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Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Breaking the Social Contract by Pelin Tan and Simon Critchley

In Asia, Europe, government, interview, North America, politics, religion on June 3, 2013 at 21:12

From: Breaking the Social Contract by Pelin Tan and Simon Critchley, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Pelin Tan: In Infinitely Demanding, you describe a distinction between active and passive nihilism. As I understand it, this description has a theological basis. You offer Al-Qaeda as an example of active nihilism. However, I have my doubts about this distinction. I think active nihilism cannot be explained in terms of local and specific conditions, since its meaning is based in Western epistemology. Do you think Western thought is capable of explaining oppositional radical movements such as Al-Qaeda by way of nihilism?

Simon Critchley: It is a question of the political uses of religion, or civil religion in the way Rousseau talks about it in The Social Contract. We could think of religion as ideology. My view is that things like class, ethnicity, and the rest are hugely important, but the question concerns how a polity such as a state acquires legitimacy and is able to motivate citizens to act on its behalf. And the answer to that question requires some understanding of civil religion. In The Social Contract Rousseau comes to the conclusion that politics requires a quasi-religious apparatus of rituals, including flags, national anthem, pledges of religions, and all the rest. Turkey is a very good example. Ataturk basically tried to invent a kind of civil religion using nationalism. So for me, all political units, especially states, justify themselves and try to motivate citizens by appealing to a form of civil religion. Here in the US, that works through the Constitution and the way constitutionality begins with an appeal to God—”In God We Trust.” And this becomes the basis for a political fight, the question of how the civic creed of the United States is to be interpreted. Does it justify a Republican or Democratic governmental order? Analogous situations exist elsewhere. The French elections took place last Sunday and France also has a civil religion, even though the country is purportedly secular.

PT: What is your opinion on the relationship between secularism and liberal democracy nowadays?

SC: I think that all political units make an appeal to something like the sacred, some conception of the sacred. And to me, the history of political forms is a history of different forms of sacralization — from Mesopotamia through Sumeria to the ancient world, and to where we are now. So in my opinion the secular is another expression of the sacral. Of course, secularists usually insist that God has no role in the political realm, that we cannot appeal to God. This is usually based on some progressivist idea of history, which is also religious. Secularism takes over the providential narrative of Christianity, changes some key elements, and comes up with the idea that liberal democracy is the completion of history. The idea is that one is either on the right side of history or the wrong side of history—as Saint Obama has said. So for me, secularism is another appeal to something sacred, the sacredness of human rights, the universality of human rights. This is ideology. I come out of a Gramsician leftist tradition that took a very particular form in England in the ‘70s and ‘80s, where thinkers like Ernesto Laclau, who was very influential for many years, tried to follow Gramsci’s insistence that ideology is important. Ideology isn’t just superstructure. Marxism is about socioeconomic conditions, class, and all the rest—of course that’s true. But ideology, and therefore politics, is that field where social groups are articulated. So for me, ideology has huge importance. And it’s in relation to that notion of ideology that religion takes on this particular importance. So it is not religion, ethnicity, or class inequalities that are important, but the way in which the articulation of each of those terms also appeals to notions of the sacred.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

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Young European directors by Amélie Mougey

In Europe, film, interview, media, visual arts on January 12, 2013 at 22:52

From: Young European directors: ‘You can spot a French film a mile off’ by Amélie Mougey, Cafebabel, http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/

They are aged 24, 26 or 31, hail from Croatia, England, Belgium or Germany, and they all have one thing in common: a desire to create magic with a camera, and to transform their passion into a job. At film school, these budding directors create stories for film. Freshly graduated, they are now throwing themselves at the mercy of the festivals to at last compete with the big boys.

They all dream of making a film with universal appeal. But the public is quick to catch on and their audiences can surprise them. In Volume, the 27-minute short film she is presenting at the rencontres Henri Langlois festival between 30 November and 9 December 2012, English director Mahalia Belo transports her viewers to a prim suburb that is indifferent (or almost) to the disappearance of one of its inhabitants. ‘Here in Poitiers, my film was perceived as being very profound, whilst in Munich, the audience laughed,’ she says, confounded. For the directors, the public’s expectations often remain more obscure than the work of their colleagues.

‘You can spot French films a mile off,’ teases Croatian director Sonja Tarokic, 24. ‘They are usually set in pretty, upper middle class interiors. The singer or pianist who’s in the corner of the bar while the characters are having a drink: that would be completely incongruous in Croatia.’ Mahalia Belo has also developed this radar for detecting different nationalities. ‘After trawling the festival circuit, I can now recognise the very black Finnish sense of humour,’ says the London-based director, who says she is often pigeonholed herself. So all is fair in love and war. ‘At the end of a screening, some audience members tell me my films have nothing to do with English cinema, while others say that they are terribly British,’ she smiles.

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Reposted with permission from: Cafebabel

Kate Middleton: the female body in the post-Berlusconi media by Heather McRobie

In culture, ethics, Europe, gender, government, media, photography, politics, privacy, sexuality on October 3, 2012 at 06:51

From: Kate Middleton: the female body in the post-Berlusconi media by Heather McRobie, Open Democracy, www.opendemocracy.net

So, we have misogyny, power, and lurid gossip-media…feel like something’s missing in the picture? Oh don’t worry, he’s here.  Yes, Berlusconi – the man who made the last year better just because we didn’t have to say his name so often anymore when discussing European politics – in fact owned the media outlet that originally published the photographs of Kate Middleton (a fact which led to some conspiracy-theorising that this was Berlusconi’s revenge on perceived snubs by the British monarchy, according to the Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau).  The publication of the photos by a Berlusconi-owned media outlet should thus be a good opportunity for all European media to reflect on how much damage the former Italian prime minister has had on media standards even outside of Italy, not least in respect to the treatment of women.  The 2009 Italian documentary Il Corpo delle Donne analysed how, under Berlusconi’s effective 95% ownership of Italian media, public depictions of women were infantilised, used (often literally) only as decorative props on Italian television, essentially making invisible from public life any woman who was not willing to pneumatically, breathlessly play along with the narrow, porn-ified role granted for them in the media space.  Journalists who tried to report on the dual dominance of corruption and misogyny while Berlusconi held the dual role of head of state and media mogul found themselves intimidated, critics invariably dismissed as prudes.

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Reposted according to CC copyright notice from Open Democracy website

UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea by Cindy Cohn

In copyright, law, politics, privacy on June 18, 2012 at 22:01

 

From: UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea by Cindy Cohn, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org

This week the British government unveiled a bill that has a familiar ring to it. The Communications Data Bill would require all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone network providers in Britain to collect and store information on everyone’s internet and phone activity.  Essentially, the bill seeks to publicly require in the UK what EFF and many others have long maintained is happening in the US in secret – and what we have been trying to bring to public and judicial review since 2005.  Put simply, it appears that both governments want to shift from surveillance of communications and communications records based on individualized suspicion and probable cause to the mass untargeted collection of communications and communications records of ordinary, non-suspect people.

This shift has profound implications for the UK, the US and any country that claims to be committed to rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

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