"Hospitals under treatment"

23 January 2007
Only in en
Esprit asks the doctors; Osteuropa diagnoses social malaise in Russia; Index on Censorship enters the dragon; Glänta seeks truth and reconciliation; Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) reports from a melancholy Mexico; The New Presence finds an outlet for Czech consumerism; and Akadeemia supports institutional funding.

Esprit 1/2007

An ageing society, epidemiological developments, the increase of chronic diseases and Aids, along with ever better-informed patients – all these have led not only to a reorganization of public health in general, but, more specifically, to the reorganization of hospitals. Esprit addresses the topic of “hospitals under treatment” in its January issue, publishing articles solely from authors who hold positions of responsibility in hospitals and health care.

Nowadays, hospital staff are expected to take patients’ views into account. Jacques Dubin, of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire d’Angers, discusses what that means in practice. Since 2002, French law emphasizes users’ individual and collective rights. But does this increase trust between patients and professionals?

Yves Deugnier, president of the regional delegation for clinical research in Rennes, looks into the future of clinical research. Although an integral part of the mission of a hospital, clinical research faces new restrictions, including lack of time and funding, stricter ethical controls, and, above all, the globalization of research.

In interview, Paulette Guinchard, former State Secretary for Ageing, and Sylvie Legrain, professor of geriatrics, talk about old age and dependency. Even though a number of schemes are beginning to be deployed, reflection and research have hardly started about an issue that belongs as much to the social and cultural as to the medical spheres.

Also to look out for: an interview with Paul Thibaud, former director of Esprit, on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which, he says, continues to shed critical light on the colonial era. And Corinne Enaudeau on Lyotard’s indebtedness to Levinas’s ethics, which, she claims, gives rise to disagreement over their respective understandings of the nature of politics.

The full table of contents of Esprit 1/2007.

Osteuropa 1/2007

Until 2005, writes Lev Gudkov in Osteuropa, the debate about the Putin regime was dominated by the question, modernization or despotism? “No one considered the possibility that the disintegration of the Soviet system could continue, that Russia could degenerate into a corrupt police state in which the economy stagnates and society is impoverished.” Enter “negative mobilization”, in which people are united only in the view that common goals and hope for a better future are “banalities, the empty rhetoric of demagogues, blether”.

The ruling elite, intent on continuity rather than reform, attempt to adapt Soviet institutions to contemporary realities. They blame their failure to do so on “the West”, “terrorists”, “oligarchs”, “democrats”, and so on. Demonization, writes Gudkov, prevents members of society understanding the role of the post-totalitarian State. Instead of political activism, society is tainted by “cynicism, periodic bursts of violence, emotional coldness, indifference, and a loss of ability to make certain value judgements”.

Belarus: Despite increasing repression, a strong underground movement has developed since the 1990s, and above all a thriving music scene, reports Ingo Petz. Concerts, flash mobs, and spontaneous demonstrations are preferred to organized party-political gatherings; a desire for musical and linguistic independence replaces classical leftwing or rightwing politics. With the formal opposition coalition in Belarus increasingly factional, writes Petz, Europe must consider supporting the young elite that will shape the Belarus of tomorrow.

Also: Per Brodersen on Kaliningrad since 1945. Despite the Soviet propaganda campaign for its westernmost outpost, the two million citizens of the USSR who migrated to Kaliningrad after WWII were neglected by the central powers and failed to establish either a Soviet or a regional identity.

The full table of contents of Osteuropa 1/2007.

Index on Censorship 4/2006

“Will China ever be able to break out of the narrative in which it has bound itself?” asks Isabel Hilton in an issue of Index on Censorship entitled “Tigers and Dragons”. “To acknowledge that today’s China is an empire of relatively recent date is to question the lie at the heart of the official narrative […] a narrative designed to bolster two propositions: that China has always been as China is now, and that China is unique to itself and must be allowed to set its own standards without regard for dissenting international or domestic opinion.”

If you’re one of China’s 100 million-strong army of migrant workers, there’s plenty of cause for dissent, as Jasper Becker reveals: 72-hour working weeks, starting at 60 dollars a month; 50 per cent of workers on the minimum wage and 30 per cent below it; 120 000 deaths and 728 000 injuries a year, with only one in five workers insured and no trade union protection. “China’s development strategy, its high economic growth rates, and the future evolution of its political system, hinge on the migrant worker issue and on raising the status of the billion-strong peasant underclass. This requires social change on a vast scale.”

Also vast will be the surplus of men in China and India by 2030: roughly 20 per cent. According to Isabelle Attané, selective abortion is leading to a female birth rate way under natural norms. Unequal treatment, poor sanitary conditions, and inferior social status further increase the demographic imbalance. “Will the scarcity of women improve their situation? There’s no sign of it. In China and India, women are being merchandised, turned into consumer goods. Far from increasing their symbolic value, and therefore the way they are perceived, economic liberalization and missing women seem to have exacerbated the situation and made them chattels.”

Also to look out for: Julian Petley on PC bashing in the British press and how it has aided the rise of the British National Party.

The full table of contents of Index on Censorship 4/2006.

Glänta 4/2006

More than a decade has passed since the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was installed. An initiative of Nelson Mandela, it has become an international model and similar processes have taken or are taking place in over 20 countries around the world.

But how sustainable is a reconciliation that takes place solely between men? In an elucidating and uncompromising article in Glänta‘s new issue on truth and reconciliation, feminist philosopher Louise du Toit shows how the exclusion of female rape victims from the work of the truth commission has resulted in the exclusion of women in the new political landscape.

In Bosnia, there has been no truth and reconciliation commission. Nor in any other of the former Yugoslavian countries. There may be peace, writes Johanna Mannergren Selimovic, but a new battle has just begun. It is a battle about history, about who will be able to tell the grand narrative of the war, and thus shape the future. One of the strongest weapons seems to be the cult of the victim: it is a fight about who is the loser, rather than the winner.

This issue of Glänta is bulging with noteworthy articles. In a compelling mixture of essay and reportage, Anders Johansson visits Uchuraccay (Peru) in the vain hope of understanding the logic of conflict and reconciliation. And sociologist Alejandro Cervantes-Carson interviews “the embodiment of political evil”, former Mexican President Luis Echeverría.

Art and politics: Internationally acclaimed artist Alfredo Jaar contributes with a project made especially for the magazine: “Infinite Cell”. Following this series of photographs of seemingly endless rows of terrifyingly clean and cold prison bars, he writes:

How far the new fascism expands will depend on how committed we are to defeating it, with culture. With artifacts. Productions. Writings. Strategies. Programs. I am not advocating for the ‘art world’ to correct the imbalances of the ‘real world’, but I would like to suggest that every effort be made not to replicate so perfectly those imbalances.

The full table of contents of Mittelweg 36 6/2006.

Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 1/2007

The EU’s new year’s resolution could be to learn from 2006 and find a way to get along with Russia. Last year’s conflict with Gazprom not only revealed dissonances in energy politics but summed up the difficulties in the relationship between the EU and Russia as a whole, says Nina Baschkatow. Due to historical prejudices and a lack of expertise on both sides, serious attempts at cooperation have until now been doomed to fail. But they must be established in the future:

“The world of tomorrow will be dominated by China and the US. If Europe really wants to take its desired position in this constellation, there is no avoiding a constructive alliance with Russia.”

Mexican melancholy: Developments in Mexico don’t seem to be improvements, says journalist Juan Villoro. In December 2006, Felipe Calderón was sworn in as the new conservative president. But with accusations of electoral fraud hanging over him, Calderón is the least-supported president in the country’s history. Having fought a “civil war of discourse”, Mexican society is more polarized than ever before.

“Statistics say that 40 Million Mexicans live in poverty. At the same time, there are 14 million people who belong to the strongest economic category, a market as large as Sweden. Can we imagine a society that is a combination of Sweden and Pakistan, without IKEA for the tiny middle class?”

Rwanda: Rwanda broke diplomatic relations with France in response to the publication of a report on Hutu President Habyarimana’s plane crash in 1994 and the Tutsi massacre that followed. Accusing today’s Tutsi President Kagame of responsibility for the assassination of Habyarimana, the report implies that Kagame paid the price of the genocide to attain power. “Instead of working with the facts, Bruguière [the lawyer who wrote the report] gets into deeply political matters”, writes Colette Braeckman, doubting that in this case the separation of politics and justice has been observed.

The full table of contents of Le Monde diplomatique (Berlin) 1/2007.

The New Presence 1/2007

In the cover story of the latest The New Presence, Brooke Skinner and Rosemary B. Bryant explain the Czech Republic’s transition “From communism to consumerism”: “For decades, goods were basic – today, the choices are limitless. Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident in the Czech Republic than in the rise of so-called ‘hypermarkets’ – stores so huge offering prices so low that many Czechs view them as a manifestation of what could be described as the ultimate Czech dream: ‘something for nothing’.”

International supermarket chains such as Tesco and Carrefour were quick to enter the Czech Republic after the fall of the Iron Curtain, where newly permitted private ownership and an ultra-deregulation mindset allowed for mass expansion. “This ultimately led to Prague – and many other Czech cities – becoming ringed by huge box structures (not super, but hypermarkets).” Although in Britain and other Western countries, organizations protest the threat that these chains pose to local businesses and small-town aesthetics, “For Czechs, hypermarkets still represent the novelty of Western consumerism, with families often going on ‘day trips’ to shopping centres, just to revel in the vast assortment of goods.”

Sport in the twenty-first century: In a section on the sociological side of sport, Jan Siman writes about hooliganism; Irena Slepickova looks at the impact of money, education, and culture on people’s sporting preferences; and Petr Feldstein mourns the rise of doping and astronomically high salaries.

The full table of contents of The New Presence 1/2007.

Akadeemia 1/2007

“Development of research is realistic only in a knowledge-based society that places the greatest value on humans as doers and creators”, writes Kiira Subi in the latest issue of Estonian journal Akadeemia. She looks at two ways of financing research: government support of institutions and project-based funding.

The former, argues Subi, allows researchers to focus “on upgrading their knowledge and qualifications in order to maximize results and compete for research posts”. The latter allows for no integrated system of research and forces researchers to be money-oriented: “Their work is not based on the inner logic of research but on the conditions of financing, because the more money they manage to get for their research project, the greater their income can be.”

Estonian newspapers then and now: In a detailed survey of three Estonian dailies, Roosmarii Kurvits compares the appearance and content of papers during and after Soviet times. She characterizes the first half of the 1990s as “a time of confusion and freedom”, where experimentation was the name of the game. After 1995, regulation and rationalization created an overall trend of Westernization and modernization, with more prominent headlines, regulated text fonts and sizes, and the use of larger, more prominent pictures.

The full table of contents of Akadeemia 1/2007.

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Published 23 January 2007

Original in English
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