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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.

“Ethics in Derrida requires an affirmation of friendship and hospitality on the basis that I always have something outside myself inside myself, so affirmation of self requires affirmation of others. Ethics cannot be absolutist.” Barry Stocker, author of a new reader on Derrida, discusses Derrida’s ethical philosophy and its indebtedness to Kierkegaard, Levinas, and J. L. Austin.

A nation like any other

Western Europe holds Israel to impossible standards

Since the conflict with Lebanon, there has been a sense among Western intellectuals that Israel has crossed some moral boundary line. But western European rhetoric holds Israel to impossible standards of perfection. Israel is behaving no better or worse than its neighbours in the Middle East, writes George Blecher.

Since the Kaczynski brothers’ political ascendancy at the head of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), there has been a string of developments that have alarmed Poland’s EU fellow-members: the election of a civil rights spokesperson who openly advocates the death penalty; plans to close down the body that monitors the independence of the media; a law drafted that would abolish the autonomy of the civil service, to name but a few. To understand how this situation arose, one needs to look more closely at the period of change in Poland since 1989. The “radical” government stems from that section of the Solidarity movement opposed to the route transformation took; for the radicals, the reckoning with the ancien regime has been insufficient, leading to a system they view as a pathological symbiosis of communism and capitalism, democracy and a post-communist mafia. The cultural traditionalism of the PiS, writes Smolar, has landed on fertile ground in a contemporary Poland suffering from social alienation, distrust in democratic institutions, high unemployment, and growing income discrepancies.

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