[Marxism] The book that explains Charlottesville

Dennis Brasky dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 17 23:06:38 MDT 2017

*Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan
for America*
Nancy MacLean

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In a moment of high political and ideological tension, it is not surprising
that Nancy MacLean’s new book, *Democracy in Chains*, might strike a nerve
with the public: the book offers a close account of the early years of one
particular strand of right-wing economics scholarship. And after the events
of this past weekend, when white supremacy returned to the very grounds of
the University of Virginia where a large chunk of MacLean’s story takes
place, interest in what MacLean has to say will likely grow. As well it
should, because MacLean’s account explains what happened in Charlottesville
at two different but related levels. More concretely, the University of
Virginia's status as a bastion of white supremacy and
white-supremacist-validating scholarship is exactly what was at issue both
during the period MacLean writes about it and today, and at a greater
remove, the long gestation period of the current upsurge of white
supremacist and anti-democratic sentiment is exactly her book’s foremost
subject and concern.

By taking aim at the legacy of James M. Buchanan, the Nobel Prize–winning
economist whose scholarship and political philosophy reverberate through
the conservative movement to this day, MacLean’s book has pitched
intellectual historians such as herself against Buchanan’s academic heirs,
to whom she ascribes complicity in a long political devolution. While a few
nonaligned scholars have entered the fray, the debate has so far largely
been drawn along ideological and disciplinary lines. This is unfortunate
because MacLean uncovers a crucial history in her book, one that economists
especially need to grapple with.

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