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Left Populism and the Rediscovery of Agonistic Politics

If there were a tagline for today’s populist moment, it would probably be something like “It’s not the economy, stupid.” Economic factors matter, but they are far from decisive in understanding why populists, especially right-wing populists, have solidified their position as the second largest or even largest parties in many Western democracies. In 2012—in the aftermath of…

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Fear and the Renunciation of Politics

That fear has become politicized is widely recognized. Commentators and politicians frequently accuse their opponents of practicing “the politics of fear.” Those who use the idiom of the politics of fear, however, assume that the meaning of the term requires no explanation. Yet it is not simply a term of description; it is also used…

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The World Nationalism Made

The great and good of the Western world are alarmed. Nationalism, they say—rising from the primeval depths of biological human nature, untouched by the civilizing influences of History whose telos is global democracy—undermines the achievements of enlightened humanity. It poses an inherent threat to just societies—those based on the universal values of freedom, equality, and…

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Mexico’s Postmodern Populism

On June 27, 2018, five days before the federal elections in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) addressed thousands of his followers at the flagship Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. As he was outlining the main features of his future government, his supporters were chanting the chorus of the day, “It’s an honor supporting Obrador.”  …

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The Three Fusions

Media headlines to the contrary, there is at present no authentic debate between globalists and nationalists in the West. Paradoxical as it may seem, this is because there are no authentic globalists. Worse than any open conflict between the two is the confusion that results from the absence of one. This confusion with respect to…

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Ernst Lubitsch, Censorship, and Political Correctness

Theodor Adorno turned around Benedetto Croce’s patronizing historicist question about “What is dead and what is alive in Hegel’s dialectic.” If Hegel is really alive as a thinker, then the question to be raised is the opposite one: “How do we today stand in the eyes of Hegel?” Exactly the same holds for Ernst Lubitsch. The question is not “What does an increasingly forgotten filmmaker have to say to us?” but rather, “How would our comedy of manners appear in the eyes of…

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An Anatomy of Radicalism

What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now? These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning…

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Italy’s Organic Crisis

The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci coined the term “organic crisis” to describe a crisis that differs from ”ordinary” financial, economic, or political crises. An organic crisis is a “comprehensive crisis,” encompassing the totality of a system or order that, for whatever reason, is no longer able to generate societal consensus (in material or ideological terms). Such a crisis lays bare fundamental contradictions in the system that the…

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Who’s Afraid of an Article V Convention?

There it is, on a platform in Independence Hall in Philadelphia—George Washington’s chair, the very one he planted his bottom on while presiding over the Constitutional Convention that gave birth to our republic in 1787. The wooden chair, with its carving of a gilded sun, is a relic, the only piece of furniture from the…

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Old Populism and the New Ideas of Michał Kalecki

Populism in the United States has its roots in the mass protests of the 1880s and 1890s, sparked by the economic depression that gripped the country following Reconstruction. American populists rallied to the banner of William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1896, who expressed the populists’ distrust of cosmopolitan elites and…

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