“A review of Loren Goldner’s Revolution, Defeat, and Theoretical Underdevelopment: Russia, Turkey, Spain, Bolivia (2017), a book by a libertarian Marxist sympathetic to anarchism who analyses four revolutions in the 20th century and discusses their lessons.”
21 crime novels set during rebellions.
“In this paper, we examine and revisit Louis Althusser’s dual mode of politico-ontological subjectivity: the Good-Subject and the bad-subject. … We argue that the bad-subject is a generic subjective-operator consisting of a set of critical procedures, radical ethos and praxical political steps that introduce a novel revolutionary-truth into the structured hierarchized capitalo-statist world.”
Watching the other day Nicholas Hytner’s promenade staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, I heard Cassius say: “Men at some time were masters of their fates./The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars./But in ourselves, that we are underlings” (1.2.140-3).
The reference to fate reminded me of a recently published essay. Since I have been following with special interest the progress during this decade of Simon Critchley’s book on the philosophy of tragedy (read: sophistry) as an alternative to the tragedy of philosophy, I was particularly glad to read “Tragedy’s Philosophy,” a “rough torso” of his project, in Fisher & Katsouraki, eds.: Performing Antagonism: Theatre, Performance & Radical Democracy (2017). Regarding the understanding of tragedy as misfortune the philosopher brings up fate: “Tragedy requires some degree of complicity on our part in the disaster that destroys us. It is not simply a question of the malevolent activity of fate … Tragedy requires our collusion with that fate. In other words, it requires no small measure of freedom. … Our moral of tragedy, then, is that we conspire with our fate. That is, fate requires our freedom in order to bring our destiny down upon us” (31). Therefore he suggests that we see “the bloody events of the contemporary world in a tragic light,” and reiterates: “To see political events tragically is always to accept our complicity in the disaster that is unfolding” (36). The question of tragedy today should not be limited to a particular dramatic genre. “A tragic sensibility obliges us to see our implication within the struggles of the present and our responsibility for them. If the present is defined by disaster, then tragedy shows us our complicity with it” (40-1).
This ethical argument reminds me of Critchley’s political point in an interview where he recalls that Raymond Williams in his book Modern Tragedy (1966) “makes a link between tragedy and revolution and it’s a kind of melancholic link. He says, for example, something like: ‘We need to understand revolution tragically’. If we see revolution as a throwing off of repression and the experience of liberation that’s all very nice but we see just half of the picture. Revolution is always a dialectical process where revolution undergoes inversion in counter-revolution. So a tragic understanding of revolution would show the experience of liberation as always risking flipping over into a new experience of oppression and terror and the two things are intrinsically linked. Liberation and terror are intricated, are dialectically interdependent and that’s what a properly tragic understanding would lead us to. If we want to maintain something like revolution or rebellion then we have to see it tragically in terms of the inversions to which it is subject.”
A tragic understanding admits that revolution is subject to counter-revolution, that liberation is risking oppression. Drawing on Williams, Critchley makes the melancholic point that, when terror destroys revolution, instead of blaming destiny, we must accept the complicity of liberation, keeping in mind that freedom conspires with fate.
May 12, 2018
Bruce Robbins on Perry Anderson’s Gramscian hegemony between Thucydidean realism and Stoic melancholy.
Antigone’s actions are “embedded in and enacted on behalf of forces, structures, and networks larger than the autonomous individual that modern liberals, humanists and even radical democratic theorist tend to both love … and berate” (Honig, Antigone, Interrupted, 8). “Under the name of Antigone, A,I tracks not an exemplary individual but rather a set of discourses, styles, genres, vocabularies, citations, collaborations, conspiracies, reactions, interruptions, negotiations, failed and successful communications” (piece on the Leonard/Porter panel, 330). Antigone is “a veritable swarm of figures. Not a subjectified reified figure, but a host: … all dissidents, martyrs, counter-revolutionaries, philosophers, feminists, and diasporic actors who have claimed her or been claimed by her. Indeed, Antigone seems to me to be less of a singular heroine … than a signifier overflowing with contested meanings and available for mobilization as a heroine in many particular contexts” (331). Honig insists that “the world also always passes through us, and that we are, therefore, only ever individuated, never individuals as such, always en procès” (335). “I do press for a politics that seeks out sovereignty, but not for individuals. Individual subjects are anything but sovereign. As actors in concert, however, we can set the terms of our collective life together in small and, sometimes, large ways” (piece on the Walsh panel, 571).
“Modern states of emergency follow close on the heels of modern revolutions. They are, per Agamben, ‘a creation,’ ironically, ‘of the democratic-revolutionary tradition and not the absolutist one’ [State of Exception, 5]. Though he does not himself make this point explicitly, we cold consider emergency an instrument that emerges from within the revolution to turn its most radical tendencies back. When a revolutionary government suspends its own constitution, it undermines the constituent politics – that is, the popular power to form a truly egalitarian body politic – that originally precipitated the revolution and which the constitution is supposed to enshrine. Emergency decrees are, in this regard, the counterinsurgent practice par excellence. They circumscribe constituent power withing the sovereign voice” (Ahmed, Archaeology of Babel, 2017, 189).
A review of Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams (2017) by John Feffer
“Her view centers on the idea that there are several dimensions to autonomy, and while they are related, one may fall short in one but not the others. The result is a nuanced theory of autonomy that illuminates how the concept applies in a range of domains and to a range of agents.”
Night School on Anarres is an educational experiment examining the utopian proposals of twentieth-century anarchism, drawing from Ursula K Le Guin’s seminal sci-fi novel The Dispossessed. … Part sci-fi set, part classroom, part roundhouse theatre, the Night School on Anarres installation is a site where utopic ambitions can be collectively imagined, performed and discussed.”