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Religious intellectuals in Iran are striving to redefine the relationship between reason and revelation, and, despite Pope Benedict’s belief to the contrary, consider Islam to consist precisely of multiple interpretations, writes Abdolkarim Soroush. Reason’s greatest rival is not religion, then, but revolution. Speaking from personal experience of Iran’s Cultural Revolution, which he supported, Soroush warns: “The first resource that is squandered in a revolution is rationality and the last thing that returns home is rationality. If it ever returns.”

Against love

Seeking the literary traces of the Natascha Kampusch affair

In August 2006, the international media went into a feeding frenzy about the story of Natascha Kampusch, who escaped after eight-and-a-half years’ captivity in a tiny room in a suburb outside Vienna. The horrific nature of the crime aside, what was it about the story that exerted such fascination? In a searing critique of social mores, Rainer Just argues that the Kampusch case offered, without it ever being noticed, a distorted re-encounter with a deeply familiar emotional programme: romantic love. “The mass public and its media were able to understand the Kampusch case only as a sensational crime, as a criminal incident, but not as a case of a ubiquitous, socially organized madness.”

Anatomy of a crisis

The referendum and the dilemmas of the enlarged EU

The rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005 evoked fears of dilution and fragmentation of the EU as a result of increasing decentralisation. In the worst-case scenario, Europe would be divided and increasingly unstable, ruled by a wide range of ad hoc coalitions but devoid of any real plan. A more reassuring view holds that the EU has finally got rid of the myth of political union, the age-old chimera for European federalists. Jacques Rupnik analyses the underlying factors and possible consequences of the crisis of the European project.

A "pause for thought" without the thought?

Possible ways to talk about the future of the EU today

After the rejection of the EU constitution in the French and Dutch referenda, Europe’s elites launched a one-year “pause for thought” in the ratification process. A summit in June 2006 brought an extension of the adjournment. The time could be put to good use, writes political scientist Jan-Werner Müller. Theoretically speaking, there are three Euro-visions currently competing; a discussion of their pros and cons would be well worth Europeans’ while.

The scream of geometry

(modified excerpts)

“How can these cities, villages, and their people exist? How can they stand there selling tomatoes and speaking their language and drying their laundry without considering the infinite number of other places where someone else is standing, selling tomatoes or potatoes and speaking their language and drying laundry?” In Andrzej Tichy’s prose fragments everything is juxtaposed. But instead of being relativized, the specificity of these people, places, and experiences slowly emerges.

The Armenian genocide: Issues of responsibility and democracy

An interview with Susan Neiman and Andreas Huyssen

The conference “Ottoman Armenians during the decline of the empire: Issues of scientific responsibility and democracy”, held at Istanbul Bilgi University in 2005, marked the beginning of a fierce public debate on the “Armenian issue” in Turkey. Attempts to hold the conference at Bosphorous University were twice blocked by the Turkish government, and in a speech given to the members of the parliament before the conference, the Turkish minister of justice accused the conference organizers and participants of treason. The “Armenian issue” then emerged “full-blown onto the public sphere”.

The moral repugnance felt by the West towards the Lukashenko regime in Belarus is not matched by policy ideas. Civil society in the West should stop tolerating cynical realpolitik and put pressure on their governments to blacklist offending officials, says Ukrainian analyst Mykola Riabchuk. As the example of Yugoslavia shows, more sticks for the government and more carrots for the nascent civil society could well bring about positive results.

The art of not becoming accustomed to anything

Precarious employment in flexible capitalism

Interns, temporary agency workers, people on job creation schemes, and pseudo-freelances make up the vast reserve army of workers in precarious employment. For the majority, standards such as productivity or flexibility have become second nature. In this respect, they are the avant-garde of post-Fordism, constantly opening up new avenues of self-exploitation.

In a critique of Hernando de Soto’s bestselling The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, Staffan Granér finds de Soto’s methods unreliable and his theories over-simplified. De Soto claims that if “dead capital” were legalized, it would elevate the poor out of poverty. In reality, de Soto’s formalization of the economy aims to protect rights of ownership and ease the way for free market transactions, not to create regulations and a social safety net. “By maintaining that poverty can be solved simply by giving all of the poor formal rights of ownership”, says Granér, “de Soto pulls a mystifying veil over what are in fact real social discrepancies.”

“Volk”, latest album from the Slovenian band Laibach, subjects national anthems from all over the world to blatant manipulation and merciless interrogation. Le Monde Diplomatique (Norway) asks whether Laibach’s aesthetic is an expression of neo-fascism or a critique of the same.

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