There is a widespread tendency to see the perils of postsocialism in the revival of the ghosts and myths from the past—namely ethnocentrism, nationalism, exclusiveness, bickering, collectivist-authoritarianism, expansionist chauvinism, and victimisation. I suggest that postsocialism's perils rest with a myth from the future, namely, the myth of capitalism. Those perils, I argue, are rooted in the fetishisation of capitalism by the postsocialist societies as a reflection of their deeply ingrained teleological way of perceiving the future. Political leaders are taking advantage of this situation by putting themselves in the position of those who would lead toward such a utopia. As a consequence, individual freedoms are sacrificed at the altar of communitarian bliss. I suggest that the only hope that we have to secularise the newly re-religiosised postsocialist societies rests with intellectuals.
The Postsocialist Myth of Capitalism and the Ideological Suspension of Postmodernity
Robyn Eckersley and Jean-Paul Gagnon
Modern environmentalism, whose genesis tracks mainly from the 1960s and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), has forced the anthropocentric emphasis of democracy to account. Nonhuman actors like trees, ecological systems, and the climate have increasingly become anthropomorphized by humans representing these actors in politics. Aside from challenges to the anthropocentric concepts of citizenship, political representation, agency, and boundaries in democratic theory, environmentalism has warned of apocalyptic crises. This drives a different kind of challenge to mainly liberal democracies. Scientists and activists are becoming increasingly fed up with the seeming incompetence, slowness, and idiocy of politicians, interest groups, and electors. Eyes start to wander to that clean, well-kempt, and fast-acting gentleman called authoritarianism. The perfect shallowness of his appearance mesmerizes like a medusa those that would usually avoid him. Serfdom increasingly looks like a palpable trade-off to keep the “green” apocalypses at bay. Democracy’s only answer to this challenge is to evolve into a cleverer version of itself.
A Tentative Assessment
Demetrio Cojtí Cuxil
The history of Guatemala is dominated by authoritarian and conservative governments. It is said that the country is presently transitioning toward democracy, yet the government, as well as the democratic system itself, continues to be structurally colonialist and racist. Guatemala's leaders have not realized the implications for the government and for civil society of the constitutional and political recognition of the country as multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multicultural. Further-more, Guatemalan political elites ask and expect that individual and collective members of society be multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, even when the government and its organs are not. The necessary transition, public as well as private, from mono-nationalism to multi-nationalism can be achieved, but it would be more efficient and consistent if the government would take heed of civil society.
The makings of Weber, Arendt, and Friedman
Marx has been misread primarily because the politicians who, in his name, powered communist regimes popularized a tendentious interpretation of his works. In particular, they justified authoritarianism and violence by emphasizing the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the “animal theory of revolution” where the poor get poorer and eventually erupt in a cataclysmic fashion. Instead, if attention had been paid to Marx's seminal concept—“socially necessary labor”—and his exhortation to win the minds of the working classes by participating in popular movements of the subalterns everywhere, then a new appreciation would emerge of the corpus of Marx's contributions. As that has not quite happened, scholars like Weber, Arendt, and Friedman have misinterpreted Marx, rather willfully, and shot into prominence with their first book-length publications.
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.
The study of masculinity in South Africa scarcely existed in 1990. A minor interest in gender was focused on women and inequality. South Africa was emerging from four decades of apartheid. It was into this environment that Raewyn Connell's ideas were introduced, adopted and adapted. Raewyn herself made a number of trips to South Africa in the 1990s and 2000s and found a ready reception for her theories about masculinity. South Africa was in transition feeling its way from white minority rule and authoritarianism toward democracy and a commitment to ending poverty, inequality, racism, and the oppression of women. In this article, I describe how Raewyn's idea energized scholarship, created a new research interest in men and masculinity, and contributed to gender activism.
Protest and Disorder after the Global Crash
Bob Jeffery, Joseph Ibrahim, and David Waddington
The years since the onset of global recession, circa 2008, have led to an unprecedented rise in discontent in societies around the world. Whether this be the Arab Spring of 2011 when popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East, or the rise of left-wing, anti-capitalist and far-right movements in the developed 'north', ranging from the Indignados in Spain, Syriza and the Golden Dawn in Greece, Le Front National in France, student movements in Quebec, or the allegedly less articulate explosion of rage characterizing the English Riots of 2011, it is clear that Fukuyama's thesis regarding the final ascendency of liberal capitalism (and its puppet regimes in the developing world) was grossly misplaced. In Badiou's (2012) terms we are witnessing 'the rebirth of history', where all bets regarding the trajectories of local and global political economies are off.
The Crisis of Venezuelan Democracy
The legacy of Hugo Chavez is contentious. Some lament the deterioration of Venezuelan democracy from one of Latin America's most stable political systems to a populist authoritarian regime. Others celebrate Chavez's participatory project of institutionalizing structures for community-driven development, redistributing oil wealth through welfare policies, and creating a political party closely linked to mass movements. This article provides an alternative assessment of Venezuela's democratic quality by drawing on deliberative democratic theory. I argue that Chavez's participatory project is incomplete because it fails to create structures for deliberative politics. Without these mechanisms, Venezuela remains vulnerable to crises brought about by “uncivil action,” such as military coups and violent protests, making deliberation an important component in averting crises in democratizing polities.
Nature, Narrative, and Identity in Dystopian Film
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.
Sovereignty and Social Contestation—Between Violence and Alternative Sociocultural Orders
Martijn Oosterbaan and Wil G. Pansters
In the past decade, the concept of sovereignty has swiftly risen in popularity within anthropological circles, especially in relation to violence in postcolonial and post-authoritarian societies (Das and Poole 2004). The rationale of this section is rooted in the aspiration to build on and further develop anthropological understandings of conflict and violence centered on the notion of sovereignty. Whereas the contributors to the section are indebted to theoretical approaches influenced by the writings of Agamben (1998, 2005), they also present analytic advantages and shortcomings. For instance, a recent critique of Agamben’s notion of sovereignty—and of many of his followers—is that it reproduces totalitarian notions of modern politics that cannot account for the historical existence of “ordered” communities “free from subjection, and … free from subjecting others” (Jennings 2011: 43).