Magazine article Tikkun

Fear: The History of a Political Idea

Magazine article Tikkun

Fear: The History of a Political Idea

Article excerpt

Fear: The History of a Political Idea, by Corey Robin. Oxford University Press, 2004

Since 9/11, Americans have become prey to fears that feel new and different; suddenly, we feel vulnerable in the country that has always been our safe haven. In Pear: The History of a Political Idea, Corey Robin masterfully unpacks the political power of this fear and others that dominate the American landscape-from the patriotic fears for the American way of life to our individual fears in the workplace, which seem private but actually play a hidden, yet crucial, role in American politics and even in the economy.

Robin examines the history of fear to show us that in fact our new fears are not new at all. Robin contextualizes social anxiety, beginning with Thomas Hobbes's writings on fear and rebellion in the seventeenth century, to Hannah Arendt's post-World War II analyses of total terror and totalitarianism. At times exhausting in its detail, this historical overview gives us the context and the language we need to fully appreciate the core of Robin's book: Fear, American Style.

Today's no-fly lists, racial profiling of persons of Middle-Eastern descent, and many media sources' quickness to condemn questioning the government as unpatriotic recall the employment blacklists and paranoia about state loyalty of the McCarthy era. …

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