"No Human Being is Illegal," Los Angeles, 2006 ©  Jonathan McIntosh | Wikimedia Commons
DemocracyEssaysMedia & PublicsRace

The (de)Construction of the “Illegal” Immigrant

Latinos respond to Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s derisive statements about Mexican immigrants have mobilized a large portion of the Latino community in the United States. Faced with the same old accusations that Mexican immigrants are criminals, drug-dealers, or rapists, businesses and public figures such as Univision, NBC, ESPN, NASCAR, Macy’s, chefs Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian, Miss USA contestants, and even mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, took action …

READ MORE →
Travelers in Iran share a living room with two local shepherds © Hamed Saber | Flickr
DemocracyEssaysMedia & Publics

My Living Room as a Public Sphere

An Iranian experiment in free society

“I’m not certain that the ideal society should be religious. I start from the premise that the ideal society should be secular.” So spoke documentary filmmaker, Mehran Tamadon, in a conversation with the four conservative mullahs, advocates of the Islamic republic, he invited to be part of his new movie Iranian. The conversation consists of five men sitting in a living room in Iran, arguing about the ideal society: this is pretty much the plot.

Behind closed doors, the mullahs’ wives are relegated to the bedrooms as their children play in the garden; in the living room, the four clerics and the self-avowed atheist embark upon a fascinating experiment. …

READ MORE →
Illustration of Hannah Arendt "Hannah-Arendt3" ©  Ben Northern | Flickr
O.O.P.S.Theory & Practice

Arendt’s Plurology

The sociologist reading Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition is bound to squint at the page in puzzlement when Arendt gives her definition of society. So would, I think, most readers of the text. Arendt’s fondness for assigning new meanings to commonly used words is most perfectly demonstrated in that moment when she nonchalantly declares that “society” is a distinctly modern phenomenon: the intrusion of the private sphere into the public, resulting in a massive emptying of the value of human association.

READ MORE →
Democracy in Crisis © Vazzermag | Dreamstime.com
CapitalismDemocracyEssays

Democracy’s Crisis

We are currently experiencing a major crisis of democracy. What is at stake here is the specifically political dimension of a broader, multifaceted crisis, which also has other important dimensions — for example, economic, financial, ecological, and social. Taken together, all of these aspects, including the political dimension of democratic crisis, add up to a “general crisis.” It is at bottom a crisis of capitalism — or rather, of our current, historically specific form of capitalism: financialized, globalizing, neoliberal capitalism. …

READ MORE →
Mosque of the Olten Turkish cultural association at Wangen bei Olten, Switzerland © Nadf | Wikimedia Commons
DemocracyEssaysMedia & Publics

Banning the Minarets in Switzerland

The limits of the liberal public sphere and the dark side of monstration

There is no problem with Islam in Switzerland. At least, there was none until 2009. But then, confounding poll predictions, and stupefying the Swiss political institutions, religious organizations, as well as mainstream media, 57.5% of the citizen voted a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets. Yet, less than half a million of Muslims lives in the country. The majority of them (90%) comes from Turkey or Central Europe. They amount to eight per cent of the Swiss population. And out of the two hundred Muslim centers in Switzerland, only four mosques had a minaret.

Nonetheless, a Constitutional amendment was necessary, according to the Egerkingen Committee, the promoters of this federal popular initiative. The bill was framed as a preventive strike to stop the “Islamization” of the nation. Western — read “Judeo-Christian” — civilization and women were under the threat of Islam. Thus went the argument. …

READ MORE →
Anti-government protest in Kiev, Dec. 29, 2013, showing flags of The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" parties © maksymenko oleksandr | Fickr
DemocracyEssaysThe Left

The War on Fascism

By my title,“The War on Fascism,” I do not mean the war between the US, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, on the one hand, and Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and imperial Japan on the other, the war that took place between 1939 and 1945. Rather I mean an unspoken war on the concept of fascism that increasingly characterizes our understanding of World War Two and informs discussion of contemporary problems, such as Ukraine. Although the term “fascism” is still in use today, it generally refers to real or supposed dictatorships, such as those of Saddam Hussein or Vladimir Putin, and has lost its original connotation, that of an authoritarian but still capitalist state. Because the original meaning of “fascism” was aimed not at dictatorship, but at the relation between dictatorship and private property and market power, the term had a critical or self-reflective character. Understanding the loss of this character can help us understand the history by which present political discussions, for example those concerning Putin, have become impoverished. …

READ MORE →
San Francisco Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair poster from 2008 (cropped).  © A Syn | Flickr
DemocracyEssaysIn Depth

Against Anarchism

For Edward J. Snowden and Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley): Heroes of transnational publicity — in gratitude and with admiration.

One strategy for reimagining public sphere theory in the current conjuncture is neo-anarchism. Distrustful of global governance institutions, and of the expert networks entangled with them, this approach looks to anti-systemic movements as agents of transformation. Valorizing the independent militancy of Occupy, WikiLeaks, and the World Social Forum, it affirms efforts to build counterhegemonic centers of opinion and will formation, far removed from circuits of institutionalized power. Aiming to counter the hierarchical logic of administrative rule, it seeks to reconstruct public sphere theory in a way that gives pride of place to autonomous direct action by subaltern counterpublics and “strong” (decision-making) publics in civil society. Where else, after all, are we likely to find democratizing forces that can advance the theory’s ideals under current conditions?

READ MORE →