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Since 1919, The New School has been home to scholars, creators, and activists who challenge convention and boldly make their mark on the world.
To celebrate this groundbreaking legacy, we are opening our doors to the public for a weeklong festival of innovative performances, talks, workshops, screenings, exhibitions, and more.

On October 1–6, 2019, join us as we reflect on a century of world-changing ideas and together imagine a new kind of future.

The Festival of New is free and open to all.
Thursday, October 3 • 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Loyalty & Betrayal: Their Role in Political Life - Session I. Philosophical Understandings of Loyalty & Betrayal

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This session examines how loyalty, a paradoxical virtue, and betrayal have been theorized and how they relate to each other.

Conference overview: 

Loyalty & Betrayal is the 39th Social Research conference and is part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of The New School. It recognizes both the origins of The New School, which was founded by a small group of professors who left Columbia University in protest over the imposition of loyalty oaths during World War I, and the continuing relevance and deep complexities underlying the concepts of loyalty and betrayal in our political lives today. It takes place during The New School’s “Festival of New,” its week of centennial celebration.

Loyalty to and betrayal of political leaders, political parties, and the state are worldwide phenomena. Their role in our 20th and 21st century history is all too evident and can be seen most vividly in the repeated imposition of loyalty oaths, first during World War I and later during the McCarthy period and the enactment of the McCarran Act. It can also be seen in the disgraceful internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and today in the US in the frequent demands made by President Trump on those around him to remain loyal to him even at the expense of protecting laws and democratic values. It is vividly clear in Russia by the price put on disloyalty to Putin and in many other places as well.

Loyalty is not a simple virtue. The frequency with which divided loyalties occur is one reason this is so, for example, when upholding certain laws, like those pertaining to protecting the secrecy of certain government documents, conflicts with the recognition that what they contain endangers the country and that those dangers might be avoided were they made public. The contrast between loyalty and betrayal is stark, and while they are mutually exclusive, loyalty to one group or idea can, as in the case of divided loyalties, be at the cost of betrayal of some other value or group. Moreover, loyalty can become dangerous when it morphs into fanaticism. So unlike many other virtues, loyalty is paradoxical; a vice when it is pledged to a totalitarian regime or supreme leader over the laws of the land, or a virtue when pledged to the rule of duly enacted laws. The complexity of the concept of loyalty is reflected in a quote from former distinguished The New School for Social Research philosopher Hannah Arendt, an astute commentator on totalitarian regimes, who writes that, “Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise.”

The time is right for a conference that reflects on the concepts of loyalty and betrayal and how they have figured in history, how they have been depicted in the writings of philosophers, and how they are affecting (if not poisoning) contemporary political life.

Speakers
avatar for Oz Frankel

Oz Frankel

Associate Professor of History, The New School for Social Research
Oz Frankel is associate professor of History at the New School for Social Research and author of States of Inquiry: Social Investigations and Print Culture in Nineteenth Century Britain and the United States, which explores the early roots of the modern informational states.
avatar for George Kateb

George Kateb

William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Emeritus, Princeton University
George Kateb is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics Emeritus at Princeton. He is the author of Utopia and Its Enemies (1963, reissued 1972); Political Theory; Its Nature and Uses (1968); Hannah Arendt: Politics, Conscience, Evil (1984); The Inner Ocean: Individualism... Read More →
avatar for Avishai Margalit

Avishai Margalit

Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Avishai Margalit is an Israeli Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. From 2006 to 2011, he served as the George F. Kennan Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Margalit is one of the foremost thinkers and commentators on the... Read More →
avatar for Marci Shore

Marci Shore

Associate Professor of History, Yale University
Marci Shore is associate professor of history at Yale University. She received her MA from the University of Toronto in 1996 and her PhD from Stanford University in 2001; and since 2004 has regularly been a visiting fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna... Read More →