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The Racist Albatross

Social Science, Jörg Haider and Widerstand

Racism is an inescapable part of our history, of our present and of ourselves. Only when we realise this can we also understand the role of racism in the world-system, and only then will we be able to interpret the successes of the populists and the extreme right ­ as well as the resistance, the Widerstand, that these successes have triggered. The social sciences have so far not contributed to this interpretational effort. Immanuel Wallerstein urges us to use the fact that we are living in an age of transition to create a social science that is capable of analysing the phenomena of racism. This is a moral and intellectual responsibility.

religion god light atheism

Ernest Gellner looks for the cause of some surprising developments in the twentieth century: the rising strength of Islam (in particular, Muslim fundamentalism); the upsurge in nationalism; and the unexpected and total collapse of Marxism. Behind both Muslim fundamentalism and nationalism, Gellner sees a break from local communities and hierarchies. And the main fault in Marxism, says Gellner, was the abolition of the profane. The big success stories today, he writes, “are the plural, liberal societies – what I call the unholy alliance of consumerist unbelievers.”

The reactions to the Austrian conservatives joining forces with the FPÖ can be attributed to the established political parties¹ need for a common enemy. In the “post-political era” the choice between Left and Right has lost its meaning, says Slavoj Zizek. The return of the extreme Right is the price that the “Third Way” of social democracy is paying for its renunciation of any radical political project.

In a fascinating addendum to Native Son (1940), the novelist Richard Wright talked about “the deep fun” of writing the book, and his sense that the nightmarish but weirdly comic saga of an illiterate black killing an upper-class white was universal.

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