Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Theme: Politics

  • Stuart Hall has died. The enormity of the loss cannot be exaggerated. There is little point trying to measure Hall’s importance against other significant figures: he himself would have abhorred the macho individualism of such a gesture. But it has been a long time since the intellectual Left in the UK has experienced such a loss, or one more keenly feared by those who may have anticipated it.Read more
  • It is the time of the comedians. Western politics as it is perceived by populations and portrayed by the media of every kind is in such a parlous state, that it is not a metaphor but a reality developing before our eyes. The comedians in this country are arguing amongst themselves, but in full public view, about the state of the nation and what is to be done to resolve and redeem its moribund condition.Read more
  • While China prepared for the 2008 Olympics, the artist Ai Weiwei was busy collaborating with the Swiss architectural firm, Herzog & de Meuron, on the Bird’s Nest stadium. Gradually, Ai began to experience a deep sense of disgust: “I was so involved in architecture that it opened my eyes to society, dealing with bureaucracy, policies and workers,” Ai observes, “and then you start to realise why they are building, and how they are using it. It is a very political act.”Read more
  • I understand why Freud at the end of Civilization and Its Discontents said that he couldn’t preach an alternative to the social order as it was, even as he saw it heading for total disaster. Once he jettisons the idea of the good, it becomes almost impossible to envisage political struggle. The political thinker smuggles it back in, even when she or he accepts its explicit rejection, because some idea of the good seems to be a necessary condition for the possibility of politics. But I wrote the book believing that the abandonment of the good still left a small opening for thinking politics. And I don’t see any other way of doing it than focusing on the opposition between the good and enjoyment. Once we accept that the good is antithetical to our enjoyment, is a barrier to our enjoyment, it becomes possible to think politics beyond the good.Read more
  • Progress is never inevitable, even in reform eras. The United States at the turn of the twentieth century was in a progressive mood. It was a time in which the nation’s leaders tackled some of modern life’s most vexing problems: from taming rapacious industrialization to ensuring a clean food supply to cleaning up political corruption, American progressives were seeking a more harmonious and salubrious national life. But for African Americans, even those closest to progressive national leaders, this was a period of disappointment and devastation.Read more
  • We live in a world of Wikileaks and cyber-terrorism where information is wielded as both a weapon and a currency. Most recently, Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the American National Security Agency, leaked documents revealing that the United States tracks its citizens’ phone calls by compiling metadata records such as phone number and length of call. It should come as no surprise that governments follow the lead of Walmart, Amazon and Google in exploiting Big Data. Read more
  • The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. In fact, scarcely any one at all escapes.Read more
  • Keeping tabs on the so-called Bárcenas affair, Spain’s ongoing corruption scandal, has been a bit like watching the slow-motion replay of a calamity. We already knew what happened, more or less: the country’s real estate bubble was produced through a toxic combination of the large-scale reclassification of “rural” land as “urban” (and therefore open to construction), the compulsive doling out of bloated government contracts – especially for construction – to non-competitive bidders, and reckless unregulated lending by the banks owned and operated by past and future government officials, all of it facilitated by a culture of kickbacks and the under-the-table political contributions.Read more
  • Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide, edited by Jeffrey Severs and Christopher Leise, mixes venerable scholars with emerging ones and makes the perfect critical introduction to Pynchon’s sixth formidable novel. To date, this is the sole collection exclusively about Against the Day. Its scope, insights, and variety make it an excellent companion to the novel—and surely one that will leave a lasting influence.Read more
  • The Green Party as a whole had never really grappled with the contradiction between environmental sustainability and the economic expansionism that is inherent to capitalist accumulation; nor did the majority develop a consistent critique of what was at first a small group of eco-libertarians in their midst, who preached the ‘gospel of eco-efficiency’; in favour of free markets and opposed to state intervention, this was initially directed against the ‘big machine’ of industrialism and statism alike.Read more
  • Everyone has tried to use Photo Booth on an Apple computer to take a staged photo of themselves looking effortlessly effortless. If you’re reading this and you’re all like, “I’d never do that,” you’re either lying to me, to the NSA, to someone else next to you, or you’re just maintaining a front until you have a quiet minute alone to close the door to your room and give it a try (if this is the case, Erving Goffman would be proud of you). I tried.Read more
  • The Left has a checkered history when it comes to Palestine. For at least the first two decades of Israel’s existence, due in part to the attempted extermination of European Jewry, in part to the distorting effects of Soviet foreign policy, and in part to sympathy for a purportedly socialist movement, almost the entire Western left lived with illusions about Zionism.Read more
  • Democratic imperialism has long been the favourite foreign policy vision of American neoconservatives: foreign powers had the moral obligation to impose democratic institutions on people who, subject to authoritarian rule were in no position to determine their fate. The U.S., and many in France and the UK, argued they had to create a new ethical order based on individual rights, which would ensure economic prosperity and political stability in the Middle East. Read more
  • Brown University Professor Mark Blyth talks about the use of austerity as class politics. Read more
  • Professor Michael Pollan talks about corporations, politics and home cooking.Read more
  • There is a famous maxim that one must always kill your idols. That the only way to become your own person, as it were, is to free yourself from the shadow of the one you admire, look up to. Singapore has clearly taken this to heart: and has murdered its founding father. Not in the banal sense of attempting to erase his memory, an erasure by censorship, omission, but in a far more sophisticated way: by cementing a version of him, memorialising him — archiving him.Read more
  • Tunisia remains very dependent on international good will: despite receiving aid and loans worth $1.5bn last year, the growing current account deficit has reduced hard currency reserves to the equivalent of three and a half months cover of imports. The Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice recently stated that rising Islamic violence could well delay elections. The risk of Tunisia slipping into a political and economic quagmire, which will seriously damage its future stability, is real if elections are put off indefinitely.Read more
  • One year ago, on the day of François Hollande’s inauguration as the seventh President of the French Fifth Republic, May 15th, 2012, it poured with rain all day long. Inexplicably, no one offered him a raincoat or the protection of an umbrella. He spent the day’s ceremony drenched to the bone, his glasses steamed up, his sopping wet suit and shirt flattened against him. It was a sign. It has been raining ever since.Read more
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