Why has the right, including the populist right, rather than the left, been the main political beneficiary of the anger and bitterness that has roiled Europe since the 2008 financial crash, the eurozone crisis, and the resulting deep recession and brutal austerity? After all, these events surely proved the relevance of the left’s critique of capitalism.
The left is increasingly marginal to political life in Europe despite the fact that, in the words of Owen Jones, an important voice of the British left, “Living standards are falling, public assets are being flogged to private interests, a tiny minority are being enriched at the expense of society and the hard-won gains of working people—social security, rights in the workplace and so on—are being stripped away.” And the radical parties and movements to the left of the social democratic parties have been faring no better. In the brutally honest assessment of the British Marxist Alex Callinicos, “Nearly seven years after the financial crash began, the radical left has not been weaker for decades.”
But the European left’s inability to forcefully meet the crisis is not due to a failure of individual political leaders, but the fact that it has not developed, in theory or practice, a response to the three great waves of change—economic, socio-cultural, and politico-intellectual—that have crashed over it since the late 1970s.
The fruits of this radical transformation of European social democracy into a political force pursuing a slightly kinder and a slightly gentler neoliberalism—which some dub “social neoliberalism”—have been bitter.
While capital is global, mobile, and regnant, organized labor is increasingly deindustrialized, indebted, and precarious; often temporary, part-time, insecure, and, quite frankly, unorganized.
an explosion of inequality, relative poverty, and acquisitive individualism.
The manic, pathological quality of neoliberal consumerism has produced an explosion of personal debt.
the crisis of the European left is also intellectual.
“The reason we are inundated by culturally alien [kulturfremden] peoples such as Arabs, Sinti and Roma etc. is the systematic destruction of civil society as a possible counterweight to the enemies-of-the-constitution by whom we are ruled. These pigs are nothing other than puppets of the victor powers of the Second World War….” Thus begins a 2013 personal e-mail from Alice Weidel, who in this autumn’s pivotal German election was one of two designated “leading candidates” of the Alternative für Deutschland (hereafter AfD or the Alternative). The chief “pig” and “puppet” was, of course, Angela Merkel.
Xenophobic right-wing nationalism—in Germany of all places? The very fact that observers express surprise indicates how much Germany has changed since 1945. These days, we expect more of Germany than of ourselves. For, seen from one point of view, this is just Germany partaking in the populist normality of our time, as manifested in the Brexit vote in Britain, Marine le Pen’s Front National in France, Geert Wilders’s blond beastliness in the Netherlands, the right-wing nationalist-populist government in Poland, and Trumpery in the US.
Like all contemporary populisms, the German version exhibits both generic and specific features. In common with other populisms, it denounces the current elites (Alteliten in AfD-speak) and established parties (Altparteien) while speaking in the name of the Volk, a word that, with its double meaning of people and ethno-culturally defined nation, actually best captures what Trump and Le Pen mean when they say “the people.”
Like other populists, Germany’s attack the mainstream media (Lügenpresse, the “lying press”) while making effective use of social media. On the eve of the election, the Alternative had some 362,000 Facebook followers, compared with the Social Democrats’ 169,000 and just 154,000 for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Tiresomely familiar to any observer of Trump, Brexit, or Wilders is the demagogic appeal to emotions while playing fast and loose with facts. In Amann’s account, the predominant emotion here is Angst.
For eight of the last twelve years, Germany has been governed by a so-called Grand Coalition of Christian Democrats—Merkel’s CDU in a loveless parliamentary marriage with the more conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU)—and Social Democrats. This has impelled disgruntled voters toward the smaller parties and the extremes. The effect has been reinforced by Merkel’s woolly centrist version of Margaret Thatcher’s TINA (There Is No Alternative), perfectly captured in the German word alternativlos (without alternatives). It’s no accident that this protest party is called the Alternative.
p. 501 – is political science “softer” than the other soft social sciences?
thus… political science “may never live up to its lofty ambition of scientific explanation and prediction. Indeed, like other social sciences, it can be no more than a ‘ science in formation’ permanently seeking to surmount obstacles to objectivity.”
p. 502 disciplinary parochialism
the fetishes of pure observation, raw experience, unambiguous rationality, and one-way causality were formative influences in the genesis of the social sciences. the ‘unfortunate positivism” of such impulses, along with the illusion of a value-free science, converged to produce a behavioral revolution in the interwar period Behaviorism was then followed through an epistemological twist, by boldly optimistic leaps to an “end of ideology” and ultimately to a claimed “end of history” itself.
early positivism was openly underpinned by an European condescension toward Asians’ “ignorance and prejudice.” Behind similar depictions lay a comprehensive Eurocentric social and political philosophy.
this is illustrated its view of China through the grand narrative of modernization.
Robert McNamara famously reiterated that if World War I was a chemist’s war and Word War II a physicist’s, Vietnam “might well have to be considered the social scientists’ war.”
Although China nominally remains a communist state, it has doubtlessly changed color without a color revolution.
In the fixed disciplinary eye, “China” is to specific to produce anything generalizable beyond descriptive and self-containing narratives. The area studies approach, in contrast to disciplinary approaches, is all about cultural, historical, and ethnographic specificities.
If first-hand information contradicts theoretical conclusions, redress is sought only at the former end (my note – ha ha ha, such an elegant but scathing criticism of [Western] academia).
The catch [is] that Chinese otherness is in essence not a matter of cultural difference (hence limitations of criticizing Eurocentrism and Orientalism) and does not merely reproduce itself by inertia.
Given a long omitted self-critical rethinking of the discipline’s parochial base, calling for cross-fertilizing alone would be fruitless or even lead only to a one-way colonization of seemingly particularistic histories by an illusive universal science.
political culture, once a key concept of political science’s hope for unified theorization, has turned out to be no answer
Long after its heyday, modernization theory – now with its new face of globalization – remains a primary signifier and legitimating benchmark. To those, who use it to gauge developments since 1945, private property and liberal democracy are permanent, unquestioned norms that are to be globally homogenized.
Moreover, since modernity is assumed to be a liberal capitalists condition, the revolutionary nationalism of an oppressed people remaking itself into a new historical subject noncompliant with capitalism cannot be modernizational.
Political scientists and historical sociologists… saw the communist in power as formidable modernizers, but distinguished the Maoist model from the Stalinist in economic management and campaign politics.
Their analyses showed how organic connections between top-down mobilization and bottom-up participation cultivated in an active citizenry and high intensity politics. My note: I disagree here with the author, since such statement can be arbitrary from a historical point of view; indeed, for a short period of time, such “organic connection” can produce positive results, but once calcitrated (as it is in China for the past 6-7 decades), it turns stagnant.
the state’s altered support base is essentially a matter of class power, involving both adaptive cultivation of new economic elites and iron-fist approaches to protest and dissent. By the same weight of historical logic, the party’s internal decay, loss of its founding ideological vision and commitment, and collusion with capital will do more than any outside force ever could do to destroy the regime.
That the Party stays in power is not primarily because the country’s economy continues to grow, but is more attributable to a residual social reliance on its credentials and organizational capacities accumulated in earlier revolutionary and socialist struggles. This historical promise has so far worked to the extent that cracks within the leadership are more or less held in check, resentment against local wrongs are insulated from central intentions, and social policies in one way or another respond to common outcries, consultative deliberations, and pressure groups.
The word “madness” has indeed been freely employed to describe nations and societies judged inept at modern reason, as found in contemporary academic publications on epi- sodes of the PRC history. My note: I agree with this – the deconstructionalists: (Jaques Derrida, Tzvetan Todorov) linguistically prove the inability of Western cultures to understand and explain other cultures. In this case, Lin Chun is right; just because western political scientist cannot comprehend foreign complex societal problems and/or juxtaposing them to their own “schemes,” prompts the same western researchers to announce them as “mad.”
This is the best and worst of times for the globalization of knowledge. In one scenario, an eventual completion of the political science parameters can now seal both knowledge, sophisticatedly canalized, and ideology, universally uncontested – even if the two are never separable in the foundation of political science. In another scenario, causes and effects no longer rule out atypical polities, but the differences are presented as culturally incompatible. In either case, the trick remains to let anormalies make the norms validate preexist- ing disciplinary sanctions.
Overcoming outmoded rigidities will nurture a robust scholarship committed to universally resonant theories.
“When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver.”
Kultur, he explains (along with Bildung, or education), denoted in pre-unification Germany those qualities that the intellectuals and professionals of the small, isolated German middle class claimed for themselves in response to the disdain of the minor German nobles who employed them: intellectual achievement, of course, but also simple virtues like authenticity, honesty, and sincerity.
German courtiers, by contrast, according to the possessors of Kultur, had acquired “civilization” from their French tutors: manners, social polish, the cultivation of appearances. As the German middle class asserted itself in the nineteenth century, the particular virtues of Kultur became an important ingredient in national self-definition. The inferior values of “civilization” were no longer attributed to an erstwhile French-educated German nobility, but to the French themselves and to the West in general.
By 1914, the contrast between Kultur and Zivilisation had taken on a more aggressively nationalist tone. During World War I German patriotic propaganda vaunted the superiority of Germany’s supposedly rooted, organic, spiritual Kultur over the allegedly effete, shallow, cosmopolitan, materialist, Jewish-influenced “civilization” of Western Europe. Martin’s book shows how vigorously the Nazis applied this traditional construct.
Goebbels and Hitler were as obsessed with movies as American adolescents are today with social media.
Music was a realm that Germans felt particularly qualified to dominate. But first the German national musical scene had to be properly organized. In November 1933 Goebbels offered Richard Strauss the leadership of a Reich Music Chamber.
Goebbels organized in Düsseldorf in 1938 a presentation of “degenerate music” following the better-known 1937 exhibition of “degenerate art.”
As with music, the Nazis were able to attract writers outside the immediate orbit of the Nazi and Fascist parties by endorsing conservative literary styles against modernism, by mitigating copyright and royalty problems, and by offering sybaritic visits to Germany and public attention.
Painting and sculpture, curiously, do not figure in this account of the cultural fields that the Nazis and Fascists tried to reorganize “inter-nationally,” perhaps because they had not previously been organized on liberal democratic lines. Picasso and Kandinsky painted quietly in private and Jean Bazaine organized an exhibition with fellow modernists in 1941. Nazi cultural officials thought “degenerate” art appropriate for France.
Science would have made an interesting case study, a contrary one. Germany dominated the world of science before 1933. Germans won fifteen Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine between 1918 and 1933, more than any other nation. Far from capitalizing on this major soft power asset, Hitler destroyed it by imposing ideological conformity and expelling Jewish scientists such as the talented nuclear physicist Lise Meitner. The soft power of science is fragile, as Americans may yet find out.
American soft power thrived mostly through the profit motive and by offering popular entertainment to the young.
THE ANATOMY OF FASCISM By Robert O. Paxton. 321 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $26.
fascism — unlike Communism, socialism, capitalism or conservatism — is a smear word more often used to brand one’s foes than it is a descriptor used to shed light on them.
World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 contributed mightily to the advent of fascism. The war generated acute economic malaise, national humiliation and legions of restive veterans and unemployed youths who could be harnessed politically. The Bolshevik Revolution, but one symptom of the frustration with the old order, made conservative elites in Italy and Germany so fearful of Communism that anything — even fascism — came to seem preferable to a Marxist overthrow.
Paxton debunks the consoling fiction that Mussolini and Hitler seized power. Rather, conservative elites desperate to subdue leftist populist movements ”normalized” the fascists by inviting them to share power. It was the mob that flocked to fascism, but the elites who elevated it.
Fascist movements and regimes are different from military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. They seek not to exclude, but rather to enlist, the masses. They often collapse the distinction between the public and private sphere (eliminating the latter). In the words of Robert Ley, the head of the Nazi Labor Office, the only private individual who existed in Nazi Germany was someone asleep.
t was this need to keep citizens intoxicated by fascism’s dynamism that made Mussolini and Hitler see war as both desirable and necessary. ”War is to men,” Mussolini insisted, ”as maternity is to women.”
For every official American attempt to link Islamic terrorism to fascism, there is an anti-Bush protest that applies the fascist label to Washington’s nationalist rhetoric, assault on civil liberties and warmaking.
Colonial interests compelled Great Britain to build a complex economic system that funneled resources and wealth to the home islands. Great Britain’s time as the central organizing great power came to a rapid end, with the United States filling that central role.
the United States can no longer uphold all its commitments to international laws and norms. Gaps in attention to historical American commitments have opened the door for competitor nations, including China, to challenge U.S. leadership at the margins.
p. 17 Does China have a strategic plan to replace the United States as the leader of the world? Some voices suggest that it does; however, it is important to note that they do not suggest that it is modeling its ascent upon the United States’ rise a century ago
my note: Avoid using infographics for purposes, which toodoo can serve. Infographics are for about visualization of stats, not just visualization. #FindTheRightTool
By Vicki E. Phillips
As instructors, we are constantly looking for new ways to capture our students’ attention and increase their participation in our classes, especially in the online modalities. We spend countless hours crafting weekly announcements for classes and then inevitably receive multiple emails from our students asking the very same questions that we so carefully and completely answered in those very same announcements! The question remains, how do we get them to read our posts?
It was precisely that problem I was trying to solve when I came across several articles touting the benefits of comics in higher education classrooms. I knew I couldn’t create an entire comic book, but I wondered if I could create a content-related cartoon that would not only capture students’ attention and maybe make them laugh, but also interest them enough that they would read the entire announcement or post. In doing so, I would be freed from responding to dozens of emails asking the same questions outlined in the announcements and students could focus on the homework.
A quick Internet search led me to a plethora of free “click and drag” cartoon making software applications to try. I started posting my own cartoons on characters, themes, etc. on the weekly literature we were studying in my upper division American and Contemporary World Literature classes, as well as to offer reminders or a few words of encouragement. Here’s an example of one I posted during week 7 of the semester when students can become discouraged with their assignment load: http://www.toondoo.com/cartoon/10115361
After a positive response, I decided to provide my online students the opportunity to try their hand at cartoon creation. I created a rubric and a set of instructions for an easy to use, free program that I had used, and I opened up the “cartoon challenge” to the students. The results were nothing short of amazing—what intrigued me the most was the time and effort they took with their cartoons. Not only did they create cartoons on the story we were reading, but they also wrote additional posts explaining their ideas for the creation, discussing why they chose a particular scene, and identifying those elements pertinent to the points they were making. These posts tended to receive many more substantial comments from their peers than the traditional discussion board posts, indicating they were being read more.
When students in my face-to-face course heard about the cartoons, they asked to try this approach as well. Their cartoons, shared in class via the overhead projector, led to some of the most engaging and interesting discussions I have ever had in the residential literature classes as students explained how they came up with the elements they chose, and why they picked a certain scene from the reading. The positive student feedback has been instrumental in my continuing to offer this option in both my online and face-to-face classes.
How does one get started in making these cartoons? The good news is you do not have to be an artist to make a cartoon! There are free programs with templates, clip art, and all the elements you would need to click and drag into place all those wonderful ideas you have simmering in your brain. My favorite to use is ToonDoo, available at http://toondoo.com. I like it because there are literally hundreds of elements, a search bar, and it lets me customize what I want to say in the dialog bubbles. It is very user friendly, even for those of us with limited artistic ability.
The whole experience has been overwhelmingly positive for me, and judging from the feedback received, for the students as well. It has also reminded me of one of my teaching goals, which is to incorporate more activities which would fall under assimilating and creating aspects of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, 2001). If that is your goal as well, then try inserting a cartoon in those weekly announcements and ask for feedback from your students—I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Armstrong, Patricia (n.d.) Bloom’s Taxonomy, Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/#2001
Pappas, Christopher (2014) The 5 Best Free Cartoon Making Programs for Teachers. Retrieved from: https://elearningindustry.com/the-5-best-free-cartoon-making-tools-for-teachers
Vicki E. Phillips is an assistant professor of English and Literature at Rasmussen College, Ocala, Fla.
Post-Theory, Games, and Discursive Resistance: The Bulgarian Case
By Aleksandŭr Kʹosev
Mitteleuropa und der Balkan. Erotik der Geopolitik. Die Images zweier Regionen in den westlichen Massenmedien
“Mitteleuropa” and the Balkans. Eroticism of Geopolitics. The Images of Two Regions in Western Media
Author(s): Aleksander Kiossev Subject(s): Cultural Essay, Political Essay, Societal Essay Published by: Neue Literatur