Outdated map, 2016  © china | Flickr
EssaysFeatureIn DepthLiberal Democracy in Question

The Promise and Logic of Federations, and The Problem of Their Stability

Historians are right to describe the 19th century as the age of nationalism. While many also depict the 20th as the triumph of the nation-state, with more justice it could be called the century of its failure, despite the vast proliferation of the form. If collapsing empires brought us the first World War, the new problems of the nation state prepared the ground for the second. In our own century, looking around the world, we encounter countless examples of nation-state failure to solve the problem that brought it into being: the management of plurality and the self-determination of different political identities.

Throughout the crises of empires and of nation-states, the option of federal union was ever-present, promising to solve what neither other political form could ultimately deal with. …

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Illustration of Hannah Arendt "Hannah-Arendt3" ©  Ben Northern | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionTheory & Practice

Hannah and Me: Understanding Politics in Dark Times

Contrary to the suggestion of my informal title, I did not study with Hannah Arendt, nor were we ever colleagues, although I missed both experiences only by a bit. I was a graduate student in the early 1970s in one of the universities where she last taught, the University of Chicago, and my first and only long term position, at the New School for Social Research, was her primary American academic home.

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Book cover of The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi  © Vintage | Amazon
EssaysIn DepthThe Psyche

The Discarded and the Dignified – Part 3

From the Failed Witness to “You are the Eyes of the World”

Failed witnessing: The Drowned and the Saved

The pivotal function of the moral third in relation to collective trauma is constituted by the acknowledgment of violation by the others who serve as witness. At a social level this role is played by the eyes and voice of the world that watches and upholds what is lawful by expressing, at the least, condemnation and indignation over injustice and injury, trauma and agony endured by the victims. The suffering or death of the victims is thus dignified, their lives given value. Their lives are worthy of being mourned, as Butler (2004) termed it, they are grievable lives. In other words, they are not simply objects to be discarded. Given the state of media proliferation, victims the world over know whether their suffering is seen and regarded; they can ask in despair, Why is no one paying attention as we die here? …

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Book cover of Immortality by Milan Kundera © Faber | Amazon.com
CapitalismEssaysThe Psyche

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The search for authenticity in consumer culture

Milan Kundera begins his novel Immortality with a description of a gesture made by a woman he is observing at a swimming pool. This woman, who we will come to know as Agnes in the story, smiles and waves at the lifeguard who has just been giving her swimming instructions. There is something charming and elegant for Kundera about this hand wave that reminds him of the gesture of a young woman “playfully tossing a bright colored ball to her lover.” This unique gesture reveals to Kundera the essence of Agnes’ charm, and he is dazzled and strangely moved by it. Later in the novel we discover that this gesture is not as unique as it initially seems. …

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Symbol of the Anarcha-Feminist movement © Property is Robbery | RevLeft.com
EssaysSex & GenderThe Left

Anarchism and Feminism: Toward a Happy Marriage?

Some have argued that the marriage between Marxism and feminism ended up in an unhappy marriage: by reducing the problem of women’s oppression to the single factor of economic exploitation, Marxism risks dominating feminism precisely in the same way in which men in a patriarchal society dominate women (Sargent 1981). The oppression of the latter needs to take into account a multiplicity of factors, each with its own autonomy, without attempting to reduce them to one all-explaining source — be it the extraction of surplus value in the workplace or unpaid shadow work in the household. There seems to be something intrinsically multifaceted in the oppression of women — so much so that women’s and gender studies programs are all, inevitably, interdisciplinary ones. …

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