Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

The Triumph of the Will

Willful, petulant, impatient: democracy turns adolescent.

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
AP Photo/ Evan Vucci Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Saturday, October 22, 2016, in Cleveland. F or years Republican politicians told us that the People resent government. The voters’ fondest desire, they said, was to loosen the state’s grip on private pocketbooks. Right-wing representatives therefore voted to choke off the flow of revenue in order to starve the beast, curtail state power, and strip away burdensome regulations, thus emancipating the creative genius of the individual. Then came the candidacy of Donald Trump, and suddenly the state was rehabilitated. It would build a wall to shut out immigrants. It would outsmart wily enemies and with sheer business acumen claw back foolish concessions from trading partners. Growth would soon come roaring back, reversing a decade of stagnation. Hostile elements abroad would be dispatched forthwith, yet at the same time the country would somehow be delivered from unwanted foreign entanglements...

My Great Depression

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, counseled Antonio Gramsci. But in 2016, pessimism is gaining the upper hand.

(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Julien Mattia)
(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Julien Mattia) French police patrol the border of the port of Calais on October 1, 2016, near a large refugee encampment. I wouldn’t ordinarily write about my own state of mind, but since I suspect many readers have harbored thoughts similar to mine in recent months, I will risk getting personal. The world we live in has become profoundly depressing. Wherever I look, I see tragic impasses from which no exit seems possible. Europe is my regular beat, so let me start there. The dream of an “ever closer union” is dead. It is doubtful that even the most robust of political systems could have survived the series of blows that Europe has sustained over the past decade: a financial crisis compounded by pitiless austerity, a massive influx of refugees, a series of terror attacks, the rise of antidemocratic politics in several member states, and finally Brexit—an outright repudiation of the dream by a country that never fully embraced it in the first place. And of...

Us and Them: A Tale of Two Electorates

In both France and the United States, substantial numbers of voters feel deprived of voice and eager to identify with pugnacious politicians prepared to transgress what used to be the limits of political respectability.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a rally, Friday, September 9, 2016, in Pensacola, Florida. T he United States will elect a new president in November. France will do the same early next year. In both countries, the political Establishment is under assault from outsiders: Donald Trump in the U.S., Marine Le Pen in France. Both candidates have mastered a belligerent rhetoric combining bluster, innuendo, racism, xenophobia, and ridicule or slander of opponents with a carefully calibrated faux frankness intended to bolster their claims to reveal truths that other politicians have allegedly conspired to conceal. Despite high negative ratings, both Trump and Le Pen have also exceeded all expectations, exposed deep rifts in their respective electorates, and struck fear into political, economic, and intellectual elites who, despite evidence of growing voter alienation over a period of many years, could never quite bring themselves...

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Angela Merkel Suffers Backlash against Her Immigration Policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pays the price for her open-door policy toward refugees as her party suffers a stunning defeat in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Tuesday, September 6, 2016. O n Sunday, September 4, Germans in the small northeast German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern dealt German Chancellor Angela Merkel a stunning setback: Her Christian Democratic Union party finished third in a statewide election with just 19 percent of the vote . The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which didn’t exist at the time of the last state election in 2011, captured close to 21 percent after a campaign that emphasized hostility to Merkel’s policy of opening Germany’s gates wide to more than a million immigrants and refugees over the past year and a half. Politicians of all stripes—not least within her own party —now see a possibility of ending Merkel’s 11-year reign as chancellor and 16 years as party leader. The chancellor has not yet announced whether she will seek a fourth term in national elections to be held next year. AfD’s rise...

The Great Paradox

Arlie Hochschild’s new book grapples with The Great Paradox: Why is hatred of government most intense among people who need government services most?

AP Photo/Rebecca Santana
AP Photo/Rebecca Santana A sign placed by resident Doug Ford welcomes Republican Presidential candadate Donald Trump on Friday, August 19, 2016 in St. Amant, Louisiana, an area ravaged by catastrophic flooding in recent weeks. I t is no secret that American political life has become increasingly polarized over the past several decades. In 2004, Barack Obama catapulted himself into the national limelight by denouncing the bitter antagonism between rival camps and suggesting that we heed “the better angels of our nature” rather than the preachers of divisiveness. Four years later he was elected president, only to discover for himself the width of the chasm he had once thought could be bridged simply by changing the tone of political discourse. As he prepares to leave office, the evidence is everywhere that the abyss has only grown wider and deeper. His enemies denounce him as a foreigner, a traitor, and an agent of every imaginable form of mischief and malevolence. The president’s...