At the beginning of 2017 we are faced with the specter of a new totalitarianism. It blossoms from the victories of Trump, the Brexit camp, and far right candidates in Scandinavia and Poland. It anticipates strong performances by Marine le Pen. It comes in the wake of Russian plutocracy’s concentration of power and the recrudescence of Neo-Nazi movements in Greece and the Balkans. The teleological narrative many have been telling ourselves—of progressive cosmopolitanism, tolerance, relatively open borders, of urbanity in every sense of the word—has been challenged by the return of anti-Semitism, racism, ethno-nationalism, and anti-intellectualism.
This new totalitarianism is very much like its predecessor: global in scope yet nationalist in articulation, populist in orientation yet elitist in practice, local in its appeals yet power-consolidating in practice, and profoundly hostile to the cultural and social milieu that have nurtured art, literature, and critique since the end of the Second World War. But the new totalitarianism is amplified by technologies once understood as democratizing: the internet, social media, and the proliferation of popular news sources. And it is bolstered by the rise of authoritarian neoliberalism. The symposium will address these urgent issues.