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.
Aesthetics, Politics, and Shifting German Regimes
An Interview with John Dunn
Benjamin Abrams and John Dunn
John Dunn, FBA, is emeritus professor of political theory at King’s College, University of Cambridge. His work on revolution began in 1972 with the publication of his landmark volume, Modern Revolutions: An Introduction to the Analysis of a Political Phenomenon. A second edition was published in 1989, and the volume has since been translated into several foreign languages. Alongside revolution, Dunn’s thought has examined questions of regime collapse, reconstruction, the political trajectories of modern states, and the emergence and significance of democracy. His work lies at the intersection of history, political theory, and sociology. In the interview, Dunn offers a categorization of revolution as a distinctly bounded historical phenomenon that has not persisted into the twenty-first century. “The Epoch of Revolution,” he argues, begins with 1789 and had definitively ended by 1989. After the Epoch of Revolution, Dunn argues, we now confront a more enduring and generic phenomenon: regime collapse.
Processual and Programmatic Approaches to Revolution in the Epoch of Revolution Debate
In Contention volume 5, issue 2, Benjamin Abrams interviewed the political theorist John Dunn on the topic of modern revolutions. In the interview, Dunn advanced the view that the “Epoch of Revolution” had ended by 1989 and that what many scholars called revolutions today were simply instances of regime collapse. The interview received a lot of attention from scholars and practitioners including Hugo Slim. Slim challenged Dunn’s concept of revolution in this issue, and Dunn responded defending his ideas. This article attempts to tease out the differences underlying the two scholars’ disagreement as to whether the Epoch of Revolution has truly passed. The article proposes that while processual approaches (such as Slim’s) conceive of revolution primarily as a political means, Dunn’s “programmatic” approach to revolution conceives of it as not only a means but also a political end. The article also considers the implications of Dunn’s theory of revolution, and the representative challenges of academic interviewing.
Bernard Faÿ and the Rise of American Studies in Third-Republic France
John L. Harvey
Perhaps no other French historian led such a sordid academic career as that of Bernard Faÿ, who held the first European chair in American history at the Collège de France from 1932 to his removal in 1944. Celebrated as the leading interwar specialist on America, Faÿ was a steadfast ally of the Catholic political Right. His conservatism, however, never threatened his international stature or his domestic academic standing until 1940, after which he led the Vichy regime's assault on Freemasonry. He succeeded as a historian by employing research on the United States to reject traditions of popular sovereignty, while also embracing new methodological trends that critiqued scientific positivism, often as an attack on the intellectual foundation of the Third Republic. His legacy suggests how the conceptual legitimacy of secular, egalitarian society could be contested through the very ideas that "cosmopolitan modernity" had sought to support.
Democracy in ASEAN
Why has “democracy” become a standard reference in the statements and declarations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Discussion about domestic governance and regime types in member states has traditionally been considered off-limits in official ASEAN dialogue. Membership does not require democratic rule, and there are no grounds for suspension or expulsion of a member state due to domestic political circumstances (such as an unconstitutional change of government). Further, the norm of non-interference means that the (politically diverse) member states have traditionally refrained from criticizing each other’s internal affairs. As such, it is puzzling that ASEAN commonly refers to the importance of “strengthening” and “promoting” democracy. The article argues that we should not overlook the diversity of views about democracy within ASEAN. Member states have mostly avoided discussion about how (strengthening and promoting) democracy is defined in ASEAN, because it is a sensitive matter. The article also engages in a critical analysis of the way in which a “democratization narrative” shapes many perspectives on democracy in ASEAN.
The Case of the Migration Policy Regime in Thailand
The paper examines the migration policy regime in Thailand using a human security lens. It suggests that insecurities experienced by migrants are partly caused or exacerbated by a migration policy regime, consisting of migration laws and regulations and non-migration related policies and programs, that pushes migrants into irregular forms of mobility and insecure employment options. These effects are worse for women migrants who have fewer resources to access legal channels while they are relegated to insecure employment in the reproductive or informal sectors. Using a gender and human security analysis, therefore, reveals how the migration policy regime, often informed by a restrictive national security approach, can clash with the human security needs of migrants by creating a large pool of unprotected irregular migrants with women occupying the most vulnerable forms of employment. In conclusion, it is suggested that this ‘en-gendering’ of human insecurities could be overcome if gender equality was designed into policies and guided their implementation.
German unification acted as a catalyst for the substantial transformation of the German welfare and employment regime which has taken place over the last two decades. The changes can be described as a process of a partial liberalization of the labor market within the boundaries of a coordinated industrial relations system and a conservative welfare state. This article depicts the transformation as a trend towards a more liberal welfare and employment regime by focusing on the shifting boundaries between status and income maintenance and poor relief systems.
A New Rights Framework for Food and Nature?
Food sovereignty, as a critical alternative to the concept of food security, is broadly defined as the right of local peoples to control their own food systems, including markets, ecological resources, food cultures, and production modes. This article reviews the origins of the concept of food sovereignty and its theoretical and methodological development as an alternative approach to food security, building on a growing interdisciplinary literature on food sovereignty in the social and agroecological sciences. Specific elements of food sovereignty examined include food regimes, rights-based and citizenship approaches to food and food sovereignty, and the substantive concerns of advocates for this alternative paradigm, including a new trade regime, agrarian reform, a shift to agroecological production practices, attention to gender relations and equity, and the protection of intellectual and indigenous property rights. The article concludes with an evaluation of community-based perspectives and suggestions for future research on food sovereignty.
In order for nature/society scholars to understand the dynamics of environmental appropriation, commercialization, and privatization, we must attend to the production of the environmental science that enables them. Case studies from anthropology, geography, history of science, science and technology studies, and sociology demonstrate that the neoliberal forces whose application we study and contest are also changing the production of environmental knowledge claims both inside and outside the university. Neoliberalism's core epistemological claim about the market's superiority as information processor has made restructuring the university a surprisingly central project. Further, because knowledge has become a key site of capital accumulation, the transformative reach of neoliberal science regimes extends outside the university into the various forms of extramural science, such as citizen science, crowdsourcing, indigenous knowledge, and local knowledge. Neoliberal science regimes' impacts on these forms of extramural science are strikingly similar, and quite different from the most common consequences within academia.
Reining in the Future in the Yemeni Youth Revolution
Based on research at the heart of the 2011 revolution in Yemen, this article explores how a capacity to inhabit the future culminated in a collective act of temporal deception on the part of the revolutionaries. Contrary to the prevalent assumption that the future is something that is worked towards, aspired to, emerging or lying in wait at the end of a distant telos, revolutionary life in Yemen asserts that the future can itself be a way of being, but in the present. Upholding the future involved dramatic acts of selflessness whose value lay not just in where they would lead, but in the acts themselves. This fusion of means and ends, presents and futures, ultimately bred a capacity for endurance that defied the temporal expectations of the regime.