Monday August 29, 2022
I’ve been reading The New Jacobinism: America as Revolutionary State by Claes G. Ryn, first published in 1991. It’s a short but insightful polemic about the pernicious influence of neoconservatism—the “New Jacobinism”—on American affairs. Here is a brief overview:
"This strongly and lucidly argued book gave early warning of a political-intellectual movement that was spreading in the universities, media, think-tanks, and foreign-policy and national security establishment of the United States. That movement claims that America represents universal principles and should establish armed global hegemony. Claes G. Ryn demonstrates that, although this ideology is often called 'conservative' or 'neoconservative,' it has more in common with the radical Jacobin ideology of the French Revolution of 1789. The French Jacobins selected France as savior of the world. The new Jacobins have anointed the United States. The author explains that the new Jacobinism manifests a precipitous decline of American civilization and that it poses a serious threat to traditional American constitutionalism and liberty. The book’s analyses and predictions have proved almost eerily prophetic."
“Prophetic,” indeed, for two reasons.
First, it was published a decade before “President George W. Bush made neo-Jacobin ideology the basis of US foreign policy,” transforming America into the spearhead of the “global democratic revolution” with all the blood and tears that has entailed. Second, Ryn’s close encounter with neoconservatism helps to make sense of certain intellectual trends today.