The American Road to Fascism

Just posted this piece on ssrn.   Here is the abstract:

The U.S. Presidential election of 2016 occurred amidst a disturbingly reminiscent coalescence of patterns — the economic displacement of the working class, the protracted paralysis of the legislative branch, the seeming indifference of the governing classes, the perception of widespread corruption, the neutralization of a vital left, and the festering wounds to national pride wrought of multiple lost wars. These patterns are familiar: Together, they comprise (albeit in much more attenuated form) the combustible mix that presaged the rise of National Socialism in 1930’s Germany.

Fast forward: a little more than 100 days into his administration, Trump is constructing a political world of alternative facts, casual mendacity, paranoid political conspiracies, free-form attacks on enemies of the people, ethnic vilification, and disdain for democratic and rule of law norms. What is perhaps most disturbing about this (in addition to its effects) is that this was the appeal that won him the Presidency among precisely the classes of people that classically form the core of fascist constituencies in times of economic and cultural displacement like those we have recently experienced. Trump’s Presidency is thus not only alarming because of what he does, but because of what his election represents. He is a warning albeit one that arrives on the scene in the dire form of crisis.

How did we get here? And are we on the threshold of fascism or some sort of right wing authoritarianism? This piece examines the big theoretical picture. The piece addresses the questions by tracing the various forms that constitutional democracy has cumulatively taken in the United States: liberal democratic, administrative and neoliberal. The essay shows how in failing to reckon with their internal contradictions, these combined  forms of the constitutional democratic state have in some ways prepared the grounds for some sort of right-wing authoritarianism.

There are three key narratives.   The first is that the liberal democratic state alone is fundamentally unstable.  The second is that the rise of the administrative state in the midst of the liberal democratic state has yielded  an arrested dialectic–a prolonged oscillation which over time translates into decay.    The third is that neoliberalism (as conceptualized herein) has opportunistically, in both the moral and biological sense, exploited and accelerated this decay compromising the institutions of both state and civil society.

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Final Exams (Suggested Templates)


In light of the recent election and the desire of professors to remain relevant, here are some suggested templates for use in drafting final exams within your department.


What does the high-end commercial construction business teach us about how to run the federal government so as to improve the American economy and the welfare of the American people?   (maximum word count: 28 words)


“Amateurs and Professionals”

The amateur/professional distinction is long-standing in western thought.  In light of the recent election, please explain which is which, how one can tell and whether it’s all going to be amateurism from here on out.    (Please note that use of definitions, stipulations, the ideal observer or the like will be penalized.)

Political Science

We do not have exam templates for you.  Please contact your department chair as soon as possible.   This major and the department have been discontinued.   Exams are canceled. Tenure relocation pursuant to Regent Rule 10-5-23 in Journalism or Theater Arts is advised where possible.  For further career advice, see  http://kremlinology–WTF happened?


We do not have exam templates for you.  Please contact your department chair as soon as possible.   This major and the department have now been merged into Theater Arts.

Theater Arts

We do not have exam templates for you.  Please contact your department chair as soon as possible.   This major and the department will continue, but all classes and workshops are canceled.   It’s all a four-year Twitter externship from here on out.  (Good luck with that).

Bonus Question

What do cultural conservatism, proto-fascism, crony capitalism, industrial policy, free-range ignorance and white supremacy have in common?  (maximum word count: 1 word).


For further context on the above templates, see generally The Knowledge Bubble by Schlag.


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This is Not a Law Review Article

By Pierre Schlag *

March 31, 2016

Keywords: law review article, absurd, cass sunstein

Abstract: This short piece [does not] describe the form, structure and vexations of the law review article qua scholarly artifact. It also [does not] contain Professor Max Stein’s latest thoughts as articulated in Schlag’s recently published novel, “American Absurd.”


This is not a law review article. In an earlier version, it was a law review article. Here specifically—in the last post. But now, it is no longer a law review article. It is not a law review article because a “processor” at SSRN determined that it was not “sufficiently scholarly.” Accordingly, it was not sent out to the e-journal editors, but merely posted on SSRN as a kind of stand-alone text.  And so it exists in a kind of cyber-version of what used to be called, “the limbo of the infants.”  Or to put it in a  more wizened idiom: “Forget it Jake—it’s not listed.”

In my youth (i.e. last year) I would have railed against the machinations of bureaucracy, the insidious enforcement of categorial matrices that screen out the deviant and the interesting (in my case, hopefully a combination of the two).

But now I am tired. I have dwelled too long in the leisures of laudanum to muster the energy for it. The most I can do, at this point, is take a quiet resigned pleasure that it has come down to this: My work has been rejected by a “processor.”

Actually, this quiet resignation thing is not entirely true. More accurately, it is false—in fact a concatenation of lies, a veritable feast of falsehood. In fact, the real truth of the matter is that I am nearly bursting with joy.

Think of it: My work has been screened out by an SSRN “processor”!   Now, I ask you:  What more fitting end can there possibly be for the moniker “pierre schlag,” than to be screened out—“approved” but “not distributed” (this is SSRN lingo)—by a “processor”? A processor no doubt following protocols—protocols that you and I both know must exist (and that we both recognize as necessary to an endeavor like SSRN).

Still, never in my wildest dreams had I anticipated that the end could come like this–Indeed, how could I possibly ever (ever) write anything again after this?  I mean, it doesn’t get–it couldn’t possibly get–any better than this. This is “Spam Jurisprudence” confirmed. “The Faculty Workshop” operationalized. “Dinner at Langdell’s” served.  I mean this is the sort of performative confirmation of all that stuff I’ve been saying for years about pre-figuration, screens, indicators, proxies, standardization, automaticity.   To me this is manna from heaven.

Now I must say that I do not actually know (I did not ask SSRN) why my article was deemed “insufficiently scholarly.” And it’s not as if the SSRN processor—Is this a person? A program? A hybrid? —could not have had reasons. It could have been the mock advertisement for fictional tenure services in the middle of the article. It could have been that I quoted a fictional academic character from my recently published novel “American Absurd” (now available on Amazon here).   Or maybe it’s the bizarre but tenacious either/or notion that if something is funny, it couldn’t possibly be serious. Or maybe–just maybe–the processor made a substantive determination that there wasn’t sufficient scholarly content.

That could well be. It is a very (very) short piece after all. And deep or sustained—it surely is not. So it’s arguable that it’s not sufficiently scholarly.  It is not a crazy idea by any means.

Still, think about the relevant baseline here.

O.K.   Moving on.

So this is where things stood a few days ago. And then I blew it. I totally (totally) tear-my-hair-out bite-my-fingers blew it. The chance of a lifetime and I—you will not frigging believe this—appealed to SSRN. Yes. I did. And the SSRN staff has been nothing but courteous, helpful, and professional.   And timely too.  The result—now you see where this is going—is that SSRN has agreed that “The Law Review Article” should after all go out of to the e-journal classifiers. The determination of the processor has been vacated.   Yep. And it is all my doing. I did this to myself. (If you need a visual, simply picture here the Chris Farley SNL skit where he is tearing his hair out and yelling, “So stupid. I’m so stupid.”)

Anyway,  as a result of all this, the determination of the processor has been vacated. So in all likelihood, there is no real future for “This is Not a Law Review Article,” In all likelihood, that is a version that I will never write. Or if it is to be written, it would have to be done very quickly—before the classifiers decide to distribute the earlier article. Even then, we know that there wouldn’t be a much of a future for the piece.

So it goes. I am reconciled. Anyone seen my boulder?

Update 4/3/2016  (The article is being distributed.  “This is not a Law Review Article” is being considered for limbo.)

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The Law Review Article

Just posted on ssrn and bepress:

The Law Review Article

By Pierre Schlag *

March 11, 2016


Keywords: law review article, absurd, cass sunstein,

Abstract: This very short piece describes the form, structure and vexations of the law review article qua scholarly artifact. It also contains Professor Max Stein’s latest (fictional) thoughts as articulated in Schlag’s recently published novel, “American Absurd.”


The most important thing at the beginning of a law review article is to excite the reader’s imagination, to evoke the hope that what comes next is truly gripping. A page-turner. Something totally out of the ordinary. Perhaps not even a law review article at all. Once this moment is reached,….

[For the rest see here on ssrn or bepress]


“American Absurd”

Available on Amazon March 15th:

Front Cover 3D Square Canvas Small[2].jpeg




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American Absurd

Square Ad[1] copy(Pre-order from Amazon)

Posted in Experimental, Nature/Culture, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Black People, Part Two

Nine African Americans—a beloved pastor, a track coach, and a grandmother among them—were murdered by a White racist who, in his own words, hoped to spark a civil war and get his country back. It is obvious that the killer/terrorist is a product of racist thinking, overt as well as of the dog whistle variety. He may also be deranged, psychopathic, and so on. But even if he is mentally infirm, his deficiency followed a well-worn path created by rational people who embrace the color line either because they benefit from it or are afraid to be without it. In addition to this layer of rational racists, there are strata of White people who do not think of themselves as racists, and who may even actively oppose racism, but whose lives and economic wellbeing are better off for being White and not Black, and therefore who also bear responsibility for the production of this White racist killer. Who are these White people? All of us.

And here is where I have to bring up Rachel Dolezal—not the actual person, whom I cannot possibly know, but Rachel Dolezal the symbol. What she symbolizes is the White person who opposes racial hierarchy and discrimination but who cannot tolerate the discomfort of being White. Being White is not everything that White people are. In my case, being White goes along with being female, Jewish, and, like all of us, many more particular and individual things. I am not just White.

But being White, and not Black or Brown or Native, includes benefitting from the privileges that accompany a socially constructed status that is at the top of the racial hierarchy. To pretend otherwise is to deny the very structures of racialized thought that anti-racist Whites purport to oppose. Being an anti-racist White person is therefore constantly uncomfortable and difficult. We have to face, on a regular basis, that we (not personally, but as beings situated in a structure of inequality based on race) are part of the problem. We can, through individual and allied efforts, strive constantly to undermine the structures that benefit us and harm others. And many White people do. But there come these moments, like now, when we must also stand apart and simply say we are sorry. We hate this, but we are not suffering the same way you are. Tomorrow, we will again channel our discomfort into trying, with all our might, to eradicate the conditions that make me White and you Black. And until then, we will cry next to you and for you, but not pretend that our experiences are yours; that your pain is ours.

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Dear Black People

Dear Black People,

I just wanted to write to say I am sorry about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the others too numerous too list.

About Brown, the process that resulted in a decision not to indict Darren Wilson was so unusual as to appear rigged. Prosecutors rarely cross-examine and express skepticism about their pro-indictment witnesses. They also typically do not launch a wide-ranging investigation into all the possible explanations for the alleged crime. Nor do they fail to instruct the grand jury about the charges they are seeking. For that matter, state prosecutors, including those in Missouri, can charge defendants without going through a grand jury at all. Even we white people, who fail to see so much of the bias that affects you, can see that this proceeding was, for lack of a more polite word, f*cked up. As the details seep about about the failure to indict Daniel Pantaleo, Eric Garner’s killer, the story appears to be similar. A grand jury, the saying goes, can indict a ham sandwich. But apparently a grand jury cannot indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed African American man.

And I am sorrier still for the conditions that surround the deaths of all these African American men. They include the high rate at which police kill young black men generally. They include the continuing inequality of income, wealth, employment, and education for black people. They include the government and private sector’s role in all of these phenomena: our history of redlining African American and integrated neighborhoods, our history of disinvesting in public institutions in ways that have discriminatory effects, our history of eliminating public sector jobs that benefit rising working and middle class African Americans, our history of disproportionate criminal prosecution and sentencing, and most of all, for the fact that none of this is only history. It is our present too.

I am sorry that much of this has gotten worse, not better, under the watch of our nation’s first African American president. Many of us, if I might speak across the racial divide for a moment, had great hope that President Obama would lead us all to a more honest understanding of race and its continuing role in subordinating millions of African Americans. But instead, his presidency seems to have brought out the worst in some of our fellow citizens. Their racism against him has made it harder to address the structural barriers to equality–inadequate health care, drastically unequal education, huge disparities in wealth, and so on–that compound racial discrimination. To be clear, I do not blame the President for the entrenchment of racial discrimination. Yet it is a grievous disappointment that his election did not signify the beginning of something better, something closer to the erasure of the color line. But it did not.

I am sorry that your sons and daughters are not safe, that they cannot goof off, go shopping, rent apartments, walk or drive in some neighborhoods, and myriad other everyday activities, without your worrying about them. Will they come home? Will they get arrested? Will they have that first moment of realizing they are different, that the world views them differently, that they are less free?

Finally, I am sorry to be writing to you as a group. I know you are not one big family, a monolith that experiences everything the same way. I do know that. But I also know that white people have not kicked their habit of racism, of not seeing what is inconvenient and unsettling to see. So, dear Black People, I have little to offer other than these words and the hope that some day, through conflict, struggle, the hard work of politics and the occasional soaring communion of high ideals, we may reach a day when we white people get it– when no one is disposable, when everyone matters, and everyone gets justice.

With respect and love, White Person

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