In his article, “Turkey, from Tahrir to Taksim”, Kerem Oktem describes the context of the enormous eruption of protest in Turkey that begun with the occupation of Taksim Square last week. He pinpoints an increasingly uninhibited neoliberal development process, the government’s growing conservative zeal and a troubled foreign policy as the key factors to have sparked unrest.
Erdogan Style: It seems that the threat posed to an urban green space by redevelopment plans for Gezi Park and Taksim Square, and the protests it has triggered, goes “to the heart of the identity of modern Turkey and the character of the Turkish Republic”.
Charles Turner sums up the symbolism of the site from which the protests initially erupted, with reference to the Atatürk Cultural Centre (AKM) on the north side of Taksim Square, once marked for demolition by the local AKP, and plans for a new shopping centre to be built in the style of the building that once stood in Gezi Park – the Halil Pasha Artillery Barracks, where soldiers involved in what is known as the countercoup of March 1909 were executed:
“Erdogan is often criticized for seeing himself as a figure as important to Turkey’s future as Atatürk was to its past and its present; there could be no more fitting monument to Erdogan’s political style than his seeking the demolition of a monument to Atatürk’s interest in culture and the rebuilding of a monument to his ruthlessness.”
Woolwich and Afghanistan: Professor of peace studies Paul Rogers insists that there is a connection between the shocking murder of a young soldier outside his barracks in Woolwich, London on 22 May and “remote-control” attacks by western states. He argues that recognizing this connection is crucial if we are to avoid such extreme violence in the future.
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In New Humanist (UK), Frederik Stjernfelt interprets the attempt earlier this year on the life of a Danish Islam critic as yet another instance of a concentrated attack on free expression by fundamentalist believers. Right now, he writes, “no actual political task could be more important than to reinforce and reinvigorate the basic standards of the Enlightenment”. However:
“The sad fact is that standing up for the Enlightenment is now a difficult task, rhetorically, politically and personally. If you try and speak up for these principles you will find that fundamentalists and multiculturalists will, as if with one voice, try to smear you, dignify you with pejoratives like ‘racist’ and ‘islamophobic’. Some even claim universal rights for all human beings is a racist idea, a neo-colonial Western imposition on other cultures.”
Techno-religion: Jaron Lanier, once a digital pioneer who collaborated with both Microsoft and Google, now warns that technology makes us not only dependent but redundant. In interview, he says that “there is a new religion that is distorting business in the world of digital networks.” The avid techno-utopian Ray Kurzweil has meanwhile “actually joined Google. He is their head of engineering now. I think that it’s not so much a match made in heaven as a match made in the virtual world, where we are all supposed to be uploaded to when we die.”
While it is still too early to see how Google’s book-scanning enterprise Google Books will eventually play out, a machine-centric vision of the project might encourage software to see books as snippets of information rather than separate expressions of individual writers, says Lainer. “If you believe in this idea then books are not individual expressions of people, but statistical data of humanity as a whole. We can talk about this in terms of copyright, and individual rights, but I think it’s even more profound than that. It’s really about whether or not individuals even exist.”
The full table of contents of New Humanist 3/2013
“Neoliberalism and how to end its dominance” was always a central concern for Soundings (UK). Now, in a sequel to articles collected in The Neoliberal Crisis, the journal’s founding editors Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey and Mike Rustin launch an online manifesto entitled “After neoliberalism”.
With the post-war welfare-state settlement having lost its relevance – “The rise and crisis of neoliberalism should have taught us that that historical solution was not radical enough” – the authors declare in the manifesto’s first instalment that it is “time for a new moral and economic settlement”. The eurocrisis does not go unmentioned:
“Having failed to design a financial architecture that could address uneven development between constituent countries, the Euro-elite powers (the troika above all) now attempt to blame the inevitable disaster on [certain] constituent countries.” That is, to “set peoples against peoples, provoking dangerous nationalisms, while the culpability of the elite is effectively obscured.”
Where multiculturalism flourishes: The emergence of a culturally diverse citizenry, a policy or a vision for the nation: multiculturalism may mean any of these and more. However, the bad press it has received lately obliges Varun Uberoi and Tariq Modood to clarify why multiculturalism is in fact flourishing in Britain.
In response to critics of multiculturalism, Uberoi and Modood insist that “multiculturalists have long rejected separation and division; hence they identify how unity and belonging can be fostered among all citizens.” Moreover:
“Few of these prominent critics now reject a multicultural citizenry, as they recognize […] that it is inescapable without an unacceptable level of coercion, and, like leading politicians, they now also publicly advocate what multiculturalists began to in 1974, namely ‘Britishness’ being more inclusive. Thus when such critics talk about ensuring ‘everyone can see something of themselves’ in the nation, they are unknowingly advocating an idea that originates with multiculturalists.”
The full table of contents of Soundings 53 (2013)
In Blätter (Germany), Albrecht von Lucke cites Heribert Prantl, editor of the left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The EU cannot be allowed to deprive people of their homeland and their national security; that would be anti-European policy. The EU must give them a new, second home – Europe. That would be European policy. It is because European policy is absent that there are so many anti-European parties in Europe; now also in Germany.” Von Lucke proceeds to show why European politics can no longer be forced into the classical left-right paradigm. Yet neither left nor right politicians in Germany offer a convincing way out of the crisis:
“What is clear, is that Merkel’s austerity policy has failed, as the increasingly dramatic situation in south east Europe shows. The chancellor has nothing to offer Europe other than the blinkered application of austerity, which gives the fatal impression that the German spirit should once again heal the world or at least Europe. However, what is equally clear is the parties on the left remain guilty of not having put forward a real alternative to Merkel’s failure.”
Solidarity in Europe still stops at national borders, von Lucke continues: “As such, the crisis can only be solved progressively on a transnational basis. Without common answers to poverty and unemployment, people are played off against one another, and we experience the misrepresentation of social as national questions (Habermas).”
One way out, writes von Lucke, is shown by political economist Peter Bofinger: “He rightly appeals for the rich citizens of the crisis states to be drawn upon much more heavily where rescuing the Euro is concerned; that is, for the winners of the years of plenty to take responsibility for their own countries. If they give up part of their fortunes, the readiness of those in the northern countries to set aside a portion of their (state) resources to deal with the debt of the South will also grow.”
Also: Isabel Lorey suggests that the current “European governmentality in response to debt and precarization may well contain the seed for overcoming these phenomena – namely, new socialities and new ‘presentist’ forms of democracy”.
The full table of contents of Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 6/2013
“There was once a thoroughly modern institutional system: parliamentary representation and separation of powers, the constitutional court, ombudsmen and independent courts. Further, with reference to the parliamentary tradition of 1848 and the fall of the Iron Curtain, the constitution reflected Hungarian history.”
Whereas its democratic reforms were once held up as an example to the rest of central Europe, today, “while the attention of the European Union is absorbed by economic and political crisis, Hungary is a leader in the destruction of the system of democratic institutions and establishing a populist, authoritarian regime” – and anything resembling the constitutional patriotism championed by Habermas is threatened. Nonetheless, Tóth considers both the ability of international institutions to help and domestic, democratic resources far from exhausted.
(Ahead of elections in 2014, we have collected articles published in Eurozine on recent developments in Hungary and broader issues relating to Hungarian politics, history and culture.)
Russia: The need for external interference is not necessarily limited to EU member states suffering a loss of democratic options. Like Tóth on Orbán, Wolfgang Eichwede discerns in Putin the “negation of 1989”. In place of “opening up, freedom and awakening”, the “instruments of discrimination, vertical power and the police state” are taking their toll. And whereas a misinterpretation of détente may justify Germany keeping its distance, Eichwede considers the damage Putin is inflicting on Russia demands a more forthright approach.
(Indeed, Osteuropa followed up on its current issue by responding to a recent attack on academic freedom with the launch of an online appeal, as Eurozine reported.)
Also: Reinhold Vetter on Poland’s radical Right; Miroslav Mares’ roundup on street protests in eastern Europe; and Ulrich Schmid on the backlash against Azerbaijani author Akram Aylisli, following the publication of his novella Das Yuxular (“Stone dreams”).
The full table of contents of Osteuropa 4/2013
Last weekend, Blockupy activists organized care-mobs and dance-blockades at strategic locations in Frankfurt, including the international airport and the square in front of the European Central Bank. Similar protests took place in Berlin, Münster and Cologne.
The world of art is keen to express solidarity with these kind of protest movements. This has prompted the project Unruhe der Form (Unrest of form), organized as part of the ongoing Vienna Festival (from 10 May to 16 June). This enterprise is curated by Springerin editor Georg Schöllhammer and the current issue accompanies the festival programme, asking critical questions including: isn’t the project of a political aesthetic that extends beyond the type of activism guzzled up by the media something we must now view as being truncated and sidelined? And how can art foster resistance against economic structures in which it itself participates?
Understanding form: Süreyyya Evren looks at how an understanding of form gained through the prism of “unrest” is transposed back into contemporary art and finds that one of the most quintessential features of political art is a never-ending process of searching:
“Directly apply the dominant political forms of your times to art, and you may find that art no longer has an appetite for new forms. After all, just how do we engage with an Occupy-style exhibition? Do we find instant satisfaction once we understand the form? Is it as simple as that? Like a gesture: either we like the gesture or we do not like the gesture, in a Facebook-like fashion. But the ‘real thing’, I mean Occupy aiming to be Occupy and not an exhibition or a biennale, doesn’t rest when it finds a form. The form may change at any time.”
Get your terminology right! You still talk about “new media”? According to Franz Thalmair, you couldn’t be more dinosaur. After the “post-medium condition” came the “post-digital tendency” and recently even the “post-Internet”. Now, however the “new aesthetic” is the new black.
The full table of contents of Springerin 2/2013
In Merkur (Germany), Alix Rule and David Levine note that “the artwork always arrives already swaddled in IAE […]aporia, radically, space, proposition, biopolitical, tension, transversal, autonomy“. They conduct a close reading of art press releases (via e-flux) that reveals what this “International Art English” (IAE) is all about.
The main aim: to unwrap the “analytic terms that were transformed into expressive, promotional tokens”. The origins of IAE lie in the founding of the art journal October in 1976. October‘s editors had a knack of melting the American tradition of formalist art criticism in European poststructuralist theory, prompting a shift in American art discourse. Meanwhile, translations of French thinkers like Deleuze, Baudrillard and Barthes fed lexical particularities into IAE.
The online circulation of art texts helped cultivate the language now threatened by its own implosion, something reflected not least in the way that “IAE rebukes English for its lack of nouns: visual becomes visuality, global becomes globality, potential becomes potentiality, experience becomes… experiencability.” Not that this should interfere with the reader’s enjoyment, Rule and Levine remark ironically:
“Maybe in the meantime we should enjoy this decadent period of IAE. We should read e-flux press releases not for their content, not for their technical proficiency in IAE, but for their lyricism.”
Dealing with the German past: Historian Martin Sabrow tests the thin line between definitions of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (struggling to come to terms with the past) and Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, a term introduced by Theodor W. Adorno in his essay “The meaning of working through the past” (1959). Adorno’s “working through the past” introduces a paradigm shift: the “work”, rather than the “struggle”, “focuses on the subject” and, as such, is oriented on the present. It might well, therefore, warrant practical implementation.
The full table of contents of Merkur 6/2013
Dziejaslou (Belarus) contains two journeys to Sweden in essay form. Paviel Liahnovic travels to Gothenburg and rediscovers his past. Like several other Belarusian writers, he had accepted an invitation from the Swedish side: “They are interested in Belarus – after all, we are still neighbours. Gothenburg is closer to Belarus than the Swedish Arctic circle.”
Liahnovic’s essay is sprinkled with extracts from the diary he kept as a trainee officer in May 1974, when he made his first trip to Sweden. He thinks of the writer Vasil Bykaw, who spent time in Gothenburg as an exile. He leafs through and reads, shaking his head, of what the KGB hammered into the heads of trainee officers: “They explained how women flirted with members of the Soviet army with a view to compromising them. If only one would compromise me…”
Gratitude: Uladzimir Siucykau spent a month on Gotland, having received a scholarship from the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Visby. He noted with interest the clever system of separating the rubbish as well as the bare breasts of a wooden sculpture of a holy figure on the altar of a medieval church.
In the Baltic Centre he constantly chanced across Belarusian traces. He took pleasure in a well-resourced Belarusian shelf in its library as well as the discovery he made in his room: “In my room, no. 3, I noticed a lonesome book on my window sill. First I thought it was a bible, then I discovered that its authors had lived in the room prior to me and committed their gratitude to paper.” He was moved by the contributions of Vasil Bykau (1998), Uladzimier Arlou (2006) and, in particular, four lines by the poet Andrej Khadanovic (2009):
a foreign language
caresses my mouth
like a piercing
on somebody else’s tongue
The full table of contents of Dziejaslou 62 (2013)
French “cultural democratization” is a thorn in the side of Marc Fumaroli, literary critic and member of the Académie Francaise. When in 1959 De Gaulle founded the French Ministry of Culture and appointed André Malraux to head it up, the promotion of cultural creativity was rerouted. The “cultural State” no longer focussed on the activity of the Academies but on the support of “popular culture” laments Fumaroli.
In an interview with Daniel Gascón, he still recognizes the consequences of Malraux’s programme (which was continued by Jack Lang) in the existing contradictions “between conservative organs and actions, between sage and erudite representatives of the welfare state and the fanaticism of the official programme that drives ‘cultural democratization’: in other words, the equalization of high and low culture and the confusion between popular culture and populist standardized culture”.
Fumaroli insists on the State, which in accordance with the French understanding of the ancien regime is “enlightened and enlightening” and a “a civilizing and educating power”. It can act as a “counterforce to the alliance of bad taste, dogmatic ideologies and commercial products that contribute to the barbarization of liberal democracy”.
In the bonfire of Fumaroli’s critique stands the missed chance of wealthy people to think about their possible role as “modern Maecenas”.
The full table of contents of Letras Libres 5/2013