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Introduction

History, Violence, and Steven Pinker

Mark S. Micale and Philip Dwyer

In the closing months of 2011, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker published The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.1 Weighing in at over eight hundred closely printed pages, Pinker’s book advances a bold, revisionist thesis: despite the relentless deluge of violent, sensationalist stories in the pervasive electronic media of our day, Pinker proposes, violence in the human world, in nearly every form, has in fact declined dramatically. Over the past several thousand years, and particularly since the eighteenth century, homicides, criminal assaults, war casualties, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, capital punishment, lynching, and rape have all been steadily diminishing in frequency.

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The predominant vision of war, in the system of sovereign nation-states that evolved in the aftermath of the Treaty of Westphalia, has been one of violence used by nation-states, or alliances of nation-states, against one another. Indeed, as Martin van Creveld in The Rise and Decline of the State suggests, one of the principal functions of the modern state was to wage war. War, in von Clausewitz’s famous formulation, was an instrument of international statecraft that entailed the ‘continuation of politics by other means’. The great wars of the twentieth century to a large extent took this form. It might even be said that inter-state war came to be seen by some as a ‘natural’, if somewhat episodic and terrifying, feature of the modern nation-state system.

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Selina Stead, Tim Daw and Tim Gray

This article reviews methods used in the increasing use of fishers' knowledge in contemporary fisheries management. During the last one hundred years, fisheries science has been used extensively to inform management decisions for the regulation of sea fisheries. However, the decline of many fish stocks has cast doubt on the sufficiency of fisheries science, and has led to demands from fishers that their own expertise—fishers' knowledge—should be taken into account in decision-making. In this article, we examine four case studies of such attempts to take account of fishers' knowledge in the management of North Sea fisheries, comparing their different methods of identifying and using fishers' expertise, and assessing their respective outcomes. Our conclusion is that the value of fishers' knowledge improves according to the extent to which the method of obtaining it is participative and interactive.

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Mathijs Pelkmans

This essay reviews the revolutionary situations that recently emerged in the post-Soviet world, focusing on the 'Tulip Revolution' in Kyrgyzstan. Observers were quick to explain this revolution in terms of democratic resistance to authoritarianism. This view is particularly problematic given that Kyrgyzstan was among the 'fast reformers' in the region and made its name as an 'island of democracy'. Instead of assuming that problems started when the country digressed from the ideals of liberal democracy, this essay argues that democratic reform and market-led development generated both the space and motivations for revolutionary action. Democratic reforms created the possibility of political dissent, while neo-liberal policies resulted in economic decline and social dislocations in which a temporary coalition between rural poor and dissenting political leaders was born.

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Putting-out’s return

Informalization and differential subsumption in Thailand’s garment sector

Stephen Campbell

Th is article engages Karl Marx’s account of labor’s historical subsumption to capital through an analysis of informalization in Thailand’s garment sector. In a historicist reading of Marx, the transition from formal to real subsumption, as in the shift from home-based putting-out work to factory-based wage labor, is unidirectional. The late twentieth-century proliferation of forms of labor that are but “formally subsumed” to capital challenges this linear narrative. Informalization in Thailand’s garment sector has entailed a shift from the real subsumption of factory-based wage labor to forms of home-based putting-out work subsumed “merely formally” to capital. Consequently, a nonhistoricist reading of Marx’s subsumption analytic remains relevant for understanding tensions within contemporary forms of putting-out work. Attention, as well, to the role of class struggle in mediating capitalist development reveals consistent logics in putting-out’s historical decline and its contemporary resurgence.

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Introduction

Resisting Liberalism in Israel—The Case of Marginalized Mizrahim

Nissim Mizrachi and Menachem Mautner

Over the last two decades, the liberal democratic form of governance has been facing a major challenge. This challenge is manifested in varying ways around the globe, with crises erupting in diverse geopolitical contexts, including democratization in Eastern Europe, objections to the human rights discourse in East Asia, disillusionment following the Arab Spring, and the decline of the liberal left in Israel. The modernist secular utopia is far from sight. The porous borders of Western liberal democracies, open to global migration in post–Cold War Western Europe, have allowed the challenge to internal social and political order to become pressing and even acute, in some cases. The question of how to accommodate new ethnic and religious groups that hold profoundly different views about social justice and the ‘common good’ yet share the same political space has become critical. In this special issue, we delve into the Israeli case in order to take a glimpse into the crisis of liberalism in a particular setting, without losing sight of the global context and its deep historiosophical roots.

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Editorial

Social Quality, Environmental Challenges, and Indicators

Laurent J. G. van der Maesen

The first three articles of this issue are dedicated to aspects of the current debate about and the praxis of environmental questions, and thus of the ecosystems. The fourth article concerns the application of social quality indicators in China. The gaining hypothesis is that a disconnection of the social quality approach of daily circumstances in Japan, Russia, China, Europe, the Americas, Africa, or India from environmental processes results into anachronisms. Without a global consciousness of the unequal consequences of these environmental processes, people in rich countries may be tempted to positively judge the nature of the social quality of their localities or country “as such.” Unknown remains that, seen from a global perspective, macrodetermined reasons for the positive outcomes in rich countries may go at the expense of ecosystems. They may cause, also because of the exportation of substantial elements of problematic (and partly environmental) aspects of the dominant production and reproduction relationships, serious forms of exploitation. Under the same conditions (ceteris paribus), this attack on ecosystems, as well as this exportation and exploitation cause increasingly declining social quality of daily circumstances in poor countries and regions. This will also result into an increase of “climate refugees.” Because of advancing technologically driven transformations—especially regarding communications systems—the interdependencies of countries between the West and the East, as well as between the North and the South, accelerate. Autarkic situations are becoming, or have already been for a long time, a myth.

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Jutta A. Helm

For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system

of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical

make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,

Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities

like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities

and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),

culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and

finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne

and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,

Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises

that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.

Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has

come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during

the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the

1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the

American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German

cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.

East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial

cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by

a rather creaky infrastructure.

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Aspiring to alterpolitics

Anthropology, radical theory, and social movements

Riccardo Ciavolella and Stefano Boni

This theme section inquires into the contribution of political anthropology to radical theories, social imagination, and practices underlying political “alternatives”, which we propose to call “alterpolitics”. The issue of an alternative to contemporary powers in globalization is a central topic in social movements and radical debates. This sense of possibility for political alternatives is associated with the desertion of the belief in “the end of history”: the current economic crisis and the decline of Western hegemony presumably announce a radical transformation of the neoliberal world, opening space to alternatives. Actually, the reconfiguration of twentieth-century capitalism is associated with a growing mistrust of political institutions, the crisis being “organic”, in the Gramscian sense (Gramsci 1975). Recent social movements and insurrections around the world—from the “colored revolutions” in Central Asia to the Spanish indignados, the US Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, uprisings in Bosnia—have raised the issue of alternatives as a reaction to the incapacity of capitalist political institutions—from electoral democracy to dictatorships—to deal with people’s problems and meet their aspirations for emancipation and a better future.

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Frédéric Viguier

For the last thirty years, electoral sociologists in France have observed a decline in electoral participation. France saw a century of high voter turnout, with around 80% of registered voters participating in each election of National Assembly deputies, and a peak of democratic fervor in the 1960s and the 1970s. But since the mid-1980s, French citizens’ electoral participation has been constantly decreasing.1 More than one-third of all registered voters did not cast a ballot in each round of the last two National Assembly elections (2007 and 2012). Participation numbers vary according to the type of election; while the high-stakes, high-intensity presidential elections continue to draw a high proportion of French voters to the polls (around an average 80%), second-order elections do not mobilize as many people as they once did. Today, participation scores suggest a widespread indifference for electoral politics among the French: only two-thirds of registered voters cast their ballots in municipal elections, 50% in regional elections, and hardly more than 40% in European elections.