Of late, resistance has become a central notion in political theory, standing at the heart of attempts to respond to the dilemmas of contemporary times. However, many accounts tend to ascribe to an idealised, heroic view. In this view, resistance represents a clear-cut action against injustice and stems from individuals’ conscious choice and their unwavering ethical commitment to the cause. Some liberal scholars, most notably Candice Delmas and Jason Brennan, have argued that citizens of democratic societies have a moral duty to resist state-sanctioned injustice. This resistance occurs either through ‘principled – civil or uncivil – disobedience’ or through ‘defensive actions’ (Delmas 2018: 5; Brennan 2019: 15). While acknowledging that pervasive injustice can compromise our cognitive and moral capacities, however, their articulation of our political obligation to resist refrains from a sustained examination of the moral dilemmas, uncertainties and risks that arise when fighting systemic oppression (Delmas 2018: 198–222; Brennan 2019: 28–59, 210–14).
Maša Mrovlje and Jennet Kirkpatrick
This article addresses the ambivalent role of violence in liberation struggles by staging a mutually enriching dialogue between Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon. It challenges the binary distinction between justifiable resistance that allows for only short-term, instrumental use of violence, and unwarranted resistance where violence is intrinsically justified as a creative, organic life-force of the oppressed. Instead, it discusses the constitutive role of violence as a condition of possibility of politics – highlighting the impossibility of separating the bloody moments of revolution from the constitution of the political community as a space of public freedom. The reconstructed debate on the relation between violence and freedom presents a fresh perspective on the justifiability and costs of violent resistance in circumstances of radical inequality and the extent to which liberation may remain an ongoing project to sustain the fragile achievement of freedom.
Le moment Lamennais
Modern Slavery and the Re-description of People (and Democracy) in Spain and Chile
Upon his controversial and successful publication of Words of a Believer (1834), Lamennais became one of the most influential thinkers in Europe and America. Lamennais's other works, such as Modern Slavery, have received surprisingly less attention, considering that with it he made a re-description of the concept people and consequently of democracy. Lamennais's presentation of the antagonism between liberty and tyranny, between a few oppressors (privileged classes) and the majority of the oppressed (the people) turned him into a key reference for the democratic, republican, and socialist political cultures. We can then speak of a “Lamennais moment” as opposed to the “Guizot moment,” which offered conflicting world views. This article combines an analysis of the translations and circulation of Modern Slavery in Spain and Latin America with the study of the new meanings of the concept people.
The Environment as an Umbrella Concept; From Word to Historical Concept
Risto-Matti Matero and Juan Alejandro Pautasso
Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin, The Environment: A History of the Idea (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2018), 244 pp.
Fabio Wasserman, ed., El mundo en movimiento: El concepto de revolución en Iberoamérica y el Atlántico norte (siglos XVII–XX) [The world in motion: The concept of revolution in Iberian America and the North Atlantic (seventeenth–twentieth centuries)] (Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila editores, 2019), 293 pp.
Exemplary Resistance and the Shadows of Complicity
What kinds of lessons can be learned from stories of those who resisted past abuses and injustices? How should such stories be recovered, and what do they have to teach us about present day struggles for justice and accountability? This paper investigates how Levi, Broz, and Arendt formulate the political role of storytelling as response to distinctive challenges associated with efforts to resist systematic forms of abuse and injustice. It focuses on how these thinkers reflected on such themes as witnesses, who were personally affected, to varying degrees, by atrocities under investigation. Despite their differences, these thinkers share a common concern with the way that organised atrocities are associated with systemic logics and grey zones that make people feel that it would be meaningless or futile to resist. To confront such challenges, Levi, Arendt and Broz all suggest, it is important to recover stories of resistance that are not usually heard or told in ways that defy the expectations of public audiences. Their distinctive storytelling strategies are not rooted in clashing theories of resistance, but rather reflect different perspectives on what is needed to make resistance meaningful in contexts where the failure of resistance is intolerable.
Time and Space in Time and Space
Mapping the Conceptual History of Mental Maps and Historical Consciousness
Mental maps and historical consciousness, which describe the spatial and temporal dimensions of worldviews, are not, as commonly stated, twentieth century concepts. Historical consciousness was coined simultaneously by several German scholars in the mid-1800s. Mental maps, used in English since the 1820s, had a prominent role in US geography education from the 1880s. Since then, the concepts have traveled between practical-technical, educational, and academic vocabularies, cross fertilizing fields and contributing to the formation of new research questions. However, when these initial periods of reflection gave way to empirical investigation, strict intra-disciplinary definitions of the concepts have strengthened disciplinary borders by excluding the interpretations of the same concepts in other fields.
Virile Resistance and Servile Collaboration
Interrupting the Gendered Representation of Betrayal in Resistance Movements
The article aims to expose and contest the gendered representation of betrayal in resistance movements. For a theoretical framework, I draw on Simone de Beauvoir's critique of masculinist myths of femininity in The Second Sex, combined with contemporary feminist scholarship on the oppressive constructions of female subjectivity in debates on war and violence. I trace how the hegemonic visions of virile resistance tend to subsume the grey zones of women's resistance activity under two reductive myths of femininity – the self-sacrificial mother and the seductive femme fatale – while obscuring the complexities of betrayal arising from women's embodied vulnerabilities. I demonstrate the political relevance of this theoretical exploration on the example of two representative French Resistance novels, Joseph Kessel's Army of Shadows and Roger Vailland's Playing with Fire.
Promises of Proximity as Articulated by Changing Moral Elites
The article analyzes the varied meanings historically associated with concepts of voluntarism in relation to social relief as they were articulated by changing moral elites in Denmark from the late nineteenth century until the present. Concepts of voluntarism have historically constituted “normative counterconcepts” that link voluntary practices to desired futures in opposition to alternative modes of organizing. The “proximity” of voluntarism vis-à-vis the “distance” of the state has always been a core meaning, but the concept has drifted across the political spectrum from its first articulation by nineteenth-century conservative Christians to its rediscovery by leftist social researchers in the late twentieth century. Paradoxically, the welfare state helped “proximity” become a core meaning, in contrast to its original social-conservative meaning emphasizing proximity and distance.
Federica Stagni and Daryl Glaser
Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine, by Noura Erakat. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019. 331 pp.
Race, Class and the Post-Apartheid Democratic State, edited by John Reynolds, Ben Fine. and Robert van Niekerk. Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2019. 396 pp.
Colonising ‘Free’ Will
A Critique of Political Decolonisation in Ghana
While colonialism, in general, is a contested concept, as are the conditions that constitute its negation, political decolonisation seems to be a relatively settled argument. Where such decolonisation occurred, political independence, and its attendant democratic system and the undergirding of the rule of law, signify the self-evidentiality of such political decolonisation. This article rethinks this self-evidentiality of political independence as necessarily a decolonial political accomplishment in Ghana. This critical enterprise opens the documents that founded the newly independent state to alternative reading to demonstrate how the colonial folded itself into the dictate of freedom.