Telos 179 (Summer 2017): A New Regime?

Telos 179 (Summer 2017) is now available for purchase in our store.

When the historian Ken Burns spoke at the Stanford University commencement last June, he delivered an exceptionally political address, including an attack on what he labeled the “Vichy Republicans.” Those Republican leaders who had not distanced themselves from candidate Trump, so Burns, were the equivalent of the Vichy French who collaborated with Hitler. That master metaphor, comparing 2016 to 1933, has continued into the new administration, with the anti-Trump camp labeling itself as “the resistance.” Despite Burns’s historiographical authority, one might question the validity of the underlying equation. No doubt the policies of the Trump administration are more conservative than those of Obama—hardly surprising—but the paradigms of the totalitarianism of the twentieth century are not necessarily the most adequate theoretical tools to analyze early twenty-first-century political phenomena. As emotionally satisfying as it may be for some to try to relive battles of earlier decades, Critical Theory ought to try to do better. We may very well be entering a different political era, a new regime, and not only in the United States. Can we describe it more effectively?

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Call for Papers: The 2018 Telos Conference in New York

Constitutional Theory as Cultural Problem:
Global Perspectives
January 19–21, 2018
New York, NY

The International Center for Critical Theory and the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute will jointly host a conference entitled “Constitutional Theory as Cultural Problem: Global Perspectives,” to be held at New York University, New York, from January 19–21, 2018.

The challenges faced by the liberal democratic model in the 21st century have made constitutional theory into an urgent topic of global concern. Both the second Iraq War and the revolutions of the Arab Spring frustrated hopes of an easy trajectory toward liberal democratic constitutional orders. If there was the hope that liberation would mean the establishment of liberal democracy, the result has been that emancipation from tyranny does not naturally lead in a particular political direction. Such a conclusion presents fundamental problems for a constitutional theory that is built around a liberal democratic model.

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Culture and Values in Schmitt’s Decisionism

David Pan’s “Carl Schmitt on Culture and Violence in the Political Decision” aims at challenging the widespread view that Carl Schmitt’s decisionism is motivated by violence and pure power. Pan presents his readers to “another Schmitt” that has escaped the attention of many commentators, including Müller, Žižek, McCormick, and Agamben. For Pan, Schmitt’s decision must not be separated from spiritual ideals and cultural values.

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Johann Herder, Early Nineteenth-century Romanticism, and the Common Roots of Multiculturalism and Right-wing Populism

In today’s public life, marked by large-scale migration, welfare states under pressure, and a soaring right-wing scene, “multiculturalism” and “right-wing populism” remain at the center of political debate. It is assumed, moreover, that they stand in sharp opposition to one another. On the one hand, multiculturalism is widely acclaimed for being progressive, radical, and safely leftist. It is seen as a vital precondition for a modern society: tolerant, humble, and anti-racist. Anyone who opposes multiculturalism, then, will be deemed at best a conservative or reactionary—if not outright racist, xenophobe, nationalist, or fascist. On the other hand, we have right-wing populism. Due to its allegiance with racism, virulent nationalism, and fascism, right-wing populism has a dubious reputation. Multiculturalism, as it seems, is anything that right-wing populism is not.

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Security, Secrecy, and the Liberal Imaginary

Western societies increasingly imagine, plan, and even rehearse their own destruction. This cultural habit reflects a growing contradiction in democracy. On the one hand, liberal societies laud the ideals of participatory democracy, free speech, individual liberty, and governmental transparency. On the other, they grow ever more committed to the biopolitical regulation of life, the mitigation of threats to public health and safety, and the restriction of liberties as a way of securing liberty itself. How do we understand the inexorable growth of a security paradigm in liberal democracies? The answer lies partly in the cultural imaginary that shapes public contemplation of citizenship, liberty, and security. This imaginary reflects both the growing influence of biopolitics and the legacy the Cold War covert action. Paradoxically, the Cold War state’s growing commitment to covert action was itself increasingly public; as a result, public culture has became obsessed with, and enamored of, covert affairs. Despite state secrecy, most citizens believe they know the “kinds of things” their government is doing in secret—yet they cannot know in detail, and they receive most of their knowledge in the form of melodramatic fiction. The result is a growing irrationality in the democratic public sphere.

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Adrian Pabst on the Upcoming Telos Conference in L’Aquila, Italy: The Idea of Europe

At this year’s Telos Conference in New York City, Telos Associate Editor Adrian Pabst outlined the theme of the upcoming Telos in Europe Conference, which will be held on September 5–8, in L’Aquila, Italy. This conference will focus on “The Idea of Europe,” and will offer speakers and attendees an opportunity to discuss Europe’s current crisis of identity. For complete details about the conference, as well as the full call for papers, please visit the conference page on the Telos Paul Piccone Institute website, located here.

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