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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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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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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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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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Konstantinos G. Kougias

Chronic deficiencies of the Greek welfare state and the introduction of austerity measures as part of the international financial bailout agreements have created an explosive cocktail of poverty and social exclusion that severely tested the resilience of the frail social safety net and the demands of equity. The score on the indicators of social quality has worsened considerably as the Greek welfare system was overhauled. This article examines the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic policies and everyday experiences in Greece during the crisis.

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Kyong-Min Son

This article suggests that a “crisis of democracy” can be understood not simply as a deterioration of specific representative institutions but as a repositioning of democratic politics vis-à-vis other principles of social coordination, most notably the capitalist market, and the attendant decline of democratic subjectivity—people’s attunement to claims appealing to the common good. I trace this process to the post–World War II era. I show that the crisis of democracy was shaped by the substantive imperative of fusing democracy with free-market capitalism. Many postwar democratic theorists believed that the welfare state could manage the tension latent in this fusion. But an analysis of Friedrich Hayek’s theory of neoliberal democracy, which recognizes that tension more acutely, reveals that the incorporation of free-market capitalism creates tendencies that undermine democracy from within.

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Reform and Crisis

Reflexions and Questions on the Condition of the Human and Social Sciences in South Africa and Beyond

Ernst Wolff

This aim of this article is to contribute to the debates regarding the condition and reform of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). First, focussing on South Africa and the Humanities Charter in particular, the tensions and theoretical problems in this road map are explored through an analysis of three important themes: (1) the use of the word 'Africa(n)' in the Charter, (2) the articulation between basic and higher education and (3) the Charter's catalytic projects. The analysis explores the risks posed by precipitate recommendations for intervention in the HSS. Second, taking a step back to reflect on theoretical issues involved in institutional reforms of the HSS, three central issues in the practice of the HSS are highlighted. Clarity on these issues is essential to undertake responsible HSS reform anywhere in the world. These issues are: (1) the nature of academic liberty, (2) the organic link between the HSS and other disciplines and (3) the capability of the HSS to produce crises. The detour via these fundamental questions is an indispensible part of an approach to reforms which would be prepared in continuity with the major theoretical concerns of these disciplines and that would thus remain true to the practice of these disciplines.

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Finding a place in the world

Political subjectivities and the imagination of Iceland after the economic crash

Kristín Loftsdóttir

The economic crash in Iceland created a sense of social and political collapse that extended far beyond the economic realm. Calls for a “New Iceland” were invoked, where the Icelandic political arena would be “cleaned” and reimagined in drastic ways. In this article, I explore how ideas circulating in the wider European region about how Icelanders dealt exceptionally well with the crisis not only failed to reflect the lived effects of the collapse but also echoed long-standing nationalist ideals of Icelanders’ imagined reality of themselves. I show how nation branding in Iceland after 2010 added to the conception that Iceland dealt with the crisis in an exceptional way, and I critically ask why Iceland received such a positive depiction in the international media.

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From Crisis to Resistance?

‘Exception’, Neo-liberalism, and Two Voices in the Left

Theodoros Rakopoulos

Christos Laskos and Euclid Tsakalotos, Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis (London: Pluto Press, 2013), 192 pp. ISBN 9780745333809.

Costas Douzinas, Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe (London: Polity Press, 2013), 220 pp. ISBN 9780745665443.

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The Crisis of Democracy

Which Crisis? Which Democracy?

Selen A. Ercan and Jean-Paul Gagnon

The introductory article to this special issue highlights three fundamental yet often neglected questions related to the current diagnosis of a crisis of democracy: What is meant by the term “crisis”? Which democracy is in crisis? And what, if anything, is “new” about the current crisis of democracy? We answer these questions by considering the multi-vocal contribution of purposefully curated short articles in this special issue. We argue that when engaging with the “crisis of democracy” diagnosis, it is important to unpack not only the normative presumptions one has in relation to what democracy is and should be, but also the recent transformations in the way politics is understood and practiced in contemporary societies.