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One of the things Rosen's very interesting and wide-ranging book shows is why history and the goal of moral advance in history have become so important. We want to believe in moral advance (I am shunning the word “progress” with its resonance of steady uninterrupted forward movement), but we feel incapable of affirming this. What the Lisbon earthquake did to the eighteenth-century versions of Providence, Auschwitz has done for us. Rosen cites Adorno to good effect.
The Shadow of God is a magisterial achievement. In that vein, readers may find it especially opportune that this is a book about the concept of immortality—though, in line with the more dynamic picture it presents of our ideas about immortality in shifting cultural landscapes, I make the more modest, though no less impressive, suggestion that this book will stay with students of German Idealism and of political theory at large for a very long time to come.
This article reconstructs Hannah Arendt's theoretical arguments in relation to current authoritarian-populist crowds, which can be understood as organized mobs of the twenty-first century. Drawn from all classes and originating in societal and political disenfranchisement, in Arendt's understanding they are rebellious nihilists who falsely believe they represent the people as a whole while they exclude any citizens who do not share their tribal nationalism and leader worshiping. Illuminating conditions of their emergence, Arendt also helps to elucidate what drives the populist crowds’ illusions about an uncompromising “sovereign will” they and their leaders claim to embody. Such illusions benefit from broader modern trends eroding differences between facts, opinion, truth, and lies. In public environments suffering from destabilized factual truths, organized lies can easily fill a political vacuum generated by crises of political modernity. Unpacking interrelated theoretical trajectories, it is argued that an Arendtian framework can significantly contribute to the study of present-day authoritarian populism.
This enormously erudite and original book is the culmination of many years of thinking deeply about difficult texts. Rosen's book explores themes of deep interest and importance to me—about religion, about politics, and about historical approaches to philosophy. My comments and questions will focus on these, and more on Kant than on Hegel.
The article introduces the second part of a symposium, “The Crowd in the History of Political Thought,” which is being published as a two-part special issue, and which explores visions of the role of the people and populism in the writings of past thinkers. The articles in this second part are by European scholars with disparate interests and approaches to the history of political thought. Populism proves difficult to define, partly because populist politicians evince different understandings of “the people” and the purpose of government. The liberal, democratic, and national visions of “the people” can be harmonious but can also become disharmonious. Untangling them by exploring how thinkers in the history of political thought distinguished between crowds and peoples can help us to better understand the ideological dynamics of our moment. Articles on Hobbes and Spinoza offer disparate accounts of the differences between peoples and crowds. Herder, by contrast, helps us understand the political self-determination of peoples, while Schmitt and Arendt offer rival visions of the tensions between democratic and liberal principles.
This article argues that through the reinterpretation of the old theory of pouvoir constituant proposed by Sieyès, Carl Schmitt shows the impossibility of political modernity being anything other than authoritarian populism, whether by means of democratic or autocratic procedures. It is not that Schmitt's theory is authoritarian populism, but that modern politics, born out of the French Revolution, cannot be anything else. Schmitt's analyses of the idea of the people in political modernity in Dictatorship (1921), The Crises of Parliamentary Democracy (1923), Volksentscheid und Volksbegehren (1927), Constitutional Theory (1928), and State, Movement, People (1933) provide a fine analysis of the populist character of modernity. Something that those alive in the twenty-first century have been able to experience was theorized by Schmitt in an oracular way. Because of his keen insight he is still worth reading.
The article analyzes the relationship in Spinoza's thought between the figures of the philosopher, the people, and the crowd. This distinction is anchored in his theory of knowledge, of the passions, and of natural right and plays a fundamental role in his conception of political philosophy. Spinoza establishes a direct connection between these three figures and the forms of political regimes: while in democracy human beings who are completely rational (the philosophers) can fully deploy their theoretical passions and the people can develop their desire for freedom, in theocracy and tyranny the crowd's superstition dominates. These aspects of Spinoza's thought allow us to interpret the relationships between the contemplative and the active life, and to rethink the relationship between the philosopher and the city, in the early modern age as well as in our contemporary one.
Recent studies have argued that Herder supported cultural, rather than national, self-determination. While Herder did not argue that all nations should become states, using the term “cultural” as the defining element of his conception of self-determination risks the false impression that political self-determination is not part of it. Focusing on Herder's discussion of the relationship between the people and the state in modern European “state-machines” and his comments on the French revolution, this article shows that Herder encouraged the national “self-constitution” of both subjugated and dominant peoples, thus contributing to the rise of the concept of self-determination of peoples. Rejecting direct popular rule as a “phantom of liberty,” he envisioned modern self-determination to be a continuous process of free public deliberation in print media and representative institutions on the possible reform of the constitution of one's political community, as guided by the public's evolving understanding of the principles of Humanität.
In this article I try to identify the nature of the Hobbesian Crowd Problem as a problem depending on the nature of the connection, or absence of connection, between the notions of “crowd” and “people.” When a crowd is considered as a “subjected crowd” it is but the flip side of a people, which is itself the other name of the sovereign. When considered as a gathering of people, the crowd's status depends on the intention of its members as well as the number of its participants, but also on whether it is authorized by the sovereign. Within the framework of his complex theory of associations (or “system subjects”), Hobbes's theory of crowds is a useful instrument for assessing what we now call “populism,” the claim by some citizens to speak for the whole political community.