Tuesday , November 12 2019
Home / Jacob Hamburger

Jacob Hamburger



Articles by Jacob Hamburger

Cross-post at the LPE Blog

3 days ago

Share the post "Cross-post at the LPE Blog"

Just a brief announcement that in case you missed Bill Novak and Steve Sawyer’s manifesto for “Neodemocracy” here at Tocqueville 21, you can also read it on the excellent Law and Political Economy Blog. Much in line with Bill and Steve’s essay, LPE is devoted to reimagining law for a democratic, post-neoliberal (or rather, post-law-and-economics) future.

Read More »

American Aristocracy

22 days ago

Share the post "American Aristocracy"

On a few occasions since we’ve been doing this blog (see here, here, and here) I’ve attempted to read Tocqueville against the interpretation of his work that has long been popular on the American and French right since the Cold War. If there’s one passage in Democracy in America that has been in the back of my mind when doing so, it’s the chapter entitled “How Aristocracy Could Emerge from Industry” (II.2.20, Comment l’aristocratie pourrait sortir de l’industrie). Aside from his long chapter on race and slavery in the first volume, this is Tocqueville’s most direct confrontation with the question of economic inequality in America. For this reason, it has been high on my list for our series of close-readings.

In order to

Read More »

Revue de Presse

October 6, 2019

[unable to retrieve full-text content]We’re taking a break this week from our Revue de Presse, and may be reevaluating the format. A bientôt !
The post Revue de Presse appeared first on Tocqueville21.

Read More »

Migration « en même temps »

September 24, 2019

Share the post "Migration « en même temps »"

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about French politics, but seeing as my day job is now working in immigration law, I can’t help but comment briefly on some recent comments by Emmanuel Macron. Last week, at a meeting of LREM deputies, Macron stressed the need to “look squarely in the face” the subject of immigration heading into the second half of his term. The president elaborated that the question for his young party was “to see whether or not we want to be a bourgeois party. The bourgeois don’t have any problems with [immigration]: they don’t encounter it, while the working classes live with it.” 

This is not exactly new rhetoric for Macron. Critics have taken him to task for the harsh treatment of

Read More »

On the Democratic Social State

August 25, 2019

Share the post "On the Democratic Social State"

In an interview last week, Acting Director of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli was asked whether a new Trump Administration rule that would deny green cards to foreigners likely to become a “public charge” violated the welcoming spirit captured by Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus.” He had this to say in response:
Well of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies, where people were considered “wretched” if they weren’t in the right class. And [Lazarus’s poem] was written one year after the first federal “Public Charge” rule was passed.
Many critics rightly jumped to point out the blatant racism of positing a fundamental difference between poor, “wretched” immigrants

Read More »

“Your national greatness, swelling vanity”

July 3, 2019

Share the post "“Your national greatness, swelling vanity”"

As Donald Trump prepares, at the last minute, an over-the-top military parade for the Fourth of July—and as I prepare to take a few days off for the holiday—I thought I’d share a brief snapshot from my reporting with Charlie Hebdo a few years back. One Fourth of July, Charlie cartoonist Riss and I found ourselves at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia (not far from where I’m spending the summer now), where a left-wing group was organizing a reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” From what we’ve heard of the festivities Trump has in mind, it seems Douglass’s words, which have always cut deep, are particularly apt: “To [the slave], your celebration is a sham …

Read More »

America’s Orwellian Left

June 23, 2019

Share the post "America’s Orwellian Left"

John Michael Colón’s excellent essay on democratic socialism and the contemporary American left centers around George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As Colón writes, the book is mainly known as a warning against revolutionary politics in general, a tale of “supposed revolutionaries” who “produced a dictatorship perhaps only distinguished from the old one by being even worse.” One of the piece’s main arguments is that “the failure of Soviet-style ‘communist’ dictatorships was our basic starting point” for left-wing Americans of Colón’s generation (which is also mine, both of us having been born in the early 1990s—one might also say we belong to the same sub-generation of younger “millennials” who had not yet finished college when

Read More »

The Titanic, or the Eurostar?

May 30, 2019

Share the post "The Titanic, or the Eurostar?"

For anyone in the UK (even pro-Europeans), voting in the European elections on Thursday the 23rd felt a little surreal.  Depending on which side of the divide you stood, you might have felt that this was either a cruel, last whiff of cosmopolitanism designed to elicit maximum nostalgia, or an unwelcome reminder that your side—despite its bombast—had been treading (channel) water for three whole years. These were elections that were not supposed to happen.  Last Thursday felt like a political mirage.

The results on the other hand were all too real: a devastated Conservative party at a historic low of 9%, and a humiliated opposition Labour party at 14%—both shunned by exasperated voters.  An exasperation that stood as a

Read More »

The European Elections

May 24, 2019

Share the post "The European Elections"

This week’s elections for the European Parliament may be the most consequential in the continent’s history. On the one hand, right-wing parties and other anti-establishment “populist” movements may be poised for victories that would further upset what had once been stable assumptions about what the European Union was for: from economic integration to humanitarian values. The ongoing confusion over the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU-27—resulting in a reluctant British participation in the election in which Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, milkshakes aside, is expected to win—in addition to Theresa May’s recent resignation after a Tory revolt, adds a further element of chaos into the mix.

On the other hand, the dangers

Read More »

Democracy in 2020

May 11, 2019

Share the post "Democracy in 2020"

I was at first surprised that Bernie Sanders’s recent proposal to allow formerly and currently incarcerated people to vote was as controversial as it was. One of my takeaways from the 2018 midterms—and American politics since 2016 more broadly—was that voting rights were something all Democrats agreed on. On the one hand, gubernatorial races in Florida and Georgia revealed that Republicans rely on subverting such rights as much as ever. But on the other hand, the Florida ballot initiative to re-enfranchise people with felony convictions showed that even in swing states, it is possible to win major advances for democratic participation. It was therefore somewhat strange that not only Pete Buttigeig (perhaps desperate to show that he

Read More »

Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville

April 25, 2019

Share the post "Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville"

Below is the video from Art’s talk at the University of Chicago last week, entitled “Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville.” Art was joined by Jim Sparrow, Manon Garcia, Jennifer Pitts, Eric Slaughter, and Nina Valiquette Moreau.

Thanks to Mariam Elmalh and Felix Chaoulideer for their help in preparing this video.

Read More »

Obama, sans famille politique

April 12, 2019

Share the post "Obama, sans famille politique"

One thing that’s long struck me as an American about French politics is the formation of relatively durable cliques, or familles politiques, around certain high-profile politicians: sometimes presidents, but perhaps even more often prime ministers or other important members of the government. French politicians may be juppéistes or sarkozystes, rocardiens or strauss-kahniens, but Americans don’t typically talk about their politicians this way. Of course, politics everywhere involves building personal networks, which often function by doling out patronage and loyalty. And many politicians will naturally develop inner circles of trusted advisors who will themselves go on to their own political careers. But in France,

Read More »

Two Events in Chicago!

April 10, 2019

Share the post "Two Events in Chicago!"

Our very own Art Goldhammer will be giving two talks at the University of Chicago next week, which any Tocqueville 21 readers in the area will not want to miss.

The first will be a presentation on April 15 entitled “Reading Tocqueville, Translating Tocqueville.” Join Art for a discussion of his approach to translating Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, in conversation with Manon Garcia, Jennifer Pitts, Eric Slaughter, Nina Valiquette Moreau, and moderator James Sparrow. A reception will follow the discussion. The discussion will start at 4:30 pm on Monday, April 15 in Mandel Hall.

The second talk on April 17 (see image above) will be be called “From Democracy in the Streets to Democracy in Danger, 1968-2018.” Art will take

Read More »

The Universal Basic Income Enigma

March 27, 2019

Share the post "The Universal Basic Income Enigma"

In 2017, Benoît Hamon was in a bind. He had beaten Manuel Valls in the Socialist Party primary running as a radical, promising France’s left-wing voters that he would reverse the centrist tack under François Hollande, which drove the careers of both Valls and Emmanuel Macron. But if he was to have any shot at winning the presidency, he would have to also mobilize left voters turned off by the populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In other words, Hamon’s campaign had to reject economic neoliberalism while also steering clear of the “sovereignist” or “protectionist” rhetoric that made La France insoumise unpalatable to many on the moderate left.

Hamon’s solution to this problem was to center his platform around the idea of a

Read More »

Focus: Prisons and Police

February 28, 2019

Share the post "Focus: Prisons and Police"

There’s something strange, almost perverse, in the idea that prisons and police have anything to do with democracy at all. Of course, every country that calls itself a democracy patrols its streets and incarcerates those it deems to be wrongdoers—despite the calls today for abolition in many parts of the world, no democracy has taken up such a radical challenge. But the criminal justice system is one area of democratic societies where we readily and openly accept what can only be seen as un-democratic practices. The incarcerated are by definition deprived of basic individual rights, and are subject to the near-absolute authority of prison and jail officials. Where police are not held vigorously to account, residents of many

Read More »

With Europeans like these…

February 8, 2019

Share the post "With Europeans like these…"

After what Le Monde has called “Eight months of hostilities” between France and Italy, the Quai d’Orsay recalled its ambassador from Rome. The stated reason was a meeting this week held between Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, and representatives of the gilets jaunes movement, an “unacceptable provocation.” Leaving aside the question of the wisdom of taking such a drastic diplomatic measure over a meeting between officials of a European neighbor and a domestic opposition movement (Marine Le Pen’s meetings with Matteo Salvini have provoked no such response), this appears to be a significant strategic error for Macron. Macron’s legitimacy rides on his ability to present himself as a champion of European unity

Read More »

More thoughts on immigration and the left

January 30, 2019

Share the post "More thoughts on immigration and the left"

Photo by Laurie Shall
After a number of comments and conversations since my last post on the so-called “nationalist” left in Europe, I have two quick thoughts I want to add. First, some people have taken issue with my characterization of Sahra Wagenknecht and Aufstehen, her movement within the German left party Die Linke, as “anti-migrant.” I should clarify what I meant here. I don’t think Wagenknecht and her allies are “anti-migrant” in the way right-wing “anti-migrant” politicians are—that is, explicitly racist and/or xenophobic. Wagenknecht has disavowed “nationalism,” in her words, “declar[ing] yourself superior on the basis of your background … and denigrat[ing] other nations and cultures.” She has

Read More »

On “Left nationalism”

January 11, 2019

Share the post "On “Left nationalism”"

In the attempt to hold myself to my new year’s resolution of posting here rather than in long Twitter threads, I want to flesh out my reaction to a provocative article published this week in The Nation by David Adler, entitled “Meet Europe’s Left Nationalists.” Adler focuses on Sahra Wagenknecht in Germany, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Jeremy Corbyn as examples of leaders of major left-wing movements or parties that have given up on welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers, taking an explicit stance against free movement. I’m not entirely sure being anti-migrant is completely the same as being “nationalist,” but leaving that aside, it’s certain that Adler is putting his finger on a real tendency in European left politics. Wagenknecht

Read More »

Ruffin, président ?

January 5, 2019

Share the post "Ruffin, président ?"

I have a short piece out in Dissent exploring the implications of the gilets jaunes movement for La France insoumise and left populism in general. Part of my motivation to write this was an observation that the composition of the movement seemed to track quite neatly the theoretical claims of left-populist theory, while at the same time some of the celebration of the protests by leftists in the US and abroad seemed entirely premature. In other words, I found it strange to declare victory for the populist left in France when it was far from clear that La France insoumise, France’s left-populist party, had or would made any inroads towards capitalizing on the gilets jaunes phenomenon.

One completely counterfactual pet theory of

Read More »

Benalla is back!

December 31, 2018

Share the post "Benalla is back!"

Médiapart has given all of us France-watchers a fantastic New Year’s gift, revealing today in an interview with Alexandre Benalla that the disgraced former security consultant for Emmanuel Macron claims still to be in regular contact with the president. The newspaper had reported just a few days prior that Benalla had been travelling on diplomatic passports in Africa, and now he is claiming that he has never been officially fired from the Elysée despite the scandals that broke this summer over his having roughed up May Day protesters while following a police contingent. Apparently Macron is still asking Benalla for his advice on current affairs, including the gilets jaunes protests. Aside from remaining an immensely entertaining

Read More »

Bienvenue à Danielle Charette !

December 14, 2018

Share the post "Bienvenue à Danielle Charette !"

Tocqueville 21 is very excited to announce that Danielle Charette will be joining us as co-editor of the blog, focusing on books, culture, and the arts. Danielle is a doctoral candidate on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, completing a dissertation entitled “Hume, Machiavelli and the Acquisitive Passions,” and she has also contributed to publications including The Point and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Readers of the blog will no doubt already be familiar with Danielle’s work, as she has written some of our most original pieces on democratic culture, including reviews of fiction, film, and television. We are very fortunate to have been able to rely on Danielle’s talent for looking at

Read More »

Gilets jaunes, écologistes ?

December 11, 2018

Share the post "Gilets jaunes, écologistes ?"

One stray observation that I think has been lost in some of the discussion of the gilets jaunes movement. Now that the fuel tax increases have been cancelled and Macron has gone on to make other concessions, this may feel like old news. But since the movement has gotten unusual attention in the US, this is a point I want to make for the record. Across the political spectrum, from Donald Trump to Neera Tanden, it has been common to characterize the movement as a reaction against pro-climate policy. If this position has made the rounds on this side of the Atlantic, it’s to a large degree due to successful spin by right-wing media (especially since the mainstream newspapers have done a pretty good job of presenting the

Read More »

The Revolution Will Be Livestreamed

November 28, 2018

Share the post "The Revolution Will Be Livestreamed"

Over the last several years I’ve tried to resist comparisons between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Bernie Sanders, mostly because these comparisons tend to posit a simplistic notion of “left-wing populism” that obscures the obvious differences in style and ideology between the two men and the movements that support them. Recently, though, coverage of Sanders and younger American socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has brought to light a real and important similarity between La France insoumise and the American left.

Both during Mélenchon’s 2017 presidential campaign and since he and his 17 comrades took their seats in the Assemblée nationale, a hallmark of La France insoumise has been its use of video. Candidate

Read More »

Yellow Fever

November 17, 2018

Share the post "Yellow Fever"

France is finally on the verge of a national mobilization capable of bringing the country to its knees: the gilets jaunes movement, which began primarily as a revolt against diesel taxes in rural and suburban areas. It is a fitting movement for the Macron era, since like the the president himself has characteristically claimed to be, it is neither obviously of the left nor obviously of the right. If we are to believe the videos that have gone viral in support of the national blocages this Saturday, it is a movement of non-aligned citizens of modest means that have been left to struggle with increased costs of living while Emmanuel eliminates taxes on the ultra-wealthy and Brigitte gets a fancy new set of dishes at the Elysée Palace.

Read More »

Midterm Thoughts

November 9, 2018

Share the post "Midterm Thoughts"

The Point Magazine was kind enough to invite me to participate in a series of reflections on the 2018 midterms. My thoughts on voting after moving from Paris to Chicago are below. See The Point’s full series here, featuring Lauren Michele Jackson, Anastasia Berg, Jon Baskin, Rosemarie Ho, Robert L. Kehoe III, Jesse McCarthy, and Rachel Wiseman.

Two years ago, I expected my friends and neighbors in Paris to react to the election of Donald Trump more or less the same way they had to the previous Republican presidency. George Bush’s cowboy mannerisms and his quick trigger finger had summed up for the French all that was wrong with the United States, and Jacques Chirac’s refusal to join our adventures in Iraq is still universally

Read More »

A Bad Week for Mélenchon

October 22, 2018

Share the post "A Bad Week for Mélenchon"

Hearing the news of the raids on the offices of La France insoumise and the home of Jean-Luc Mélenchon last week, one might have had some sympathy for the left-wing party and its leader. Whatever the truth of the accusations of financial misconduct against Mélenchon and his campaign team, it was hard to see the timing of the raid on the same day as the announcement of Macron’s remaniement as a mere coincidence. The immediate question for Mélenchon’s left-populist movement was how it would respond. At first, it appeared possible to rally France’s discontented by presenting the raids as the corrupt majority’s unfair singling-out of a political opponent. But Mélenchon seems to have come out as the loser of this affair. His

Read More »

Can “Procedural Extremism” Save Democracy?

October 3, 2018

Share the post "Can “Procedural Extremism” Save Democracy?"

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, a common narrative to explain the state of American democracy has been the story of “norm erosion.” The premise of this narrative is the (correct) notion that maintaining a democratic government requires not only the written rules of the law and the constitution, but also a number of unwritten rules or norms. These norms can include things from a minimum amount of respect or civility between citizens and officials, to non-legal procedures like how the Senate confirms a Supreme Court nominee, to basic commitments such as the rule of law itself. GOP leaders have shown willingness to upend these norms in past decades, particularly under the recent leadership of Mitch

Read More »

Thoughts on the Fifth Republic’s Sixtieth

September 11, 2018

Share the post "Thoughts on the Fifth Republic’s Sixtieth"

To mark the sixtieth birthday of France’s Fifth Republic last week (4 Sept.), I went and flipped through a chapter I had been meaning to come back to in Raymond Aron’s Démocratie et totalitarisme on the political crisis that led to De Gaulle’s return to power. The book was published in 1965 based on lectures given in the midst of that crisis seven years prior, and its overall aim is to sketch out the two types of political configurations Aron observed in the modern industrialized world. The title is a misnomer, since Aron does not categorize Western and Eastern Bloc countries respectively as democratic and totalitarian states, but rather as “constitutional-pluralist” and “monopolistic” (i.e., one-party)

Read More »

Focus: Liberalism and Identity Politics

September 4, 2018

Share the post "Focus: Liberalism and Identity Politics"

Is a republican politics—in the sense of the French République—possible in the United States? Much has been said about Mark Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal and the November 2016 New York Times essay that preceded it, but this question has seldom entered the debate over his prescriptions for American liberalism. As many readers of this blog might perceive throughout the following exchange, however, Lilla’s critique of identity politics is to a large extent informed by the civic republican tradition in general and French republican traditions in particular. Lilla’s claim is that the current liberal fixation on the particularity of distinct identities, often cultivated in universities and other elite spaces,

Read More »

Mélenchon’s European Tightrope

August 29, 2018

Share the post "Mélenchon’s European Tightrope"

One of the most frequent criticisms on the French left of La France insoumise and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (a criticism I have addressed in other writing) is that the “populist” movement and its leader are not coalition builders. Instead of bringing together all of the left-wing critics of Macron’s presidency, les insoumis proclaim themselves to be the only real movement of popular opposition. This does seem to be integral to Mélenchon’s understanding of left-wing populism, which he has famously articulated as a project not to “unite the left,” but rather to “unite the people.”

Over the course of the summer, however, it looks like there has been a change of course. First, during the affaire Benalla, La France insoumise

Read More »