Who is Donald Trump, and what does he stand for? Do we know? Does he himself know? Or is he caught in that precarious state of disorientation that characterizes our current political predicament?
The public discourse is heated, the language inflammatory. Philosopher Hans Sluga of the University of California, Berkeley, brings a cool head and rational thinking to his interview about our 45th president, Donald Trump, with Entitled Opinions host Robert Harrison.
Trump has been a real estate developer, a reality TV star, a prolific tweeter, a politician, and has changed his party affiliation seven or eight times. Is he a fascist? Sluga, author of Wittgenstein and Heidegger’s Crisis, warns against easy tags: “We’ve drained this word of much of its specific meaning.” Fascism, he says, “is a form of statism quite different from what we have in America today.”
Is he a populist? That’s not clear, either. “Plutocrat,” the term Aristotle used to describe the rule of the rich,” might be a more precise characterization. Sluga says we might turn to the world of real estate to understand Trump’s worldview.
“What you see is what you get. But the problem is, what do you see? You don’t understand it. You don’t know what to make of it.”
“The values that have guided the republic since its beginning are no longer taken seriously. Behind them is the cynicism of power and the sale of political power for money.”
“Trump seems to represent the reunification of the political and the economic. He’s a businessman, and remains a businessman while he’s president.”
“We have underestimated the political significance of real estate in our world.”
“Trump is not anti-government, he just has a different notion of what government’s role is in the alliance between economy and politics.”
“He wants regulation to assert his own will-to-power more effectively. He’s an authoritarian, certainly, we shouldn’t doubt that at all – but not necessarily someone out to destroy the state or its institutions.”
“Plutocrats have interests that any ruler has: to be legitimized, to be accepted by the population.”
“Money has begun to undermine everything in politics now.”
“He is the tip of an iceberg. What I’m really interested in is the iceberg itself.”
Hans Sluga is the author of Heidegger's Crisis. Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany (Harvard, 1993); Wittgenstein (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011); and Politics and the Search for the Common Good (Cambridge, 2014).
He studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Munich. He subsequently obtained a B. Phil. in philosophy at Oxford, where he studied under R. M. Hare, Isaiah Berlin, Gilbert Ryle and Michael Dummett. "My overall philosophical outlook is radically historicist,” he has said. “I believe that we can understand ourselves only as beings with a particular evolution and history." He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1991-92.