Freedom and Servitude: Why We Rattle Our Hidden Chains

“The populace consists of individuals and free men, while the state is made up of numbers. When the state dominates, killing becomes abstract. Servitude began with the shepherds; in the river valleys it attained perfection with canals and dikes. Its model was the slavery in mines and mills. Since then, the ruses for concealing chains have been refined.”
—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

Continue reading →

Freedom and Servitude: Why We Rattle Our Hidden Chains

“The populace consists of individuals and free men, while the state is made up of numbers. When the state dominates, killing becomes abstract. Servitude began with the shepherds; in the river valleys it attained perfection with canals and dikes. Its model was the slavery in mines and mills. Since then, the ruses for concealing chains have been refined.”
—Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil

Continue reading →

Reading Schmitt contra Schmitt

In “On the Political: Schmitt contra Schmitt,” Benjamin Arditi is occupied with the task of revitalizing Carl Schmitt, to open or retrace various interpretative paths that allow us to use Schmitt in trajectories that he did not envisage or did not pursue. Arditi takes his reader by the hand into an exploration of a series of issues arising from Schmitt’s theory: disputes regarding the bellicose nature of the political, the identification of politics in the political, the charge of formalism, and the normative dimension of order.

Continue reading →

Mourning, Solidarity and “Transversal Grief”: How Judith Butler Misreads Paris

Traveling in Paris, Judith Butler published a “letter” dated November 14, in English on the Verso blog and in French in Libération, the day after the ISIS attacks, entitled “Mourning becomes the Law.” The short text treats two phenomena and argues for a connection between them: the process of mourning the victims of the attacks and the expansion of counter-terrorist practices by the state. Butler’s thesis is that the shared grieving of the dead served exclusively as a vehicle to justify amplified police powers: in this sense, mourning becomes the law, or at least law enforcement. A close look at her claims, however, shows significant deficiencies in the account of mourning and an important misreading of the Parisian response.

Continue reading →

Small Is Ethical (Or: The Morality of the Micropolis)

The following paper was presented at the 2016 Telos Conference, held on January 16–17, 2016, in New York City. For additional details about the conference, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

Introduction

State institutions, starting with the entity we call “the state” all the way down to city DMV offices, seem no longer capable of acting or behaving ethically, regardless of what type of ethics we prefer to apply to politics—consequentialist, deontological, virtue, or any other—or whether we prefer liberal or communitarian normative agendas. Two features of modern political institutions block their intended functioning, ethical or not, and lead to new ethical crises. Those features are too-large size and incoherence. Thus even when policies[1] are ethical, institutions’ failures to implement or follow them undermine an ethical politics. And when various policies are implemented unevenly, new ethical problems arise. At least a partial antidote to these problems may be found in libertarian municipalism, the social-ecological approach articulated by Murray Bookchin, that demands small scale and direct democracy.

Continue reading →