These posts reflect my original interest in American politics, history and political theory broadly cast. I’m interested in exploring the nexus between American Political Development (APD) and American Political Thought (APT) as well as American Studies and Africana Studies or all regional “studies,” including working with Gajo Petrovic a leader in Praxis published in the former Yugoslavia.
This was the reason I stayed in politics for my Ph.D. rather than leaving for law school, history, sociology or business school as faculty kept trying to convince me to do in undergraduate and graduate school after spending a gap year reading Heidegger’s Being and Time with University of Zagreb philosophy professor Gajo Petrovic, who spent time at IAS and working with the author of the former Yugoslavian Constitution, the one that stuck — written in the 1970s. The latter scholar attended the Sorbonne in the 1930s and ended his career as the Dean of the best law school in Belgrade. In the 1980s the Fulbright funded his scholarship on Jefferson at Claremont Graduate School. I worked with him for my B.A. thesis on Marx, existentialism, phenomenology and Yugoslavian self-management supervised by Claremont Men’s College’s public law professor Winston Fisk.
We are all suffering from some form of Trump-induced PTSD. Emergency-room visits were up the day after 11/9, as a creative-writing friend of mine pointed out this perverse inversion of 9/11 after the presidential election of 2016. I have friends and colleagues in all disciplines — Spanish literature, comparative political thought, literary theory, interdisciplinary pedagogy taught in Dutch and international English, let alone American politics, law and society, American political development (APD), and American (or better yet, comparative) political thought (APT & CPT). We would all laugh at the buffoon if he were not so scary. When you’re terrified, you can only titter.
So, what now? I, for one, am going back in both time and thought. Like many of my friends, I have to put my head into history for a time.My sabbatical is being spent writing about American tribalism, which references merging APT/APD and CPT, though there is no CPD, since APD is CPD. Huh? Really, what I’m doing is streamlining inter- and intradisciplinary research on comparative political thought and politics and history broadly cast over eras and epochs.How do you get to comparisons that are global, given our now-embarrassing global American empire?Easy: We must go abroad and note the other perspectives, even if we don’t put them in more than our footnotes or register the comparisons with European Union nations, particularly the Netherlands.
The Dutch, after all, had more legitimacy and authority in the colonies that became the United States over 150 years later. Dutch-Anglo, not Anglo-Dutch, thought is more persuasive when you think of the founding canon in American political thought. It’s just that the English, in 1661, knocked those pesky merchants’ republican ideas out of enlightenment and post-enlightenment Anglo-American political thought. The Dutch not only predated the English, but also the English, Scottish and French Enlightenments.
This is all academese, I know, that will be explained later. For now, I must explore the history of the texts, Baruch Spinoza and heretical thought. Indeed, I saw the first book in Heretical Thought — Assembly, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri — in a radical bookshop, or boekhandel, near Spinoza’s likeness where he lived in Amsterdam.My college-age son and I are not the only fans of Assembly.According to Rebecca Goldstein, it took 200 years before any scholar could comfortably cite his heretical thought.
Comparing history of thought or schools of thought — not just heretical thought or Dutch-Anglo-American political thought, where Hugo Grotius is possibly more important than William Blackstone — could be considered heresy — or not.* There are many academic and public historians, from Joyce Goodfriend to Russell Shorto, who show how the British rewrote American colonial political thought.
* The references here, I admit, are academic and yet not obscure if you follow the train of hyperlinks or references to the plethora of different or multiple schools of thought and political traditions.
As the protests continue, all I can do is collect documents and pictures — happily, my son sent a few from the inauguration so I could feel the good energy by extension. Not that I ever did much more than this after exiting my twenties. Still, while being relegated to the physical sidelines is hard, accepting that one’s children have the urge for action makes one proud. Yet it’s also hard to wait, hoping that no serious physical harm comes to him, and that he will be disciplined enough to engage in non-violence. Violence begets violence. Clearly Trump’s election is causing violence as I write this, but that is not the point. Protest is more effective, and harder to criticize through persistence and presence, without violence. Take your pick of philosophies from Hegel to Gandhi — it’s all hard. But who said changing the world was supposed to be easy?