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Just as the demise of the political left forces us to rethink what is at stake in politics, and how we might seek to shape the future, the transformation of religious thinking raises important questions about the meaning of truth and morality, the nature of authority, and indeed what it means to be human.
Williams’ critique of cultural pessimism (from Culture & Technology, written in 1983) remains relevant given the still current trend to disavow the future and its alternative potential, and to categorise new technologies alternately as both determinants of social change and threats to established artistic, now ‘classicalised’, forms.
The real disappointment for this reader is not the language, but the fact that Laclau rejects the possibility of formulating the Enlightenment notion of a totalising universal identity, and with it washes down the drain any project of uniting the world under a single banner of rationality.
It is always tempting to imagine Jean Baudrillard preparing to write a book by sharpening an axe, swinging it into his computer monitor, then gluing the shattered pieces to a celluloid film reel, projecting it to a crowded room full of admirers and absolutely forbidding them to take it seriously.
There is no consistent argument in any article, let alone any broader theme developed across the collection as a whole. Instead, it is a jumble of categories and neologisms (‘globalitarian’) with no analytical heft, mixed in with portentous quasi-mystical rambling about technology, and embarrassingly absurd predictions about the outcome of the war and its impact on international politics.
Jacques Rancière, one of the post-Althusserian generation of French philosophers, wrote the four essays that make up this collection at the end of the Cold War (1988-1990). They are: ‘The End of Politics or The Realist Utopia’, ‘The Uses of Democracy’, ‘The Community of Equals’ and ‘Democracy Corrected’. Although each of the essays stands alone, many of the themes and arguments overlap.
The pathology in question, it seems, is the desire of the state to regulate psychotherapy - to intervene in that intimate relationship between therapist and what is called, for want of a better word, ‘client’. Here is Miller’s reply on behalf of all psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in France.
Tilly shows that it is a mistake to counterpose ‘the real reason’ for anything to a false ‘story’. The best explanation is not one that is plucked from the ether of objectivity, unsullied by human hands, but one that resonates with specific human concerns.
It seems Lord Saatchi either doesn’t understand irony or he doesn’t understand conservatism: of course Marx championed self-realisation; but upholding self-realisation seems a strikingly progressive ideal for a ‘conservative’.
Bowen comes to the conclusion that, in passing legislation on this issue, the political elites were perpetuating a French tradition from the time of Rousseau; that ‘political thinkers have long conceived of laws to teach the people moral lessons’.