‘Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right’ by Ronald Beiner reviewed by Javier Sethness


Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2018. 167pp., £19.99 hb
ISBN 9780812250596

Reviewed by Javier Sethness

About the reviewer

Javier Sethness is author of Eros and Revolution: The Critical Philosophy of Herbert …

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This volume presents compelling critiques of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger as far-right agitators who inspired (Nietzsche) or actively supported Nazism (Heidegger). Author Ronald Beiner connects Nietzsche’s affinities for feudalism with the philosopher’s critique of compassion, morality, and egalitarianism, and he shows how such despotism of thought was reproduced by the Nazi enthusiast Heidegger as well. Beiner details Heidegger’s disturbing commitment to Nazism not only under Hitler, whom he wholeheartedly welcomed in his infamous inaugural address as Rector of the University of Freiburg, “The Self-Assertion of the Germany University” (May 1933), but also within the post-war context and for decades thereafter. In light of the menace posed by the neo-Nazi alt-right, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán, and Narendra Modi, Beiner is rightly worried that the philosophies of Nietzsche and Heidegger, as anti-liberal critics of modernity, are coming back in a rude way. However, it is doubtful whether the Rawlsian or Habermasian liberal alternative Beiner endorses is the correct treatment for this diagnosis, or rather part and parcel of the same disastrous problematic that is driving the consolidation of neo-fascist forces.

Besides the acute political-philosophical commentary to be found in Dangerous Minds, the author reflects movingly on the inevitable difficulties related to death within the context of Heidegger’s identification of the everyday suppression of the recognition of our individual and social finitude, or finiteness, as raised in Being and Time (1927).

In Dangerous Minds, Beiner discusses the influence Nietzsche has had on notorious contemporary ultra-rightists such as the U.S.-based white supremacist Richard Spencer and the Russian neo-fascist Aleksandr Dugin, as well as the historical Italian fascist Julius Evola, who was an “explicit disciple of Nietzsche” (3). Like Evola, Spencer declares himself a Nietzschean, and Dugin swears by the iconoclast’s ominous statement that “man [sic] is something that should be overcome” (2, 12). These prominent figures of an increasingly powerful Fascist International find inspiration in Nietzsche’s aristocratic differentiation between the putatively “elect” and “unfit peoples” (4) as well as the philosopher’s anticipation of Nazism’s practice of große Politik (“great [or noble] politics”) in his militaristic critique of Otto von Bismarck from the right, as György Lukács points out in The Destruction of Reason (1952), and his “imperialistic critique of nationalism” (136n2). Today’s far-rightists also admire the Nazi Heidegger, who himself took a great deal from Nietzsche, particularly his critique of liberal modernity as nihilistic. To date, reports Beiner, Dugin has dedicated four volumes to discussing Heidegger, with “more to follow” (139n27).

Yet it has not just been the right which has found Nietzsche and Heidegger of use; in fact, Beiner endorses Geoff Waite’s view that Nietzsche also left his mark on the Frankfurt School critical theorists, Albert Camus, and post-structuralists like Michel Foucault, Félix Guattari, and Gilles Deleuze, among others. Whereas one finds few positive references to Nietzsche in Herbert Marcuse’s oeuvre, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno admittedly incorporated a Nietzschean skepticism toward instrumental rationality, though they both, like the other Frankfurt School thinkers, held an overall more Hegelian view of rationality, viewing it as also having strong emancipatory potential. As for Camus, his position is ambiguous, given his view in The Rebel (1951) that, on the one hand, Nietzsche’s appropriation by the Nazis represented a great injustice to the philosopher, while also acknowledging that “Nietzscheism was nothing without world domination” and that, when “[p]laced in the crucible of Nietzschean philosophy, rebellion, in the intoxication of freedom, ends in biological or historical Caesarism” (Camus 1951, 75-80). For his part, Beiner illustrates the relevance of Foucault’s adoption of Nietzsche’s critique of truth as power, yielding “post-truth” and “fake news.” Notably, Foucault’s Nietzschean-Heideggerian preference for pre-modern alternatives to capitalist modernity may help to explain his uncritical support for the Khomeinist faction of the Iranian Revolution, whose seizure of power in 1979 effectively put an end to the revolutionary process, as Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson (2005) detail.

Crucially, Beiner clarifies Nietzsche and Heidegger’s philosophical critiques of the modern world as being reactionary assaults on the egalitarian legacy of the French Revolution which quite openly sought to entrench imperialistic domination and re-establish feudalistic modes of social organization. Hence, Beiner argues, we should take Nietzsche seriously when he endorses the ideas of social castes and slavery (18, 144n35), just as we should take seriously Heidegger’s explicit admission in 1948 to his former student Marcuse of his uncritical view of Nazism, from which he had reportedly “expected […] a spiritual renewal of life in its entirety, a reconciliation of social antagonisms, and a deliverance of western Dasein [‘Being’] from the dangers of communism” (Marcuse 1998, 265-7). Such pseudo-radical posturing by a thinker who sides with the Nazi dictatorship is precisely what many far-rightists find so attractive in Heidegger: this dramatic perspective, shared by Nietzsche, Dugin, and also the Counter-Enlightenment traditionalist and irrationalist Joseph de Maistre, amounts to the paradoxical concept of ‘conservative revolution,’ whereby the socio-political goal becomes the overthrow of liberal society, the cancellation of the ideas of the French Revolution, and even the abolition of Christianity due to the egalitarianism of the doctrine of Jesus the Nazarene.

Indeed, Beiner argues that, for Nietzsche, “repudiation of Christianity constitutes the necessary condition of a return to an aristocracy-centered culture” (27 emphasis in original). Little surprise, then, that his The Anti-Christ (1895) has been adopted by contemporary white supremacists as a neo-pagan tract—and that his celebration of the idea of the Supermen (Übermenschen) who would overthrow egalitarianism necessarily presupposes “subhumans” (Untermenschen), as the Nazis rather catastrophically put in practice. Moreover, neo-Nazi movements have appreciated Nietzsche’s classification of Judaism and Christianity as ‘slave religions,’ a position that is inseparable from the philosopher’s analysis of compassion as reflecting resentment and weakness—a view which is arguably itself a reflection of rightist resentment. Nietzsche’s explicit affirmation of the “protracted despotic moralities”, which on his account predominated in premodern contexts, demonstrates the degree to which his philosophy is an inversion of that of Arthur Schopenhauer, who emphasizes compassion as being the basis of morality (32 emphasis in original; 161n72). Steeping himself in irrationalism, Nietzsche expressly saw his philosophy as a wholesale destruction—or, to use contemporary parlance, ‘owning’—of “the left,” understood as German Idealism, the principles of the French Revolution, Christianity, and even Platonic and Socratic rationalism.

In contrast to Nietzsche, who died in 1900 and did not necessarily frame his concept of the Superman in ethno-racial terms, Heidegger clearly was a völkisch fascist, an enthusiastic Nazi, and a rabid anti-Semite, as the recently published Black Notebooks (1931-1938) attest. This so-called ‘intellectual’ displayed a swastika at the well outside his cabin in the Black Forest until the war’s end in 1945 (114), and we have already seen his view from 1948 as expressed to Marcuse above. Beiner correctly notes that “[o]nly a real Nazi […] could have written such a letter” to Marcuse, a left-wing German Jew (120). Moreover, in his 1947 response to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism, Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” contrasts the rationalism and humanism extending from Plato and Socrates to Johann Wolfang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller with the supposedly nationalistic attitude found in Friedrich Hölderin which emphasizes the overthrow of contemporary “uncanniness” (otherwise known as ‘homelessness’) and the goal of establishing a strong homeland, or Heimat. He clearly considers the latter approach more authentic, two years after the end of World War II regardless of the genocidal implications of Nazism.

As Beiner writes, “[o]ne feels compelled to say that here is a man who experienced political events without really experiencing them” (101). Yet this is perhaps too kind an assessment, as Heidegger could not deny what Nazism had wrought on the world. Marcuse for one had brought it up to him in his 1946 meeting with Heidegger in the Black Forest, and then again during their subsequent correspondence. Still, as Beiner relates, never once did the author of Being and Time apologize for his collaboration with Hitler’s regime, let alone concede any wrongdoing. On the contrary, he would continue to publicly defend National Socialism until at least 1966. His friend Rudolf Bultmann reports that Heidegger utterly ignored his request that the philosopher write a confession, like Augustine of Hippo (119).

Beiner’s “call to arms” to liberals and leftists about Nietzsche and Heidegger’s very “dangerous minds” and the resurgence of ‘conservative revolutionary’ rightism is certainly an important and relevant study. The author is justified in finding it “bizarre” that the Nazi Heidegger became one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and that several leftist intellectuals take after his thought and even describe themselves as Heideggerians (21). Nonetheless, in light of Heidegger’s fascism, Beiner has a point in arguing that left-Heideggerianism should “close up shop” (67). Considering in turn that Heidegger clarified how decisive Nietzsche’s influence was in his becoming a Nazi (111), ‘left-Nietzscheanism’ presumably should do the same. Hence, if Beiner were to be heeded, post-structuralism and postmodernism would likely have to be rethought and overhauled—as they arguably should be anyway, given the ties between these schools of thoughts and the ideas of Nietzsche and Heidegger in the first place. In this sense, Beiner’s volume recalls Richard Wolin’s The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (2009), and has a similar critical force.

One qualification to this conclusion relates to Beiner’s ideological support for liberal capitalism as an alternative to Nietzsche and Heidegger’s ultra-reactionary actionism. The author of Dangerous Minds at times equates liberalism with egalitarianism, when clearly—as Marxists, anarchists, and other socialists have long noted—liberalism has in fact greatly violated egalitarian principles in upholding capitalism and its inevitably associated racial, gender, and labor hierarchies. Indeed, one cannot overlook Marcuse’s point in “The Struggle against Liberalism in the Totalitarian View of the State” (1934) that fascism grew out of liberal-bourgeois society itself; Lukács makes a similar point overall in The Destruction of Reason. The ongoing transnational resurgence of far-right authoritarianism shows this playing out in real time. Taking all of this into account, instead of the minimalist demands for social-democracy made by Rawls and Habermas and endorsed by Beiner, we should advance and support egalitarian and transformative anti-capitalist critique and social reorganization.

27 July 2018

References

  • Afary, Janet and Kevin B. Anderson 2005 Foucault and The Iranian Revolution Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Camus, Albert 1956 The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt trans. Anthony Bower. New York: Knopf
  • Marcuse, Herbert 1998 Technology, War, and Fascism: Collected Papers Volume 1 ed. Douglas Kellner. London: Routledge
  • Wolin, Richard 2009 The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism Princeton: Princeton University Press

4 comments

  1. I echo Rudy’s comment.

    But now, surely, the question that needs asking is: How come that brace of bastards are still taken so seriously by hosts of bien pensant academics ?

  2. To begin with, I wholeheartedly agree that Nietzsche’s philosophy is fascistic, since it is based upon a biological racist concept of superior and inferior castes/classes/races that was staunchly rejected by Heidegger (although whether Nietzsche was not sarcastically overcompensating for being himself something of a 97-lb. untermensch would be worth asking). But anybody who conflates Heidegger’s later thought with Nietzscheanism is simply subscribing to the stereotype ‘Nazi Heidegger’ reading that’s been hashed over too many times and is obviously not reading Heidegger carefully enough. Nobody will deny that the 1930s Heidegger succumbed to the Nazi hysteria driving Germany into a knee-jerk goose-step reaction against Stalin’s Great Terror, the Ukrainian terror famine, and the German Spartacist League, which spurred fears of a Bolshevik-style revolution in Germany, and brought the Post-WWI unemployed brown-shirts out into the streets in droves, just spoiling for a fight with the contemporary anti-fas But after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in 1933-1934, Heidegger accepted the Rectorate at Freiburg unwillingly, made the obligatory Nazi speeches, did the stupid obligatory Heil Hitlers, and then quickly resigned after one year of lip-service to the Nazi regime. Even in the 1930s, Heidegger considered himself a dissident in the Nazi Party, and he risked his reputation and career (not to say: his life…) to criticize the Nazi propagandists (Rosenberg, Krieck, Baumler, et al.); and Heidegger later called his Nazi period ‘my greatest stupidity’ (meine groBeste Dummheit). Even in the 1930s, Heidegger’s Nietzsche lectures were taken by his students as a scathing critique of Nazism, and students often wondered how he got away with saying what he did without being sent to the camps. Oh, and, by the way, Heidegger’s son was a German POW in the Russian camps, and his wife was an enthusiastic Nazi, which made it difficult for Heidegger to speak out without also risking the lives of his family and friends (many of them Jews). So when I hear British or American academics trashing Heidegger for his complicity in Nazism, I always wonder: Where was your scholarly critique of the US/British war on terror, Guantanamo and the CIA black sites, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama drone strikes and the wholesale bombings of Raqqa and Mosul, which have killed several million people, when it was needed? And you didn’t have to worry about being sent to the camps! Yes, Heidegger was sometimes silent when he should have spoken out, but he wasn’t the only one. And if you still think Heidegger never said anything about the Holocaust or Shoah, please read ‘The Bremen and Freiburg Lectures’ and ‘Overcomng Metaphysics,’ which, however inadequate, are still some of the best philosophical thinking about German National Socialism and the Holocaust or Shoah we have, alongside Adorno’s Minima Moralia and Adorno and Horkehiemer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, and shouldn’t be thrown out, as Adorno would say, with the dirty bathwater.

    Further: After WWII ended on VE Day, March 8th, 1945, Heidegger was put on trial by the French occupiers (yes, the Vichy French like Marshall Petain & Co., who were the biggest Nazi collaborators in WWII…) and convicted of low-level complicity in Nazism. He lost his teaching position and had a nervous breakdown, after which he was compelled to rethink his Pre-WWII texts, especially ‘Being and Time,’ and found them also complicitous in Nazism. So he wrote ‘Overcoming Metaphysics,’ which is a scathing critique of, among other things, the Nietzschean and Hegelian (but also Cartesian) elements of Nazism, especially the Ubermensch/Untermensch master/slave dichotomy and the mystique of the will to power (which Heidegger calls ‘the will to will’), not to mention the cult of ‘men of will’ and ‘the destruction of the earth through technology,’ and so on. Briefly, Heidegger argues that both Stalinist Bolshevik communism and German National Socialist fascism were driven by a deranged will-to-domination embodied in the military-industrial complex of Western technology, which drove both the Stalinists and the Nazis to self-destruction in WWII. To my thinking, the Post WWII Heidegger’s critique of the Western military-industrial-technological complex fits quite well with a Frankfurt School critique of the Enlightenment will-to-domination, and both make required reading for a Late- or Post-Marxist critique of Western capitalist imperialism in the contemporary post-modernistic period. But don’t believe me, just go and read ‘Overcoming Metaphysics’ and ‘The Bremen and Freiburg Lectures’ and ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ before talking about Heidegger’s Nazism. Then when you call Heidegger a Nazi, at least you’ll know what his Post-WWII attitude toward Nietzscheanism and Nazism really was, and won’t just conflate it with a cliched, hackneyed reading of ‘Being and Time.’

    And, finally, anybody who takes Alexander Dugin or Richard Spenser seriously as representatives of ‘A New Fascist Internationale’ is really seriously overreacting to a few wimpish white supremacists and pointy-headed russky trolls who really can’t be taken seriously, except in their own minds. Don’t give them so much credit! They really don’t represent a serious threat to Western Civilization, even if Vladimir Putin sometimes thumbs through a few pages of Dugin’s books. Taking these crypto-fascist punks seriously just gives them the attention they crave, and makes them look more important than they really are (not!). And, besides, all the hysteria surrounding Heidegger’s Nazism just prevents us from reading those sections of Post-WWII Heidegger that really do make important contributions to contemporary critical thinking, when not laughably misread by Spenser and Dugin, and maybe Beinder, too…

    PS I apologize I have not read Beiner, and if you think I’m misreading him or you, I welcome your response. I’m always glad to stand corrected, just not politically-correct-ed. And as for ‘The Black Notebooks,’ the jury is still out on exactly how to read the allegedly anti-Semitic passages of that cryptic anti-text, which most people agree is a critique of Nazi orthodoxy, even if still tainted by what Peter Trawny calls ‘metaphysical anti-Semitism’,’ not to be confused with the vulgar Nazi-style anti-Semitism…

    Eric D. Meyer

  3. ‘Dangerous minds’ was a 1995 Hollywood movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer in the unlikely role of a discharged US marine who goes teaching high school – to poor kids in East Palo Alto who are connected with gang warfare and street crime. If the kids are good, they get a candy bar, and if they are bad, they get a dose of karate. As the story progresses, bad things happen, but in the end Pfeiffer’s moral authority prevails: the kids accept her, and want her back.

    Ronnie Beiner has nothing much in common with Michelle Pfeiffer, but he is a moralist yearning for this kind of authority, preaching his lesson to the world from his academic pulpit, while showing off his erudition – except that, in his lecture halls, he is not actually dealing with real neo-fascists, but with imaginary ones, or with people who ‘could be’ neo-fascists, or ‘might’ evolve into far Right supporters. It’s a make-believe world.

    In his brief ‘pre-emptive’ polemic (80-odd pages of text, plus notes), Beiner wants to warn the educated elite against messing with ‘dangerous ideas’ – a bit like a medieval priest who warns the faithful against the demons of the occult, or, if you prefer, as a medical doctor administering an immunization programme. We’re dealing with a faith healer of sorts.

    Only a fairly small group of educated people are still interested in Nietzsche and Heidegger these days. Most of the rest probably cannot even spell their names properly. There are few people who have read ‘Being and Time’, or ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’. And how many readers really understood what they read?

    Beiner does not actually prove at all, that today’s far Right leaders are guided by the metaphysics of Nietzsche and Heidegger. When he nudges on p. 17 of his book that ‘the intellectual left has found much to its liking in the philosophies of ultra-right thinkers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt’, he quotes as his source an article from The Tablet.

    Nor does Beiner prove that Nietzsche and Heidegger are intrinsically evil and fascist thinkers. It is more just an allegation of ‘guilt by association’, or in plain language, a bogey, a smear. Basically, Beiner just tries to use the ‘populist’ tactics of the far Right against them.

    How could far Right politicians be guided in their policy by the astronomically abstract metaphysics of Nietzsche and Heidegger? By throwing a copy of Being and Time at their opponents, perhaps? In the real world, the far Right just selects out from the past those ideas, thinkers and events which seem to resonate best with their own concerns, ideals and aspirations today.

    I don’t have real evidence, that today’s far Right cares very much about Nietzsche or Heidegger; what the Right are interested in, is thinkers who (1) are influential, or who (2) are not well-known, but exemplify their own present-day concerns, or who (3) capture the imagination of their own constituency.

    Would Nietzsche and Wagner have endorsed Hitler, Papadopoulos, Berlusconi or Flip Dewinter? I doubt it, somehow. Would Heidegger have approved of Anders Breivik? Not very likely. It is just that, when so-called ‘liberals’ like Beiner demonize thinkers in their witch-hunts, then the odds are, that the far Right will be sympathetic to those thinkers. That is how it goes.

    Javier Sethness’s book review approves of Beiner’s ‘liberal’ demonization of Nietzsche and Heidegger, as the mongers of great evil, and as the ancestors of the modern alt-Right. Yet Beiner does not even demonstrate what is really wrong with the arguments of the contemporary far Right – never mind the issue of where they get their ideas from. It is more that the far Right is evil… because it is far Right.

    Beiner wants to sound the alarm against ‘illiberal thinkers’ creeping into the ideological landscape (nudge, nudge). What is wrong with the far Right is… that they aren’t real liberals. Now that is a significant contribution to the discussion! It goes about as far as preaching to the converted.

    It is only a small step from Beiner’s concept of ‘dangerous minds’ to the concept of ‘dangerous ideas’, and then we are pretty soon back with all those 20th century despots who tried to ban, imprison or exterminate people who had the ‘wrong ideas’ (‘Dangerous minds’ is also the title of a book by Robin Munro, about Chinese political psychiatry).

    All that isn’t very ‘liberal’, obviously. Driven into a corner, liberals like Beiner can also suddenly become very illiberal and intolerant, indeed.

    In a democratic society, ‘dangerous ideas’ do not exist among adults, they exist only among children who are innocent, and who cannot yet fully understand or take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. For example, we don’t think that children should play with fire, unsupervised.

    In adult society, there are no ‘dangerous ideas’, there are only dangerous actions, and it is on their actions that people are normally judged. It is precisely in the context of a theocratic state or a totalitarian state, that this important distinction is abandoned.

    From his academic throne, Beiner treats adults like children. Yet an adult fights bad ideas, with better ideas; and in a free society, people are not incriminated for what they think, but for bad things that they have verifiably done. The real infant in the room turns out to be Beiner himself.

    If you want to defeat the Right in the field of theory, you have to start off by demonstrating what is wrong with their actual theory and practice, and understand the real background. You don’t get there with stereotypes, clichés, analogies and insinuations.

    Obviously, free speech does not mean, that you can just say anything you like, anywhere that you want, and get away with that (as an adult, you have to take responsibility for your own behaviour, recognize relevant protocols, and your own civil obligations to others). But it does mean, that you are at least entitled to your own thoughts. It is a civil liberty.

    That liberty is worth defending, and we do that best, by offering better ideas – ideas that can defeat the bad ideas. Beiner doesn’t do that – he is just like the right-wing people he criticizes, using smears, libel, accusations, allegations etc.

    Heidegger joined the Nazi party for two main reasons.

    Firstly, he hoped that the Nazi’s would put Germany back on the road to progress, and restore the country to its former glory as a leading nation – after two decades of war, defeats, depression and social rot.

    Secondly, he wanted to protect his own academic career, and the careers of colleagues (many other intellectuals, e.g. Carl Jung, were in a similar predicament – they wanted to survive, just as much as anybody else).

    Following this logic, Heidegger mostly played down his Nazi membership, or kept it secret. He was very grateful to resume his trysts with the lovely liberal Jewess Hannah Arendt, straight after the Nazi regime collapsed.

    In this way, Heidegger could convince the world, that he had never been a true Nazi, just a dedicated scholar concerned with philosophy, who dated nice Jewish girls when he could (he got off with having been a ‘fellow traveller’ of the Nazis, and could resume his academic career, after the dust had settled).

    Hannah Arendt, by the way, initially helped to prevent the publication of Raul Hilberg’s history of the holocaust, although later on, she based her own interpretation on his research – without due acknowledgement.

    If the Left and the liberals have a problem today, it is with their lazy thinking and propagandism. Because they are not interested much in facts and logic anymore, they aren’t concerned anymore to defend a position with rational arguments and real evidence. They doubt that rational arguments can achieve anything anymore.

    In that case, there is not much scope or future anymore for critical and scientific thought. Moral effluvium takes over from objectivity, and from tolerance for different points of view.

    Behind this, is a massive confusion about the role of ideas in contemporary society – how ideas arise, why they spread, and why they decline and disappear. The elite lacks any appealing positive models. It has lost much of its intellectual hegemony and authority. It can often hold on to power only by illiberal and juridically dubious methods. There is a lot of moral confusion.

    In this milieu, you get all these ‘intellectual’ people try to demonize, libel, villify, stigmatize and discredit their opponents (real or imagined) with accusations, insinuations, incriminations and complaints. There is no real attempt at proof or a positive alternative anymore, only a status resentment, fear or hate of other people, or a pleasure in muckraking.

    The problem in that reactionary situation is, that everything becomes an intellectual slipsand, and that one idea is as good or as bad as another – it just depends on personal taste. Thinking and theory can no longer provide a real orientation for what is to be done. Thus, the problem of what ought to be done, cannot be solved.

    Theory itself has become just a pastiche, a garment, a mood ring, or a flavour – or a disease that has to be extirpated.

    The clumsy subtitle of Beiner’s conclusion is ‘How to Do Theory in Politically Treacherous Times’. As our ‘ideological director’, standing as it were on the shoulders of Voltaire and Edmund Burke, he wants to finish up with a bit of parenting and mentoring.

    He recommends that we read Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger (which he calls ‘the great anti-liberal theorists’) not ‘to appropriate them for liberal or leftist intellectual projects’ but to understand ‘precisely why they turn their backs on bourgeois liberalism, and hence why many of our fellow citizens are readily tempted to do the same’ (p.89).

    This is just the purest academic idealism and falsification, but it clarifies that Beiner wants to defend a specific kind of bourgeois liberal conservatism (it is therefore rather surprising to discover, that left-wing people support Ronnie Beiner).

    In real politics, you need ideas that can survive the stress-tests of experience. That’s quite a different matter, than a two-bit liberal like Beiner trying to demonize various defunct philosophers who can’t talk back anymore.

    We do not really advance the cause of liberty, by holding the torch of liberty in such a way, that we burn ourselves.

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