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


Like Gregor Samsa, the GOP seems incapable of recognizing the change that has come over it.

Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP
Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP Donald Trump supporter Helen Graber proudly shows off her Reagan Library sweatshirt and her Trump button before the Republican presidential candidate's ally at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Washington, Saturday, May 7, 2016. W ho can forget the opening pages of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis , in which the traveling salesman Gregor Samsa awakens after turning into “ some sort of monstrous insect ”? No reader can fail to experience the uncanny dissonance of hilarity and terror that results from the grotesqueness of a man’s transformation into an insect, coupled with the utter banality of his subsequent response: He has overslept, he will be late for work, his boss will be angry, traveling by train is so unpleasant, it won’t be easy to maneuver his awkward new body out of bed, and so on. The observer of today’s political world feels rather like the reader of Metamorphosis . Grotesque things are happening everywhere, yet consciousness...

American Maelstrom

A new book by Michael Cohen brings back the pivotal presidential election of 1968, which first revealed the fault lines that still define American politics today.

AP Photo
AP Photo New Yorkers, later joined by New Hampshire, demonstrate during anti-war plank at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on August 28, 1968. “ Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” For those of us who were in our early 20s in 1968, Wordsworth’s famous lines rang true then and continue to ring true even now, in spite of all the disappointments that followed. The mythical age known as “The Sixties” culminated in many ways in 1968, the year that forms the focal point of Michael Cohen’s vivid and compelling new book, American Maelstrom . The famous (or, depending on your point of view, infamous) trinity of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” is a convenient if wholly inadequate metonymy for the surge of youthful energy that seemed at the time to be remaking American culture. Politics was only one part of that culture, whose importance varied, then as now, from individual to individual. But even those who were in one way or another politically...

Foreign Bodies

The volatile mixture of religiously tinged nationalism with massive social disruption and large-scale population movements threatens once again to become explosive in Europe.

Arne Dedert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Arne Dedert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images People accompanied by police walk past an election poster by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that reads "Unser Land, unsere Heimat" (Our country, our home) during a rally of "Karlsruhe wehrt sich" (literally, Karlsruhe fights back), an offshoot of the far-right Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) movement, against German public broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) in Mainz, Germany, February 20, 2016. R esistance to the presence of Muslims in Europe is not new, but it has increased dramatically in recent months with jihadist terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, the influx of refugees and economic migrants from mostly Muslim countries, and sexual assaults by Muslim men in Cologne and other cities. Surveillance has increased, fences have gone up, and borders have been closed. These police measures reflect anxieties stirred by recent events. But a deeper unease about Europe’s relation to Islam can be seen in...

Can Matteo Renzi Save Europe from Austerity?

The last best hope of Europe’s anti-austerity forces faces an uncertain future.

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer Italian Premier Matteo Renzi speaks at Harvard University's Center for European Studies in Cambridge, as he continues a four-day U.S. visit, Thursday, March 31, 2016. M atteo Renzi, the youngest man to be elected prime minister of Italy since 1861, came to Harvard on the last day of March and spoke for about an hour to an audience of several hundred (video here ). With the robust frame of a rugby fullback, the Italian premier is not a person one can easily imagine tip-toeing across a high wire. Yet on a tightrope is precisely where he finds himself today, precariously balanced between left and right at home and between pro-austerity and anti-austerity forces in the European Union. Make no mistake: He is a man with the confidence necessary to venture across an abyss with the merest filament of support. Seeking to ingratiate himself with his Harvard audience, he invoked the memory of alumnus John F. Kennedy, who once remarked that “change is the law of life.”...

Stuck in the Middle with You

In defense of the political center. 

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks during an election night event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. R emember the old hit by the Scottish band Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You”? That song comes to mind these days whenever I talk politics with the people with whom I’ve shared a political lifetime, friends who’ve witnessed the 1960s and Vietnam, Watergate, the Reagan reaction, the Clinton years, September 11, the war in Iraq, the crash of 2008, the election of the first black president, the hesitant recovery from the Great Recession, and the cliff-hanger passage of the Affordable Care Act. A few have supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, but most are backing Hillary Clinton, albeit without enthusiasm: stuck in the middle with “jokers to the right,” as the song says, and while not “clowns to the left,” certainly, a mostly younger crowd, less...