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James G. Carrier

Recently anthropology has experienced an intellectual crisis of confidence, a sense that the discipline has lost its way, and an institutional crisis, a loss of resources following the financial crisis. Together, these crises provide a perspective that helps us to make sense of what preceded them. This article argues that both crises are signs of the failure of the neoliberalism that rose to prominence in the 1980s, both as a foundation for public policy and as an important, though unrecognized, influence on elements in anthropological thought. It focuses on that influence. It does so by describing some of the changes in anthropological orientation since the 1980s. Prime among these are the loss of disciplinary authority, the solidification of the focus on culture at the expense of a focus on society, and the rejection of systemic theories of social and cultural order. It is argued that, together, these changes have left anthropologists with no critical perspective on the world, just as the ascendance of neoclassical economics left economists with no such critical perspective.

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Daniel M. Knight

The Greek economic crisis resonates across Europe as synonymous with corruption, poor government, austerity, financial bailouts, civil unrest, and social turmoil. The search for accountability on the local level is entangled with competing rhetorics of persuasion, fear, and complex historical consciousness. Internationally, the Greek crisis is employed as a trope to call for collective mobilization and political change. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Trikala, central Greece, this article outlines how accountability for the Greek economic crisis is understood in local and international arenas. Trikala can be considered a microcosm for the study of the pan-European economic turmoil as the “Greek crisis“ is heralded as a warning on national stages throughout the continent.

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Isabelle Hertner and Alister Miskimmon

This article outlines how Germany has sought to project a strategic narrative of the Eurozone crisis. Germany has been placed center stage in the Eurozone crisis, and as a consequence, the German government's crisis narrative matters for the future of the common currency. We highlight how the German government has sought to narrate a story of the cause of the Eurozone crisis and present policy solutions to influence policy decisions within the EU and maintain domestic political support. This focus on the public communication of the crisis is central to understanding the development of Germany's policy as it was negotiated with EU partners, the U.S. and international financial institutions. We draw on speeches and interviews by Chancellor Angela Merkel and two of her senior cabinet ministers delivered at key moments of the Eurozone crisis between May 2010 and June 2012. The article argues that while Merkel and her governments have been able to shore up domestic support for her Eurozone policies, she has struggled to find a coherent strategic narrative that is both consistent with German domestic preferences and historical memory, and with those of other Eurozone members.

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Simon Tormey

This article looks closely at the “crisis of representative democracy,” noting that this crisis is evident across the main variables of interest to political scientists (voting, party membership, trust in politicians, and interest in mainstream politics). The argument here is that the crisis is located not only in short term or contingent factors such as financial crisis, the decadence of the current generation of politicians or the emergence of New Public Management—which often appear as the villains of the piece. It is also located in long term and structural factors linked to the types of social and political interaction associated with “first modernity.” With the displacement of this temporality under post-Fordist, reflexive or “second” modernity, we are witnessing a different set of dynamics shape the terrain of politics. Globalization, individualization, and the proliferation of communicative platforms is taking us away from “vertical” interactions in which representative politics is typical, toward more distributed, flatter, or “horizontal” modes of sociality, working, and organizing—leaving us in a “post-representative” political moment.

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The Roots of Crisis

Interrupting Arendt's Radical Critique

Nica Siegel

Although Hannah Arendt is often described as a radical thinker, this article argues that such a characterisation has occluded the question of what 'radicality' might mean within the particular horizon of Arendt's thought. While the battle over Arendt's legacy is fought on terms that oppose the radical to the conservative, Arendt herself is engaged in a different struggle, namely the opposition of the radical and the banal as it emerges in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). This article will investigate this tension and Arendt's response to its emergence. Beginning with an account of radicality in relation to Arendt's work on crisis in Between Past and Future (1961) before turning towards the interruption of Eichmann and 'the banality of evil', this article will end by articulating a trajectory towards The Life of the Mind, Arendt's unfinished attempt, demanded by the particular crisis of Eichmann, to think unradicality radically.

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The Current Crisis

Initial Reflections

Steven Lukes

This is one of a set of three essays, exploring the current crisis in a Durkheimian perspective, and brought together with the first English translation of Durkheim’s own commentary on a world in upheaval, ‘The Politics of the Future’ (1917). In the opening essay, Steven Lukes suggests that a way to begin to reflect on the nature and long-term repercussions of the crisis is through Durkheim’s account of anomie. In the following essay, Mike Gane is concerned with an underlying paradox in which neo-liberalism is in practice a form of socialism and statism. In general, it reproduces the malaise that Durkheim analysed as a mass of individuals under the management of an overcentralized state, and in the absence of an effective democratic network of intermediate groups. In particular, it relies on a technique of power that involves a corrupted form of what Caillois analysed as the game, and that controls and manipulates the individuals constituting ‘human capital’ through a system of bureaucratically regulated game-like competitions. In the final essay, Edward Tiryakian asks ‘which crisis?’ Beyond the financial and economic upheavals, there is a wider, systemic, moral anomie. This shows up in various ways in trends, throughout western societies, in family life, education and citizenship – key interlinking institutions of the social fabric.

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Crisis? How Is That a Crisis!?

Reflections on an Overburdened Word

Michael Freeden

Crisis has become such a ubiquitous word that its discriminatory power is diminished across various disciplines. It challenges the word-concept relationship inasmuch as it is associated with a host of partner words that imbue crisis with divergent meanings. Not least, it stretches between major upheavals and minor disturbances, often employed with calculating or rhetorical dramatic effect. This article explores both professional and vernacular usages of “crisis” and notes the distinction between theories of crisis and ideologies of crisis. It then turns to examining two domains closely linked to the language of crisis: Marxist analyses of capitalism, and legitimation problems. The latter is explored particularly through Seymour Martin Lipset and Jürgen Habermas. The role of crisis as filtered through different ideological families is indicated. Finally, the relationship between the tipping-point connotations of crisis and the finality drive of political decisions is considered.

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Alexandra Hennessy

How do political parties respond to a major economic shock? This article studies this question in the context of the eurozone crisis. Specifically, I analyze the partisan appeals made by German politicians in the run-up to the 2013 federal election in Germany. Contrary to existing models of party responsiveness, I argue that enacting quick crisis resolution mechanisms is not always the main concern of reelection-seeking politicians. Instead, officials may have incentives to deliberately withhold emergency measures in an effort to win a mandate for more comprehensive policy solutions later. The findings have implications for notions of democratic accountability.

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Worker Reactions to Crisis

Explaining 'Bossnappings'

Nick Parsons

In France in 2009-10, several managers announcing redundancies were held hostage by workers. Although the global economic crisis and an attendant rise in unemployment may provide a catalyst for "bossnappings," the real explanations for the phenomenon have to be found partly in the institutional make up of French industrial relations that have resulted in weak, divided unions and weak and conflictual collective bargaining mechanisms. However, such institutional factors cannot provide the whole explanation. Ideas also matter, and these underlying structural weaknesses have been unable to contain radical outbursts of anger when allied to pre-existing concerns over globalization—which appeared to be vindicated by the current economic crisis—, the reactions of the government to crisis, and the incapacity of unions or the state to respond to it.

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Rainer Hillebrand

This article looks critically at the widely held view that Germany has not done enough to help overcome the Eurozone crisis. According to this line of argument, Germany has refused to comprehensively bail out crisis countries, offer mutual support in order to counter speculative attacks or endorse demand-side growth policies. This is allegedly because of a more narrowly defined national self-interest, increased EU-skepticism, and hegemonic ambitions. This article takes the perspective that such criticisms are primarily rooted in a Keynesian reading of the Eurozone troubles, whereas German policies are informed by another rationale: the ideas of so-called ordoliberalism. Generally, this traditional German school emphasizes the importance of principles, rule-based behavior, and long-term goals—and it believes in the (microeconomic) functioning of markets. Consequently, ordoliberals perceive the crisis as resulting from unsustainable debt levels and a lack of competitiveness in southern Europe, concomitant with a failure of Eurozone institutions. Based on this diagnosis, policy proposals are primarily targeted at debt reduction, as well as structural and EU institutional reforms. While Germany's crisis policy thus appears rational from an ordoliberal perspective, it is considered to be at variance with, and inadequate from the viewpoint of a Keynesian approach.