I've voted for Ralph Nader several times,
I've voted for Ralph Nader several times,
...While Darwin famously saw evolution as an exercise in species-enhancing competition, the Russian thinker Peter Kropotkin insisted that it was an exercise in cooperation. In Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), he argued that survival was fostered by cooperation within and among species rather than by murderous rivalries. Similar arguments can be found among evolutionary biologists and social scientists today, as Robert Wright shows in Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (2000). The communitarian paradigm offers a portrait of humans as naturally embedded in communities. Here, the political project is one of individuation: creating artificially the conditions for personal freedom from a cooperative democratic process. In this view, democracy is not a product of freedom, freedom is a product of democracy. Democratic societies do not secure cooperation by sacrificing freedom, they create conditions for freedom by associating us in cooperative communities.
Let us apply this short lesson in political theory to the American experience. In the American ideal of “liberal democracy,” the two tendencies embodied in this term are supposed to stand in a healthy tension. The “liberal” part of our culture is individualistic and competitive, focused on private freedom and property; the “democratic” part is communitarian and cooperative, focused on public freedom (civic freedom), justice, and the common ground that makes private property possible. Today, the liberal element dominates the democratic communitarian element, upsetting the delicate balance.
Commentary on the recent Venezuelan referendum, particularly among foreign observers, has turned into a rather tiresome to and fro between self-satisfied opponents of Chávez, who like to think that the Bolivarian revolution has been stopped in its tracks, and equally self-satisfied supporters, who think they have refuted the claims of Chávez's dictatorial tendencies.
The referendum has also been interpreted as a weathervane for the region's Left Turns as a whole. With the Bolivian constitutional process also stymied, Lula quiescent, Bachelet unpopular, and the Kirchners apparently reinstating Peronist husband-and-wife politics as usual, have we reached the high water mark for Latin America's renascent left movements?
But in all this discussion, the central point has been lost: that the process of setting constitutions registers a balance of forces between constituent and constituted power.
In "The Failure of Political Theology", a review essay for Mute of Forrest Hylton's Evil Hour in Colombia and Achille Mbembe's On the Postcolony, Angela Mitropoulos (aka s0metim3s of the archive) skewers the assumptions of "failed state" theory.
She points out, on the one hand, that the notion of "failed states" presupposes the norm of the "successful" state as a more or less harmonious instance of the social contract at work. This is a presupposition shared by liberalism and by Gramscian hegemony theory alike. And obviously enough I thoroughly agree with her assessment of hegemony theory as no more than "a variant of social contract theory with Marxian pretensions." Indeed, as Mitropoulos's reading of Hylton's book shows, if anything so-called progressives are more wedded to the social contract (and so to the repression of the state's founding and ongoing violences) than are liberals. The (populist) demand to refound the state by means of an organic representation of subaltern classes is a ruse of the state's feigned self-cancellation.
Below the fold, extracts from Judith Butler's review of Hannah Arendt's The Jewish Writings, Gary J. Bass' review of Lynn Hunt's Inventing Human Rights: A History, and Michael Blake's review of Seyla Benhabib (et al)'s Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty and Democratic Iterations.
Having just watched the later, 60's film version of Hemingway's The Killers (after the Tarkovsky and Burt Lancaster)
featuring one Ronald Reagan, I cannot help but feel I understand these comments about "time and space" in a whole new way. Ronald was an odd duck wasn't he (the word, "stilted" seems invented just for him, back when art of faux-working class swagger and unflinching confidence was quite enough). A common thought: why was America always so much behind the times? Anyway this guy Rx is saying something very much in the manner of cognitive dissonance with this mashup; perhaps usefully provoking:
Those familiar with the story and even those not may find this engaging article by Ron Berman useful reading:
(The following by guest author Jane Dark:)
While I appreciate the refined level of discourse here at Long Sunday, I'd like to bring it down a little. What follows is my open letter to the National Rifle Association.
That's right, National Rifle Association, I'm talking to you. You are cowards, lightweights, hypocrites, hand-wringing do-nothings.
My recollection is that it has been claimed you're just gun-toting bullet-freaks interested only in your right to extreme animal-killing convenience and click-click-boom phallic stroke fantasies, maybe popping off at the occasional illegal immigrant.
And my further recollection is that you have defended yourself against such scurrilous accusations through the patient insistence on your constitutional right to bear arms. You, the NRA, would be part of a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state."
Which is to say, your entire position and organization rests on the proposed belief that when bad government abrogates your rights and freedoms, and leads the nation along a course which the citizens have not mandated -- using force of arms to do so -- you are prepared and willing to resist that course, and refuse that government, using every means at your disposal, including the means guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
And yet we find ourselves with a government that is currently in the midst of an escalating military action seemingly not mandated by the population -- an action which is either explanation for or parallel with increasing depredation of your civil rights, most ominously in the case of the Fourth Amendment but as well the Sixth and Eight at a bare minimum. Were there to be a doomsday clock of civil rights, sometime in these last months we would surely have heard its chimes at midnight.
That the electoral legitimacy of the President whose administration has in main authored these violations is shrouded in doubt would seem to argue even further for a principled refusal of this abrogation of the rights and interests of the American people. This should be your finest hour. This is what you have been waiting for; on moments such as this is the very justification for both your rights and your existence premised. If you will not in the gravest and most evident circumstances exercise the freedom invested in you by your beloved Second Amendment, your authority to claim it must be found to have withered. And surely these are dark days. If not now, when?
What are you waiting for, you pussies?
January 10, 2007 | Issue 43•02
WASHINGTON, DC—Citing a desire to finally make a difference in Iraq, in the past two weeks, more than 800,000 young people from upper-middle- and upper-class families have put aside their education, careers, and physical well-being to enlist in the military, new data from the Department Of Defense shows.
"I don't know if it was the safety and comfort of the holidays or what, but I realized that my affluence and ease of living comes at a cost," said Private Jonathan Grace, 18, who was to commence studies at Dartmouth College next fall, but will instead attend 12 weeks of basic training before being deployed to Fallujah with the 1st Army Battalion. "I just looked at my parents in their cashmere sweaters and thought, 'Who am I to go to an elite liberal arts college and spend all my time reading while, in the real world, thousands of kids my age are sacrificing their lives for our country?' It's not right."
Allow me to echo some of the recent sentiments at Daily Kos: that anyone should have to stand in line for five to six hours in the dark to vote, after a full day of work and before dinner, is just a real pain in the ass of North American democracy. Update: apparently it was all part of
the new war on immigrants that served the Republicans so well an ID verification bottleneck, and not a problem with the voting machines. So Colorado, especially, has got some work to do. Nevertheless, browsing the footage at Video the Vote this morning, what comes across most plainly to me, and despite all the lingering and shameful problems, is a sense of grassroots vigilance not about to go away. (And then there are the adorable stories that just warm your heart, such as the man who expressed his general feelings about electronic voting machines with a cat paperweight's ears.)
Anyway, I thought these two especially deserved a wider audience (as in: kids, please don't peel away that plastic strip over the modem connection...please):
How dryly amusing that in America on Veterans Day blue collars have to work, but cannot cash a paycheck as all the banks are closed. On voting day, meanwhile, citizens of most states simply have to work, then go home for a late dinner and crash before another working day.
This really makes no sense. Turnout is higher in every country where voting takes place over the weekend. We should have a national holiday that respects this most basic right. It could even fall on the Friday before voting weekend. Polls could close late Sunday morning. (If a few procrastinating vacationers had to skip church, it wouldn't be the end of the world.)
Americans are working more hours than ever before, for less; a trend for which we may safely thank Reagan, but one also exponentially heightened and solidified under Clinton. In light of which, frankly, the minimum wage increase legislation is but a patronizing and cruel joke (who the hell can ever live on $5.15 an hour, anyway? - it's less expensive not to work). People need to know their worth. Fortunately, the manufacture of wage slaves has the added benefit of barring them from ever traveling to Europe. And if they decide it's more lucrative to sell drugs (or even in some cases if they don't), there's always a new prison or six waiting to be filled. One wonders what Pelosi and Obama really think of this situation.