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Multi MediaPast PresentPodcastSex & GenderThe Left

The Women’s March, Russia, and Obama’s Farewell

Past and Present: Episode 66

In this week’s episode, Niki, Natalia, and Neil debate the women’s march on Washington, US-Russian relations, and Obama’s final speech to the nation.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

Women in the Rulings of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

Moving beyond the single story

After a long battle with the mainstream of human rights discourse and institutions dating from at least the era of the League of Nations, feminists organized in a transnational movement [1] have succeeded in placing women’s issues at the centre of human rights debates.

Here I want to take a step back from celebrating these achievements and ask: if women are now part of the transnational discourse on human rights, who are these women? How do transnational human rights institutions represent them? Or, put in other words, who is the female subject of transnational legal discourse and what gendered harms are made visible in this arena? …

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Ernesto Laclau © Unknown | VersoBooks.com
EssaysThe Left

Ernesto Laclau, 1936-2014

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Ernesto Laclau, the outstanding Argentinean political philosopher, at the age of 78. Ernesto had a heart attack in Seville where he was giving a lecture. He was the author of landmark studies of Marxist theory and of populism as a political category and social movement. In highly original essays and books he demonstrated the far reaching implications of the thought of Antonio Gramsci, probed the assumptions of Marxism and illuminated the modern history of Latin America, rejecting simplistic schemas linked to notions of dependency and populism.

After studying in Buenos Aires Ernesto came to Britain in the early 1970s, where he lectured at the University of Essex and later founded the Centre for Theoretical Studies. The Centre ran a very successful postgraduate programme, attracting students from around the world. In the 1970s Ernesto made his mark with his critique of the so-called “dependency school” of Latin American political economists such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso. …

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"Left" stretched beyond reason © Naomi Gruson Goldfarb using SmartArt
EssaysThe Left

What’s Left?

A response to Jeremy Varon

Jeremy Varon’s interesting and important response raises three questions: 1) What do we mean by a “Left”? 2) How are we to understand the New Left’s break-up and, specifically the relation of the women’s movement to that break-up and 3) How are we to evaluate the Left today? Let me start with the third and work backwards.

I do not believe we can properly speak of a Left today. Jeremy’s view of a plurality of different movement working independently but parallel to one another avoids all the important questions. A Left needs coherence and direction. It needs leaders, organizations, its own counter public-spheres, some sense of the values that distinguish it from the mainstream. It needs a coherent analysis of such basic ruling class institutions as the Democratic Party, the universities and the so-called public sphere. Obviously I am not advocating a vanguard party, or a mass party of the Debsian sort. But to speak of the huge diversity of present protest movements that might be termed progressive as a Left stretches the term beyond reason. …

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Street art clenched fist © another sergio | Flickr
EssaysThe Left

Shifting Geographies Rather Than Defections

The debate on feminists and the Left continues

We share Zaretsky’s desire to understand the trajectory of the Left past, present, and future. We disagree with him over the nature of the Left itself and with his account of the dynamics of political change. Where Zaretsky looks to the long duree and to political breaks as sources of current decline, we argue that the Left was always a more protean political formation in which lines of affiliation and disagreement were porous and changing. Finally, we insist, that if we are to understand the fate of the Left we must put it in dynamic relation with the actions of capital. Without expanding the political field, we mis-specify the geographies of political action — then and now. …

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