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Faisal Devji

A global society has come into being, but as yet it possesses no political institutions proper to its name. I will make the case that new forms of militancy, like that of al-Qaeda, achieve meaning in this institutional vacuum while representing, in their own way, the search for a global politics. From environmentalism to pacifism, such a worldwide politics can only be one that takes humanity itself as its object. This article aims to show that militant practices are informed by the same search that animates humanitarianism, which has become the global aim and signature of all politics today.

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Debate

In Response to Charlie

Faisal Devji, Jane Garnett, Ghassan Hage and Sondra L. Hausner

There is a close relation between satire and secularism as the latter came to emerge in Europe. Secularism, as is well-known, gained strength historically as a reaction to an era of European interreligious violence and massacres. It was not only a desire for the separation of church and state, as the classical formula has it. It was also an attempt to keep religious affect out of politics. This was in the belief that religion, because it is faith rather than reasoned thinking, produces too much of a narcissistic affect—that the faithful are unable to ‘keep their distance’ from what they believe in. It was thought that this narcissism was behind the murderous intensity of religiously driven conflicts. Being able to laugh at yourself literally means being able to not take yourself overly seriously. This, in turn, is crucial for the deintensification of the affects generated by the defense of what one believes in and for the relativization of one’s personal beliefs. Such relativization, as Claude Lévi- Strauss argued, is crucial for thinking oneself comparatively and in relation to others (the opposite of narcissism).