top of page

Loyalty & Betrayal: Their Role in Political Life

39th Social Research Conference

October 3 - 4, 2019

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of The New School, which was founded by a group of professors who left Columbia University in protest over the imposition of loyalty oaths during World War I, and because of the continuing relevance and deep complexities underlying the concepts of loyalty and betrayal in our political lives, both historically and currently, we are convening a conference, the 39th Social Research conference on Loyalty and Betrayal that will take place in the fall of 2019 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 twentieth-century history and in the present 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. It can be seen today in the frequent demands made by President Trump on those around him to remain loyal to him even at the expense of protecting our laws and democratic values. It is also vividly clear in Russia today by the price put on disloyalty to Putin.

Loyalty is not a simple virtue. The frequency with which divided loyalties occur is one reason that 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 mitigated were they made public. The contrast between the concepts of 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 the former distinguished 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 which 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.

This conference is partially supported by The New School Provost.

This conference is part of the "Festival of New" centennial celebration of The New School which was founded by a group of professors who left Columbia University in protest over the imposition of loyalty oaths during World War I.



Day 1: Thursday, October 3, 2019

Session I. Philosophical Understandings of Loyalty & Betrayal

3:00-5:00 PM

(The New School, Theresa Lang Student Center, 55 West 13th St, New York, NY)

Avishai Margalit, The Cricket Test of Loyalty: Sport and Immigration, Loyalty and Betrayal, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

George Kateb, The Oddity of Patriotism, William Nelson Cromwell Professor Emeritus of Politics, Princeton University

Marci Shore, There is No Such Thing as Innocence, Associate Professor of History, Yale University

Moderator: Oz Frankel, Associate Professor of History, The New School for Social Research

Keynote Event

"On Loyalty Now"

6:00-7:30 PM

(First Presbyterian Church, 12 West 12th Street, New York, NY)

Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI

Interviewer: Carl Bernstein, Investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner

Day 2: Friday, October 4, 2019

Session II. Case Studies: United States

10:30 AM-1:00 PM

(The New School, Theresa Lang Student Center, 55 West 13th St, New York, NY)

Eric L. Muller, The War Relocation Authority and the Wounding of Japanese American Loyalty, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ellen Schrecker, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...?": Loyalty and Security in the Age of McCarthyism and Beyond, Professor of History (retired), Yeshiva University

Robert Kuttner, On Loyalty in the Era of Trump, Co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect; Meyer and Ida Kirstein Visiting Professor in Social Planning and Administration, Brandeis University

Moderator: James E. Miller, Professor of Liberal Studies and Politics; Faculty Director of Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism, The New School for Social Research

Session III. Case Studies: International

1:30-4:00 PM

(The New School, Theresa Lang Student Center, 55 West 13th St, New York, NY)

Masha Gessen, Against Loyalty, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Jan-Werner Müller, Un-European Activities?, Professor of Politics, Princeton University

Andrew Nathan, On Loyalty in China, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Moderator: Jessica Pisano, Associate Professor and Chair of Politics, The New School for Social Research



In the early 1970s, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward broke the Watergate story for The Washington Post, leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and setting the standard for modern investigative reporting, for which they and The Post were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. With Woodward, Bernstein wrote two classic best-sellers: All the President’s Men (also a movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman), about their coverage of the Watergate story; and The Final Days, about the denouement of the Nixon presidency.

Bernstein is currently at work on several multi-media projects, including a memoir. He is also an on-air political analyst for CNN and a contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine. His most recent book, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, published by Knopf, was a national bestseller acclaimed as the definitive biography of its subject

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 modern informational states.

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 about Russia, autocracy, LGBT rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, among others, for The New York Review of Books and The New York Times.

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 and Democratic Culture (1992); Emerson and Self-Reliance (1994); Patriotism and Other Mistakes (2006); Human Dignity (2011); Lincoln's Political Thought (2015); and Dignity, Morality, Individuality [ed. John Seery] (2015).

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect and the Kirstein Chair at Brandeis University’s Heller School. Kuttner is the author of twelve books on politics and economics, among which are The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy (2019), Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? (2018), and Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility (2013).

Avishai Margalit is 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. He frequently writes for The New York Review of Books, and among his books are Idolatry (with Moshe Halbertal, 1992), The Decent Society (1996), Views in Review: Politics and Culture in the State of the Jews (1998), The Ethics of Memory (2002), Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies (with Ian Buruma, 2004), On Compromise and Rotten Compromises (2009), and On Betrayal (2017).

Andrew G. McCabe, author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, spent 21 years in the FBI. On May 9, 2017 he became acting director of the FBI after the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Prior to this role, he served as the deputy director where he oversaw all of the FBI’s operations and intelligence collection activities. Mr. McCabe also previously served as associate deputy director, responsible for the management of all FBI personnel, budget, administration, technology and infrastructure.

Mr. McCabe began his career as a special agent with the FBI in 1996, assigned to the New York Field Office, investigating and supervising Russian organized crime cases. In 2006, Mr. McCabe shifted his focus to national security when he was promoted to FBI Headquarters in the Counterterrorism Division. In 2008, Mr. McCabe was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office's Counterterrorism Division where he received the FBI Director's Award for his work on the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

Mr. McCabe returned to FBI Headquarters in 2009 to build and oversee the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), which was President Obama’s effort to transform the government’s interrogation of terrorists. In 2012, Mr. McCabe became the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

In 2013, Mr. McCabe was appointed as executive assistant director of the National Security Branch where he ensured the FBI successfully executed its mission to defend the United States from all national security threats. In that role, Mr. McCabe oversaw the FBI’s work in the Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, Intelligence, and Weapons of Mass Destruction divisions, as well as the Terrorism Screening Center and the HIG. In September 2014, he was named assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office where he was responsible for all programs in the nation's second largest FBI field division

Before entering the FBI, Mr. McCabe worked as a lawyer in private practice. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University in 1990 and Juris Doctor from Washington University School of Law in 1993. In 2010, Mr. McCabe was certified by the Director of National Intelligence as a senior intelligence officer, and in December 2014, Mr. McCabe was awarded the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service.

James Miller is professor of politics and liberal studies at the New School for Social Research. He is the author most recently of Can Democracy Work? A Short History of a Radical Idea from Ancient Athens to Our World (2018); and also the editor of the new English translation of Diogenes Laertius, The Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Other books include Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche (2011); The Passion of Michel Foucault (1993); “Democracy is in the Streets”— From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago (1987); and Rousseau: Dreamer of Democracy (1984).

Eric L. Muller is the Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. His books include, Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters of World War II (2001), American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II (2007), and Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II (2012).

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 the author of Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity (2000) and is also the editor of Memory and Power in Post-War Europe: Studies in the Presence of the Past (2002).

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of political science at Columbia University. He is the regular Asia book reviewer for Foreign Affairs magazine and author of Peking Politics, 1918-1923; Chinese Democracy; and Human Rights in Contemporary China, with R. Randle Edwards and Louis Henkin.

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 Prize in Political and Social Studies in 2009.

Ellen Schrecker is professor of history (retired) at Yeshiva University. Among her books are No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (1986), The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents (1994), and Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998). She has also edited several volumes including Cold War Triumphalism: Exposing the Misuse of History after the Fall of Communism (2004), and The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the University (2010).

Marci Shore is associate professor of history at Yale University. She is the author of The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe (2013), Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 (2006) and the translator of Michal Glowinski‘s Holocaust memoir, The Black Seasons (2005).


Session I. Philosophical Understandings of Loyalty & Betrayal

Avishai Margalit

The Cricket Test of Loyalty: Sport and Immigration, Loyalty and Betrayal

About thirty years ago, Norman Tebbit, the closest ally of Margaret Thatcher, offered a test of loyalty or rather a test for disloyalty. Lack of support to the English Cricket team among immigrants from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean, while supporting teams of their countries of origin, when playing against England, is a clear sign for lack of loyalty to Britain. My talk reexamines the Tebbit Test and its implications to the notions of citizenship and loyalty.

George Kateb

The Oddity of Patriotism

One oddity of patriotism is that although it is not a virtue, as some have claimed, it is not a vice, as, say, gluttony, is a vice, but rather as religious fanaticism is a vice. That is, patriotism is intense devotion to an abstraction, love of country, and a devotion that sponsors many vices (abstract and un-abstract), some of them perversions of virtues. Among the un-abstract vices is cruelty, and among the abstract ones is honor in a bad cause. Yet these facts do not make betrayal (the opposing term to patriotism) a virtue. It too is a vice because it violates the social contract, but even so, it is not a vice when driven by conscience. Don’t love your country and don’t betray it. Love principles.

Marci Shore

There Is No Such Thing as Innocence

An exploration of postwar discussions among Central European philosophers about the possibility—or impossibility—of absolute values. The context for these discussions is the intertwined experiences of Nazism and Stalinism, which often laid bare the gray spaces amidst loyalty and betrayal, guilt and innocence. In addition to philosophical texts by Jan Patočka and Leszek Kołakowski, I will draw upon the Czech film Musíme si pomáhat (Divided We Fall) and the writings of Heda Margolius-Kovály (1919-2010), once described in Josef Škvorecký’s novel The Miracle Game as “a woman who had been to hell twice and was still very much alive.”

Session II. Case Studies: United States

Eric L. Muller

The War Relocation Authority and the Wounding of Japanese American Loyalty

Loyalty and disloyalty were central concepts in the wartime imprisonment of Japanese Americans. A presumption of disloyalty landed Japanese Americans in concentration camps and then an inquest into loyalty and disloyalty determined who would be granted permission to depart from camp and who would be driven into a deeper incarceration called “segregation.” This talk narrates the story of a single man’s shattering experience with the government’s mechanism for loyalty screening. It illustrates the incoherence of a security program built around loyalty, the blindness of those who administered it, and its devastating impact on Japanese Americans’ lives.

Ellen Schrecker

"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...?": Loyalty and Security in the Age of McCarthyism and Beyond

Loyalty oaths and other political tests for employment flourished during the late 1940s and 1950s. Directed against supposed subversives associated with American communism, they allowed politicians and others to go on record as protecting national security—without having to spend a cent. Seriously though, those loyalty tests were a crucial element in that broad campaign of political repression, otherwise known as McCarthyism, that narrowed the American political spectrum by penalizing dissent during the early Cold War.

Robert Kuttner

On Loyalty in the Era of Trump

Political opportunism and betrayal are rife in the age of Trump—the opposite of principled loyalty. These trends are only a caricature of a broader loyalty-destroying hallmark of our era, namely the dominance of the extreme market paradigm and related set of behaviors.

If everything is a market, affiliations are contingent. Loyalty is something sentimental, for fools, or at best purely instrumental. Market efficiency dictates that shareholders who have concerns about management just sell the stock; that owners discard longstanding workers, suppliers, other stakeholders, and entire communities, when business imperatives offer cost-savings; that landlords find ways to evict or jack up rents on long-term tenants; that private equity companies loot operating businesses.

The more that transactions are based on purely market principles, the more that loyalty seems an archaic and inefficient construct. There is even a doctrine in contract law known as “efficient breach.” Contracts are binding, as the Supreme Court held in the early, landmark Dartmouth College case of 1819, but according to the efficient-breach doctrine there are times when it is cost-effective to break the contract and pay the penalty.

Loyalty offers another useful lens through which to view the excesses and hidden costs of extreme neoliberalism.

Session III. Case Studies: International Masha Gessen

Against Loyalty

Looking at examples from both Russia and the United States, I will argue that loyalty is the opposite of solidarity.

Jan-Werner Müller

UnEuropean Activities?

Loyalty is actually a long-established principle in European Union law: among other things, it mandates that the Member States of the Union commit themselves to “cooperate sincerely” with each other. They also commit themselves to the underlying political aims of European integration (the latter was never just an economic project; the aim was political, economics was and is the means). These include peace (and prosperity), but also, as of more recent EU treaties, fundamental values such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Does one become “unEuropean” by violating these values? This question is not a theoretical one in light of the fact that two EU Member States, Hungary and Poland, today feature increasingly authoritarian governments. Who should decide whether a Member State government is insufficiently loyal to the EU’s values? Does this not conjure up the danger of a European McCarthyism, or also what Carl Schmitt criticized as a “tyranny of values” (which would empower individuals to make subjective judgments in the name of values)? The talk will answer these questions.

Andrew Nathan

On Loyalty in China

Chinese citizens today struggle with competing loyalties - to family, class, race, nation, party, and leader. The ruling Chinese Communist Party seeks to conflate love of country with loyalty to the party while also promoting a cult of personality around president and party leader Xi Jinping. But for many Chinese, the primary loyalty is to the family, leading to self-interested behavior that frustrates government goals. And a small but persistent minority insists on "a higher kind of loyalty" to the truth.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page