Pro Democracy rallies around Poland, BYDGOSZCZ, 19 December 2015 © Jaap Arriens | Flickr
DemocracyDemocracy ForumEssaysFeature

Thoughts on the Hungarian and Polish New Right in Power

Eviscerating the Constitutional Court and purging the judiciary, complete politicization of the civil service, turning public media into a government mouthpiece, restricting opposition prerogatives in parliament, unilateral wholesale change of the Constitution or plain violation of it, official tolerance and even promotion of racism and bigotry, administrative assertion of traditional gender norms, cultural resurrection of authoritarian traditions, placing loyalty over competence in awarding state posts, surveillance without check — with such policies and more, right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland …

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Migranten In Passau am 10.12.2015 Clearingstelle der Bundespolizei © Metropolico.org | Flickr
EssaysFeature

We Refugees

In 1943 Hannah Arendt published a short essay in the Jewish periodical “The Menorah Journal” entitled We Refugees. She described in it a widespread refusal among Jews who had escaped the Nazis to call themselves “refugees.” Having lost everything — their occupation, their language, their family — they were eager to adapt to their new country as quickly as possible and to become “normal” citizens. Arendt thought that this assimilation strategy was doomed to failure, because it ignored the fact that the European model of the nation state is structurally dependent upon the fabrication of stateless and displaced persons. Instead, Jews should remember what made them special precisely as refugees. Refugees, she wrote, are “the vanguard of their peoples,” since for them history was no longer “a sealed book.” They have already experienced and recognized what to others has only become obvious today, in the era of globalization: the violence, fragility, and historical obsolescence of a territorial understanding of citizenship. …

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Farming in India © Kannan Muthuraman | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysThe Psyche

Economic Globalization and Mental Health

Individual suffering in social context

Economic globalization is much in the news these days, most recently as Congress debated President Obama’s proposal for a “free trade” agreement with the nations of the Pacific Rim. My impression is that few mental health professionals keep up with the details of economic globalization and its impact on culture and mental health. In this article I will briefly present two ways in which economic globalization has a huge and largely unrecognized impact on …

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Quartz crystal © Macroscopic Solutions | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysThe Left

Seven Steps toward Enlightenment: The Case of the French Killings

When a crystal breaks, it breaks along lines of pre-existing weakness. Thus traumatic assaults, like the one in Paris, can serve as X-rays into the body politic that endures them. Certainly, the US invasion of Iraq, a response to 9/11, serves as a paradigm case of how a terroristic attack can provoke the blind aggressivity otherwise obscured and disguised in the self-professed guarantor of world peace. By examining the range of responses to the massacre at Hebdo, we can learn something more about ourselves, and perhaps correct our mistaken stance. In my view there are seven levels of response to these attacks, each a mixture of ideology and truth, progressing closer and closer to something comprehensive and just, albeit also elegiac and incomplete. …

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Lions feast on a zebra kill © Jeffrey Sohn | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysThe Psyche

Are We Really Such Beasts?

There is a relentless barrage of narratives about our supposed beastly nature and conduct. Since childhood, we have all watched animals routinely tear off each others’ limbs in countless nature documentaries meant to show us that survival at any cost is the natural order of life. We are fascinated by House of Cards, from which we infer that only suckers play by the book and uphold standards of decency. Many of us stumbled across the political theory of Thomas Hobbes in school; he told us that man is a wolf to other men and that the only way to reign in the beast is to resign to a larger beast — the Leviathan. We also recall that Adam Smith advised us not to rely on the charity of the butcher and the grocer for our meal, but on their self interest. We watched Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street or Costa-Gavras’s Le Capital, and they confirmed that self interest knows no bounds. …

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Citibank mirrors HSBC © Jay Aremac | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

Has Capitalism Seen Its Day?

There is a widespread sense today that capitalism is in critical condition, and more so than ever since the end of the Second World War. Looking back, the crash of 2008 was only the latest in a long sequence of political and economic disorders that began with the end of postwar prosperity in the mid-1970s. Successive crises turned out to be ever more severe, spreading more widely and rapidly through an increasingly interconnected global economy. Global inflation in the 1970s was followed by rising public debt in the 1980s, and fiscal consolidation in the 1990s was accompanied by a steep increase in private sector indebtedness (Streeck 2011; 2013a). For four decades now, disequilibrium has more or less been the normal condition of OECD capitalism, both at the national and the global levels. In fact, with time, the crises of postwar capitalism have become so pervasive that they are increasingly perceived as more than just economic in nature, in a rediscovery of the older notion of a capitalist society: …

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Visitors of the controversial monument at The Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) near Madrid sporting a flag of Spain under Franco © RomanD | Wikimedia Commons.
DemocracyEssays

Can Europe Learn from Latin America about History and Justice?

Can Latin America change European political memory? Can a long history of European silence be dealt with from across the Atlantic? The current investigations of Argentine courts into the crimes of the Franco dictatorship have brought these questions to the fore. As we have seen this week, many in Europe are not happy with this Third World « judicial intrusion » under the aegis of universal jurisdiction. However, the situation was exactly the opposite in the 1990s when Spanish courts sought Pinochet’s extradition and the detention of a notorious Argentine dirty war criminal. In the Chilean case, this Spanish intrusion even allowed Chileans to embark on a more serious judicial and historical questioning of the past. Can Latin America play such a role in Europe?

Should democracy oppose historical denial? Guatemala and Argentina are examples of how democratic engagement with past violations of human rights can lead to justice. In both countries, the effectiveness of the legal system should not be taken for granted, but in Argentina and Guatemala dictatorial regimes are finally being taken into legal and historical account. In Europe the situation is and was historically different. Neither Italy nor Germany (from East to West) prosecuted significant numbers of fascist criminals. Spain simply avoided the question.

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