Adventures in Privatization with Rand Paul

Watch Senator Rand Paul shill for the increasing privatization of the public sector on The Late Show with David Letterman.  Empty buzzwords – Efficiency!  Competition! – were aplenty.

Although one can’t help but find Letterman’s repeated “I think you’re wrong, but I don’t know why” a bit frustrating, at least the funnyman kept the pressure on with some tough questions.

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NDPR: David Ingram, Habermas: Introduction and Analysis

David Ingram is no neophyte to either Habermas or Frankfurt School Critical Theory. A very good argument can be made, in fact, that Ingram belongs to what has been called ‘Third Generation Critical Theory.’[1] His 1987 book, Habermas and the Dialectic of Reason,[2] was indispensable for a new generation of scholars trying to make sense of Habermas’ two-volume Theory of Communicative Action (1981) and his Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1984). Over the last two decades, in addition to editing volumes of the key writings by Frankfurt School critical theorists, he has written a series of books on democracy, rights, globalization, and cosmopolitanism that have traced a distinctive contribution to a more radical understanding of deliberative democracy. Such a sustained engagement with Habermas’ work, in particular, and Critical Theory, in general, explains why this book is not simply an introduction.

Continued here.

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NDPR: Iris Marion Young, Responsibility for Justice

Iris Marion Young died in August 2006, at the age of only 57. Responsibility for Justice further develops some themes that have been prevalent throughout her life as a scholar, most recently in her book Global Challenges: War, Self-Determination and Responsibility for Justice, which appeared in 2007: structural disadvantage within societies, global interconnectedness, and questions about individual responsibility. Like only very few people in political theory or philosophy, she reflected on these matters as a concerned citizen who also is a teacher and writer. Her effect on my own work comes entirely through an engagement with her writings. Over the years I have time and again found myself in need of an apt way of capturing an underdog’s particular predicament or a neglected group’s specific complaint. And time and again I have found that Iris Young could supply just the right words, subtle enough to capture the pain involved and general enough to make clear why these matters required theorizing. I will continue to consult her work.

Continued here.

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Weekend Links: Badiou, Photojournalism, Deleuze, James Tully, Clarence Thomas

1. Daniel Fischer’s transcription of the 19 January 2011 session of Alain Badiou’s seminar What does “change the world” mean?

2. An assortment of entries to the World Press Photo Contest 2011.

3. My French is still too rough to get much out of them, but a great compilation of Deleuze’s lectures from the 80’s-90’s.

4. You’ll need access to the journal, but the February issue of Political Theory features an excellent roundtable discussion of James Tully’s Public Philosophy in a New Key.

5. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on his now 5-year silence during court argument.

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Kant on Constitutional Legitimacy and Revolution

In light of the extraordinary and inspirational events in North Africa, it’s interesting to reflect on Kant’s political philosophy – especially his rather ambivalent conclusions on constitutional legitimacy and the right to rebel against oppressive regimes.

(I am using Reiss, ed., Kant’s Political Writings)

Kant rejects the right to rebellion on grounds that it is inherently self-contradictory. If the constitution entitled the people to overthrow government, this would divide sovereignty (which is itself indivisible), and start an infinite regress by requiring a “second head of state to protect the rights of the people against the first ruler, and then yet a third to decide which of the other two had right on its side,” and so on (Theory and Practice: 84). Instead, Kant champions an evolutionary legal order whereby improvements to the law are legally and morally permissible by gradual reform through the law. Revolutionary acts of rebellion open the legal order of the commonwealth to the violence of the state of nature.

Against “active” forms of resistance such as rebellion, Kant promotes “passive” resistance in the form of freedom of the pen, with the important caveat that such resistance may “not transcend the bounds of respect and devotion towards the existing constitution” (Theory and Practice: 85). If the head of state routinely transgresses the law, subjects may “lodge complaints about this injustice, but he may not offer resistance” (Metaphysics of Morals: 143). Kant suggests then that there can be cases where a gap exists between positive law and the general will: the government could in fact make a law that takes away the subjects’ freedom in ways against the general will. Suppose a regime does not adequately ensure equality of the law and eliminates all normal means by which citizens may effect political change. Kant insists that the people have no right to rebel and reestablish their freedoms: “[t]he rights of the people have been violated…Nevertheless, it is in the highest degree wrong if the subjects pursue their right in this way” (Perpetual Peace: 126).

Continue reading

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Again, Zizek on Egypt

Because we can never have too much Zizek (right?), here’s some more from The Guardian:

The most sublime moment occurred when Muslims and Coptic Christians engaged in common prayer on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, chanting “We are one!” – providing the best answer to the sectarian religious violence. Those neocons who criticise multiculturalism on behalf of the universal values of freedom and democracy are now confronting their moment of truth: you want universal freedom and democracy? This is what people demand in Egypt, so why are the neocons uneasy? Is it because the protesters in Egypt mention freedom and dignity in the same breath as social and economic justice?

From the start, the violence of the protesters has been purely symbolic, an act of radical and collective civil disobedience. They suspended the authority of the state – it was not just an inner liberation, but a social act of breaking chains of servitude. The physical violence was done by the hired Mubarak thugs entering Tahrir Square on horses and camels and beating people; the most protesters did was defend themselves.

Although combative, the message of the protesters has not been one of killing. The demand was for Mubarak to go, and thus open up the space for freedom in Egypt, a freedom from which no one is excluded – the protesters’ call to the army, and even the hated police, was not “Death to you!”, but “We are brothers! Join us!”. This feature clearly distinguishes an emancipatory demonstration from a rightwing populist one: although the right’s mobilisation proclaims the organic unity of the people, it is a unity sustained by a call to annihilate the designated enemy (Jews, traitors).

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Zizek on Egypt and Tunisia in Revolt

Over at The Guardian:

Here, then, is the moment of truth: one cannot claim, as in the case of Algeria a decade ago, that allowing truly free elections equals delivering power to Muslim fundamentalists. Another liberal worry is that there is no organised political power to take over if Mubarak goes. Of course there is not; Mubarak took care of that by reducing all opposition to marginal ornaments, so that the result is like the title of the famous Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The argument for Mubarak – it’s either him or chaos – is an argument against him.

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong’s old motto is pertinent: “There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent.”

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