ORCID: 0000-0002-5051-5307

In chapter 2 (“Crises of Liberalism and the Specter of Totalitarianism”), Lucy Cane explores the diagnostic dimension of Sheldon Wolin’s political thought. In his first book, Politics and Vision (1960), Wolin diagnoses the loss of “the political” under modern liberalism, and draws provocative parallels between liberalism and totalitarianism. This reinvigorated the field of political theory, but generated blind spots in his thinking. Cane draws on Hannah Arendt and Clause Lefort to highlight Wolin’s lack of attention to modern nationalism and racialized imperialism, as well as his undervaluing of the promises of modern democracy. Chapter 2 then explores how the diagnostic framework Wolin forges in his early work is transformed in his account of the neoliberal condition of “inverted totalitarianism.” Whereas in his early work “totalitarianism” is a specter used to highlight the deficiencies of American liberalism, his final works attempt to define the concept more clearly. Wolin’s account of inverted totalitarianism does not anticipate the swift rise of a right-wing populist like Trump. Rather, Wolin predicts the further neoliberal atomization of a “post-political” populace. Cane argues that this is attributable to his longstanding tendency to focus primarily on the loss of political vision under liberalism.