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The Power of Letters

Mapping out a Judaism for Today with an Editorial Masterplan

Walter Homolka

It all started with the re-emergence of the German progressive movement in the early nineteen-nineties of the twentieth century. When progressive Jews had nothing more than an urge to find a positive Jewish identity from the sources of the liberal Jewish tradition a common prayerbook became the unifying factor. With no roofs over their heads and no funding for the establishment of community centres this prayerbook gave a strong message of togetherness. Published in two volumes (based on Siddur and Machzor of the RSGB in Great Britain, edited by Jonathan Magonet) in 1997, Seder haTefillot soon spread over all our congregations and far beyond in all German-speaking countries and became the movement prayerbook of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany. It was accompanied by the Pessach Haggadah as edited by Michael Shire.

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Power/Knowledge Failure

Epistemic Practices and Ideologies of the Secret Police in Former East Germany

Andreas Glaeser

This paper traces the epistemic practices and ideologies that Stasi (East Germany's former secret police) used to construct the GDR peace and civil rights movements during the 1980s as one of the GDR's key enemies. In particular, the paper addresses the question of how communications in organized social encounters that are hierarchized by a cultivation of secrecy (legitimized by a Manichaean worldview) and corresponding myths about the distribution of knowledge and the proximity to an absolute social good have shaped interpretive processes. The particular epistemic style of Stasi is analyzed as a peculiar conflation of ethics and epistemology which was, ironically, profoundly undialectic, that is monothetic, and thus unable to react constructively to interpretive failures in response to a fast changing environment.

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The Power of Music

Issues of Agency and Social Practice

Norman Long

This article aims to contribute to the increasingly rich body of ethnographic and sociological studies that focus on processes of musical practice. After a brief introduction to the significance of music in social life, it outlines the advantages of adopting an actor-oriented analysis that gives close attention to issues of agency and emergent socio-cultural forms. This is followed by a brief encounter with the dynamics of musical performance as perceived by members of the Guarneri Quartet, after which two contrasting musical scenarios are analyzed in depth. The first focuses on music and ritual practices in the Peruvian Andes, and the second on the English musical renaissance of the early twentieth century. The article closes with a brief comment on the need to examine in depth the social components of musical composition and performance.

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Power, politics, and places

What's not neo-liberal?

John Clarke

I am delighted by the generous and critical engagement that Peter Little, Don Nonini, and Neil Smith have brought to my uneven and unsteady thoughts about neo-liberalism. I hope that this response maintains the tone and style of their thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. They all make examining the times and places of neoliberalism a central concern.

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Steve Reyna

This essay is concerned with where the current of global political and economic events runs. It addresses this concern by erecting an argument in three stages. First, a string being theory (SBT) is outlined. Second, this theory is used to formulate an SBT approach to imperialism, one that might be imagined as Lenin by alternative (theoretical) means, emphasizing the role of violent force. The 'seven deadly sirens'—generalizations that predict the exercise of violent force under different conditions in imperial systems—are introduced. Third, certain post-1945 US government uses of violence are analyzed in terms of their fit with the seven sirens' predictions. Oil depletion is considered as contributing to systemic crisis in capital accumulation, and its role in Gulf War II is explored. It is concluded that US government violence is consistent with the sirens' predictions. The essay terminates with speculation about where the current runs.

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Demonstrating resistance

Politics and participation in the marches of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Victoria Ana Goddardl

This article explores ways in which the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo confronted the state on the violence perpetrated during Argentina's "dirty war" during the 1970s and early 1980s. Focusing particularly on the Marches of Resistance initiated during the last years of the military regime in 1981, the article argues that their resistance had an important effect on political culture, encouraging participation and innovative forms of political action. At the same time, shifts in political conditions also caused internal changes in the Mothers' movement. A discussion of the circumstances that resulted in a schism within the movement and current divergences in conducting the marches leads to reflections on different interpretations of the political.

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Saskia Richter

This article uses the biography of the activist and Green Party co-founder Petra Kelly in order to rethink the Greens' founding process and to articulate a new conception of charismatic political leadership. It shows how Kelly used her activism in the new social movements as the basis for her leadership role in the Greens, and how her ongoing work in the peace movement provided her a means of maintaining power within the nascent party during the early 1980s. By examining Kelly's contributions to the Greens' approach to politics, the article shows that she was more than just a figurehead for the new party. Most importantly, the article shows that throughout her career as an activist and politician, Kelly used her biography to establish credibility and to support her unique style of charismatic leadership. The German public's response to Kelly reveals the influence of this charismatic leadership and shows how her movement-driven and biographically informed approach, which brought personal experiences and emotions into politics, was part of a larger transformation of the political in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.

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'A Punishment More Bitter Than Death'

Dirck Coornhert's Boeven-tucht and the Rise of Discipline

Roger Deacon

Dirck Coornhert (1522-90) was a Dutch humanist whose seminal 1587 book, Boeven-tucht, redefined issues of poverty, charity, development and crime. A transitionary document, Boeven-tucht lies on the cusp of what Michel Foucault called the 'great confinement', which took place between about 1600 and 1750 and which was the common response by local and national authorities to the social disorder concomitant upon population expansion, a widening gap between rich and poor, religious discord and war. Inspired by Boeventucht, the Amsterdam Rasphuis and Spinhuis were the European prototypes of houses of correction which sprang up all over Europe, intended to apply 'a punishment more bitter than death' to all 'criminal idlers'. This introduction to the first-ever English translation of Boeven-tucht situates Coornhert's text in the space between unmediated absolutist sovereignty and full-blown modern discipline, when disciplinary techniques were as yet only gradually emerging from the monasteries and lay fraternities in which they had been incubated, and before they spread into all facets of modern society.

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Yusuf Has

My aim in this article is to move the problematic of violence and its role in politics to a historico-ontological plane. I propose a perspective that breaks with the dominant subjectivist concept of human violence and its metaphysical foundations, which fail to distinguish this concept from that of aggression. According to this perspective, we are already in the field of violence in our everyday social existence, regardless of our personal choices or intentions, the sources of which are systemic. The ontological essence of this systemic violence lies in the fact that it is not external to human subjects but is engraved in their very social being by penetrating into the discourses, practices and frames of mind that make up their historical disposition, which makes it in many instances harder to escape than subjective violence. What I call from this ontological perspective the 'violence of closure' has the effect ultimately of suppressing the possibilities of social being open to human beings in their given historical situation, by normalising the existing way of social and political existence, and closing them off to alternatives. I argue that to this violence of closure must be opposed the violence of dis-closure, which, in its various particular intellectual and practical forms, can open up human social existence to its repressed possibilities.

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Jon Harald Sande Lie

Through its post-structural critique of development, post-development provides a fundamental dismissal of institutional development. Drawing on the work of Foucault, post-development portrays development as a monolithic and hegemonic discourse that constructs rather than solves the problems it purports to address. Yet post-development itself becomes guilty of creating an analysis that loses sight of individuals and agency, being fundamental to its development critique. This article discusses the discourse-agency nexus in light of the post-development context with specific reference to the grand structure-actor conundrum of social theory, and asks whether an actor perspective is compatible with discourse analysis and what—if anything—should be given primacy. It aims to provide insight into social theory and post-development comparatively and, furthermore, to put these in context, with Foucault's work being pivotal to the seminal post-development approach.