Fraternity and Politics: Choosing One's Brothers

Fraternity and Politics: Choosing One's Brothers

Fraternity and Politics: Choosing One's Brothers

Fraternity and Politics: Choosing One's Brothers

Synopsis

Baumann argues that the tendency in liberal societies to achieve fraternity by political means is necessarily self-defeating. He does so by examining parallel examples: the experience of SDS, the sans-culottes experiment in fraternity during the Terror, and the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Excerpt

This book was begun many years ago. Struck by what seemed to me a remarkable lapse of many of my radical contemporaries into a naiveté and silliness they surely should have, I thought, been immune to, and at the same time attracted by and even envious of the great time they seemed to be having, I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. It was clear enough that bourgeois self-hatred was operating powerfully (along with other, much less pronounced motives, e.g., the need, among the men, to prove their manliness even while avoiding military service). Yet it was obvious enough too that the bourgeois self-hatred of these egalitarian Ivy Leaguers was itself just another long-familiar mode of bourgeois life and thus that the real itch couldn't be scratched, no matter how frantic the gestures. At the same time, I could see what was admirable or at least enjoyable about the fraternity of the self-righteous the radicals formed and was clearheaded enough to notice that I and others who stood against or at least aside from the times were getting what satisfaction we could from our own counterfraternity.

In the first instance, then, I wanted to demonstrate in convincing detail the not overly original thought that remarkably had been thoroughly forgotten in the preceding years: while fraternity is an important good, you can't get it by political, much less revolutionary, means, since these, when serious, invariably become distinctly unfraternal. You can get the cheap substitute, what Wilson Carey McWilliams (to whose . . .

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