A Modern Day Caesar? Donald Trump and American Caesarism

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Historical Sociology, 2020
Issue Date:
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This article argues that the American political system under Donald Trump is an example of what Antonio Gramsci dubbed “Caesarism,” a situation where a taut balance of warring class forces allows for the emergence of a third force to freeze the antagonism and challenge/usurp established political institutions. To concretise Gramsci's rather abstract formulation and to better illuminate the nature of American Caesarism, this article employs a reading of the Roman poet Lucan's magisterial Civil War. Through a close reading of this text, we can explore the origins of Caesarism and study the efficacy of different means of struggle against it. Lucan thus helps us reinvigorate the concept of Caesarism and apply it in the contemporary American context. In particular, it will be demonstrated that whereas Lucan depicts a progressive form of Caesarism with a qualitatively new state form, the Trump administration embodies a regressive form of Caesarism within an old state form.
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