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

Intimate Politics

A new book by Michaël Fœssel – La privation de l’intime, mises en scène politique des sentiments – is reviewed here:

L’enjeu du livre de Michaël Foessel est de dégager, délimiter et promouvoir, aux côtés des sphères publique et privée auxquelles se limitent les théories politiques modernes et contemporaines, la sphère de « l’intime ». S’il importe de prendre la mesure de cette sphère, c’est qu’elle met en jeu des expériences spécifiques quant au mode de relation, de visibilité et de responsabilité entre les individus. Dans le schéma dichotomique classique, ces expériences sont trop souvent confondues avec celles qui ont cours dans le champ du privé, alors que ce dernier relève exclusivement du domaine économique et rend compte des relations individuelles sur le modèle de transactions entre des propriétaires (de soi, de son corps), y compris au sein du couple et de la famille. Au contraire, pris dans sa spécificité, l’intime nous permet de penser une autre approche du politique — selon une double dimension.

Dimension normative d’abord : l’intime et le public partagent des structures et des normes communes qui les distinguent, ensemble, du privé : c’est notamment le cas, dans la « démocratisation de l’intime » (selon l’expression de Giddens), de la progressive imposition de l’idée selon laquelle la vie personnelle est un « projet ouvert » et non pas caché ou silencieux. Dans le couple pris comme « lieu d’élaboration éthique » (p. 39), les partenaires ne sont pas pensés comme des co-contractants aux liens d’abord sociaux et juridiques, mais comme les tenants de discours de soi qui ne font sens que dans la relation, en prenant le risque de la désappropriation de soi. De ce point de vue, s’attacher à penser la spécificité de l’intime permet de se délivrer de l’erreur qui consiste à replier le politique sur l’économique. Ainsi peut se dégager une autre manière de penser le politique et ses acteurs, les individus affectifs et non pas seulement les individus performants, pris dans un « vivre ensemble » dont les modalités, sentimentales et morales, sont elles aussi renouvelées.

Michaël Fœssel’s book on Kant looks very interesting but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it is called Kant et l’équivoque du monde (Kant and the ambiguity of the world). In general, it seems that if one is interested in Kant and history or Kant and politics, one has to learn French these days as there’s a lot of interesting stuff…

There is this essay (.PDF in English) by Michaël Fœssel and Antoine Garapon on Biometrics.

Emilio Gentile: Politics as Religion

There’s an interesting Emilio Gentile interview on “sacralization of politics”: 

DH     How do you see the sacralization of politics extending into the 21st century?

EG      It’s been present in modern times since the American and French revolutions. We need to distinguish it from any type of politicized religion in old and present times.

In the Egyptian monarchy, the pharaoh was a god, or a son of a god, or embodied the god. In the Roman Empire, after Christianization, the emperor was in a sense consecrated by the church. And the Christian monarchs in Europe were always consecrated by institutional religion. This is not sacralization of politics in the sense that politics has become a religion. It is a politicization of a religion—the use of religion to sanctify monarchs in terms of the traditional gods, or the God of the Bible. In the period after the French and American revolutions, you have the secular entity of the nation. The nation is not a person, nor does the church consecrate it. It is consecrated because it is a new secular entity now conveying the meaning of life. The sacralization of politics is politics becoming religious, independent of the traditional church. It was not the pope who consecrated Hitler as the leader; it was not the pope who consecrated Napoleon (and I mean more than the fact that Napoleon took the crown from the pope and placed it on his own head). The sacralization of politics in modern terms is an autonomous form of religion based on politics, not on traditional church-state religion.

The rest of the interview is here.

So you want to be a Professor?

Somehow I missed it, but this is an interesting article from the WSJ, “So you Want to Be A Professor.”  Along with Mark Taylor’s pretentious Op-ed from the NY Times last week (for a spirited reaction see here), it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  For instance:

On some recent doctoral program cuts at Emory and Columbia:

But graduates students also act as teaching assistants, doing a great deal of time-consuming classroom work (and grading) that professors themselves are thus not compelled to do. In all sorts of courses, especially in their freshman and sophomore years, undergraduates may find themselves being instructed more often by a 25-year-old doctoral candidate than by the university’s full-time faculty members, who, of course, already have their doctorates (and one or two books to their credit, too). It is an odd, upside-down arrangement, but it has an economic logic: By providing cheap labor, graduate students save college administrations millions of dollars each year in salary costs.

So why the cuts? Well, the calculations work out differently for different schools. For instance, universities in lower tiers might not have to do as much because they can get away with having a higher percentage of classes taught by graduate students. But some of the schools making doctoral cuts this year gave compassion as their reason. Catherine R. Stimson, the dean of Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, was quoted in Inside Higher Ed: Given the state of the academic job market, she asked, referring to would-be doctoral candidates: “Is it fair to bring them in?” Continue reading