During the Latin Middle Ages, as today, “tyranny” connotes the exercise of power arbitrarily, oppressively, and violently. Medieval thinkers generally followed in the footprints of early Christian theologians (e.g., Gregory the Great and Isidore of Seville) and ancient philosophers (especially Aristotle) regarding the tyrant as the very embodiment of evil rulership and thus as the polar opposite of the king, who governed for the good of his people according to virtue and religion. However, examination of the writings of some well-known and influential authors from ca. 1150 to ca. 1400—including John of Salisbury, Ptolemy of Lucca, William of Ockham, Bartolous of Sassoferrato, and Nicole Oresme—reveals three very diverse and distinct conceptions of tyranny, each of which justified the tyrant in one way or another.
Cary J. Nederman
Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz
Shakespeare and Tyranny: Regimes of Reading in Europe and Beyond, edited by Keith Gregor (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 281 pp.
In this article, the author applies the methodology of Begriffsgeschichte to the study of the concept of despotism in France, focusing mainly on the eighteenth century and the Revolution. During this period despotism became a basic concept (Grundbegriff), and thus highly contested. At the same time, the concept's long history, which stretches back to antiquity and includes the semantic boundaries that previously made it indistinguishable from "tyranny," created a diachronic thrust against which anyone seeking to add a new meaning or application had to work. Finally, as other key concepts, despotism produced political consequences unanticipated and undesired by those using it, not only major theorists but also pamphleteers, in a number of intensely fought conflicts which helped bring down the monarchy.
Departing from Mario Turchetti's study on the concept of tyranny and tyrannicide, the author sets out to explore its specific use in the political discourse in the eighteenth century. Originally, as in the works of Plato and Montesquieu, tyranny was used in reference to degenerate forms of government. Tyranny and tyrannicide gained additional significance with its inclusion in the virulent discourse during the radicalization of the French Revolution. Based on the myth of Brutus and other classical sources, anti-tyrannical rhetoric in the form revolutionary literature and propaganda spurted political activism. As the figure of the king became the main obstacle to liberty and the foundation of a new republic, tyranny and tyrannicide became key concepts in the revolutionary movements.
Comment on Special Section on Media and Mobility
Patricia L. Mokhtarian
People have exchanged messages across distances of space or time since the dawn of human history. Modern technologies, for both travel and telecommunication, have vastly increased the speed and reach of our communication potential, but the difference from the past is not just one of degree: at least one difference in kind is the convergence of information/computing technology with communication technology (ICT), and specifically the emergence of the (now-mobile) internet. Relationships between ICT and travel are numerous, complex, and paradoxical. Speculation that “modern“ ICT could substitute for travel virtually coincided with the invention of the telephone, but scholars as early as the 1970s also realized the potential for mutual synergy and generation. Although ICT and travel have diminished the tyranny of space, they cannot be said to have conquered it.
Crafting a ‘Philosophy of Praxis’ into a ‘Community of Resistance’
This article details how a community of practice came crashing down on the iron rocks of bureaucracy. I apply Brown and Duguid’s theorisation of the dialectics of ‘working, learning and innovating’ illustrating how these three aspects came to conflict with one another, and how I worked to resolve them. As an anthropologist leading an environmental health project in a mid-Michigan public health agency, I formed a ‘community of practice’ and proceeded as a researcher, ethnographer and community activist for nearly three years, gathering findings to change the agency’s organisational structure, as a form of ‘disruptive innovation’. The community ‘roundtable’ of external project advisors highly supported the penultimate reports on water pollution, air pollution and restaurant health. The interdisciplinary strategies pursued resulted in valuable integrations of new knowledge in public anthropology across several thematic areas: critical public pedagogy, sustainability, citizen science, radical journalism and anthropologies of violence, trauma and transformation.
Commemorating National Socialism and Communism from the perspective
of 1989 often results in an uneasy conflation of German
guilt and victimhood. When the events of 1933-1989 are presented
as one long authoritarian period, war and tyranny can easily be construed
as external forces that simply befell the German nation.
While memories of national guilt are divisive, memories of victimhood
unify and simplify an otherwise ambiguous past. The 1995
restoration of Berlin’s Neue Wache is emblematic of this conflation
of guilt and victimhood. As the central German memorial to all victims
of war and tyranny, the Neue Wache neither distinguishes
between dictatorships, nor between perpetrator and victim.
Walter Benjamin at Portbou
As we returned south in the gloaming to Portbou, the doubts resurfaced. The Right is gathering strength again, not least in France and Spain. The borders may be open within Europe, but they remain largely closed to refugees and asylum-seekers from beyond Europe's borders. These nameless people include the bodies washed up every week on the shores of the Straits of Gibraltar, Africans trying in vain to escape tyranny, war and hatred and - the greatest oppression of all - poverty. What happened at Portbou is important to all of us. We all need to descend that staircase, confront our own mortality, confront the harm we do every day to one another and to our planet. The crimes that are committed by soldiers, police and bureaucrats - in our names.
This article focuses on From Jacobin to Liberal: Marc-Antoine Jullien, 1775-1848 and argues that this book, written near the end of Robert R. Palmer's career, stands as a sort of bookend to his earlier masterpiece, Twelve Who Ruled. The focus of the book, MarcAntoine Jullien, was a precocious idealist, just sixteen years old when he made his first speech before the Paris Jacobin club. He supported the Jacobin political vision and went on to serve as an emissary in the provinces for the Committee of Public Safety, the focus of Twelve Who Ruled. As such, young Jullien was denounced as a terrorist after the fall of Robespierre. He survived the Revolution, however, and Palmer sees in him an example of a young man whose political views evolved over time, from Jacobinism to liberalism. Challenging those who have viewed the French Revolution as leading inevitably to tyranny, Palmer presents the life of Marc-Antoine Jullien as exemplary of the positive legacy of that tumultuous event.
‘No government can protect the rights of citizens without rigorous police, but the difference between a free regime and a tyrannical one is that, in the former, the police are employed against that minority opposed to the general good as well as against the abuse and negligence of the authorities; whereas, in the latter the State police are employed against the down-trodden who are thus delivered into the hands of injustice and impunity’.
This declaration was not a reaction to the Marikana massacre (16 August 2012), when a British mining company operating in South Africa had a special unit of the post-Apartheid South African Police Service murderously repress a mine workers strike, by means of mass shooting; many of those killed were later found to have been shot in the back as they ran away from the volley of bullets. It was made about two hundred and twenty years before, in April 1794, when revolutionary France was experiencing its most tragic moments. In the context of the Terror, and facing the necessity to discipline it, its author, Saint-Just (1767–1794), redeployed some of the most classical concepts in the History of Political Thought – freedom versus tyranny, general good versus particular interest, elite accountability versus impunity of power – in order to provide the ideological principles framing the organisation, within the web of the revolutionary police, of a special office in charge of the surveillance of the Executive and of public authorities.