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 Iranian Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood Islamism (including its Al Qaeda offshoot), and secular Arab dictatorships as sometimes-competing branches of an expansive, totalitarian movement.

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UK Event Announcement: In or Out? Debating Britain’s EU Membership

In or Out? Debating Britain’s EU Membership
3rd Seminar: National Security & Global Influence

In association with the James Madison Charitable Trust, the Centre for Federal Studies at the University of Kent is organising a series of three seminars entitled “In or Out? Informing the political debate and popular opinion on UK’s EU membership.” These seminars will take place in the run-up to the referendum and focus respectively on the economy, politics, and security.

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Sklar: Capitalism-Socialism Mix

This is the third 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. Whereas the first two posts showcased the historian’s engagement with philosophy, this post highlights one of his important contributions to political economy. Sklar profoundly reinterprets the idea of a “mixed economy,” on the basis of the new concepts of “capitalist investment component” (CIC) and “socialist investment component” (SIC). In so doing, he also clarifies the meanings of capitalism and socialism as political-economic systems. Like conventional “mixed economy” theorists, Sklar came to believe that there would be a long historical period during which advanced societies would combine features of capitalism and features of socialism, with the later gaining gradual ascendancy. His understanding of which features belong to which system, however, upends conventional theories of government = socialism, “private” sector = capitalism.

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Adam Smith's Dilemma and the Algonquian Model of Political Virtue

Adam Smith is usually remembered as a champion of commerce. But as a moral philosopher he understood that even as commerce inculcates the virtues of industry, frugality, and temperance, it also inculcates vices such as avarice, envy, and short-sighted self-centeredness. Smith recognized that good government requires virtues such as honor, moral rectitude, patriotism, magnanimity, and a far-sighted perspective, to which the commercial vices are fairly opposed. Smith considered this a problem in his own day, as Great Britain was threatening to become a nation of shopkeepers, ruled by classes trained not in statesmanship but in commerce, governed not by codes of honor but by self-interest. The problem has resonance today as well.

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Sklar: Hegel and History, Part Two

This is the second 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. That post featured something unusual for a historian: an excerpt from a perceptive essay on Hegel. Hegel’s understanding of human history as developmental and cumulative, particularly with respect to the expansion of human freedom, colored Sklar’s career as a historian. Excerpts from two of his published works (second and third selections, below) reflect that influence. Not all of Sklar’s engagement with Hegel was affirmative. In the first selection, he endorses Marx’s critique of Hegel’s statism. As will be further illustrated in future posts, one of Sklar’s longstanding criticisms of many fellow leftists was their equation of socialism with state control over society. From his research on the Progressive Era in the United States, he concluded that presidents and other strategic thinkers of that period consciously incorporated elements of socialism into their ideas and programs in ways that affirmed positive government as a middle way between laissez-faire and statism. This was the meaning of his somewhat cryptic assertion in an influential (but often misunderstood) 1960 essay that corporate liberalism was “the bourgeois Yankee cousin of modern European and English social-democracy” (Studies on the Left 1:3, 41). Over time, Sklar progressively (in both senses) fleshed out this insight.

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Academic Boycotts and Professional Responsibility

I was invited to speak on this panel, having been reassured that it would be devoted to academic boycotts in general, but I cannot say that I was surprised to discover that half of the titles here advocate one and only one boycott target. I will therefore make some remarks concerning academic boycotts in general, to which I object on principle, but also comment on the campaign against Israeli universities in particular. I expect that we will hear boycott proponents denounce the apartheid character of Israeli society or policies of genocide and other such mythologies that the boycott movement has disseminated and which the APA may eventually be asked to endorse. But let’s leave the propaganda for the discussion section.

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