To better understand how the far right and alt-right have gained political salience in recent years, a curious observer might seek to examine the ideologues and thinkers at the core of these movements. Alternatively, they might look in the opposite direction, eschewing the bigger philosophical picture to focus on the everyday, exploring interactions among the rank and file. These are the divergent but complementary approaches taken by Benjamin Teitelbaum and Julia Ebner in their new books. Together, they provide timely, insightful and often troubling accounts of the new political reality.
Teitelbaum, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, begins War for Eternity with an admission. ‘I am by trade an ethnographer, not a journalist,’ he writes. His book sits ‘in the blurred space between that method and investigate journalism’. He draws on over twenty hours of on-the-record interviews with Steve Bannon, plus what he gleaned during extensive travels across Europe and the United States. War for Eternity is predominantly an attempt to understand the ideology of Bannon and other important alt-right figures. It also explores how philosophical affinities have drawn them together.
Teitelbaum focuses on three primary figures: Bannon, campaign chief and later chief strategist to Donald Trump; Aleksandr Dugin, an influential confidant of Vladimir Putin; and Olavo de Carvalho, a close adviser to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. What links these three men, according to Teitelbaum, is a shared adherence to Traditionalism,