Brexit and Deep Structures in Anglo-American Politics

Political analysts have a tendency to consider political events within a relatively short time frame. This tendency has become worse over time as the study of political history has declined, and the historical memory of many analysts is often quite short. Despite this, the case for looking at the politics of a country or civilization in terms of its longue durée is quite compelling, as there can be deep structures underlying politics that are not apparent until they are investigated. Brexit provides a good example. For many people Brexit is viewed in terms of the last twenty-five years and the impact that globalization has had on Britain, as if such things have only taken place in recent times. There are deep structures in the politics of any country that shape its political culture, and hence its response to changing circumstances.

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The Production of the Subject in Late Benjamin

This article places Benjamin’s late work in dialogue with recent attempts in media theory and structuralism to think the subject and historical contingency together. It argues their apparent incompatibility is reflected in Benjamin’s writing in the form of a recurrent contradiction between historical materialism and transhistorical theology. Through a reconstruction of the theorist’s historicization of an earlier theological theory of the fall of language in his Marxian-inflected work of the 1930’s, it claims that Benjamin initiates a historicist reconceptualization of the impasse of the Kantian subject onto being as the product of a particular field of mediation arising with mass modernity. Yet following the rejection of his nascent version of the Arcades Project by Adorno and the Marxist Institute for Social Research in 1938, theology returns as an attempt to reconceive of an aesthetic-formal break with this impasse. Benjamin’s late theorization of his materialist historiography thus represents a dialectical attempt to think materialism and theology, history and being together, with the aim of mediating not only distraction, but a revolutionary destruction of the subject and the historical order producing it.

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The Historiography of America’s Founding: Lockean Liberalism versus Republicanism

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Michael Millerman looks at Luigi Marco Bassani’s “The Bankruptcy of the Republican School,” from Telos 124 (Summer 2002).

Luigi Marco Bassani’s essay “The Bankruptcy of the Republican School” (2002) consists of an overview of the conflict in American historiography between two schools of thought. The first—Lockean liberalism—insists that America was founded on principles that recognize an abstract, natural right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of one’s private happiness. These natural rights are liberties that define a private sphere, to be protected from government interference. By contrast, the second school proclaims that not Lockean liberalism, but rather republicanism informed the Founders’ vision of what America is and should be. Republicanism elevates such notions as “the common good” and “the public sphere” above those of “individual liberties” and “private happiness.” Indeed, it can justify infringing on the latter for the sake of the former. Hence, it is in conflict with Lockean liberalism.

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