After Mubarak… (updated with links)

A compelling article by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham in Foreign Affairs, “The Muslim Brotherhood After Mubarak”

With the end of the Mubarak era looming on the horizon, speculation has turned to whether the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate the new Egyptian political landscape. As the largest, most popular, and most effective opposition group in Egypt, it will undoubtedly seek a role in creating a new government, but the consequences of this are uncertain. Those who emphasize the risk of “Islamic tyranny” aptly note that the Muslim Brotherhood originated as an anti-system group dedicated to the establishment of sharia rule; committed acts of violence against its opponents in the pre-1952 era; and continues to use anti-Western, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. But portraying the Brotherhood as eager and able to seize power and impose its version of sharia on an unwilling citizenry is a caricature that exaggerates certain features of the Brotherhood while ignoring others, and underestimates the extent to which the group has changed over time.

Read the rest here. Or, here’s Wickham’s last paragraph: Continue reading

This Is What A Decent Analysis of “Tea Party” Looks Like

Agree or disagree, but this is how you make your points, I think:

Whatever the outcome of the Nov. 2 elections, you can be certain that commentators around the country will be fixated on the impact of the Tea Party movement. If Republican candidates do well on Election Day –- and particularly if Tea Party-backed candidates like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sharron Angle of Nevada win their races -– the Tea Party will be credited with having revived a moribund Republican Party. But if the Republicans fail to live up to expectations — and expectations are exceedingly high –- the Tea Party will be blamed for curbing the Republicans’ ability to capitalize on historic levels of voter dissatisfaction.

Objectology: A Distorted View.

John comments on the issue of objectology and politics (I am going to combine both of his comments here):

Why should every philosophy be expected to address politics just because all philosophers are affected by politics? “Ontology is play-science for philosophers,” says the I.T. post in question, and I can’t help but agree. But I don’t see why “real” scientific work should be regarded with suspicion just because scientists don’t explicitly discuss in their scientific articles the political and economic factors that influence the trajectory of their work. To the contrary: I would be particularly suspicious of chemists or physicists who claimed that their scientific work and findings were influenced by their political position.

I think, though, that the objection is more direct than that: ontology is pointless, like alchemy; go make better use of your philosophical talents.

Although John is using the term “ontology” I think it’s clear that we are talking about a very peculiar kind of ontology, i.e. objectology. Here’s what I think, and it’s going to be fairly short: there’s a fundamental difference between understanding politics as what politicians do (elections, issues, platforms and so on) and politics as a simple structure of human coexistence (polis) – this is not a novel idea or a novel distinction. I think that John means politics as as an area of political activity done by or in some relation to politicians, I think most objections to objectology are not that its members are not politically active in this sense, but in a sense that the argument seems to suggest that a reconfiguring the relationship between humans and non-humans does not have any immediate political significance or is not in itself a political activity. Continue reading

Crisis of Faith

T304434AHaving read Kant’s political writings for some time now, and having often compared his political advice (no resistance, reforms from above only) to his philosophical advice (revolution and undermining critique), I am slowly coming to an uncomfortable conclusion that was somewhat pressed upon me this week while I reread sections of “The Doctrine of Right” and The Conflict of Faculties – Kant was a  conservative and naive citizen of Prussa whose use of the imagery of “revolution” vis-a-vis his own philosophical discoveries (and multiple autobiographical events such as famous “dogmatic slumber” incident or a discover of Rousseau) did not propel him to leave his provincial shell of a “teacher of the people” and see radical political implications of his own discoveries. How Heine could possibly compare Kant to Robespierre is beyond me. How can we change our society for the better? According to Kant, we cannot do much – we hope and pray that the state “reforms itself from time to time” but ultimately we can only hope for a miracle, “a kind of new creation (supernatural influence)” [7:92] – What sort of reactionary flaming pile of shit is this? And coming for Kant? I better go read some Marx (or maybe Fichte) to get me away from this idiocy…

Philosophy as a Practice of Political Intervention.

Marxist-Leninist afternoon continues with a section from Althusser’s Lenin and Philosophy:

In a lecture now a year old, published in a small volume by Maspero under the title Lenin and Philosophy, I have attempted to prove that Lenin should be regarded as having made a crucial contribution to dialectical materialism, in that he made a real discovery with respect to Marx and Engels, and that this discovery can be summarized as follows: Marx’s scientific theory did not lead to a new philosophy (called dialectical materialism), but to a new practice of philosophy, to be precise to the practice of philosophy based on a proletarian class position in philosophy.

This discovery, which I regard as essential, can be formulated in the following theses: Continue reading