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In: Literatur und Politische Philosophie


The publication of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission (2015) coincided with the Islamist attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. In addition, Western Europe, Germany in particular, was confronted with an unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees. Under these circumstances, Submission hit a raw nerve: Houellebecq projects a France in the not-so-distant future that is torn between a dominant far-right party and an increasingly confident Muslim party that succeeds in convincing voters beyond its core constituency to support its leader. Some critics took the novel as another example of Houellebecq’s qualities as a jester of French society, one who exaggerates and satirizes the fears of the far-right. Given the political and demographic developments, however, it would be too easy to dismiss the novel as an absurd fantasy or an entertaining jest. In light of jeremiads of professional Cassandras and historians, including Alain Finkielkraut, Walter Laqueur, and Éric Zemmour, Houellebecq’s novel succeeds in leaving the reader in a state of discomfort. Thus, I suggest reading his novel as the work of a jesting Cassandra who does poke fun at bouts of right-wing hysteria, but at the same makes readers see why they need to be more than “somewhat theoretically, a citizen.”

In: Michel Houellebecq, the Cassandra of Freedom


When Donald J. Trump announced his presidential candidacy, it seemed as if conservative intellectuals formed a united front against his ideas and persona. Michael Anton challenged this perception in his essay “The Flight 93 Election” (2016) in which he framed Trumpism as the only viable alternative to a sclerotic conservatism. As Anton received support from a prominent West Coast Straussian, Charles Kesler, a debate ensued as to what extent Trumpism reflected Straussian ideas. References to philosopher Leo Strauss and the contextualization of Anton’s quest within a Straussian intellectual space served in part the intellectual branding of a populist strand of conservatism and its differentiation from liberalism. By suggesting a proximity between Straussianism and Trump’s political views, Anton and Kesler tried to provide the Trump candidacy and, eventually, the presidency with a narrative of intellectual legitimacy and continuity, while they could simultaneously build on the Straussian critique of liberalism.

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In: Comparative Political Theory