Cosmopolitanism and Democracy (Benhabib)

Latest Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik (6/2009) is dedicated to Habermas. Seyla Benhabib has an interesting essay (.PDF) on cosmpolitanism and democracy in it.

Der 80. Geburtstag von Jürgen Habermas bedeutet auch für mich persönlich ein kleines Habermas-Jubiläum. Es ist nämlich genau 30 Jahre her, dass ich als Stipendiatin der Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung im Herbst 1979 nach Deutschland kam, um bei ihm am Max-Planck-Institut in Starnberg zu studieren.

Von Anfang an nahm ich Jürgen Habermas wahr als die relevante zeitgenössische Figur in der Tradition des Kosmopolitismus. „Kosmopolitismus“ bedeutet für mich anzuerkennen, dass Menschen moralische Personen sind, die ein Recht auf den Schutz durch das Gesetz haben, und zwar aufgrund der Rechte, die ihnen nicht als Staatsbürger oder als Mitglieder einer ethnischen Gruppe zukommen, sondern die sie einfach als Menschen beanspruchen können. Des Weiteren bedeutet Kosmopolitismus, dass Ländergrenzen im 21. Jahrhundert zunehmend durchlässig und dass Gerechtigkeit innerhalb der Grenzen und Gerechtigkeit jenseits der Grenzen miteinander verbunden sind, selbst wenn es zwischen ihnen zu Spannungen kommen kann und kommt. Aus dieser menschenrechtlich-kosmopolitischen Position resultiert bei Jürgen Habermas von Anfang an der Wille zur „Einbeziehung des Anderen“, unabhängig von seiner nationalen Herkunft.

Read the rest here.

First Elections, Then Violence.

It has become a rather disturbing tendency probably since the 1990s and the “non-violent” revolutions in Eastern Europe. Now it happened in Zimbabwe – elections, wrong results, violence, and it looks like people are reacting the same way in Iran – elections, confused results, violence. I suppose unless people trust the governmental electoral process, these things are bound to happen. Yet on the other hand, American elections are known to have all sorts of shameful practices of supression, intimidation, misinformation and so on. It seems that even the world’s oldest and healthiest democracy is not really trustworthy. If you look at the rise of extremist violence, or just simple partisan discourse in the US today, even the legitimately elected president has to deal with issues of legitimacy among those who voted against him. And it wasn’t very different during the Bush years either – then it was 2000 “stolen” election, now it is Obama’s mystical birthcertificate and so on. Legitimacy, it seems, is a rather thorny concept…


American Democracy: Eric Foner Inverview.

Interesting interview with Eric Foner:

While the presidential campaign is coming to an end, Eric Foner, one of the most prominent American historians, analyses the changes of American democracy and explains why this election could mark a shift in the history of American politics. Barack Obama’s campaign could be an important step toward a society where race would no longer be a powerful dividing line.


Now, it may be that this presidential campaign does reflect a shift : people are looking more to action by government. We will see, that does seem to be a greater engagement, we will see what the voter turnout is, everyone is expecting a higher number of people voting this time. Obama has certainly tried to mobilize large numbers of younger voters and others who don’t vote, generally speaking. It would be nice to have a President to people could feel respect for, we haven’t have had that for a long time.

Derridalogy: A Remark

Having finished about half of Alex Thomson’s Deconstruction and Democracy: Derrida’s Politics of Friendship this afternoon, I got distracted from the actual content of the book – a rather dry, even if erudite, summary of Derrida’s discussion of “democracy” – and realized that I am growing increasingly disappointed with the state of what one might label “derridalogy” [copyright – Perverse Egalitarianism] as opposed to “Derrida Studies” primarily for a following reason: books and articles dedicated to Derrida’s philosophy that are coming out in the recent years (and, of course, I haven’t read them all but, after having finished Bayard’s awesome book in one sitting, I can discuss them nonetheless in their totality) are strangely of two main types: Continue reading

Zimbabwe Crisis.

Among some recent and disturbing news from Zimbabwe are the rumors of violence, intimidation and the usual repressive tactics that Robert Mugabe is known for – what makes this situation so intriguing is the fact that Mugabe began his political career as a fighter for independence. He is not the first one to go from the freedom fighter to dictator, but it’s still very sad to see an old man trying to hold on to the power that he was fighting against not so long ago. With most of the country in poverty and most of the land going from the white owners to Mugabe cronies (despite Mugabe’s loud rhetoric of giving the land to the poor), one wonders if anything will help the situation. The powerful and corrupt elite that still lives in luxury despite the inflation and the catastrophic unemployment is not going to give up their privilege voluntarily – let’s see how the institutions of democracy really work. South African leaders are holding a talk about the situation:

Saturday’s talks in Zambia were called amid the failure of Zimbabwe’s election commission to publish results of the presidential election held 12 days ago. The opposition has refused to take part in any second round run-off vote. Mr Tsvangirai is in Botswana, where a minister quoted him as saying he had left a tense Zimbabwe to ask for help. At a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, the Movement for Democratic Change said the delay of results amounted to “a constitutional coup d’etat”. Read the rest.

Mugabe Recovers, Raids an Opposition Office.

Mugabe: I just had the worst dream ever!

Subservient Minister: What was it, master?

Mugabe: I dreamed that there was one of those things that we have every once in a while when people come together and say things about me…

Zanu-PF Official: A rally in your support?

Mugabe: No, one of those election things which I always win, but this time I actually lost. Man, that would have been so “disgraceful,” you know? To actually lose an election that I have orchestrated to be rigged, to lose after I have made sure all the officials are on my side – I woke up in cold sweat…

Deputy Information Minister: Well, it was just a dream, Mr. President.

Mugabe: You’re right. But still I feel like doing something democratic this morning. How about raiding an opposition party office or something? We can say that the lights were on and we just came in to check if things were alright… Wait, we don’t really have to justify our behavior to anyone in this country!

BBC: The MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) said its offices in Harare were ransacked on Thursday. It denied that Mr Tsvangirai had gone into hiding and said he was “safe”. At least two foreign nationals were arrested in a raid on a hotel in the capital, accused of working as journalists without accreditation.

One has been named as Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, Barry Bearak, and the other is said to be a British journalist. Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said the authorities were trying to find out whether they were involved in espionage. “They were taking pictures obviously of police and they annoyed the police who arrested them and we want to find out whether they are journalists or they are British or American agents – who are posing as journalists,” he told the BBC.

Appearance of Democracy

With all the accusations of electoral violations – direct and indirect – in the recent Russian elections, past American elections (2000 and some in 2004) and the presently growing more and more tense elections in Zimbabwe, one wonders why those who clearly do not like the idea of giving up power even try to hold elections.  Mugabe was in power for 28 years, why hold elections and try to rig them? I mean why is the appearance of democracy, even though everyone knows it’s just an appearance, so important? If Putin declared that he wanted to stay for the third term (or indefinitely), I am sure there would be some protests, but with the repressive resources of the police and the army, any of those could have been easily put down.  There would be international problems as the Western democratic governments would not like it, but so what? It’s not 1917, and the West supports many despotic governments? Why play the game of democracy?

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