Philosophy and the Far Right from Weimar to Charlottesville

an odd fencePhilosophy and the Far Right from Weimar to Charlottesville is a series of afternoon plenaries presented by the by Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University Burwood Campus on November 18 from midday to 5:30pm.

We live in times of increasing political polarisation, wherein forms of Rightist mobilisation long considered impossible after 1945 are re-emerging across the globe, and new prospective “organic intellectuals” appeal to specifically philosophical sources to shape, vindicate, and direct these ‘movement(s)’. On the one hand, Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer claims that he was “red-pilled” by a philosophy class on Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals; Counter Currents’ Gregory Johnson that he was radicalised by the criticisms of Martin Heidegger’s Nazism of Victor Farias et al; Alexandre Dugin appeals to Heidegger as “the last prophet”; Alain de Benoist of the Nouvelle Droite effortlessly adduces motifs from the same thinkers (for example, Carl Schmitt) embraced as authoritative by many on the New Left, and Steve Bannon tours Europe conjuring an intercontinental antiliberal revolution, telling Der Spiegel that Heidegger’s “my guy”. On the other hand, traditions such as the Frankfurt School were shaped in no small measure by their responses to interwar fascism and then Stalinism, and elements of the media, including Alt-Right venues, continue to depict academia en bloc as captured by a Leftist New Class deeply out of touch with “the people”, whilst many progressive thinkers struggle to envisage a third way between a neoliberalism increasingly ideologically and economically at sea and the growing forces of reaction against it.

What is the place of philosophy in such polarised times, and how does it stand historically and today in relation to the antimodernist Far Right and its epigones? Is philosophy, and has it always been, on the side of the democrats, or is this an historical novelty and naïveté? Is it simply the case that today’s Alt-/New Rightist appropriations of figures associated with the European “conservative revolution” are “misreadings”, and on what the basis of what hermeneutic understanding, pre- or post-Nietzschean, could we make this categorical case? Why are only some philosophers taken up by the antiliberal Right, and not others? What are we to do with the many “hard passages” in Nietzsche’s later texts and notebooks, or Heidegger’s Nazi-era writings including the Black Notebooks, given that many New and Alt-Rightist readings are appealing to these sources to vindicate their positions? Can scholars any longer ignore such “alternative” readings of these thinkers, in a period when they are now attracting hundreds of thousands of student and extra-academic readers on venues like youtube, reddit, facebook, 4chan, and so on? Differently, do older critiques of totalitarianism or fascism, like these hailing from the Frankfurt School, Arendt, Camus, Neumann, Koestler … hold up faced with Trump, Orban, Putin, Le Pen and now Boris Johnson, or do these names indicate a new form of (post-)authoritarian politics for the age of the internet and collapse of the neoliberal project? Is de Benoist right in saying that the Left-Right distinction as it was configured in modernity is now defunct, or is this itself an artful rhetorical device to conceal the emergence of a New Right in postmodernist clothing?

“Philosophy and the Far Right, from Weimar to Charlottesville” will take place on November 18 from midday to 5:30pm at Deakin University’s Burwood Corporate Centre, Burwood Highway (in Melbourne, Australia). It is an event dedicated to examining these and other questions, which will also be recorded for ABC radio national’s Philosopher’s Zone. The event will feature a plenary address by Professor Ron Beiner (Toronto), author of Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger and the Far Right and a public discussion between Professor Ron Beiner and Professor Tamir Bar-On (Tec de Monterrey), author of Where Have All the Fascists Gone? and Rethinking the New Right: Alternative to Modernity.

Event Details

Program: Philosophy and the Far Right from Weimar to Charlottesville
Date: Monday, 18 November 2019
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm AEDT
Location: Deakin University Burwood, Burwood Corporate Centre 221 Burwood Highway Burwood , VIC 3125
Cost: Free
Register: Online at Eventbrite
More Information, Enquiries:

Tentative Schedule

12:00 – 1:30: Opening plenary session: Pr. Ron Beiner “Dangerous Minds in Dangerous Times”

2:00 – 2:40: Rory Jeffs, “The Danger of Idols: On Ronald Beiner’s Dangerous Minds and the Case of Nietzsche’s Politics”

2:40 – 3:20: As. Pr. Geoff Boucher, “The Frankfurt School and Authoritarian Politics: Classical Positions, New Insights”

3:20 – 4:00: As. Pr. Matthew Sharpe, “Golden Calf: Reading Deleuze’s Nietzsche in the Time of Trump”

4:15 – 5:30: Closing plenary discussion, Pr. Ron Beiner and Pr. Tamir Bar-On

This event is part of a series culminating in the Alfred Deakin Institute’s “After Liberalism? Populism and the Future of Democracy” conference of Nov. 20-22, 2019.


an odd fence