A Pictorial Theory of the State

This is the first of what will be a series of articles about the State. I feel it is a concept which is far too phenomenal to be understood by theory alone, as academia attempts. Thus I have utilised these goofy cartoons to help us understand clearly just how we experience the state in capitalist society. 

Most of us see the state as something like this.

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Continue reading “A Pictorial Theory of the State”

On Referendums, Broken Dreams and Political Realities

I wrote this just prior to Greece’s 2015 referendum upon the budget forced on them by the European Union, where it was overwhelmingly defeated with an emphatic ‘Oxi’ vote. While I could not predict just how emphatic the anti-austerity victory would be, nor the immense betrayal of the people by Syriza leadership (with all the caveats that entails), my point was to argue that referendums are not a signal of democracy’s strength but rather its weakness. The fact it had come to a referendum at all was a sign of how increasingly violent European politics had become. This is an argument which has been only gained currency since.

While Greece’s impending Sunday referendum on a specific set of austerity proposals is being heralded by some as a victory for democracy, it represents nothing less than a defeat for the prospects of a democratic and egalitarian Europe. Far from an active engagement in civic life, a referendum is a violence committed against a people by dividing them into two separate camps in which they are forced to become openly hostile political agents. Not political in the sense of attempting to change and shape the world around them as independent rational actors; not even social in the sense of being able to effectively structure their socioeconomic relations with one another; rather, a referendum pits the population into opposite sides, destined to clash with one another: yes vs. no. Continue reading “On Referendums, Broken Dreams and Political Realities”

Post-Europe: Lenin’s Abyss

I think I should explicitly present what I had rendered only implicit in my last post.

One thing that readily emerges from this pan-European existential crisis relating to the EU (far before Brexit even) is just how small Europe appears today. While in its economic and military might are still significant in real terms, while it still carries part of the banner of universalism – we still think of Europeans as the most people-like people – it is, to a degree, diminished in the face of a world which has learnt to live without Europe. Post-GFC, post Asian Financial Crisis and particularly in climate negotiations, Asian, African and American nations are realising that they have to conceive of a world without waiting for Europe to come to the table.

This is a rather uncomfortable truth, mainly because it is chiefly presented to us by economic elites, power-hungry politicians speaking of ‘Asian centuries’ and autocratic sycophants in newspapers columns. There is no better figure than The New York Times’ most buffoonish of columnists, Thomas Friedman, who best represents this mantra that ‘The World is Flat’ while simultaneously justifying American imperialism globally. Many cultural critics and left-of-centre commentators feel uneasy with this ready acquiescence to the rising power of particularly Asian nations for very real concerns about the nature in which these societies have developed: embracing liberal economic reforms, promoting nationalist culture and often emboldening authoritarian state structures. To extrapolate further, with the increasing cultural competition from non-Western sources – particularly the stratospheric rise of Korean culture within the core of Western metropoles – it is all too easy for a sympathetic Western critic to argue that Asian capitalism has taken the worst aspects of Western consumerist culture without the egalitarian promises of liberal democracy and social democracy which were necessary for it to thrive. Continue reading “Post-Europe: Lenin’s Abyss”

Hegel in an Age Beyond Europe

I approach philosophy from a different angle than most. The fact that I (partially) pursued it in a Masters as an addition to my existing analytical skills developed through social sciences (and really without any prior engagement in it) means that I always had certain preconceptions in my approach to philosophy which separated me from my peers – although they themselves of course had their own different backgrounds. Nobody is that special.

It took me a long time to rid myself of the liberal-institutionalist-idealist background which forms the major basis of political economy and particularly government/political science. The general snarkiness towards Marxist practice and governments (if not theory), combined with a eulogising of institutional reformism (if only Post-Keynesians ran the world) meant that though my instincts and political prejudices were well developed, my general analytical skills were in some sense rather lacking. When in World Politics class the lecturer asserted that at one point or another we would have to put ourselves in the box of Realist, Liberal or Marxist, I found myself consistently unable to do so. Continue reading “Hegel in an Age Beyond Europe”