in Germany. To speak English is to be cosmopolitan, and to speak German is to be provincial, and so it becomes a mark of pride to converse in English rather than one’s native German, at least for a certain segment of the population. And therein lies the problem. For it is precisely that segment of global business people, academics, and bureaucrats against whom nationalist sentiment has been rising all over Europe amongst the monolinguals who see themselves as excluded from the European project.

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Christopher Lasch on Liberalism and Civic Virtue

Christopher Lasch’s “Liberalism and Civic Virtue,” from Telos 88 (Summer 1991), seeks to gain a better understanding of the internal contradictions of liberalism in one of its most optimistic moments. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western economic and political liberalism stood as the last-remaining major ideology of the twentieth century. Amidst the euphoric optimism surrounding the “end of history,” Lasch looks at the challenges that liberalism, with no major competitors on the world stage, poses to itself rather than those posed to it from the outside; for it might just be that liberalism itself is decaying like other major twentieth-century ideologies, though this process is merely delayed.

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Sklar: Left and Right

This is the fifth—and last—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. For a fuller introduction, refer to the head note to the first TELOSscope post. On the basis of his understanding of political economy (see the third post) and international relations (see the fourth post), and building on his longstanding critique of sectarianism and vanguardism in left-wing politics, in his last decade Sklar argued that U.S. politics were undergoing what he termed a “transvestiture of left and right,” whereby each side of the political spectrum was (however unwittingly) adopting positions that are historically more in tune with the other end of the spectrum. Sklar’s argument will be more fully articulated in the posthumously forthcoming book American Century and World Revolution. For now, the following selections provide a window onto his evolving thinking.

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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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