EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Brazilian Discontents behind the World Cup Stage

Se mancha la pelota? (Does the ball get stained?)

In a few days, the eyes of millions of people around the world will be fixed on their TV screens, following a ball rolling in some shining green field in Brazil. They will be expecting to witness one of the most exciting World Cups in history; after all, we Brazilians live in the country of football. But probably very few of these spectators know that more than 250,000 Brazilians had their rights violated and their lives harshly disrupted in the process of making such a sport spectacle possible. Entire communities were evicted to build the facilities for the games and the infrastructure to receive the tourists. The slums and the peripheral neighborhoods of major cities were militarized in a process euphemistically referred to as “pacifying.” Workers were displaced and injured, and died building the new stadiums required by FIFA, while their labor rights remained unobserved. …

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CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

Consumption and the Social Condition

“In a series of posts, Jeff Goldfarb and I [Iddo Tavory] have been sketching an outline for the study of the social condition — the predictable dilemmas that haunt social life. We argue that one of the core intellectual missions of sociology is to account for the ways in which social patterns set up these dilemmas that actors experience as crucial for their lives and how they define themselves.”

I have been following this inquiry into the social condition for a while, and I suggest that it will help to further understanding this condition if we take seriously the daily dramas of consumption, both as comedy and tragedy. “Say Yes to the Dress” is one of these social dramas, based on the very premise that buying a wedding dress really matters, that people do not make their consumption decisions lightly. …

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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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