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Journal Archives

Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1964)

"American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”

By Harper’s Magazine

In his Easy Chair column this month, Thomas Frank revisits the historian Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” whose fiftieth anniversary of publication will be November of this year. “To read Hofstadter’s 1964 essay,” Frank writes,is to experience numerous shocks of recognition. To begin with, Hofstadter noted that what distinguishes “the modern right wing” is that it “feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind.” . . . The notion that the righteous have been dispossessed is by now so utterly ingrained that conservatives have stopped mincing words about the remedy: they must “take our country back” from the elites and socialists who have stolen it away.

Frank highlights other still-evident traits of the paranoid style, but ultimately lands on a problematic legacy of the essay: its popularization of a “pseudopsychological approach” to political analysis, under which Sarah Palin can be swiftly dismissed as a delusional maniac, or Bill O’Reilly as a narcissist. “We should also note,” Frank writes, “that nowadays the source of the psychiatric style is nearly always the liberal camp.”

Hofstadter was writing at a peak moment of liberal self-confidence, leading Frank to conclude by lamenting the waning of the possibilities presented by that historical moment. “Hofstadter’s warm old liberal consensus was itself in pieces only a few years later — shattered first by its own blunders in Vietnam and then by the leaders of the ‘paranoid’ right.”


**From the November 1964 issue
The Paranoid Style in American Politics

By Richard Hofstadter

It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.

in full: http://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/?single=1

Reliving Machiavelli in Florence

By Pepe Escobar

FLORENCE - 2014 has barely dawned, and I'm standing in a cold, rainy evening at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, staring at the round plaque on the floor - ignored by the throngs of Chinese tourists - celebrating the hanging and burning of the monk Savonarola in May 23, 1498, accused of conspiring against the Florentine Republic.

Yet I'm thinking - how could I not - of Machiavelli. He was only 29 on that fateful day. He was standing only a few feet away from where I am. What was he thinking?

He had seen how Savonarola, a popular Dominican preacher, had been hailed as the savior of the republic. Savonarola rewrote the
constitution to empower the lower middle class; talk about a risky (populist) move. He allied Florence with France. But he had no counterpunch when the pro-Spanish pope Alexander VI imposed harsh economic sanctions that badly hurt Florence's merchant class (a centuries-old anticipation of US sanctions on Iranian bazaaris).

Savonarola had also conducted the original bonfire of the vanities, whose flaming pyramid included wigs, pots of rouge, perfumes, books with poems by Ovid, Boccaccio and Petrarch, busts and paintings of "profane" subjects (even - horror of horrors - some by Botticelli), lutes, violas, flutes, sculptures of naked women, figures of Greek gods and on top of it all, a hideous effigy of Satan.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01-140114.html

The End of Palestine? An Interview with Norman G. Finkelstein

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Middle East again this week, conducting intensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials and other regional actors. His aim, it has been widely reported, is to reach a "framework agreement" as a prelude to a final settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Norman Finkelstein is the co-author, with Mouin Rabbani, of How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict (OR Books, forthcoming). I spoke with him about the significance of the negotiations, as we enter what may be a decisive phase in the Palestinians' long struggle for self-determination.

You’ve been warning for some time now that the Israeli-Palestinian talks being brokered by Secretary of State Kerry might, unlike many prior rounds of negotiations, actually produce a deal to end the conflict. Its content would amount to Israel’s long-standing terms of settlement. What’s your assessment of where the diplomatic process is currently at?

A “framework agreement” will shortly be reached, and a final settlement will probably be signed in the last six months or so of President Obama’s term in office. When the Kerry process was first announced I was virtually alone in predicting that it would actually go somewhere; now, it’s widely assumed. Many respected Israeli commentators now take for granted that an agreement is just a matter of time.

remainder in full: http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/the_end_of_palestine_an_interview_with_norman_g._finkelstein

Why Aren’t Prep Schools Following Corporate Reforms? By diane ravitch

**Hat tip to yurbud, who posted this in Good Reads

This is a terrific article about the elite prep schools and the fact that they do not follow the “reforms” that are now pushed by the U.S. Department of Education, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and other corporate reformers.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Go ahead and do an online search of the country’s top prep schools, or check out this list from Forbes. Peruse some of the school websites and do a search for anything that mainstream education reformers suggest we implement in your neighborhood public school. Try, for example, common core state standards. How about data-driven instruction? Or, what about two weeks worth of mandated high-stakes, standardized state tests, preceded by weeks, if not months, of benchmarks, short-cyles, and pre-assessments?

Are they likely to hire teachers without advanced degrees?

Check out the proportion of teachers at those schools who possess advanced degrees. At Horace Mann in the Bronx—where 36 percent of students are accepted at an Ivy League school, Stanford, or MIT—94 percent of the teachers have advanced degrees. Now, who was it that said rewarding teachers with advanced degrees is a waste of money? Ah yes, our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. How far do you think Mr. Duncan’s argument would get with parents who examine a potential school’s “Ivy/MIT/Stanford pipeline” percentage score? Not very far.

So why are the prep schools avoiding Duncan’s great ideas?

If the reforms mandated by Departments of Education and fawned over by upstart think-tankers were as fantastic as advised again and again, then you can bet that every single one of the country’s best prep schools would be implementing them as rapidly as possible. They’re not, and you shouldn’t accept them either.

in full: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/04/why-arent-prep-schools-following-corporate-reforms/
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