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The Artistry of Critical Thought

A Conversation on Adorno, Baudrillard, Braidotti and Marcuse

Siphiwe I. Dube

This article provides an analysis of the way in which contemporary forms of intelligence discourse (Jean Baudrillard), in similar fashion to political art (Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse), function by delimiting critical thought. The intelligence discourse critiqued is extolled through things such as progressive intelligence acquisition (Flynn effect) and the supposed indispensability of Democratic reason (Hélène Landemore), amongst other qualities. In support of its argument, the article focusses specifically on Baudrillard’s analysis of the notion of the intelligence of evil, as well as on the Frankfurt School’s critique of massification. However, the article also notes limitations in these thinkers’ recovery and defence of critical thought in response to the delimitation posed by intelligence and massification, and argues for Rosi Braidotti’s evaluation of thought as nomadic as a necessary corrective.

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Klaus Neumann

Following the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on 25 May 2020, memorials in remembrance of individuals implicated in colonialism or slavery have come under increasing attack. This article discusses and contextualizes challenges in 2020 to the memorialization of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) and Emily Ruete née Salama bint Said (1844–1924) in Hamburg, where the legacy of the German colonial past is particularly palpable. The article argues that proposed solutions—be it the demolition of the city’s main Bismarck monument, its restoration and the erection of a counter-memorial adjacent to it, or the un-naming of a street named after Ruete—potentially erase the complexities and contradictions of the lives of historical actors, are often informed by a desire to quarantine the past, and, just as often, fail to engage with its continuation in the present.

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Thomas Klikauer, Norman Simms, Marcus Colla, Nicolas Wittstock, Matthew Specter, Kate R. Stanton, John Bendix, and Bernd Schaefer

Heinrich Detering, Was heißt hier “wir”? Zur Rhetorik der parlamentarischen Rechten (Dietzingen: Reclam Press, 2019).

Clare Copley, Nazi Buildings: Cold War Traces and Governmentality in Post-Unification Berlin (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

Tobias Schulze-Cleven and Sidney A. Rothstein, eds., Imbalance: Germany’s Political Economy after the Social Democratic Century (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021).

Benedikt Schoenborn, Reconciliation Road: Willy Brandt, Ostpolitik and the Quest for European Peace (New York: Berghahn Books, 2020).

Tiffany N. Florvil, Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2020).

Ingo Cornils, Beyond Tomorrow: German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2020).

Christian F. Ostermann, Between Containment and Rollback: The United States and the Cold War in Germany (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021).

Open access

Dawid Rogacz, Donald Mark C. Ude, and Tshepo Mvulane Moloi

Douglas L. Berger, Indian and Intercultural Philosophy: Personhood, Consciousness and Causality. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021, 240 pp.

Joseph C. A. Agbakoba, Development and Modernity in Africa: An Intercultural Philosophical Perspective, Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2019, 405 pp.

Adekeye Adebajo (ed.), The Pan-African Pantheon: Prophets, Poets and Philosophers, Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana Media, 2020. 655 pp.

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Financing Gender Equality

Budgets for Women’s Policies in German and Austrian Länder

Ayse Dursun, Sabine Lang, and Birgit Sauer

State budgets reflect political priorities, providing a measure of issue relevance over time and comparatively across states. This article offers the first analysis of Länder budgets for women’s policy agencies (WPA) in Germany and Austria between 1991 and 2018. Comparing Länder WPA budgets provides insights into material allocations to, and the conditionality of, gender politics in Germany’s strongly federalized state and Austria’s weak federation. We find that German Länder budgeted for independent WPA earlier than Austrian Länder. However, with the advent of the 1999 Austrian coalition of Christian Democrats and the right-wing Freedom Party, which aimed to dismantle national-level gender policies, Austrian Länder investment in WPA grew to compensate for diminishing federal funds. The party constellation in power mattered more in Austria, but in both countries the parties in power were more important for WPA financing than the descriptive representation of women in Länder parliaments.

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“Homosexual People Do Not Stand Outside of Socialist Society”

Eingaben and the History of Homosexuality in East Germany

Jason Johnson

This article centers on four petitions (Eingaben) presented to the East German Central Committee in the 1970s and 1980s by men attracted to other men. The East German legal apparatus required that the state address all petitions. An analysis of these Eingaben written by non-activists demonstrates a growing boldness to use the available legal structures to claim one’s rights. The petitioners used the Eingaben system to assert their legitimacy as GDR citizens, forcing officials to deal with them as any other citizen. This article moreover calls for the still young field of East German homosexual history to more fully incorporate the untold number of Eingaben written by homosexuals in the former GDR. This would help to develop a more comprehensive historical narrative as such documents provide an invaluable and unique window into everyday life under socialism.

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Paul Stock

In recent years, it has become commonplace to argue that space is an important topic in the humanities and social sciences. But what does space do? Can we speak of space as having agency? Historians’ responses to these questions are strikingly varied. Some propose an almost deterministic role for spatial characteristics, while others deny that space can have any causal function at all. This article seeks to navigate a path between these unsatisfactory extremes. It uses insights from material culture studies and actor-network theory to discuss ways of re-framing agency as an assemblage of human and non-human affects. Agency can thus be defined not in terms of first causes and definitive outcomes, but instead as a coincidence of occurrences. This allows historians to speak of “spatial agency” as the emplacement of affective elements, the gathering of agencies at a particular site and moment.

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Illyria Remembered

On Some French Memoirs of the Illyrian Provinces 1809–1813

David McCallam

This article examines how four French memorialists recall and represent the former imperial territories of the Illyrian Provinces (1809–1813) on the eastern Adriatic seaboard. It explores how their memoirs deploy Enlightenment ethnography and Romantic exoticism in distinct ways while problematizing these approaches in light of lived experiences in the region. The article thus sheds light on the evolving character of tropes about the western Balkans in early nineteenth-century France, highlighting the influence the landscapes, cultures, and peoples of the territories had on the French officials posted there, including on their later self-presentation as memorialists.

Open access

Gal Gerson

While aligned with John Neville Figgis’ pluralism and Marxist socialism, Harold Laski endorsed liberal and democratic values. However, he synthesised several elements from older liberal theories in a way that diluted the division to which these theories had adhered, namely that between the private and the political spheres. The resulting combination preserves privacy’s status as the realm where individuals are free to pursue their separate ends, but enables essentially private activities based in voluntary social spaces to infuse the space of politics. From this emerged a vision of liberal democracy, in which freedom plays out in multiple private spaces that do not require an autonomous civic arena to complement them. The combination was reached within the contexts of mid-century thinking about the welfare state and a broader project of reformulating democracy by reducing its equation with representation.

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Machiavelli and Spartan Equality

The Image and Function of Lycurgus’ Heritage

Filippo Del Lucchese

In this article, I explore the meaning and function of Lycurgus in Machiavelli’s thought. While the exemplarity of the mythical Spartan legislator progressively fades in Machiavelli’s thought in favour of the Roman model, Lycurgus’ reforms are central in Machiavelli’s works on two issues of primary importance: wealth and land distribution. First, I analyse Machiavelli’s use of the ancient sources on both Lycurgus and other Spartan legislators to show how the former builds a selective and strategically balanced reading of the ancient sources to build an image of the latter as a pro-popular ruler and of the subsequent Spartan reformers as followers not only of the mythical legislator generally, but also of his most controversial and popularly oriented attempts to reform property ownership in ancient Sparta. Lycurgus reveals how Machiavelli, far from seeing mixed government as the best form of government, promotes a strongly anti-aristocratic model. Second, I show that in Machiavelli’s thought the Spartan question can largely be seen as a background for his reading of Roman history, particularly its most crucial, conflictual and controversial period – that in which the Gracchi brothers’ attempted to achieve agrarian reform.