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.
Friday, October 4 • 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Loyalty & Betrayal: Their Role in Political Life - Session III. Case Studies: International

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Loyalty to and betrayal of political leaders, political parties, and the state are not unique to the US but rather are worldwide phenomena. This session looks at international case studies in Russia, the European Union, and China.

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.

avatar for Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen

Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Masha Gessen is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Gessen is the author of ten books, including The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award in 2017, and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Gessen has written... Read More →
avatar for Jan-Werner Müller

Jan-Werner Müller

Professor of Politics, Princeton University
Jan-Werner Müller is professor of Politics at Princeton University. Professor Müller is a co-founder of the European College of Liberal Arts (ECLA), Berlin, Germany’s first private, English-speaking liberal arts college, for which he served as founding research director. He is... Read More →
avatar for Andrew Nathan

Andrew Nathan

Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. Nathan’s books include... Read More →
avatar for Jessica Pisano

Jessica Pisano

Associate Professor and Chair of Politics, The New School for Social Research
Jessica Pisano is associate professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research. She is the author of The Post-Soviet Potemkin Village: Politics and Property Rights in the Black Earth (Cambridge University Press, 2008), which received the Harvard University Davis Center Book... Read More →

Friday October 4, 2019 1:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
Theresa Lang Community and Student Center - I202