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.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hannah Arendt on Bourgeois Society

Hannah Arendt is well known for her views on totalitarianism, which she associated with the development of atomised ‘mass society’, and the break down of the components of civil society: the nation, classes, political parties. She argued that while French and British imperialism was exteriorised, pan-Slavism and pan-Germanism exploited ‘surplus’ peoples in service of surplus capital. “The ultimate horror was achieved when leaders from the mob or the déclassé masses without real, concrete class interest mobilised their followers on the basis of extravagant, totalitarian ideologies.”

Generally, Arendt is seen as anti-Marxist. In reflecting in the 1940s on the trajectory of the bourgeoisie since the mid-nineteenth-century, however, we can see that she was steeped in Marxist-inflected debate. First, the bourgeoisie does not seek to monopolise the executive-state:

The central inner-European event of the imperialist period was the political emancipation of the bourgeoisie, which up to then had been the first class in history to achieve economic pre-eminence without aspiring to political rule. … Even when the bourgeoisie had already established itself as the ruling class, it had left all political decisions to the state.

However, she thought that the 'Imperialist era' (from about 1880) began to change this:
Only when the nation-state proved unfit to be the framework for the further growth of capitalist economy did the latent fight between state and society become openly a struggle for power.
Arendt argued that imperialism was an expression of capitalist economic interests straining at the bounds of the nations state

During the imperialist period neither the state nor the bourgeoisie won a decisive victory. National institutions resisted throughout the brutality and megalomania of imperialist aspirations, and bourgeois attempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic purposes [i.e. imperialism] were always only half successful.

Then, the fateful moment:
Then the German bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The bourgeoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liquidated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions.
 It's exaggerated, but there a definite truth in here, I think.


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