Viereck in Print

My essay on Peter Viereck is now out, in the June 18 issue of The American Conservative. It doesn’t thoroughly address the points Will Hay and Daniel Larison (among others) raised a few months back after I blogged on Viereck, but the piece gives some indication of why I find Viereck valuable, despite his flaws.

The magazine’s early July issue will include my review of John Lukacs’s recent book on George Kennan, I believe.  There are a few other things in the pipeline, too, so keep your eyes glued to TAC (which you ought to be doing anyway, of course!).


6 thoughts on “Viereck in Print

  1. Scott Lahti June 11, 2007 / 9:52 pm

    I’m hoping to read as well the article by Mark Lilla on Eric Voegelin in The New York Review of Books for June 28, 2007, “Mr. Casaubon in America” (not online), which opens thus:

    The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin
    by Eric Voegelin

    University of Missouri Press, 34 volumes, $29.95–$74.95 each

    Crisis is the mother of history. Beginning with Herodotus the urge to write history has been bound up with the need to explain the seemingly inexplicable reversals of fortune suffered by nations and empires. The best histories satisfy that need while still capturing the openness and unpredictability of human action, though the best histories are not always the most memorable. Historians who offer ‘multicausal explanations’–and use phrases like that–do not last, while those who discover the hidden wellspring of absolutely everything are imitated and attacked but never forgotten…

  2. Daniel McCarthy June 12, 2007 / 8:07 pm

    Lilla’s Voegelin is pretty good, but all too short: nominally he’s covering the thirty volumes of the Collected Works of EV, but he only has enough space for a precis, focusing on EV’s turn from a monocausal to a more eclectic (and esoteric) take on historical development. There are several other excellent pieces in the new NYROB, including Peter Green on women in the ancient world and Gordon S. Wood on slavery and the Founders. Wood is quite critical of both of the books he reviews, one of which tries to explain away America’s anti-statist tendencies and preference for low taxes as a legacy of slavery. I haven’t yet read the review in the issue of Alexander Waugh’s book, but that’s also probably pretty good. It’s worth picking up the print issue this week.

  3. Scott Lahti June 13, 2007 / 3:09 pm

    Mark Lilla is an interesting scholar – one who seems to have started as a sort of Public Interest-style center-right neocon-fellow-traveler, modulating over time toward a sort of 1950s-style urbane Francophile anti-totalitarian liberalism in the style of Raymond Aron and Isaiah Berlin, with nods to Vico and Francois Furet. His 1998 NYROB essay, “A Tale of Two Reactions”, linking 1960s Aquarianism to later Reaganite reaction – seeing in them a common anti-communitarian hedonist privatism, if I recall – created a stir. [Echoing in that line of critique, now I think of it, Henry Anderson’s remarkable 1966 KPFA broadcast, reprinted in MANAS, “The Case Against the Drug Culture” (pay-to-play archive) Lilla takes on a critic of that essay here:

    Once again, I’m struck by the truth of the comment by Andrew Bacevich from the American Conservative I included in my comment on your Bacevich post:

    “the thinking conservative will find more of value these days in The New York Review of Books than in National Review…”

    That is, if your stubborn notions of what “conservative” looks like run more to, say, the wonderful best-of-the-cultural-past catalogs from Dover Publications, the Met and the NYPL, or that longtime fingertip companion The Columbia Encyclopedia, than to such wild-eyed and uncouth radical egotists as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. or Ann Coulter – who are still, I kid you not, thought of in some broad sense as being on “our” side, whatever the hell *that* means. Perhaps as with “liberal”and “libertarian”, some still clutching to the C-word might think about dropping it given its tattered and contorted adoptions by tabloid Republicans.

    As to the NYROB, I recall from The Neoconservatives by Peter Steinfels – which I virtually dogeared while an undergraduate at Hillsdale and NYU quarter-century ago – that a stock critique of that paper among those neocons for whom it quickly became a bete noire, was that given its blend of consistent conservatism in art and literature, and liberalism-to-radicalism in politics, was that its political stance was a fashionable instrument of aristocratic elitism. My own take on the NYROB , first in my 1986 survey of Anglo-American literary journalism in National Review

    and expanded at length in 2005 in a post at my now-defunct blog SUB SPECIE ÆTERNITATIS, which I reposted as a comment at Kenneth Anderson’s blog

    was that it was a variant on the old pantomime-horse aspect of classic journals of opinion:

    “NYRoB-watchers have always remarked upon the politics of what is ostensibly a more essayistic version of a general book review rather than an opinion journal proper, because of its own inveterate self-styling, making it our closest equivalent to England’s New Statesman during the Old Testament phase of the modern British literary left under editor Kingsley Martin: Politics in the front, Culture in the back. This odd pantomime-horse aspect of opinion journals has long been a staple of comment upon them – Alfred Kazin, postwar America’s baton-holder of its outside-academe Grand Tradition of Edmund Wilson-style book reviewing, writing in The New Republic, contrasted that weekly’s front-of-the-book Beltway-careerist
    knowingness regarding last-week’s headlines with the often anthology-worthy longform review essays run in the back by its astringent, ethically-trained literary editor Leon Wieseltier. A like front-back distinction plays out in the NYRoB as well, even in the absence of section divisions: its covers, often sporting ominous, Gothic-acidulous pen-sketches by staff caricaturist David Levine (ever seen Kissinger, eyes ablaze, jowls streaked with fresh blood? So has Levine), usually grant pride of place to raising the burgundy-and-brie alarums upon any one of the latest catastrophes promised/enacted by the current cabal of Snidely Whiplashes in the seats of preponderant Power on the Potomac.”

    For more on why, whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the NYROB, some of us prefer its London great-uncle The Times Literary Supplement (to which a thumbs-up letter from H.L. Mencken to Edmund Wilson from the 1940s alerted me; see Carl Bode’s The New Mencken Letters), see, in addition to my two essays linked above, my two-part review at of the authorized history of that remarkable paper, Critical Times by Derwent May.

  4. R J Stove June 13, 2007 / 9:22 pm

    Dan, I very much admired your Viereck piece. Any chance of it being incorporated by you into something more like a book? Would there be a literary market for a collection of portraits of Viereck and his colleagues/rivals/opponents on the Right?

  5. Daniel McCarthy June 15, 2007 / 6:24 am

    Thanks for your kind words about the piece, Rob. I do, in fact, have plans somewhat along the lines you mention, although they probably won’t add up to anything between two covers.

  6. Tim June 29, 2007 / 8:13 am

    I must second Rob Stove’s endorsement. The Viereck piece is excellent. It accurately describes the man’s views and insights whilst drawing out what should be of value to today’s conservatives. Viereck is much more in the European conservative tradition than the American one, except in one sense. His conservatism, unlike the Euro-trad version, wasn’t as explicitly linked to the Church and Christendom. Here he is closer to the Kirks and Nisbets …fellow trads with a more loosely coupled American style view of things theological.

    I found the discussion of the “parallel” between Viereck’s Neitzche derived critique of “mass man” in his 1950s McCarthyite populist right manifestation with the Frankfurt School Adorno et al “psychological” a.k.a “status resentment” critique of same as intriguing. I suspect Albert Jay Nock’s earlier critique of “mass man” in his 1930s New Deal populist left manifestation may have shared Viereck’s Neitzchean intellectual roots yet from what I can tell Viereck doesn’t seem to have condemned that more serious episode of mass man populism on the loose. In any event he liked the New Deal after it was done.

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