Balibar: on the war’s globalized ‘hybridity’

7 08 2022

It’s rare for a western European left-wing philosopher to be so well informed about Ukraine, and for that alone Etienne Balibar’s article “In the War: Nationalism, Imperialism, Cosmopolitics,” published back in June and translated here on the Spil’ne/Commons web site, deserves reading and sharing.

On the whole I think it is an excellent piece, which analyzes the Russo-Ukrainian war in all its multidimensionality — as a war of independence (for Ukrainians), a continuation of a “long European civil war,” a war that raises important questions about nationalism and neo-imperialism, a globalized and hybrid war involving rival military and economic alliances, and a war that is further “hybridized” by the “environmental catastrophe” that “shifts and subverts all borders in the world, particularly the borders between the habitable and inhabitable regions, and the ‘frontiers’ of exploitable regions at the cost of immense destructions of natural landscapes.”

I have a few minor qualms with the piece. One is that by referring first to the war’s being a “war of independence,” Balibar risks overemphasizing Ukrainians’ agency in causing it. The war is first and foremost a war of attempted colonial (imperial) conquest. That Russian hostility was triggered by the Maidan “revolution” of 2013-14 is not at issue. But that “revolution” did not challenge the boundaries of Ukraine or Russia; Russian incursions (in support of ostensible “separatists”) did. I take this as an oversight of emphasis, since Balibar is well aware that, as he puts it, “We can never forget which armies invaded Ukraine and currently destroy it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Skip to toolbar