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Cultural Justice and the Demands of Equal Citizenship

The Parading Dispute in Northern Ireland

Shane O'Neill

Within the liberal academic mainstream, normative political theory has in recent years been struggling to come to terms with the increasingly forceful demands of cultural justice. It has become evident that if liberalism is to address in a constructive way political controversies associated with multiculturalism and particularly those conflicts related to deep ethnonational conflicts, then it will have to reframe its commitment to individual freedom. Controversies arising from the politics of cultural pluralism reveal the inadequacy of any normative framework that fails to acknowledge the inextricable connection between individual freedom and the recognition of particular group identities. Individual freedom is conditional on the cultural freedom of those groups to which a specific individual feels a strong affiliation or sense of belonging. A group is culturally free if its members can express and celebrate their distinctiveness without cost to their status as equal citizens. In most Western democracies at least, gay and lesbian citizens, for example, have achieved much in recent decades by securing cultural freedom through the public celebration of their difference. For most of the individuals involved this has been a liberating experience in terms of the recognition by others of their freedom and equality as citizens. This experience of freedom is to be contrasted with the experience of alienation that results when citizens are unjustly forced to choose between the expression of their cultural distinctiveness and the achievement of equal status as members of the political community.

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Glenn Bowman

In the summer of 2003, I spent several weeks in Beit Sahour, the town in which I’ve carried out fieldwork since the late 1980s, observing—amongst other things—the rapacious hunger with which Israel’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Fence’ (more commonly known as ‘the Wall’) consumed Palestinian lands and infrastructure, biting off roads, wells, housing projects, community centers, and other supports of Palestinian life on the West Bank.1 On the northern border of Beit Sahour the Wall was for the most part a bulldozed strip of between 20 and 40 meters in width, containing two 3-meter barbed-wire-topped fences, a ditch, another fence with electronic movement sensors, two raked sand ‘trace strips,’ and a paved patrol road. It meandered through the countryside in what appeared to be an aimless and extravagant manner (extravagant insofar as it costs on average $2,270,000 per kilometer), until I recognized that it ran right along the edge of the inhabited sectors of Beit Sahour and neighboring Bethlehem and Beit Jala, gathering behind it nearly all of the vineyards, the olive groves, the orchards, and other agricultural lands of the local people (according to the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem walling in the Bethlehem district has resulted in the alienation of 70 square kilometers of the total 608 square kilometers that make up the district).

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After dispossession

Ethnographic approaches to neoliberalization

Oscar Salemink and Mattias Borg Rasmussen

Since the 1980s globalization has taken on increasingly neoliberalizing forms in the form of commoditization of objects, resources, or even human bodies, their reduction to financial values, and their enclosure or other forms of dispossession. “After dispossession” provides ethnographic accounts of the diverse ways to deal with dispossessions by attempts at repossessing values in connection to what has been lost in neoliberal assemblages of people and resources and thus how material loss might be compensated for in terms of subjective experiences of restoring value beyond the financial. The analytical challenge we pursue is one of bridging between a political economy concerned with the uneven distribution of wealth and resources, and the profound changes in identity politics and subject formation that are connected to these. We therefore argue that any dispossession may trigger acts of repossession of values beyond the financial realm, and consequently that suffering, too, entails forms of agency predicated on altered subjectivities. This move beyond the suffering subject reconnects the study of subjectivities with the analysis of alienation, disempowerment, and impoverishment through dispossession and attempts at recapturing value in altered circumstances.

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A Secular Alchemy of Social Science

The Denial of Jewish Messianism in Freud and Durkheim

Philip Wexler

This essay presents a reading of the work of two central figures of modern social theory that locates their work within not simply mainstream Jewish thought, but a particular Hasidic tradition. Further, I argue that lying behind this, in a repressed form, is an even older tradition of Jewish alchemy. I make no claim to have evidence that either Freud or Durkheim were directly influenced by Hasidism or alchemy, but I examine the parallels between the structure of their thoughts and those of the two traditions. Both Freud and Durkheim display a social psychology that is analytically similar to the dualism of Hasidism's Tanya and the general transformational models of alchemy. This formal model is in opposition to the messianic tradition in Jewish thought and analyzes Freud and Durkheim as anti messianic social psychologists. Hasidism offers a template for modern theories of social psychology, social interaction and the relation between the social and the individual, that is, collective identity. This essay also considers more generally how modern social theory might make sense of contemporary social phenomena by opening itself to the messianic and mystical traditions in Jewish thought. I suggest that the social and structural transformation associated with the information or network society requires new analytic tools that allow us to explain social energy differently to the way Freud and Durkheim have guided social theory. Contemporary analyses of individualization, social movements and sacralization as forms of and reactions to alienation are inadequate. Instead, I ask whether we should not 'restore a messianic, truly utopian "lost unity", which the alchemical, secular gnosis of modern social science displaced, and so renew social theory?'