Category: Politics


Whatever one may think of Brian Leiter as a philosopher (and I have no strong opinions, not having read any of his books), he has to be commended for having what may be the best philosopher’s blog for conversations on yesterday’s Canadian election.

Canadian election, you ask? The comments on his brief post on The Canadian Election: What the Heck Happened? have been extremely perceptive.

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I was going to post something to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, but Sarah Phillips has already posted something so good, saying many of the things I would have wanted to say, that I will simply link to her article at Somatosphere and add some personal notes of my own. The result reads more like a love letter to post-Chernobyl Ukraine than a lament. So be it.

First, a couple of choice bits from Sarah’s article:

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UW Madison has done an exemplary job responding to the Wisconsin Republican Party’s efforts to intimidate eminent environmental historian William Cronon. The two documents, by the university’s legal counsel and by chancellor Biddy Martin, are well worth reading and are available on Cronon’s blog. While many of the legalities are specific to Wisconsin, the principles aren’t. They deserve a congratulatory shout-out for upholding the best academic and legal traditions.

The story of the Wisconsin Republican Party vs. environmental historian Bill Cronon makes for a rare example of a single academic’s blogging activism (blogtivism, to use that ugly word) going viral.

You’ve probably heard the basic outline of what’s happened already: Cronon became interested in finding out who was behind the controversial legislation crafted by Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker, posting about it on his blog, Scholar as Citizen. The state GOP responded by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to have access to all his personal emails including any reference to a range of words (like “Republican”), names, and topics. Cronon responded publicly to the scare tactic, and the rest is becoming history.

According to Cronon, his blog has received more than TWO MILLION (!!) hits over a 24-hour period — unheard of for an academic blog post. The New York Times has crafted an editorial responding to the story, scheduled to appear in its paper tomorrow (but readable online today).

Did someone mention anything about the risks (and/or virtues) of blogging?

A few observations from the events of the last week or so:

(1) Tsunamis happen. When they do, in a globally media-connected world, they bring us all a little closer together. (Not all of us; those who don’t wish to be brought closer may drift further apart. But, to risk getting overly psychoanalytical, those who’ve had a reasonably loving upbringing, or those whose instincts and/or the influences they were exposed to helped them overcome a loveless upbringing, will drift closer together — because empathy works on, with, and through them, and the images and thoughts of tragedy resonate.) This is something new in human history, and it gives me cause for hope.

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Following up from the last post

Part of Jodi Dean‘s response to her critics was this paragraph:

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of communism is its capacity to return, throughout history, as an aspiration, even in the face of counter revolution, active hostility, defeat, war, etc. Communism is irreducible to the conflicts of the 20th century. I think the reason is that “from each according to ability to each according to need” is an axiom of working and living together with undeniable power.

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It riles me up when intelligent people whose work I respect a lot say ill-considered, if not outright indefensible, things. Jodi Dean’s post arguing that communism “worked” strikes me as such a thing. I’ve provided a lengthy counter-argument on her blog, the gist of which is that the political projects that were actually carried out (rather than merely dreamed) under the flag of “communism” were colossal failures, for a whole host of reasons. This is thoroughly documented, and anyone who has spent much time in the former Soviet Union, or I imagine in China, has encountered the many levels of failure: social, economic, ecological, and, perhaps most disturbingly, a kind of deep spiritual failure.

Gilles Deleuze argues that what we need are artistic and philosophical experiments that would revive our belief in this world. (That’s what this blog has argued since its inception.) While the Soviet experiment did produce such a belief in its earliest stages — and these are worth learning from — it lost it rapidly and decisively. Whether we date that loss to the long slow decline after Khrushchev, or to Stalin’s ascent and totalitarian takeover in the 1920s (and the killing fields that followed), or to the suppression of leftist dissent (such as the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921, or others even earlier), is all a matter for debate. View full article »

At Space and Politics, Gaston Gordillo continues his Spinozan-Deleuzian account of the “revolutionary resonance” of the tumult spreading across the Arab world.

“The longer a resonance lasts and the farther it expands the stronger it becomes. During most of human history, the maximum speed at which a revolutionary resonance traveled was the speed of the bodies carrying it within them. [...]

“In the Egyptian Revolution, the synergy between the velocities generated on these networks of instant communication and in the urban terrain was decisive in allowing the multitude outmaneuver state violence and state propaganda. The revolution was fought at different yet inseparable velocities: the speed of swarms of bodies clashing with the police on the streets and the much-faster speed of the affective resonances generated by those clashes and amplified over the internet and TV networks not controlled by the Egyptian state like Al Jazeera. Disembodied and projected instantly as images, sounds, and text onto countless computers and TV screens, these resonances became embodied again by affecting the millions of bodies watching, listening, and reading. Not all bodies were affected the same way. Yet millions resonated positively, and not just in Egypt.”

Read the entire article here.

By Jon Cloke

Loughborough University geographer Jon Cloke shared this piece with the Crit-Geog-Forum in response to the recent discussion about blogs and social media (see here for more on that). Jon’s been kind enough to allow me to share it on Immanence. I think it provocatively gets at the larger picture in which blogs (and related media forms) are both filling in the communicative gaps for social movements that have not been well served by traditional media or academic circuits, and are helping create new circuits for informational exchange. – ai

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Revolutionary democracy

Here are a few thoughts after watching Frontline’s Revolution in Cairo, which is a very good 24-minute summary of how this particular democratic moment occurred, and after reading Badiou‘s, Hardt & Negri’s, Hallward‘s, Amit Rai‘s, and some other takes on the events.

(1) The recipe:

Tools + Techniques + Events + Vision = The revolution(s) we’ve been witnessing

The first three, in the Egyptian instance, are pretty easy to identify (click on the links). To oversimplify just a little, they are   View full article »