During today’s crisis in Turkey, victimhood authorises oppression, oppressors see themselves as victims and the oppressed are not only the poor, but educated middle classes. Citizen and state are imbricated in the same political and discursive fields where people mobilise against one another, some moving up and others down, creating unexpected landscapes of victimisation and oppression that do not fit comfortably in literature that analyses ‘politics from below’. How do we conceptualise this in a way that respects people’s understanding of their coordinates in a complex landscape of power? This article interrogates some basic assumptions of this literature, including the impact of the observer’s position and the oppression/resistance framework, replacing it with a model of politics as a shared horizontal topography of action across a terrain of values.
Mapping the Topography of Oppression
Economic imperialism and the imperialism of economics which characterise ultramodernity in its current phase, are destroying the planet. This can be observed by looking at everyday life, providing that one does not suffer from the short sightedness of the ultra-liberal “Stalinists” from the Bretton-Woods institutions, who are playing at being sorcerer’s apprentices … Economising has reduced culture to folklore and relegated it to museums. By liquidating different cultures, globalisation gives birth to “tribes”, withdrawal, and ethnicity, rather than co-existence and dialogue. The rise of mimetic violence, with its backdrop of the victimising of the scapegoats, is the corollary to homogeneity and false hybridisation. These phenomena have been amplified by the media and have provoked such repugnance, undoubtedly legitimate, that we have reached the stage of exalting unconditional, selfsatisfied universalism, which is exclusively western in essence, along with the repeated chanting of meaningless slogans.
The Postsocialist Myth of Capitalism and the Ideological Suspension of Postmodernity
There is a widespread tendency to see the perils of postsocialism in the revival of the ghosts and myths from the past—namely ethnocentrism, nationalism, exclusiveness, bickering, collectivist-authoritarianism, expansionist chauvinism, and victimisation. I suggest that postsocialism's perils rest with a myth from the future, namely, the myth of capitalism. Those perils, I argue, are rooted in the fetishisation of capitalism by the postsocialist societies as a reflection of their deeply ingrained teleological way of perceiving the future. Political leaders are taking advantage of this situation by putting themselves in the position of those who would lead toward such a utopia. As a consequence, individual freedoms are sacrificed at the altar of communitarian bliss. I suggest that the only hope that we have to secularise the newly re-religiosised postsocialist societies rests with intellectuals.
Simon Avery and Andrew Maunder
In October 1860, the New York-based magazine, Harper’s New Monthly, offered its readers this scathing commentary on the apparently morbid tendency among their British cousins to delve into the private lives of famous men and women. The magazine’s onslaught was both topical and contentious. The pleasures and punishments of fame experienced by such victimised ‘lions’ as Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton, together with the public’s apparent right to ‘know’ everything, struck the writer as not only ‘vulgar’ but as clear evidence (if any were needed) of a degenerate culture. The situation was bad in America but much worse in Britain for there, as Harper’s noted, ‘John Bull is very fond of . . . talking about the private history of public men – prying into their bathing-tubs and counting the moles upon their necks.’ In the name of both art and decency, Harper’s made the following plea: ‘For the honour of the guild – for the fair name of literature – let us have done with peeping through keyholes and listening at cracks.’