Human contact with nature is more important than ever before considering the global confinement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased urbanization of society, and increased rates of mental disorders and threats to human well-being. This article conveys the importance of contact with nature from three perspectives: historical, sociocultural, and scientific. These perspectives convey the many ways in which contact with nature is essential to human life, the multiple ways in which this is expressed, and the broad range of benefits this has. The case for preserving the natural environment continues to be made in light of the dangers of climate change, the deleterious effects of pollution, and the importance of habitats. We add to the case by underscoring how human well-being has depended on contact with natural environments and how the need for this contact is more salient now than ever before.
Reflections on Pandemic Confinement
Alan E. Kazdin and Pablo Vidal-González
A Critical Analysis of John Keane's The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, 2020)
In his latest opus, The New Despotism, John Keane continues to challenge existing wisdom in the field of democratic theory and comparative political studies. One of the key insights of the book is that there is nothing inherently democratic about democratic innovations and procedures, and thus they can be used to prop up despotisms, rather than usher in democracy. While this insight comports with existing misgivings about elections, the book stands out in the way it explains the sustainability of using the democratic procedures in the new despotisms. For democratic procedures to further the aims of the new despotisms, the condition of “voluntary servitude” needs to be met. “Voluntary servitude” means that people willingly give in to political slavery, and become accomplices in maintaining the illusion that democratic procedures are implemented (215–222). Keane's achievement is that he creates an analytical ecosystem of interlinked assumptions, observations, conditions, and other logical connectors, which make his model of the new despotism so robust.
Altman, David. 2018. Citizenship and Contemporary Direct Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dyck, Joshua, and Edward Lascher. 2019. Initiatives without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy's Secondary Effects. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Hollander, Saskia. 2019. The Politics of Referendum Use in European Democracies. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Matsusaka, John G. 2020. Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Race, gender, and the double bind of domestic work in the Eastern Cape
This article focuses on workers in a South African township who enter into relationships of hierarchical dependence due to a lack of alternatives in the context of high unemployment and neoliberal fiscal restraint. The relationships are characterized by a double bind: workers seek relations of dependence in order to be recognized as persons, yet within these relations they are often denied such recognition, which reproduces experiences of infantilization, paternalism, and dehumanization associated with the past. The article explores how racialized and gendered meanings condition how men and women navigate relationships of hierarchical dependence, what they can expect to get from them and how these bonds can potentially be drawn on in efforts to escape them.
Activist Reflections from the #MilkTeaAlliance
Adam K. Dedman and Autumn Lai
In April 2020, a Twitter war erupted under the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance. It united users from Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in a fight against Chinese techno-nationalists’ attempts to shame public figures into supporting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s framing of geopolitics. In the months that followed, Thai, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong activists continued to lend support to each other through their use of this and other hashtags. Why does the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag resonate with so many? What political contexts preceded the consolidation of the #MilkTeaAlliance, and how may this alliance reshape geopolitical landscapes offline? We approach these questions from our perspective as activists embedded in these movements. We argue that the formation of the #MilkTeaAlliance unites voices that are marginalized diplomatically, discursively, and affectively by the CCP, and—more crucially—generates valuable affective and physical forms of intra-Asian solidarity against authoritarianism in the region.
This article examines the enduring influence of Charles Dilke's Greater Britain (1868), which persists today in the ambitions of Brexit's proponents. Dilke characterized Britain as the center of a world system bound together by a common identity. Yet his explanation of that identity was riddled with inconsistencies. While he cast it mainly in racial terms, he also proposed cultural and linguistic criteria. These inconsistencies would complicate the efforts to define and delineate the reach of Greater Britain by those who followed in Dilke's footsteps. This includes the leading Brexiteers who have advanced Greater Britain's modern iteration, the Anglosphere, as an alternative to EU membership.
Lessons from Eastern Europe
Ștefan Dorondel, Stelu Şerban, and Marian Tudor
This article tells the story of possibly the first ecological restoration project in the postsocialist world (1994), which is an example of a broader set of ecological restorations carried out in Eastern Europe. By exploring the two intertwined processes of the ecological restoration of an island in the Danube Delta and the advancement of neoliberal economic ideas through land reform, decollectivization, and land privatization, we contribute to the understanding of ecological restoration in societies in turmoil. We engage a social sciences perspective in order to show the entanglement between ecological restoration processes and institutions, political arrangements, and various forms of land tenure. This theoretical perspective also shows a model all too often present in ecological restoration projects: a proclivity for adopting a neoliberal approach toward administrating natural resources at the expense of local ecological knowledge and the local administration of natural resources.
Brian Callan and Giovanni A. Travaglino
In this first issue of 2021, we find ourselves still in this strange space of a viral pandemic that first emerged in 2019. Yet contentious politics persists in public places, and the present issue reflects Contention's continued efforts to publish interdisciplinary research-based articles from around the world.
John Gillespie and Katherine Morris
If Descartes’ soul was always thinking, Sartre’s soul (if we may put it this way) was always not just thinking but putting those thoughts on paper. It is an indication of the enormous fertility of his thinking and writing across many decades that we continue to find food for our own thinking and writing in the whole span of his philosophical works, from his books on the imagination to his reflections on Marxism, as this issue of Sartre Studies International exemplifies. And in a year in which we seem to have rediscovered the value of dialogue with others, many of the contributions to this issue exemplify that value as well: we see here Sartre in dialogue with Husserl, with Beauvoir, with Badiou, and with Lacan.
Shakespeare and the Modern Novel
When I first studied the novel, the form was believed to have originated in the eighteenth century with the fiction of Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson, and was synonymous with literary realism. The novel emerged from the Age of Reason, was closely associated with journalism, satire and conduct literature, and marked a profound break with the supernatural, fantastic and romance narratives of the past. Its perfect embodiment was to be found in the work of Jane Austen, even today an immensely popular writer, and widely regarded as a defining practitioner of the novel form. This kind of novel was/is in every respect different from Shakespeare: new, ‘novel’, not old; prose, not poetry; narrative, not dramatic; realist, not magical; fictional, not metafictional; and could deal with Shakespeare only as an objective feature of the society and culture being represented.