The Reading Room

Lewis’s Anti-Capitalist Dogma

We have seen that Sandefer’s case for the Rand-Sandefur thesis that Lewis broadly condemns all modern statist regimes is weak. I turn here to the textual case for a different reading of the political message of It Can’t Happen Here. My assumption in extracting Lewis’s political opinions from the text of the novel is that the political pronouncements of the characters he presents most favorably at least approximate Lewis’s own opinions. In the case of this novel, there is no reason to question this commonsense interpretive assumption.


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Two Readings of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here

The presidential election of 2016 rekindled interest in Sinclair Lewis’ prophetic 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here. (2014, henceforth ICHH) One hard question about It Can’t Happen Here is, what exactly is the It that Lewis anticipated and feared? Was It the reign of a Huey Long or a Donald Trump, a Francisco Franco or a Hugo Chavez, an Adolf Hitler or a Joseph Stalin? What sorts of political regimes were rejected by the political philosophy conveyed at least implicitly by Lewis in It Can’t Happen Here?

OLL's March Birthday: Franz Oppenheimer (March 30, 1864-September 30, 1843)

This month’s featured birthday anniversary is that of the German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer, best known for his work on the sociology of the State, which subsequently became tremendously influential among anarchist and libertarian political philosophers.

Misreading Dostoyevsky on Moral Responsibility

A 2018 article in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics entitled, “Clinicians’ Need for an Ecological Approach to Violence Reduction” presents an illuminating example of moral overreach, apparently inspired by a line from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which serves as its epigraph and is referred to several times throughout: “We are all responsible to all for all.” 

Individual Moral Responsibility for Violence: A Decrepit Concept?

Moral ambition is, in principle, an admirable trait, but soaring ambition, especially when it is unmodulated by practical wisdom, can wreak considerable harm.  In other words, the impulse to do good can fail to respect the bounds of reason and thereby undermine the welfare of the very people it seeks to serve.