Telos 181 (Winter 2017): War and Civil War

Telos 181 (Winter 2017): War and Civil War is now available for purchase in our store.

Consider the question: has American political life ever been as polarized as it is today? If the most appropriate answer is: yes, of course, in 1861, then the problem has been named and we are left with little comfort. The evaporation of anything like a bipartisan consensus in the political class leaves us staring at a battlefield, with few common bonds or shared attachments. Politics has become the internalization of war by other means. This is our version of the crisis of parliamentary democracy that Schmitt described in the Weimar years. Congressional Democrats are unwilling to cross the aisle to find room for compromise in the Trump era, but this only repeats the animosity among Republicans toward the Obama agenda eight years ago. Each party seeks its own advantage, which exclusively means the other party’s disadvantage, as the national good slips beneath the horizon. Each party focuses on mobilizing its base for votes and fund-raising, which means that each has an irresistible incentive to avoid solving those problems that are the most effective vehicles for rallying their supporters: when they held the majority, the Democrats preferred to keep the “dreamers” vulnerable, so as to be able to recycle them in future campaigns, just as the Republicans chose to punt on health care. Each issue is too successful in attracting voters, too valuable to give up.

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Conscription through the Eyes of Hobbes and Schmitt

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, Beau Mullen looks at Gabriella Slomp’s “Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and the Event of Conscription” from Telos 147 (Summer 2009).

As Gabriella Slomp points out in the opening of her article “Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and the Event of Conscription,” scholars are split on how to view the relationship between Hobbes and Schmitt. Some see Schmitt as Hobbes’s heir apparent, while others think that Schmitt’s thinking is in fact a rejection of much of Hobbes’s work. Both thinkers emphasize man’s warlike nature, they hold that the state exists to protect men from violent death at the hands of other men, and they maintain that a strong state with unlimited power is best suited to this aim. Both agree that man has an obligation to the state that is reciprocal to the duty of the state to provide security. In this piece, Slomp examines both Schmitt’s and Hobbes’s views of the extent of this obligation and comes to the conclusion that the two are in fact in disagreement. Using their writings on conscription, Slomp reveals that Hobbes has much more concern for the sovereignty of the individual whereas Schmitt never wavers in his affording primacy to the group or state.

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On Hobbes, Badiou, and the State

Geoffrey Holsclaw’s “At a Distance to the State: On the Politics of Hobbes and Badiou” appears in Telos 160 (Fall 2012). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.

Amid the contested status of the State, juxtaposing the political thought of Thomas Hobbes and Alain Badiou will facilitate a renewed questioning of the State itself. Hobbes stands near the beginning of the tradition of those using “State” as a term for the impersonal form of political authority between ruler and ruled, understanding politics as culminating in the State. Badiou, on the other hand, while assuming the basic conviction of the impersonal nature of the State, theorizes a space for politics at a distance to the State. This encounter is promising not only because of their differences, but because of their similarities. Both take mathematics as the key to their philosophical method. Both envision the primary situation as a tumultuous “multitude” or “multiplicity.” And both understand politics as the creation of a “One.” Yet their overriding difference is manifest in the position of the State in relation to the production of the One, and therefore politics itself. For Hobbes, politics culminates in the formation of the One within the State, or rather, as the State. For Badiou, politics occurs as the pronouncement of a One at a distance to the State. After showing how Badiou moves through and beyond Hobbes, this essay explores the upshot of Badiou’s understanding of politics in relation to other political theories, particularly how recent proposals from within a pragmatist-Hegelian framework hold a hidden alliance with Hobbesian contract theory.

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On Equality, Right, and Identity: Rethinking the Contract through Hobbes and Marx

Rahul Govind’s “Equality, Right, and Identity: Rethinking the Contract through Hobbes and Marx” appears in Telos 154 (Spring 2011). Read the full version at TELOS Online website.

The following essay is an investigation into the nature of the contract, the way in which the contract indexes “right” and equality, and the textual and historical expressions—as well as echoes—that this has taken from Thomas Hobbes to Karl Marx. The opening set of conceptual remarks lead to a reading of Hobbes’s Leviathan and Marx’s “On the Jewish Question,” arguing that both texts were concerned with theoretically explicating the relationship between right and equality, germane to which was the problematic of the “nation”/community, which was itself conceived via the “Jewish question.” The essay argues that only an attention to Marx’s reformulation of the older problematic, as found in Hobbes, will help us understand the significance of his critique of the (post–)French Revolutionary theory of abstract right, and thereby the need for the development and critique of the field of political economy. Through this exposition of the thread between the conceptualization of the political and political economy, it seeks to reconfigure the canonical texts of Hobbes and Marx in rethinking the interrelations between right, equality, and community within a historico-philosophical horizon.

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