The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Vaclav Benda, 1977-1989

F. Flagg Taylor IV, Editor, 2018

The Long Night of the Watchman brings into English translation the writings of the renowned Czech anti-Communist dissident and Catholic thinker Vaclav Benda (1946-1999). An early signatory of Charter 77, the Czechoslovak human rights association, Benda would twice serve as a spokesman. He was a founding member of VONS (the Czech acronym for the Committee to Defend the Unjustly Persecuted) and served a four-year prison sentence for his dissident activities.

Benda was a keen analyst of Communist totalitarianism who was heavily involved in many facets of resistance. The writings collected in this volume thus offer a unique perspective on life under a Communist regime. Readers are given eyewitness accounts of crucial, yet little known events such the Christian pilgrimage to Velehrad in 1985. We are also transported back into Benda’s workplace as the repercussions of his signing of Charter 77 unfold. And Benda’s extended reflections on topics such as the family and totalitarianism and the fate of the Catholicism under Communism display his subtle and exacting mind.

The volume is divided into three sections. “Reflections” is comprised of relatively brief texts usually prompted by some event or action, while “Reports and Defenses” is made up of short documents written for a specific purpose and often related to the regular work of Charter 77. The middle section, “Essays and Inquiries,” contains Benda’s longer pieces of a more philosophical character.

With The Long Night of the Watchman, Vaclav Benda’s deeply humane voice and his unbending mind come to the attention of English readers.

Totalitarianism on Screen: The Art and Politics of The Lives of Others

Carl Eric Scott and F. Flagg Taylor IV, Editors, 2014

From its creation in 1950, to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the German Democratic Republic’s Ministry for State Security closely monitored its nation’s citizens. Known as the Staatssicherheit or Stasi, this organization was regarded as one of the most repressive intelligence agencies in the world. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) has received international acclaim—including an Academy Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and multiple German Film Awards—for its moving portrayal of East German life under the pervasive surveillance of the Stasi.

In Totalitarianism on Screen, political theorists Carl Eric Scott and F. Flagg Taylor IV assemble top scholars to analyze the film from philosophical and political perspectives. Their essays confront the nature and legacy of East Germany’s totalitarian government and outline the reasons why such regimes endure.

Other than magazine and newspaper reviews, little has been written about The Lives of Others. This volume brings German scholarship on the topic to an English-speaking audience for the first time and explores the issue of government surveillance at a time when the subject is often front-page news. Featuring contributions from German president Joachim Gauck, prominent singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, journalists Paul Hockenos and Lauren Weiner, and noted scholars Paul Cantor and James Pontuso, Totalitarianism on Screen contributes to the growing scholarship on totalitarianism and will interest historians, political theorists, philosophers, and fans of the film.

The Contested Removal Power, 1789-2010 (American Political Thought)

by J. David Alvis, Jeremy D. Bailey, and F. Flagg Taylor IV, 2013

The U.S. Constitution is clear on the appointment of executive officials: the president nominates, the Senate approves. But on the question of removing those officials, the Constitution is silent—although that silence has not discouraged strenuous efforts to challenge, censure, and even impeach presidents from Andrew Jackson to Bill Clinton. As J. David Alvis, Jeremy D. Bailey, and Flagg Taylor show, the removal power has always been and continues to be a thorny issue, especially as presidential power has expanded dramatically during the past century.

Linking this provocative issue to American political and constitutional development, the authors recount removal power debate from the Founding to the present day. Understanding the historical context of outbreaks in the debate, they contend, is essential to sorting out the theoretical claims from partisan maneuvering and sectional interests, enabling readers to better understand the actual constitutional questions involved.

After a detailed review of the Decision of 1789, the book examines the initial assertions of executive power theory, particularly by Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, then the rise of the argument for congressional delegation, beginning with the Whigs and ending with the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The authors chronicle the return of executive power theory in the efforts of Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, and Cleveland, who all battled with Congress over removals, then describe the emergence of new institutional arrangements with the creation of independent regulatory commissions. They conclude by tracking the rise of the unitarians and the challenges that this school has posed to the modern administrative state.

Although many scholars consider the matter to have been settled in 1789, the authors argue that a Supreme Court case as recent as 2010—Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board—shows the extent to which questions surrounding removal power remain unresolved and demand more attention. Their work offers a more nuanced and balanced account of the debate, teasing out the logic of the different institutional perspectives on this important constitutional question as no previous book has.

The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism (Religion and Contemporary Culture)

F. Flagg Taylor IV, Editor, 2011

Totalitarianism was the dominant phenomenon of the twentieth century. Deeply troubling questions endure regarding the nature of such tyrannical regimes: What enabled human beings to carry out such horrific crimes against their fellow man? What does the endurance of Communism reveal about human liberty? Why did human beings suffer rule by ideological lies for so long, and what kept them open to the truth? What are we to make of the relationship between totalitarianism and the foundational principles of democratic modernity?

Some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century sought answers to these haunting questions. Now, for the first time ever, their incisive and profound reflections on totalitarianism have been brought together in one book. The Great Lie showcases the insights of such giants as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Václav Havel, Hannah Arendt, Eric Voegelin, Czeslaw Milosz, Leo Strauss, and Raymond Aron, along with neglected but important thinkers such as Waldemar Gurian, Aurel Kolnai, Leszek Kolakowski, Pierre Manent, Claude Lefort, and Chantal Delsol. The brilliant essays in this volume illuminate the very nature of totalitarian regimes, and the monstrous ideology that is their defining feature.

The Great Lie allows readers to make sense of political evil and how it can attract so many people into its ideological fold. This is not a matter of mere academic interest in an age when we confront totalitarianism in such regimes as North Korea and Cuba—and, arguably, in radical Islamist movements.