This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.
When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present
The Data Gathering behind the Sanctions
Since the early 2000s, the United States’ different administrations of justice have been prosecuting foreign companies suspected of violating US laws on bribery of foreign public officials and of failing to respect embargoes and economic sanctions. Even if these violations take place outside US borders, the American prosecution authorities (including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Foreign Assets Control) consider themselves legitimate to intervene. European multinationals have been particularly sanctioned. For instance, in 2014, fines reached up to 9 billion dollars for the French bank BNP, which was accused of using dollars in its transactions with certain countries sanctioned by the US (mainly Iran, Cuba and Sudan). Punishing companies and hitting them in the wallet are not the only objectives of the American administration. The United States takes advantage of legal procedures against foreign companies to collect millions of bytes of data, sometimes including sensitive information on them as well as on their partners and markets. Facing this legal offensive, Europe is still struggling to provide responses to protect its companies.
Habermas and Contemporary Realist Thought
Although often cast by realists as an exemplar of moralist or rationalist thinking, Jürgen Habermas and certain commentators on his work reject this characterisation, highlighting elements of his thought that conflict with it. This article will examine dimensions of Habermas's work that relate to many realist concerns in political theory. I argue that while he escapes the commonplace caricature of an abstract thinker who is inattentive to real world affairs, Habermas's claims in relation to communication, historical and empirical context, and the development of rights in history, reveal a narrow consideration of what defines context and a progressivist narrative of history that fails to address seemingly outdated beliefs and political forces. An analysis of these issues can serve to inform understandings of these topics in realist thought and in political theory more broadly.
Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission
Elizabeth C. Macknight
This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.
In Britain, from the nineteenth century onwards, the default ‘setting’ for Shakespeare's plays (by which I mean costume, mise-en-scène, and assumed historical and cultural context) has been medieval and early modern: the time of the plays’ composition (late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries) or the time of their historical location (medieval Britain or Europe, ancient Greece or Rome, etc.). In this visual and physical context, Twelfth Night would normally be performed or imagined in Elizabethan or Jacobean, Macbeth and Hamlet in medieval, Julius Caesar in ancient Roman dress and settings. In the historical context of their original production, the plays were performed in contemporary dress with minimal mise-en-scène; through the Restoration and eighteenth century in fashionable modern dress and increasingly naturalistic settings. Today in Britain, Shakespeare can be performed in any style of costume, setting and cultural context, from the time of the plays’ reference to the immediate contemporary present, and often in an eclectic blend of some or all. But strong forces of tradition and cultural memory tie the plays, in their visual and physical realisation as well as their language, to the medieval and early modern past. We see this attachment in film versions of the plays and of Shakespeare's life. We dress Shakespeare in the costumes of all the ages, but we know that he truly belongs, as in the various portraits, in doublet and ruff.
The Political History of ‘Risk-Versus-Reward’ Investment in Emerging Markets
This article politicises the discourse of emerging markets in global finance. The black-boxed appearance of credit markets easily obscures the significant amount of subjective evaluation and cultural work that underpins capital flows. This article reveals the colonial, masculine, and racial imagination that informs the articulation of emerging markets as geographies of risk and profit. This brings into view the postcolonial nature of contemporary finance and how colonialism's regimes of power and knowledge remain crucial for the reproduction of the global political economy. To illustrate this point, the article highlights the sociality of credit practices. Contrary to their mathematical appearance, credit is a relationship with the future, mediated by social imaginations of trust. Focusing on emerging markets as ‘risk-versus-reward’ investments, this article examines the long-term colonial histories embedded in modern investment discourses. The article aims to show the continuing relevance this history plays for emerging market economies in modern financial markets and their political economies.
This article explores Amartya Sen's understanding of freedom, and performs two central functions, one classificatory and the other substantive in nature. First, I situate his reflections within canonical understandings of liberty, finding an irreducible pluralism incorporating positive liberty in ‘capability’ alongside negative and republican liberty in ‘process’, which is subsequently unified in the notion of ‘comprehensive outcomes’. Secondly, I attempt to find a normative referent for the intrinsic value of choice, and thereby indirectly that of freedom, in his account. In contrast to the liberal subjectivity one might – I believe, mistakenly – attribute to Sen's deployment of neoclassical economic frameworks, I instead argue for a re-interpretation of his account, inspired by the sociological literature on embodiment. Here, an ‘encumbered’ subject must inherit and transcend a normative totality to become an agent in the fullest sense.
Towards a Frommian Critical Social Theory of Narcissism
This article methodologically explores Erich Fromm's theory of narcissism in socio-theoretical terms while referring to his theory of alienation. It thereby portrays the foundations of an analytical method of far-right politics in the context of capitalism and demonstrates that malignant narcissism touches off fascism without regard to authoritarianism. Essentially, the Freudian psychoanalytic concept of narcissism lies in Fromm's social theory. However, it is possible to discern the theoretical essence of his social theory characteristically in his conception of alienation. By focusing on this theoretical concern, I argue that in Fromm's social theory the concept of narcissism works on a socio-pathological level, particularly in the way in which it synchronises with alienation, a social phenomenon that fulfils its important functions in conjunction with the marketing orientation under the conditions of a market society, and therefore that the concept plays an overriding role in his theory of alienation. I conclude that the relevance of a Frommian critical social theory of narcissism for our society is best showcased by the concept of postfascism.
Methods for Historians Attending to the Voices of the Past
How do we thoroughly historicize the voice, or integrate it into our historical research, and how do we account for the mundane daily practices of voice … the constant talking, humming, murmuring, whispering, and mumbling that went on offstage, in living rooms, debating clubs, business meetings, and on the streets? Work across the humanities has provided us with approaches to deal with aspects of voices, vocality, and their sounds. This article considers how we can mobilize and adapt such interdisciplinary methods for the study of history. It charts out a practical approach to attend to the history of voices—including unmusical ones—before recording, drawing on insights from the fields of sound studies, musicology, and performativity. It suggests ways to “listen anew” to familiar sources as well as less conventional source material. And it insists on a combination of analytical approaches focusing on vocabulary, bodily practice, and the questionable particularity of sound.
John Ireland and Constance Mui
The fortieth anniversary of Sartre's death, on April 15 of this year, found much of the world in lockdown in response to a new virus, Covid-19, which has changed humanity's situation on this planet in ways we will be struggling to elucidate for years to come. In these unprecedented circumstances, Sartre's thought has been an obvious resource to help us understand the impact and ramifications of this pandemic. The virus has been an unsparing indicator in itself of social injustice, unmasking the pious platitudes of our advanced, modern democracies. In the United States in particular, the reality is truly ugly. Covid-19 has shed pitiless light on the disparity between affluent white communities, able to “shelter in place” and avoid putting their members at risk of infection, and less affluent black and brown districts, where workers on subsistence salaries, often without health-care benefits, have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, with terrible consequences for them and their families. Living in the “richest” country on earth, we can imagine only too easily Sartre's vitriolic assessment of America in its present crisis. And it is just as easy to imagine the fervor with which he would have embraced the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted all over the world, provoked by the 8 minute 46 second video clip that showed the matter-of-fact murder by asphyxiation of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis.