[en] George Orwell wrote a review of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in which he made the following observation:
“[H]uman beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working hours, hygiene, birth control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades.”
Philip Stephens brought this observation of Orwell’s to my attention in a Financial Times article that sought to make sense of the rise of populist politics in Europe and the United States in our time; a development that came startlingly to a head with the British referendum that triggered Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in October 2016. My paper presented at the January Workshop in Luxembourg engaged with this passage from Orwell’s discussion of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Stephens’ reading of it in the Financial Times. It described or explained the difference between liberal and populist/fascist responses to times of crisis in terms of the difference between the liberal economy of the gift and the illiberal economy of sacrifice, and scrutinised the possibility of a stable distinction between these two economies with reference to especially Marcel Mauss and Jacques Derrida.