EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/PublicsReligion

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. …

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EssaysSex & Gender

Immigrant Mothers as Agents of Change

In a recent interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung, Elisabeth Badinter bemoans new trends in motherhood emerging in France. The French feminist observes that growing numbers of French mothers — though they are still a minority, she is quick to add — are becoming preoccupied with childrearing practices: they are overprotective, sacrifice too much for the (perhaps largely imagined) good of their offspring, lose themselves in motherhood. Immediately, I thought this sounded a lot like a description of Matka Polka, the archetypal Polish mother — that is until I read the next sentence, in which Badinter concludes that French mothers are becoming more like the German ones. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Conceptions of Corruption, Its Causes, and Its Cure

This is a very brisk walk through a topic that should be taken slowly and treated in depth, but inevitably therefore at much greater length. Not the least of the reasons for engaging with it so briefly is that the institutions, if not always the practice, of Britain, the United States, and other liberal democracies today reflect efforts to rein in corruption that began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but which drew on very ancient arguments about the individual and institutional failings that rot individual character and bring about the downfall of states by weakening their ability to resist foreign attack, or by turning accountable republican government into some form of tyranny. More recent arguments focus on the economic cost of corruption, leading some writers to distinguish quite sharply between political and economic corruption. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionTheory & Practice

Heidegger’s Black Notebooks: Extreme Silencing

The Black Notebooks (Die Schwarzen Hefte), containing Martin Heidegger’s assorted thoughts from the 1930s and 40s, throw new light on the self-aggrandizement into totalitarianism of the most German of all philosophers.

The Freiburg professor of philosophy was not yet 50 years old when, in 1937 and 1938, he retraced his way of thought (Denkweg): He conjoined manuscripts of his various books, talks and lectures in a factual (sachlich) and discerning manner, with a view to ascertaining how all of it should be continued, including a publication strategy. Buoyed by the feeling that he had already achieved the “authentic” breakthrough by 1936, as he wrote to his brother Fritz in 1948, he was henceforward convinced of his ability to lead Western philosophy into a form of “thinking” purified by a history of being and event (or enowning) (seins-und ereignisgeschichtlich geläutert) and thus freed …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Terrorism that Netanyahu Supports

Benjamin Netanyahu often speaks of terrorism. He built his career on the unfounded claim that he’s a terrorism expert (his book Terrorism: How the West Can Win is, in fact, composed of articles by other experts), and he makes sure to speak of terrorism over and over again. After “Iran” and “Holocaust,” “terrorism” is probably the most frequently used term in Netanyahu’s vocabulary.

Yet, when speaking of terrorism, Netanyahu makes sure to address only the Palestinian and Muslim varieties. In his vocabulary, there’s no Jewish terrorism. The rest of the world has by now understood that this isn’t quite accurate, and the American State Department just recently made waves by reporting on Jewish terrorism (mistakenly identified as “Price Tag” activities …

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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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EssaysSex & Gender

Hard Lessons on Rape Culture: Dispatch from Brazil

“I don’t deserve to be raped! No one deserves to be.” These were the words printed on the signs made by thousands of Brazilian women who decided to join a massive online campaign launched through Facebook some weeks ago. The campaign aimed to protest against the highly misogynist views made public in a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Applied Research and Statistics (IPEA). The data showed that 58% of the interviewed either completely or partially agree that if women knew how to behave, there would be fewer cases of rape, 65.1% agree with the statement that “battered women who stay with their partners like to suffer violence,” and 26% of Brazilians agree with the statement “women wearing clothes showing their bodies deserve to be attacked.” …

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EssaysMedia/Publics

Israeli Hasbara, the Breakdown in Negotiations, and the Consequences

At this point, we can say that things are more or less over: President Obama announced on Friday that the American government is abandoning the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as neither side has been ready to make “tough decisions.” Basically, Obama was repeating what Secretary of State Baker once said to Israeli Prime Minister Shamir, following an earlier collapse of attempted peace negotiations: “Give us a call if you decide to get serious.” In response, Netanyahu’s office has already complained about the “soft” treatment that the Americans are allegedly giving the Palestinians.

Immediately, the Zionist regime (not my term: that’s how this administration defines itself) has initiated a hasbara campaign — basically, a PR attack — directed at the Israeli public. (“Hasbara,” literally, “explanation,” is the semi-official code in Israel for its propaganda efforts.)…

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EssaysPsyche

Physics Envy

The troubles in psychiatry and psychology

These are troubling times for the mental health field in the United States. A variety of historical developments have paved the road to the current predicament. Following World War II, the federal government and growing mental health lobby began an unprecedented expansion of mental heath services. This expansion in may respects continued over the next 30 years. It was not until the 1970s that American psychiatry underwent its first major crisis in the post war era. This crisis was precipitated by a number of factors including: the growing evidence of the lack of reliability of psychiatric diagnosis, the anti-psychiatry movement that was in keeping with the counter-cultural ethos of the 1960s, and a growing crisis of confidence regarding psychiatry’s status as a genuine medical specialty. …

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CapitalismEssaysThe Left

On the Heilbroner Center’s Manifesto

Explanation and Critique

In our opinion, the document drafted by Julia Ott and Will Milberg for the new Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies should be the beginning of a debate among NSSR faculty about the Center’s mission rather than a final manifesto. There are many claims in the document with which we wholeheartedly agree: the pressing necessity to return to discussing and analyzing large structures, long processes, and big questions; the idea that capitalism must be a central object of study and concern; the interpretation of capitalism as a social process; the identification of various power relations as critical determinants of economic outcomes; and the acknowledgment that economic theories operate as political ideologies. Further, we agree with Ott and Milberg that capitalism “should not be assumed.” However, we think that it should not be only “explained,” as the present document suggests, but also, by the same token, criticized. Critique, indeed, is a constitutive part of the explanation of social phenomena and processes, and explaining capitalism without criticizing it does amount to assuming it. …

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