Actual Images of the Russian Revolution of 1917: Dynamics and Perspectives

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

It is important not only to analyze the legacy of the Russian Revolution of 1917 from the point of view of historical science, but also to bear in mind its impact on the modern information and ideological processes. Discussing the Russian Revolution has become a way to think and talk about today, and different approaches to the discussion correspond to different views on modernity and different political ethics. There are five approaches to the evaluation of the Russian Revolution in the ideological space of today: the classic liberal, the neoliberal, the Western left, the Russian left, and the traditionalist approach.

Continue reading →

Call for Papers: The 2017 Telos Moscow Conference

Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, there is arguably a crisis of democracy: not only has the transition from totalitarian communism failed to bring about liberal market capitalism, but politics in mature democracies has been becoming post-democratic. Models of authoritarianism and state capitalism are spreading in different parts of the world, while countries with long-standing democratic traditions are characterized by a rejection of the political mainstream and a turn to extremes on the far left or the far right.

Continue reading →

Advice for Anarchists

“Two reefs tower in front of the anarchist. The first, the state, must be overcome, especially in a hurricane, when the waves soar. He ineluctably runs aground on the second one, society, the very image that flickered before him. There is a brief intermezzo between the fall of the legitimate powers and the new legality. Two weeks after Kropotkin’s funeral cortege, in which his corpse had followed the Black Banners, the sailors of Kronstadt were liquidated. This is not to say that nothing had happened in between—Merlino, one of the disillusioned, hit the nail on the head: ‘Anarchism is an experiment.’”
—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

Continue reading →

The Politics of Death

Catastrophic history does not free society: it allows the individual no exit from an endless spiral of destruction. Such destruction promises liberation for some, but it only tilts the world closer to ever-greater annihilation. To place one’s hope in redemptive violence constitutes a leap into the absurd. It is an act of pure faith. This is how Julia Hell, in her essay “Remnants of Totalitarianism: Hannah Arendt, Heiner Müller, Slavoj Žižek, and the Re-Invention of Politics,” reads the apocalyptic politics of Müller and Žižek. Hell frames her critique with a rigorous practicality: she laments Žižek’s “empty terms,” and likewise she sees the political writings of Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler as hopelessly vague (103). Yet Hell’s rejection of Müller and Žižek does not reflect an entirely pragmatic method. While Hell insists on the need for a usable, specific politics, her attentive readings of each thinker also point to a vast philosophical disagreement. In the end, the true debate is not over the applications of theory. It is instead over the answer to a single question: what is the relationship of politics to death?

Continue reading →

On the Dissolution of the Sensus Communis within Chavismo: The Meaning of “Revolución en la Revolución”

The following paper was presented at the Eighth Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–16, 2014, in New York City.

In the following, I address the question of Venezuelan democracy under the fourteen-year mandate of recently deceased President Hugo Chávez from the philosophical perspective of Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire to Louis Bonaparte. Recent Latin American history of the past twenty years has seen a resurgence of leftist governments sympathetic to Cuba’s Marxist revolutionary ideals of the 1960s, where Venezuela is no exception. Focusing on one particular event in Venezuela’s contemporary history, I wish to accomplish two things. The first is to convince my audience that Nicolás Maduro’s inauguration ceremony of his then newly appointed presidential cabinet in late-April 2013 is the sharpest expression of the current failed state and non-direction of Chavismo in Venezuela, or more precisely, what I call the dissolution of its sensus communis. Second, I wish to advance a philosophical question for discussion among audience members, namely, does replicating a historically prior political ideology ever secure success for democracy within present historical circumstances; more succinctly, in other words, do anachronistic political experiments produce volatile democracies?

Continue reading →

Education, Revolt!

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, Matt Applegate looks at Paul Piccone’s “Students’ Protest, Class-Structure, and Ideology” from Telos 3 (Spring 1969).

Paul Piccone’s 1969 essay “Students’ Protest, Class-Structure, and Ideology” captures the revolutionary ethos of that time in the United States. Hippies, student politics, Black Power, as well as the work of such figures as Régis Debray and Herbert Marcuse all come under Piccone’s earnest critical consideration. His primary concern, however, is the link between these student revolts and the state of education in the United States. On the one hand, Piccone is intent on charting the means by which hyper-industrialization and the technologization of work lead to open student rebellion. On the other, he is interested in understanding why student rebellion is effective in relation to other forms of revolutionary organization that appear alongside it.

Continue reading →