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

In French Politics, May Is the Cruelest Month

In France, May is the month of protest pageantry, but often the real action takes place offstage.

AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu
AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu People vote during a gathering on the Place de la Republique Sunday, April 3, 2016 in Paris. A few hundred protesters have been camping out, holding night-time demonstrations since last week at a symbolic rallying point on the Place de la Republique, to express anger at a proposed labor law that would extend the workweek and make layoffs easier. The social media-driven movement, called “Nuit Debout” or “Rise up at Night,” sprang from nationwide strikes and protests Thursday. T o the poet, April is the cruelest month, but if you’re a French politician, the month you dread most is likely to be May. The warm weather draws protesters into the streets. On May Day labor flexes its muscles by marching on the symbolic Place de la Bastille, while the Front National celebrates its cult of the nation at the foot of Joan of Arc’s gilded statue in the Place des Pyramides (although this year Marine Le Pen abandoned the traditional site to her father, whom she has...

Metamorphosis

Like Gregor Samsa, the GOP seems incapable of recognizing the change that has come over it.

Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP
Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP Donald Trump supporter Helen Graber proudly shows off her Reagan Library sweatshirt and her Trump button before the Republican presidential candidate's ally at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Washington, Saturday, May 7, 2016. W ho can forget the opening pages of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis , in which the traveling salesman Gregor Samsa awakens after turning into “ some sort of monstrous insect ”? No reader can fail to experience the uncanny dissonance of hilarity and terror that results from the grotesqueness of a man’s transformation into an insect, coupled with the utter banality of his subsequent response: He has overslept, he will be late for work, his boss will be angry, traveling by train is so unpleasant, it won’t be easy to maneuver his awkward new body out of bed, and so on. The observer of today’s political world feels rather like the reader of Metamorphosis . Grotesque things are happening everywhere, yet consciousness...

American Maelstrom

A new book by Michael Cohen brings back the pivotal presidential election of 1968, which first revealed the fault lines that still define American politics today.

AP Photo
AP Photo New Yorkers, later joined by New Hampshire, demonstrate during anti-war plank at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on August 28, 1968. “ Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” For those of us who were in our early 20s in 1968, Wordsworth’s famous lines rang true then and continue to ring true even now, in spite of all the disappointments that followed. The mythical age known as “The Sixties” culminated in many ways in 1968, the year that forms the focal point of Michael Cohen’s vivid and compelling new book, American Maelstrom . The famous (or, depending on your point of view, infamous) trinity of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” is a convenient if wholly inadequate metonymy for the surge of youthful energy that seemed at the time to be remaking American culture. Politics was only one part of that culture, whose importance varied, then as now, from individual to individual. But even those who were in one way or another politically...

Foreign Bodies

The volatile mixture of religiously tinged nationalism with massive social disruption and large-scale population movements threatens once again to become explosive in Europe.

Arne Dedert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Arne Dedert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images People accompanied by police walk past an election poster by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that reads "Unser Land, unsere Heimat" (Our country, our home) during a rally of "Karlsruhe wehrt sich" (literally, Karlsruhe fights back), an offshoot of the far-right Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) movement, against German public broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) in Mainz, Germany, February 20, 2016. R esistance to the presence of Muslims in Europe is not new, but it has increased dramatically in recent months with jihadist terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, the influx of refugees and economic migrants from mostly Muslim countries, and sexual assaults by Muslim men in Cologne and other cities. Surveillance has increased, fences have gone up, and borders have been closed. These police measures reflect anxieties stirred by recent events. But a deeper unease about Europe’s relation to Islam can be seen in...

Can Matteo Renzi Save Europe from Austerity?

The last best hope of Europe’s anti-austerity forces faces an uncertain future.

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer Italian Premier Matteo Renzi speaks at Harvard University's Center for European Studies in Cambridge, as he continues a four-day U.S. visit, Thursday, March 31, 2016. M atteo Renzi, the youngest man to be elected prime minister of Italy since 1861, came to Harvard on the last day of March and spoke for about an hour to an audience of several hundred (video here ). With the robust frame of a rugby fullback, the Italian premier is not a person one can easily imagine tip-toeing across a high wire. Yet on a tightrope is precisely where he finds himself today, precariously balanced between left and right at home and between pro-austerity and anti-austerity forces in the European Union. Make no mistake: He is a man with the confidence necessary to venture across an abyss with the merest filament of support. Seeking to ingratiate himself with his Harvard audience, he invoked the memory of alumnus John F. Kennedy, who once remarked that “change is the law of life.”...

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