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How does the European Union handle the relationships between confessional faiths and the unified body that it is striving to bring about? Being inherently pluralistic, it is incumbent upon the EU to develop a new form of secularisation.

Impoverished German children dream of the USA; one Greek person in four is behind with their most basic bills; sixty per cent of the poor in Romania have outdoor toilets. Cracks are appearing in Europe’s beloved image of itself as the egalitarian alternative to the United States, writes Per Wirtén.

Radical demophilia

Reflections on Bulgarian populism

The first victory of populism in Bulgaria, argues Svetoslav Malinov, was the rejection of the conservative constitution by liberals shortly after independence in 1879. In the contemporary period, it has been the rhetoric of former tsar Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who became Bulgarian prime minister in 2001, that set the precedent for the rightwing populism currently purveyed by Volen Siderov, leader of the Ataka party. Despite Siderov, xenophobia is not a dominant feature of Bulgarian populism. Instead, populism in Bulgaria feeds off two phenomena: “a pure hatred of political parties” and the constant emphasis in the public discourse on an alleged contrast between ordinary people and the political elite. This goes so far as to make the elite subservient to the people, an attitude for which Malinov coins the term “radical demophilia”.

When “stand-up philosopher” Slavoj Zizek calls for “repeating Lenin” or praises Robespierre’s defence of terror, some observers might be tempted to ask whether his entire intellectual oeuvre is not just some kind of act. No, says John Clark. “It’s not just a pose; it’s a position.”

What makes a biopolitical space?

A discussion with Toni Negri

Toni Negri discusses the significance of urban space for new forms of opposition. The city, he says, is where the “political diagonal” intersects the “biopolitical diagram” – where people’s relation to power is most pronounced. Negri’s interlocutors are involved in exploring “soft” forms of activism, urban projects that create collectivities on micro, neighbourhood levels. Negri is critical of “soft” forms, however, preferring rupture and revolution over accumulation and gradual change.

David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries have attracted massive audiences around the world, but have sometimes failed to endear themselves to academics. Laurie Taylor turns the microscope on to the man who’s brought us life on earth, in the freezer, under the oceans, and in the undergrowth.

Press and publishing concentration in France is extraordinarily high. Allegedly, French ownership sees off foreign competition; in fact, the owning corporations are international. Media monopolization is not only a French issue, however: throughout Europe and the US, profitability has become the bottom line. So why is there barely any protest from within the sector itself?

Imre Kertész's heart of stone

A detective story

This month sees the English publication of Imre Kértesz’s little-known novella “Detective Story”. Kértesz’s translator Tim Wilkinson introduces the work and, placing it in the context of Kértesz’s oeuvre, embarks on some detective work of his own.

Cover for: What is postcolonial thinking?

What is postcolonial thinking?

An interview with Achille Mbembe

The faults in Europe’s universalism, especially when confronting its colonial history, have nurtured a variety of critical perspectives in the West. Talking to French magazine Esprit, theorist Achille Mbembe says that postcolonial thinking looks so original because it developed in a transnational, eclectic vein from the very start. This enabled it to combine the anti-imperialist tradition with the fledgling subaltern studies and a specific take on globalization, he says.

Now that “normalization” has come to seem a fact in post-communist eastern Europe, it might be asked why the word “normal” was so close to people’s hearts. How does its meaning in the context of transition compare to western usages of the word? A Begriffsgeshichte of the concept of “normality” reveals meanings that are multiple, historically changeable, contradictory, even oxymoronic.

Each nation establishes its borders, sometimes defines itself, certainly organises itself, and always affirms itself around its language, says Marc Hatzfeld. The language is then guarded by men of letters, by strict rules, not allowing for variety of expression. Against this backdrop, immigrants from ever more distant shores have arrived in France, bringing with them a different style of expression and another, more fluid, concept of language.

Superlocal identities

The European in the youth experience

European youth culture no longer blindly follows the US template: rappers in Europe voice local concerns while simultaneously connecting to global trends. Meanwhile, two-way interests have developed between commercial brands and artists, leaving politics and the mainstream media, after years of indifference, with a lot of catching up to do. Youth culture contains the germ of the European ideal, writes Tommi Laitio: but more needs to be done at the public level to cultivate the conditions in which it can thrive.

Abnormals of all nations, unite!

On the exceptionality of political liberty

Can a democratic constitution be called “normal”, something we can expect? Historically, an exemplary constitution has been the exception to the rule: according to political philosophers from the classical period to the nineteenth century, “Imitating or perpetuating this constitution requires exceptional strength, skill, and determination.” Today, writes Catalin Avramescu, what is worrying is not so much the number of failed democracies as the extensive misuse of democratic institutions, symbols, and practices.

The question of national scientific languages, though one of many issues touching on the relationship of the national and the global, is especially sensitive in the Slovenian context. Whether or not Slovene scientists chose to publish in Slovene is more a matter of values than external compulsion, writes Emica Antoni.

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