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Interview

Propaganda’s Role in Liberal Democratic Societies

Jason Stanley and John B. Min

Stanley and Min discuss how propaganda works in liberal democratic societies. Stanley observes that the inability to address the crisis of liberal democracies can be partially explained by contemporary political philosophy’s penchant for idealized theorizing about norms of justice over transitions from injustice to justice. Whereas ancient and modern political philosophers took seriously propaganda and demagoguery of the elites and populists, contemporary political philosophers have tended to theorize about the idealized structures of justice. This leads to a lack of theoretical constructs and explanatory tools by which we can theorize about real-life political problems, such as mass incarceration. Starting with this premise, Stanley provides an explanation of how propaganda works and the mechanisms that enable propaganda. Stanley further theorizes the pernicious effects that elitism, populism, authoritarianism, and “post-truth” have on democratic politics.

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Faith beyond Belief

Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism

Omri Elisha

This article explores the cultural significance of faith among US evangelical Protestants. It is argued that evangelical conceptions of faith provide an idiom for expressing religiosity that transcends conventional notions of belief, which alone do not account for the ideals of evangelical subjectivity. Through an analysis of group rituals in a Tennessee megachurch, along with a discussion of the historical roots of evangelical theology and the growing influence of charismatic Christianity, the article highlights an emphasis on radical intersubjectivity that calls upon the faithful to submit to the totalizing authority of divine agency. It is further argued that evangelical conceptions of faith feature a strand of anti-humanism that resonates with the increasingly authoritarian politics of the post-welfare era, which are explored in relation to the growing phenomenon of altruistic faith-based activism.

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Judith G. Coffin

This essay considers the near simultaneity of The Second Sex and Alfred C. Kinsey's reports on sexual behavior. It shows how reviewers in both France and the United States paired the studies; it asks how that pairing shaped the reception of The Second Sex; and it situates the studies in their larger historical context—a moment in which sexuality commanded new and much broader attention. An ever-widening number of disciplines, institutions, sectors of mass culture, and representatives of an expanding consumer economy (from studies of the authoritarian personality or juvenile delinquency to advertising) insisted that sexuality was key to their concerns and enterprises. The ways in which sexuality might be understood multiplied—to the point where an allencompassing notion of “sex” collapsed, giving way, eventually, to a plurality of terms: sexuality, sex roles, and gender.

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James Baker

On 18 September 1809, Covent Garden Theatre reopened, lavishly decorated after the devastating fire of the previous year. Far from being an occasion of celebration, an increase in prices and the architectural redistribution raised the ire of London's theatregoers, sparking months of sustained protest. Known as the Old Price riots, these protests received widespread attention in the metropolitan press. They also prompted various responses from London's satirical print trade. This article will explore the output of these two publicly facing media with respect to the Old Price riots as means of examining the differing processes of reportage they functioned within. It will argue that despite operating on a 'virtual' plane of reportage, that during the Old Price riots graphic satire escaped the confines of its virtuality and became an active agent in Georgian anti-authoritarian protest.

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Stig Thøgersen

The article focuses on Chinese students' hopes and expectations before leaving to study abroad. The national political environment for their decision to go abroad is shaped by an official narrative of China's transition to a more creative and innovative economy. Students draw on this narrative to interpret their own educational histories and prior experiences, while at the same time making use of imaginaries of 'Western' education to redefine themselves as independent individuals in an increasingly globalised and individualised world. Through a case study of prospective pre-school teachers preparing to study abroad, the article shows how personal, professional and even national goals are closely interwoven. Students expect education abroad to be a personally transformative experience, but rather than defining their goals of individual freedom and creativity in opposition to the authoritarian political system, they think of themselves as having a role in the transformation of Chinese attitudes to education and parent-child relations.

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The Ends of the Earth

Nature, Narrative, and Identity in Dystopian Film

Rowland Hughes

This article offers an ecocritical reading of four dystopian films, two from the early 1970s and two from the late 1990s: Silent Running, Soylent Green, eXistenZ, and Gattaca. In particular, it interprets these films – which variously predict the probable ramifications of environmental catastrophe and biotechnological progress – in relation to contrasting conceptualizations of 'nature' that might broadly be termed either the 'postmodern' or 'ecological'. It argues that despite the genre's apparent preoccupation with technologically advanced, virtual or urban environments, the concept of 'nature' and 'the natural' remains crucial to dystopian cinema's characteristic critique of authoritarian power structures that restrict individual self-expression, and its interrogation of human individuality and selfhood. Moreover, it suggests that even self- consciously postmodern dystopias are rooted in the experience of embodiment, and point towards a reconceptualized idea of 'the natural' that is shaped by, and often fused with, technology.

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Making the Past Perceptible

Reflections on the Temporal and Visual Enframings of Violence in the Museum of Memory in Uruguay

Susana Draper

The "museums of memory" (museos de la memoria) have become ambiguous and con ictive sites that articulate the demand for remembrance and oblivion as regards the recent past of state authoritarianism and dictatorships in Latin America. This article seeks to disentangle ways of reading one of these spaces of memory, the Museo de la Memoria in Montevideo, Uruguay, paying special attention to a particular exhibition wing entitled The Prisons and to a temporary art installation by Daniel Jorysz, entitled Ver … dad, exhibited in an open space adjacent to the museum from September to November 2010. Analyzing the museum collection and establishing a counterpoint with the art installation, the article searches for the ways in which (hi)stories are made perceptible within these practices both on the inside and outside, and expose the conflicts that arise in the process.

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Authenticity, hybridity, and difference

Debating national identity in twentieth-century Mexico

Wil G. Pansters

This article studies the transformation of the debate about national culture in twentieth-century Mexico by looking at the complex relationship between discourses of authenticity and mestizaje. The article firstly demonstrates how in the first half of the twentieth century, Mexican national identity was constructed out of a state-led program of mestizaje, thereby supposedly giving rise to a new and authentic identity, the mestizo (nation). Secondly, it is argued that the authentication project around mestizaje is riddled with paradoxes that require explanation. Thirdly, the article studies the political dimension of the authenticity discourse and demonstrates how the homogenizing and unifying forces that spring from the process of authentication played an important role in buttressing an authoritarian regime. Fourthly, the article looks at two recent developments: indigenous cultural politics and transnationalism. Here it is shown how discourses of difference, pluralism, and transnationalism are challenging the central tenets of Mexican post-revolutionary national culture and the boundaries of the national Self.

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The Feeling for Gray

Aesthetics, Politics, and Shifting German Regimes

Inger-Elin Øye

Building on 25 months of fieldwork in eastern Germany from 1991 to 2003, this article explores the interpenetration of aesthetics and politics, and questions them as theoretical categories. A multilayered description depicts aesthetic perception and action, guided by an imagery of façade, as constituted and reproduced by state policies, positioned experiences, and subversive responses. Moving beyond the Cold War legacy, aesthetics' potency and politicization is dated back to early nation building and Protestant and Romantic influences. Being essential to and controlled by shifting, largely authoritarian regimes, aesthetics simultaneously provided a 'shadow life' and a 'lingua franca', cross-cutting verbal and non-verbal mediums and everyday and high culture, as people juggled with, distrusted, and decoded surfaces, expressing and in search of deeper, hidden truths. I argue that historically generated aesthetic perceptions and praxis not only mark east German political culture but also emerge in Habermas's public sphere theory and, moreover, offer arguments to revise it.

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David Drake

Conventional wisdom holds that the political evolution of an individual passes from youthful radicalism to the conservatism of later years. In this respect, as in many others, Sartre declined to follow the norm. As a young man, despite his detestation of the bourgeoisie, his anti-militaristic sentiments, his anti-authoritarianism and unconventional lifestyle, Sartre remained aloof from politics, while it was towards the end of his life that his most radical commitment occurred, triggered in large part by the events of May-June 1968. This paper will establish that although Sartre supported the 1968 student movement, he remained essentially outside it and it made little immediate impact on his thinking or practice; it was only several months later that the ‘events’ made themselves felt to Sartre, leading him to question the definition of himself as intellectual which he had defended hitherto.