Abstracts Esprit 11/2005

David A. Westbrook
A reassuring America: When Bernard-Henri Lévy revisits De Tocqueville

Following the footsteps of the famous author of Democracy in America, Lévy has just published in an American periodical a string of features to be turned into a book on today’s America. However, his determination to rebut France’s clichéd views of the US misfires, as an American reader finds that the most uncomfortable issues are overlooked.

Marie Mendras
Russia’s “Putinkin” village or the perils of an authoritarian regime

Just as “Potemkin villages” painted eighteenth-century Russia’s drab countryside with the bright colours of prosperity, Putin’s Russia is keen to demonstrate an appearance of practical democracy against a background of mounting authoritarianism. The Kremlin seeks the West’s endorsement of its “Russian-style” democracy while taking advantage of the leeway derived from rising oil prices.

Ioulia Mostova
Does Ukraine remain an exception to democracy? An interview

One year after the Orange Revolutio” and one month after the wholesale dismissal of the government emanating from it, has president Yushchenko wasted the country’s chances? Whereas Ukrainian society has demonstrated a deep sense of democratic values, the fact that its aspirations are not being filtered into political power may have a negative impact in a region where existing governments show scant respect for free polls.

Laurent Jullier
Film critics between rationality and je-ne-sais-quoi

What with controversies between filmmakers and critics over the legitimacy of criticism, parochial squabbles between critics and a nonplussed public who go by word of mouth, one ends up wondering whether film criticism should be left to the vagaries of mood, snobbishness, or sheer opinion – or whether it can be founded on a number of rigorous standards.

Jacques Donzelot
Michel Foucault’s understanding of liberal politics

In his lectures at the Collège de France between 1977 and 1979, Michel Foucault focused on the notion of “governmentality”. Though consistent with his previous work and his political militancy at the time, his interest in this notion only lasted for so long. Why did he not pursue this line of thought? What can we make today of his insights into the links between economics, liberalism, and political power?

Jacques Donzelot & Colin Gordon
How are liberal societies to be governed? The Foucault effect in the Anglo-Saxon world. A discussion

Michel Foucault’s reception in the Anglo-Saxon world has given rise to a flourishing new line of scholarship that focuses on modes of government, especially in liberal societies. Why did this current fail to develop in France? What does it contribute to our understanding of the way power is being exercised today?

Renaud Epstein
Governing from afar. When the State withdraws from the territory

Urban policies are a good guide to the various ways in which over time the State has intervened across a given territory and, therefore, in the relationship between central and local government. The State has moved away from a centralized model to government through negotiation and is now heading towards novel procedures of “government from afar”.

Jean-Joseph Goux
Historical progress, the market economy, and globalization

Revisiting Turgot, the French eighteenth-century economist, one comes across one of the earlier formulations of the philosophical notion of historical progress. The notion is closely linked to the process of globalization: as a degree of unity is emerging across the world, we can evolve the first-ever consistent view of historical progress. In this perspective, the current paradox, with early optimism giving way to anxiety, looks all the more spectacular.

Abdesselam Cheddadi
Ibn Khaldun: An appraisal. An interview

This modern-day translator expands on the main currents behind Ibn Khaldun’s work and shows how it can help us understand the contemporary Muslim world, particularly how power works, the role of the polity, and the relationship between religion and politics.

Gabriel Martinez-Gros
What to do with Ibn Khaldun?

Khaldun’s early reception in France took place against the background of colonization, which favoured a number of misunderstandings, the main one being an exclusive focus on the examples supporting his theory of history. The stress here was laid on the descriptions of various tribes rather than on the way in which power structures were built.

Abdesselam Cheddadi
The question of tolerance in Islamic societies

Tolerance was not unknown under classical Islamism, but then only in a restricted form which modern times could only expose in a dramatic way. Therefore, this is a question which today’s Muslim societies must consider afresh, while at the same time wondering why, compared to Western societies, they find themselves mired in indecision, dependence, and resentment.

Published 10 November 2005
Original in French

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