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.

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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.

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Europe after Brexit

Walk around Berlin these days and you will find that you will hear almost as much English being spoken on the streets as German. While some describe this situation as a sign that Berlin has now become a cosmopolitan city, this very interpretation reveals precisely the attitude that has led to the rise of English in Germany. To speak English is to be cosmopolitan, and to speak German is to be provincial, and so it becomes a mark of pride to converse in English rather than one’s native German, at least for a certain segment of the population. And therein lies the problem. For it is precisely that segment of global business people, academics, and bureaucrats against whom nationalist sentiment has been rising all over Europe amongst the monolinguals who see themselves as excluded from the European project.

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Decided by the Other: Existential Vulnerability and Political Identity

Today’s world is witnessing a noticeable intensification of hostilities and confrontations on many fronts of international relations. A revisionist and neo-imperialist Russia, annexing Crimea and staging a cynical proxy war in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, is challenging the very foundations of the post–Cold War international order. The Syrian “quagmire,” which began in 2011, created a space for the emergence and gradual establishment of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), now widely recognized as the paramount terrorist organization threatening the security architecture in the Middle East as well as Europe. Terrorist attacks in France, Egypt, Mali, Tunisia, Lebanon, and other countries have been widely and justifiably interpreted as warnings signaling that Europe (or the West in general) is unable to cope with its new enemies. The chaos and uncertainty that ensued after the flood of refugees and migrants into Europe only exacerbated the perception of weakness and unwillingness on the part of the Western leaders to tackle these challenges seriously. In this alarming context, political philosophy once again gains significance as an existential occupation. This is the reason why a re-evaluation of the controversial oeuvre of Carl Schmitt, the thinker who articulated some of the most acute criticisms of modern liberalism, is so timely.

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Cornelius Castoriadis on Russian Society

“Facing the War” is a translation from the first section of Devant la guerre, Cornelius Castoriadis’s least regarded work within English-speaking circles. The reason for this marginalization is its central claim that Russian society had transformed into a stratocratic regime, with increased probability for an escalation into a Third World War. Castoriadis’s critics claimed he had missed signs of perestroika and glasnost already on the horizon. Viewed from this perspective, history could not have been more cruel to Castoriadis. However, the value of his work does not depend on a predictive mode of political analysis, a point that is clearly prefaced in this work: calls for predictive accuracy ignore the radical character of historical contingency. In fact, the unexpected events put into motion later by Gorbachev only strengthen Castoriadis’s perspective in the sense that such a development represents the deeper problem of historical indeterminacy, and it is in this respect that his analysis is finely tuned to any society’s condition of historical contingency.

Castoriadis’s analysis here is an updated version of the assessment of Russian society that had been developed within Socialisme ou Barbarie. Castoriadis makes a compelling argument that Russia had regenerated itself into a full-blown stratocracy, armed to the teeth and yet still unable to provide its citizens with a functional civic bureaucracy; a decade later he reflects that a core argument of “Facing the War” was that brute force had become the sole signification holding this society together. Castoriadis’s argument operates at two levels: as a political analysis of Russian bureaucratic spheres (the comparison of military capacity between superpowers and a critique of rational determinism within the justification of Cold War strategy—i.e., M.A.D.); and as a political judgement of the imaginary significations that served to orient Russian society. It is through the latter level that lessons on historical contingency are astutely relevant to the contemporary world situation.

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Michael Millerman on Alexander Dugin, Russia’s Ideological Mastermind

On The Agenda with Steve Paikin, Michael Millerman discusses the philosophy of Alexander Dugin and its influence on Vladimir Putin and contemporary Russian geopolitics. It’s a wide-ranging interview that covers Dugin’s theory of Eurasianism, his critique of the West and liberal democracy, the defense of Russia as a unique, non-Western civilization in its own right, the compatibility of Dugin’s anti-communism with the view that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical catastrophe, the difference between Western multiculturalism and the kind of multicivilizational diversity that Dugin advocates, and much more. Watch the full interview below. In addition to co-translating Dugin’s The Fourth Political Theory (Arktos, 2012), Michael is also a former Telos intern. You can read more of his writing in the TELOSscope archives.

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