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


At the heart of Trump's appeal is not authoritarianism but the cult of celebrity. 

AP Photo/Branden Camp
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who achieved fame in the early 19th century with his portrait of democracy in America , thought that democratic societies were transparent places whose citizens clearly understood one another. “In America, where privileges of birth never existed, and where wealth confers no particular rights on those who possess it, people who do not know one another easily frequent the same places. … Their approach is therefore natural, frank, and open.” Tocqueville would therefore be stunned by the sight of America in 2016. Indeed, any presidential election year is likely to reveal that Americans do not know one another nearly as well as they, like their French visitor, often assume. Democratic societies are by no means transparent. For all sorts of reasons, people remain oblivious of the deep feelings of vast numbers of their fellow citizens until some event forces them to confront reality. Whites were stunned when the verdict in the O...

Will Britain Quit the European Union?

Whether the UK leaves the EU has less to do with turmoil in Europe, and more to do with British politics.

(Photo: AP/Steve Parsons)
The anthem of the European Union is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” but unlike the national anthems of member states, it’s never played in football stadiums over the cheers of thousands of excited fans. The EU is and always has been unloved, an ugly duckling, an Unidentified Foreign Object rather than a cherished darling of joyful patriotic effusion. Its benefits are diffuse and harder to demonstrate than its defects, which are ripe for ridicule in every absurd regulation . Yet it has survived for more than half a century and grown in both extent and depth, from the six member states of what was at its inception little more than a customs union, to today’s 28-member “single Europe,” which exerts powerful influence on the laws and mores of its subsidiary polities. The last few years have nevertheless severely tested the robustness of the novel political and economic arrangements that define the EU. The financial crisis of 2008 morphed into a crisis...

A Tale of Two Troubled Democracies

How insurgent populism is reshaping electoral politics in France and the U.S.

Gil C/Shutterstock
While Bernie Sanders was surprising Hillary Clinton in Iowa and taking her to the cleaners in New Hampshire with his brand of democratic socialism, I was in France, where a democratically elected president who calls himself a socialist saw his approval touch historic lows. It would nevertheless be a mistake to conclude from this stark contrast that the American electorate had taken a sharp turn to the left while the French had veered sharply to the right. In both countries, formerly stable two-party systems thrown off kilter by the global economic collapse have yet to regain their equilibrium. But France, once a country of dramatic ideological conflict, now looks like a paragon of consensual politics compared to the bitterly polarized United States. In both countries, impatience with technocratic elites and fears that immigration threatens the national identity have fueled populist reactions. Voters are rejecting the gloomy status quo in favor of bold and sometimes brash promises. In...

Eggs, Sausages, Bernie Sanders, and the Jewish Question

Despite his initial success, Sanders faces enormous barriers in his bid for the White House. 

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary looming just ahead, it seems like a good time to turn from my regular European beat to the situation at home in the United States. The Republican contest is too appalling to contemplate, but on the Democratic side the race between heir-apparent Hillary Clinton and insurgent challenger Bernie Sanders has everyone riveted and quite a few excited. Who would have thought that a self-described socialist from Vermont would give the former first lady, former senator, and former secretary of state a run for her money? With hindsight, of course, everyone has a theory about why a Sanders surge was inevitable. Wall Street has recovered from the Great Recession, but Main Street hasn’t. People are tired of the Clintons and their real or alleged abuses over three decades. Progressives are deeply disappointed with the Obama administration and this time want to elect an authentic radical. Of course nothing will get done because Congress will...

Europe's Democratic Deficits

Until Europe can commit to a common future, democracy will continue to struggle.

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
When a word becomes synonymous with the Right and the Good and is expected to command universal assent, you can be sure that some kind of confidence trick is being played. Democracy has unfortunately become such a word, one of those “big words” that Stephen Dedalus feared because “they make us so unhappy.” Right now, democracy, or the supposed lack of it, is making Europeans of all stripes unhappy. Complaints about Europe’s so-called democratic deficit abound on both the right and the left. To take one example , John Hilary, a left-wing advocate of Brexit, or British exit from the EU, wrote recently that “democracy no longer has any meaning within the EU” because “the will of the Greek people was bulldozed by the demands of the central elites.” This brisk summary neglects the fact that the central issue in the referendum in which the Greek people expressed their will concerned Greece’s obligations to the other peoples of the...