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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The Revolt against the Elites, or the New Populist Wave: An Interview

Today, the anti-elitist political concept responds directly and effectively to social demands in Europe and the United States. And this anti-elitist or anti-system concept perfectly encompasses both the left and right, and, of course, the extremists. As different as they are, the new leaders are protesting and transgressive. Their demagoguery is marked by the language of transgression, provocation, and excess, based on the subversion of language or behavior codes: for them, this is a matter of drawing a clear distinction from the standard model policy. They can complain about being demonized by their opponents, while still trying to stay slightly demonized in order to maintain their attractiveness. This is the prerequisite to the seduction that they perform. This differentiates them from formatted and conformist leaders, who pursue respectability, which makes them somewhat watery.

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Britain, Europe, and the West: Reflections on the UK’s EU Referendum

As a German national living in Britain for two decades, I have followed the political debate on whether the UK should stay in, or leave, the European Union (EU) with utter dismay. The two official campaigns have prophesied disaster of biblical proportion in the event of Britain either exiting (Brexit) or remaining (Bremain). Economic doomsday and a return to the violent state of nature in case of Brexit, as the “In” camp would have us believe. Alternatively, subjugation to a sinister super-state and marauding masses of migrants in case of Bremain, so say the “Out” camp.

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Christopher Lasch on Liberalism and Civic Virtue

Christopher Lasch’s “Liberalism and Civic Virtue,” from Telos 88 (Summer 1991), seeks to gain a better understanding of the internal contradictions of liberalism in one of its most optimistic moments. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western economic and political liberalism stood as the last-remaining major ideology of the twentieth century. Amidst the euphoric optimism surrounding the “end of history,” Lasch looks at the challenges that liberalism, with no major competitors on the world stage, poses to itself rather than those posed to it from the outside; for it might just be that liberalism itself is decaying like other major twentieth-century ideologies, though this process is merely delayed.

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Telos 175 (Summer 2016): Political Theory, Political Theology

Critical theory inherited the mission of philosophy to know the world and to pursue the good life. Careful examination should shed light on the cosmos and our place within it and contribute to a beneficial ordering of human concerns, when wisdom informs governance. Yet that aspiration to know the world encountered the limits of intelligibility, beyond which reason could not proceed. Meanwhile, the efforts to remake the world in the spirit of reason elicited processes of rationalization, as deleterious to the world around us, the natural environment, as to the world within us, the ongoing cultural crisis of modernity and its social corollaries. That is Horkheimer and Adorno’s dialectic of enlightenment at the foundation of the critical theoretical tradition that continues to provide a framework with which to articulate a critique of the contemporary in its many heterogeneous facets: the disruption of all forms of solidarity, the pressures on family structures, the erosion of educational opportunities, the growing gap between rich and poor. Add to this the ominous shifts in the international order, including the breakdown of state structures from North Africa through the Middle East, the strains on the European Union, and the return of a repressive semi-dictatorship in Russia, while—at this point in the presidential election season—the United States seems to be tumbling dangerously toward Weimar conditions.

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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.

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