Literary tsunami gathers force

Or something like that. Anyway, an account of my book (which won’t be out until November) has appeared on the website of a Dutch news program, in a weblog dealing with the U.S. election. The author, Bart Jan Spruyt, is a conservative Dutch historian and journalist. If you can’t read Dutch, he says the following:

The right and the tyranny of the left

Political scientist Hans Anker and journalist Bart-Jan Spruyt write in turn every two weeks for this site about the American elections.

By Bart-Jan Spruyt

A pleasant man in an orange TNT suit handed me a parcel at the door this morning. That is always a bit of a sensational moment. A parcel like that almost always contains one or more books, often coming from the United States – ordered there at the company Amazon – and out of pure curiosity I tear off the package even as I walk back to the living room.

However, this week’s parcel did not bring a book, but a stack of proofs. With it was a letter from a Ms. Phillips, who confided to me (and undoubtedly many other fellow journalists) that she knew I was very busy, but that she wanted to ask me to look at a book that is due to come out at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute this november.

The book is written by James Kalb. Kalb studied at Yale and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is a lawyer and an independent scholar, and publishes political essays in conservative journals like Modern Age.


His book is about the triumph of liberalism (in the American sense of the word). To Kalb, that triumph or eventual dominance of leftist, progressive thought is no cause for much cheerfulness. The triumph has not led to freedom, but to tyranny, since liberalism is nothing else than the application of modern scientific and technological thought to the domain of society and politics.

Nearly everyone attaches the highest authority to this manner of thinking – and the institutes and philosophies of life that are not in agreement with this kind of thought are at best considered annoying and out of date, and at worst bad and dangerous.

According to Kalb, liberalism is the expression of the interests and vision of an elite of commercial people and managers, who are suspicious of forms of society that are less rational and verifiable, like family and kin. And that is what bothers Kalb: he fears a dominant state that does not leave room for spread and diversity, wants to meddle in everything and thinks it can exert a benificial effect on all areas of life.

Therapeutical state

And the fear of Kalb (and company) is that this manner of thinking in terms of the therapeutical state holds power over not just the Democratic Party, but the Republican as well. Their trust in Republicans like McCain is minimal. In fact, the question is whether traditional conservatives (or paleoconservatives) like Kalb will find it even worth the effort to make their way to the ballot box.

At the end of her accompanying letter Ms. Phillips asks me politely whether I will perhaps find the book worth any (public) praise.

I certainly do. To begin with because I am quite sure that I will utter an approving amen after having read the book entirely in the days to come. Second, the book is of importance as it expresses a political manner of thinking that is next to unknown in the Netherlands. The Dutch do not understand the discussions about the value of social relations like family and kin, the opposition to central government and the aversion to bureaucratic interference all that well.

The Dutch are individualists and think the government is there to solve their problems. But in the United States this kind of thought is present with an important minority, and this group might play an important role this november.


More and more is it officially confirmed that the race will be between Obama and McCain this november. Barack Hussein Obama sat in a plane this week and there he announced that, this Tuesday, we will finally know who will be the presidential candidate on behalf of the Democratic Party. Because this weekend his party will decide whether or not the votes of Michigan and Florida will count after all. Moreover, the last two primaries are this Tuesday. ‘All information will be in. There will be no more questions answered’, Obama said.

McCain is also counting on that, and for that reason he invited Obama this week to accompany him on a trip to Iraq. Then the inexperienced Obama would see what victorious results the war has had. During that same plane trip Obama said right away that ‘John McCain or the Bush administration’ have not been able to advance any strong arguments for their foreign policy. That is why they are trying to distract people with these kinds of propositions, to prevent them from having to discuss the meaning of that policy.

So it will be the old stager John McCain against the young liberal Obama, who will invariably portray his Republican opponent as a continuation of two impopular Bush administrations. The James Kalbs will understand that argument, because the conservative content of the Bush period has been most disappointing for them. The question is what conclusion they will draw from this: whether they will withdraw from the public domain or still vote against Obama, who for them naturally personifies the tyranny of liberalism.

[The preceding translation was kindly supplied by a reader, and is a great improvement on a computer-generated version that had provoked a couple of comments found below.]

2 thoughts on “Literary tsunami gathers force”

  1. Me too
    I pleasing be wait to this book arrive. Kalb being the observer most acute for social world today. Wishing well I could it tonight start. Sounds like job? Good!


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