Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is a writer, translator, and Affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. He blogs at French Politics. Follow him on Twitter: @artgoldhammer.

Recent Articles

Us and Them: A Tale of Two Electorates

In both France and the United States, substantial numbers of voters feel deprived of voice and eager to identify with pugnacious politicians prepared to transgress what used to be the limits of political respectability.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
The United States will elect a new president in November. France will do the same early next year. In both countries, the political Establishment is under assault from outsiders: Donald Trump in the U.S., Marine Le Pen in France. Both candidates have mastered a belligerent rhetoric combining bluster, innuendo, racism, xenophobia, and ridicule or slander of opponents with a carefully calibrated faux frankness intended to bolster their claims to reveal truths that other politicians have allegedly conspired to conceal. Despite high negative ratings, both Trump and Le Pen have also exceeded all expectations, exposed deep rifts in their respective electorates, and struck fear into political, economic, and intellectual elites who, despite evidence of growing voter alienation over a period of many years, could never quite bring themselves to imagine the depth of resentment their monopoly of acceptable political discourse inspired. Notwithstanding these similarities, there are also...

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Angela Merkel Suffers Backlash against Her Immigration Policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pays the price for her open-door policy toward refugees as her party suffers a stunning defeat in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
On Sunday, September 4, Germans in the small northeast German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern dealt German Chancellor Angela Merkel a stunning setback: Her Christian Democratic Union party finished third in a statewide election with just 19 percent of the vote . The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which didn’t exist at the time of the last state election in 2011, captured close to 21 percent after a campaign that emphasized hostility to Merkel’s policy of opening Germany’s gates wide to more than a million immigrants and refugees over the past year and a half. Politicians of all stripes—not least within her own party —now see a possibility of ending Merkel’s 11-year reign as chancellor and 16 years as party leader. The chancellor has not yet announced whether she will seek a fourth term in national elections to be held next year. AfD’s rise has been meteoric. It has also been revealing of the profound disruption of the German...

The Great Paradox

Arlie Hochschild’s new book grapples with The Great Paradox: Why is hatred of government most intense among people who need government services most?

AP Photo/Rebecca Santana
It is no secret that American political life has become increasingly polarized over the past several decades. In 2004, Barack Obama catapulted himself into the national limelight by denouncing the bitter antagonism between rival camps and suggesting that we heed “the better angels of our nature” rather than the preachers of divisiveness. Four years later he was elected president, only to discover for himself the width of the chasm he had once thought could be bridged simply by changing the tone of political discourse. As he prepares to leave office, the evidence is everywhere that the abyss has only grown wider and deeper. His enemies denounce him as a foreigner, a traitor, and an agent of every imaginable form of mischief and malevolence. The president’s detractors attack him not only for what he is—a black man who overcame all obstacles to become our head of state—but also for what he symbolizes: the federal government, with all its resources—...

New World (Dis)Order

In 1991 George H.W. Bush promised a “New World Order.” A quarter of a century later, we’re finally catching a glimpse of it—like it or not.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
It is now more than a quarter of a century since George H.W. Bush delivered to a joint session of Congress a speech calling for a “ New World Order .” In it, the president—famous for his skittishness about “the vision thing”—laid out an ambitious vision for the post-Cold War world. Although the Berlin Wall had fallen just over a year earlier, Bush still looked forward to a unipolar world led by the United States, with the Soviet Union as junior partner: “Our relationship to the Soviet Union is important, not only to us but to the world. That relationship has helped to shape these and other historic changes.” It was a heady time, with the demise of communism heralding for some “ the end of history .” For Bush, “the triumph of democratic ideas in Eastern Europe and Latin America and the continuing struggle for freedom elsewhere all around the world all confirm the wisdom of our nation's founders.” There was only one...

A Turn in European Terror

Targets of terror in France and Germany have shifted from well-defened government facilities to more vulnerable public spaces. 

Sipa via AP Images
On July 26, while America was distracted by the nomination of Hillary Clinton and the continuing disgruntlement of the Bernie-or-Bust faction, terror in Europe took an ominous new turn. An 85-year-old Catholic priest was murdered in front of his altar and members of his congregation by two young terrorists whom ISIS immediately claimed as its “soldiers.” One of the attackers, 18-year-old Adel Kermiche , had reportedly attempted on two occasions to join ISIS forces in Syria, for which he was arrested and placed under electronic surveillance by French security forces. Why his electronic bracelet failed to prevent the attack will surely be a matter of great concern to investigators. Not only does the church killing in Saint-Etienne-du-Vouvray, a suburb of Rouen in Normandy, come less than two weeks after the Bastille Day slaughter by truck in Nice , it also follows two weeks of indiscriminate attacks in Germany : An attack on train passengers by an axe-wielding terrorist, a...