Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stephen Eric Bronner's "The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists"

Stephen Eric Bronner is a noted political theorist and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Comparative Literature, and German Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He is also Director of Global Relations for its Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and on the Executive Committee of UNESCO Chair for Genocide Prevention. His books include Modernism at the Barricades: Aesthetics, Politics, Utopia.

Bronner applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists, and reported the following:
Despite the claims of Ford Madox Ford, Page 99 usually has as much to offer as any other page. Choosing to look at one page number rather than another is something akin to playing roulette. In this case, however, 99 is a winner. It opens the third part of The Bigot. The first part deals with the phenomenological character of the bigot and the second with his psychology and the categories on which his thinking rests. Before the final section’s engagement with the politics of prejudice, this third part – “Playing the Role” – shows how the bigot adapts to society and renders himself more respectable by identifying himself as a “true believer,” an “elitist,” or a “chauvinist.” Old symbols like the swastika, the white hoods, and gutter language have become unfashionable for the most part. But playing one or more of these roles enables the bigot to appear as something different than he is – and attack his enemies in a more establishmentarian and socially acceptable fashion. So it is that the true believer can insist upon the absolute truth revealed to him and how it justifies his Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or general intolerance of those who believe differently. The elitist can appear as either an aristocratic or a populist. Either way he has little use for scientists, experts, or intellectuals: he knows what “real life” is like, that egalitarian reforms will never work and that the disadvantaged have no sense of their “real” interests anyway. As for the chauvinist, the provincial, he longs for “the good old days” when women were in the kitchen, gays were in the closet, and people of color knew their place – and all of them “really” liked things that way. That they resisted or dissented was due only to the influence of aliens, foreigners, and outsiders. Whether as a true believer, an elitist, or a chauvinist the bigot can believe that white men of property are still entitled to the special privileges that they once enjoyed whether because God said so, because of their inherent superiority, or because their world was the best of all possible worlds. All three of them resist a future in which people can know more, learn more, experience more, enjoy the new and expand the options available to individuals. All three of them know their enemy- “it is the same enemy the bigot has always had, namely, the idea that things can be different.”
Learn more about The Bigot at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Modernism at the Barricades.

--Marshal Zeringue