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?

Continue reading →

The Incongruities of Asymmetric War

Assessing asymmetric wars in the abstract is a problematic task, even though most are “small wars” fought by “big nations.” Armed conflicts with these characteristics brim with persistent, undeclared, and low-intensity violence. It rarely is extinguished, and the lingering injuries sustain even more violence on the same scale. Many of these small wars began in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or the Middle East during, or not long after, World War II. Armed resistance there never completely ended; instead it intensified with decolonization and/or postcolonial state failure. Now virtually institutionalized in many violent wild zones around the world, low-intensity wars also flare up as asymmetric conflicts between rich countries and poor peoples, Westernized nations and anti-Western movements, liberal democratic states and illiberal theocratic insurgents after 1989.

Continue reading →

Now Available! Ellen Hinsey's Mastering the Past

New from Telos Press: Ellen Hinsey’s Mastering the Past: Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism. Order your copy in our online store, and save 20% on the list price by using the coupon code BOOKS20 during the checkout process.

Over the last decade Ellen Hinsey has traveled across Central and Eastern Europe researching a critical shift in the European political landscape: the rise of illiberalism. A quarter of a century after the changes of 1989—and as former Soviet sphere societies come to terms with their histories—the specters of populism, nationalism, extreme-right parties, and authoritarian rule have returned in force. Through a series of eyewitness reports, Mastering the Past offers an insider’s view of key political events, including the 2012 Russian elections, the Polish presidential plane crash in Smolensk, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s vision for a new Hungary. Hinsey explores the darkening hour of European politics with an incisive mind and an eye for detail, recording the urgent danger that illiberalism represents for the new century.

Continue reading →

Now Available for Pre-order: Ellen Hinsey’s Mastering the Past

Mastering the Past:
Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism
by Ellen Hinsey

Over the last decade Ellen Hinsey has traveled across Central and Eastern Europe researching a critical shift in the European political landscape: the rise of illiberalism. A quarter of a century after the changes of 1989—and as former Soviet sphere societies come to terms with their histories—the specters of populism, nationalism, extreme-right parties, and authoritarian rule have returned in force. Through a series of eyewitness reports, Mastering the Past offers an insider’s view of key political events, including the 2012 Russian elections, the Polish presidential plane crash in Smolensk, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s vision for a new Hungary. Hinsey explores the darkening hour of European politics with an incisive mind and an eye for detail, recording the urgent danger that illiberalism represents for the new century.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

Terrorism, Modernity, and the Politics of the Tactical

During his 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry stated, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” Though this statement was widely lampooned on right-leaning American media outlets, it is worth examining: swimming pools, and choking on one’s food, are more deadly, all things being equal, than terrorism. Yet terrorism produces a “conceptual helplessness,” in which, “We seem to be left with no good choices. To call what happened on September 11 evil appeared to join forces with those whose simple, demonic conceptions of evil often deliberately obscure more insidious forms of it. Not to call the murders evil appeared to relativize them, to engage in forms of calculation that make them understandable—and risked a first step toward making them justifiable.”

Continue reading →