Public Seminar is dedicated to informing debate about the pressing issues of our times and creating a global intellectual commons. An independent project of The New School Publishing Initiative, Public Seminar is produced by New School faculty, students and staff, and supported by colleagues and collaborators around the globe.
Public Seminar is, above all things, dedicated to the intellectual and cultural work of democracy, and is open to a range of perspectives. Using the New School’s expertise in social science, humanities, design and the creative and performing arts, it aims to begin and sustain conversation. The views expressed by Public Seminar contributors do not necessarily represent those of The New School, or the editors and staff of Public Seminar.
Trump wasn’t an aberration: he only renewed the US nation’s bitter, uncivil war over whether a clear majority of its people want to forge a republic of equals. The challenge for Biden will be to assert his ‘American ideal’ over the competing vision that Trump has left behind.
In 2020, the Republican Party continued to gain ground among voters identifying as religious – almost three quarters of the US electorate. The most dramatic shift was among Muslims. Why was this the case, given Trump’s irreligiousness and record of hostility towards Islam? And what does the trend have to do with race?
Public Seminar 12+19 November 2020
Public Seminar blames the disappearance of local journalism for the over-dependency on polls. Also: why anti-racist literature may not signal a new conversation about race; and how schools remain arenas of exclusion in secular France.
Biden’s victory was not the decisive win that the Democrats had been assured. So why did the polling failures of 2016, that so underestimated Donald Trump’s influence with voters, persist into 2020? Historian Claire Potter canvassed for the Democrats and has some explanations.
A conversation with James Miller
A defining debate of the political moment? Or liberal hairsplitting? Eurozine talks to James Miller, editor of Public Seminar, about what we mean when we talk of fascism – and whether it makes any difference anyway.
How can intense description of what is irreducibly particular help us to extract elements that are universal? Parallels between the child separations at the US–Mexico border and the experiences of Holocaust survivors prompt historian Marci Shore to ask what we can and cannot understand by thinking in comparisons with the past.
The success of the French Popular Front lay in its ability to form a broad coalition on the left and to reach strata of the population traditionally ignored by communist parties. This is a lesson that antifascists today could do well to learn.
Public Seminar 15 October 2020
Is it accurate historically to apply the term ‘fascism’ to America under Trump? And is to do so strategically astute? A special issue of ‘Public Seminar’ weighs in on the debate over the f-word. With contributions from Jan-Werner Müller, David Bell, Natasha Lennard and more.
Natasha Lennard in conversation with James Miller
Does ‘counter-violence’ damage the antifascist cause? Or is it delusory to talk about non-violence in the face of an opponent with no such scruples? Natasha Lennard explains to James Miller why antifascism rejects debate as an effective response to the fascist threat.
‘Fascism’ has entered America’s political lexicon as way to understand and oppose the rise of the far-right. Trump’s polemics against the left have also propelled the label ‘antifascism’ into the mainstream. But are we really seeing a US fascism? What baggage does the concept of ‘antifascism’ carry? And what are we doing when we invoke Weimar?
There are various reasons why it is politically expedient to call Trump a fascist, but doing so clouds our judgement about the kind of authoritarianism he represents. Trump’s encouragement of ethnic antagonism is typical of far-right populism globally and will endure in the US beyond his presidency.
Russian notes towards a global debate
Controversies over whether there has ever been a true antifascism are ultimately irresolvable. Understanding the varieties of Soviet and post-Soviet antifascism can de-parochialize this debate and add to a conversation appropriate to the global challenge of authoritarian ultra-nationalism.
Analogies between the US and Weimar Germany ignore that democratic backsliding under Trump is not the reversion to an illiberal norm. To call Trump a fascist is equally unhistorical: if there is a comparison, then it is with Europe’s rightwing populists. But is factual accuracy even the point when it comes to the discourse of antifascism?
That modern liberal democracies can cancel themselves is an inevitable possibility. But to reduce politics to a battle between the defenders and the opponents of ‘true democracy’ is to turn pluralism into its opposite.
Warnings about resurgent fascism are not entirely unjustified. And yet they can still blind us to the political dangers we are now facing. It is Napoleon, not Hitler, who exemplifies an enduring threat to modern democracies, argues historian of modern France David A. Bell.
Campaigns to remove monuments commemorating racism, slavery and empire are criticized for attempting to erase history. But anti-racists protesting the public prominence of these statues are challenging what history is remembered, in order to make way for a fresh lens on the past.