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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.

Cover for: Philosophy and public life

Philosophy and public life

Interview with Martha Nussbaum

Political philosopher Martha Nussbaum discusses philosophy’s capacity to influence public life; the future of political liberalism and the role of the state; and her critique of radical feminist thinkers including Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

Media theorist and Internet activist Geert Lovink formulates a theory of weblogs that goes beyond the usual rhetoric of citizens’ journalism. Blogs lead to decay, he writes. What’s declining is the “Belief in the Message”. Instead of presenting blog entries as mere self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artefacts that remotely dismantle the broadcast model.

Current citizenship laws in the European Union vary dramatically. The tension between freedom of movement and national self-determination of citizenship within the EU has the potential to create serious conflicts in the future, writes Rainer Bauböck. Taking European citizenship seriously means a shared understanding of who the future citizens of Europe are to be.

Simulated cities, sedated living

The shopping mall as paradigmatic site of lifestyle capitalism

Shopping malls simulate the buzz of city centres and create an atmosphere appropriate for consuming. Everything is planned in advance and controlled; appropriation or adaptation of the space by passers-by is both impossible and forbidden. This rebounds on city centres: prettified, scrubbed, and tidied, they increasingly adopt the mall aesthetic. And in a final twist, malls have begun building reconstructions of city streets.

1956 was the victory of republicanism over tyranny, but also the mortal defeat of democracy, the memory of which has been repressed as much in Hungary as anywhere else. Now the tradition of revolution is dead, writes Péter Nádas, only conformity and opportunism are left: the leading role belongs to opportunists and the court poets of conformism.

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