My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rate Your Professor

This is just an addendum to yesterday's blog. I mentioned that in the aftermath of World War One the upper reaches of academia at least could be included (along with army officers, state bureaucracy, judges, and so on) in the reactionary 'permanent state' unhappy with democracy and its new freedoms for the upstart labour movement. This might seem a bit odd, when it has been argued that the academy is the very bedrock of democratic process and the open society. But it's well known, of course, that universities in inter-war Europe were bastions of conservatism or (amongst students at any rate) the radical-right.

Here is Franz Neumann writing mournfully in the Summer of 1919:

When I came in the spring of 1918 to the university of Breslau, its celebrated economist – in his very first lecture – denounced the Peace Resolution of 1917 (peace without annexations and indemnities) … When I came to Leipzig in the fall of 1918 … the [professorial] historian proved conclusively that democracy was an essentially non-German form of political organisation, suitable for the materialistic Anglo-Saxons, but incompatible with the ideals of the Germanic race.  When I transferred to Rostock in the summer of 1919, I had to organise students to combat anti-Semitism openly preached by the university professors. When I finally landed in Frankfurt, the very first task with which I was faced was to help protect a newly appointed socialist university professor from attack – political as well as physical – by students secretly supported by a considerable number of professors.
[Quoted in Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1968), pp. 45-6.]

It's worth bearing in mind that there was considerable continuity in the professoriat up until the 1960s, which is one reason for the student '68 (something I talk about in the book, and will come back to here).


  1. One of the weaknesses, I thought, of that film The Baader-Meinhof Complex was its disinclination to say (or show) much about why it might have been the case that 1968 in Germany produced a much sharper militancy than it did elsewhere. The cops are shown beating people up at the start but (if memory serves) it isn't made clear enough that these are the SPD's Willi Brandt's cops in West Berlin doing the beating up, and there's nothing on the point you make, that the students were justifiably angry at the extent to which the people running the universities in the 1960s were people who had done rather well under the Third Reich.

  2. I read somewhere that of all continental countries, West Germany's elites were purged the least at the end of the war. I suppose they weren't considered to be national traitors as such, so less exposed to popular rage, and once De-Nazification was replaced by Cold War they could slip back into the civil service, judiciary, politics etc. In the book I've got the slogan used by German students about their professors: 'Under their gowns, the darkness of a thousand years'.

  3. That said, recent work challenges the old generational argument, suggesting that the Nazi generation played a central role in raising awareness re. Nazi history in the early 60s. Particularly important were conflicts over city space, which saw trade unionists prevent rightist demonstrations in the early 60s. See Neil Gregor, Haunted City.

  4. Oh, I'll have to look at that. Cheers!