Return to Recent Articles menu

The Meaning and Significance of Hamilton - Part Two

21 March 2018

2. Revising History Revising The Revisionists (continued)

The first contemporary context that the current production speaks to is the historical anonymity of its subject. Far from being understood as a founding father or a great man, Hamilton had remained peerless and obscure—the “fatherless founding father”, if known at all it was as part of someone else’s story. That is why we hear at the beginning Arron Burr denouncing an individual only identified as the person he shot. Even to an author of radical imagination like Gore Vidal—there was no new story to tell—Vidal's account of Hamilton’s time is simply called Burr. It is therefore no accident that the author Lin Emanuel was prompted by a new work of historical scholarship—that itself marked a turning point, Chernow's Alexander Hamilton (2004). On its pages was an account of an American Revolutionary and the American Revolution untaught in any classroom school or academy. Now, not only do people know his name but want to know more about the contemporary meaning of revolution. This is not only a testament to the Public's and Lin Emanuel Miranda’s achievement—it speaks from and to the growing radicalization and normalization of the opposition to the current presidency.

3. The Revolutionary Enlightenment

The evidence is in for the necessity for social transformation; scientifically a new energy system is needed that must go much further than existing private initiatives. Economically, the judgment is in—the central banks have gone well beyond the point of encouraging “moral hazard”, now the world stock exchanges cannot exist without continuing and significant state subsidy and Quantitative Easing (the continued purchase by central banks of corporate debt). If any attempt is made to withdraw or reduce the subsidy Wall Street falls down. After thirty years of propaganda from the right and neo-liberals on the evils of government interference in free markets, it is the central banks and direct government intervention that is propping up with trillions of dollars the world's private financial institutions. As this cannot go on indefinitely the neo—conservative and alt—right response is to build walls—border walls and tariff walls. Those who are granted access will be those who pay tribute. In other words a protection racket far beyond any Arturo Ui's imagining.

Hamilton could only have been produced by Lin Emanuel Miranda working in the Public Theatre tradition. Its song lines are now part of radical American artistic practice. Over a million people have watched its beginning and many millions more have listened to it and watched its scenes online. Its success is an inspiration to activists. These are workers who have won and are still fighting to win a better standard of living and a better world that we will be able to live in. The fleet is fast catching up with its artistic flagship.

Further Reading, Notes and Media:

On The Public Theatre Tradition:

The Public Theater's Oskar Eustis on their production of Julius Caesar

On Putting The Enlightenment On Trail:

On The Neo-conservative attack on the Enlightenment:

From Jacobin In Reply to The Attack on The Enlightenment:

Taking Back The Enlightenment from the opposition Jacobin On A New Interpretation of Hamiliton:

Return to top of page