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contents
1. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Harry van der Linden Introduction
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part i. democracy and radical listening
2. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Karsten J. Struhl Is Democracy a Universal Value?: Whose Democracy?
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I consider several related challenges to the idea of democracy as a universal value, among them the “Asian values” argument and the claim that Islam can recognize only God as sovereign. I argue specifically against each of these challenges and attempt to demonstrate that it is possible to find strands within the Confucian tradition and Islam which can be woven into a democratic fabric. I also explore several attempts to argue in favor of democracy as a universal value and then offer a political historical argument that its universality is historically contingent. Finally, I consider whether liberal democracy has a universal value and argue that it does not. My conclusion is that each culture must find a democratic version of itself and that any attempt to impose a historically specific form of democracy on another culture is a denial of the universal significance of democracy.
3. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Lisa Heldke The Radical Potential of Listening: A Preliminary Exploration
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In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill argues that free speech possesses value because listening is valuable: it can advance one’s own thinking and action. However, listening becomes difficult when one finds the views of a speaker to be wrong, repellant, or even simply naïve. Everyday wisdom would have it that such cases present the greatest opportunities for growth. Is there substance to this claim? In particular, is there radical political value to be found in listening to others at the very times one is most disinclined to do so? I contend that there is. This paper explores the political potential of what I call “radical listening.” What characterizes radical listening? How can it serve politically transformative purposes? To what extent are the powers of radical listening strategic, and to what extent is it valuablefor more conceptual reasons? Under what circumstances is it appropriate? What are the limits to, and dangers of, radical listening?
part ii. marx, alienation, and racism
4. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Amy E. Wendling Rough, Foul-Mouthed Boys: Women’s Monstrous Laboring Bodies
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Karl Marx claims that alienation inheres in all wage labor. I raise questions about the applicability of this claim to subjects of patriarchy. In the first section, I discuss industrial wage labor and its allure for women who were trying to escape the norms of familial patriarchy. In the second section, I extend this criticism of Marx’s claim by considering the racially enslaved subjects of the Antebellum American South, for whom economicallyrecognized wage labor was still a bloody political battle. Finally, I turn to the identification of working class women and sexuality, in order to show how wage labor offered liberation from narrow bourgeois sexual strictures. I conclude by reassessing the viability of Marx’s critique of alienation, taking into account the standpoints from which wage labor itself was a considerable political achievement.
5. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Tom Jeannot Marx, Capitalism, and Race
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Cedric J. Robinson and others have criticized “Marxism” for “its inability to comprehend either the racial character of capitalism…or mass movements outside Europe.” Whatever the merits of this criticism for “standard Marxism,” Marx’s own thought is neither “economistic” nor Eurocentric, it does not deny historical agency to the struggle against anti-black racism in its own right, and it does not reduce that struggle to the European class struggle. By exploring Marx’s Civil War journalism and correspondence as well as his critique of political economy, this essay demonstrates that Marx’s philosophy of liberation conceptualizes the revolutionary struggle to abolish slavery as an epoch-making worldhistorical freedom struggle, both as a Black liberation movement and also as a necessarycondition for the development of the international working class. A little known Blackled revolt in Bolivar, Missouri in 1859 is Marx’s clue to the meaning and significance of the American Civil War.
part iii. the struggle against racism
6. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
John Exdell Immigration, Race, and Liberal Nationalism
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A nationalist theory of the modern state holds that territorial states should be constituted as nations composed of people who in some sense belong with each other as members of their country. Liberal philosophers have defended this view on the grounds that nationality creates the solidarity necessary for social justice. Their argument is troubled by the case of the United States, where nationality is strong but solidarity weak. According to the best empirical studies, the fundamental reason for the American exception is not libertarian political culture, but white anti-black racism. This essay makes the case that an open border policy with Mexico and other Latina/o states is likely to weaken the national identity now widely held in the United States, but increase the political prospects for racial justice. It follows that a liberal nationalist justification for excluding undocumented Latina/o immigrants from membership in U.S. society should be rejected.
7. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
C. W. Dawson, Jr. When the House Is on Fire: Finding Hope in the Midst of Democratic Despair
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This paper is a philosophical, socio-political, analysis of the problem of democratic despair and the possibility of finding hope in the midst of it. The analysis spring boards from a dialectical discussion on the state of Black America between Harry Belafonte, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Cornel West, to an examination of the reasons for believing this house called America is on fire. The paper then moves to two possible responses for African Americans to the burning house: separatism (physical or psychological), and radical cultural pluralism grounded in a transformative deep democracy. The paper opts for the latter, concludes by offering a new cultural pluralistic democracy as a model for hope, and suggests the basic tools necessary for building such a transformative democracy.
8. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Tommy J. Curry Please Don’t Make Me Touch ’Em: Towards a Critical Race Fanonianism as a Possible Justifi cation for Violence against Whiteness
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The unchanging realities of race relations in the United States, recently highlighted by the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, demonstrate that Black Americans are still not viewed, treated or protected as citizens in this country. The rates of poverty, disease and incarceration in Black communities have been recognized by some Critical Race Theorists as genocidal acts. Despite the appeal to the international community’s interpretation of human rights, Blacks are still the most impoverished and lethally targeted group in America. Given the “white racial framing” that stems from “white habitus,” and enforced systemically, the situation of Black Americans is best described through a racial realist perspective, in which racial equality is merely an illusion. Under such dire colonial circumstances, I argue that there should be a renewed discussion on the role that violence and decolonization can play in the American context.
9. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Dwayne A. Tunstall Why Violence Can Be Viewed as a Legitimate Means of Combating White Supremacy for Some African Americans
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Philosophers often entertain positions that they themselves do not hold. This article is an example of this. While I do not advocate localized acts of violence to combat white supremacy, I think that it is worthwhile to explore why it might be theoretically justifiable for some African Americans to commit such acts of violence. I contend that acts of localized violence are at least theoretical justifiable for some African Americans from the vantage point of racial realism. Yet, I also contend that the likely detrimental consequences of engaging in such violence on economically disadvantaged African Americans outweigh its possible benefits for them; hence, it should not be used by them to combat white supremacy presently.
part iv. prisons, oppression, and democracy
10. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Jason L. Mallory Prisoner Oppression and Free World Privilege
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The position I defend in this paper is that both prisoners and ex-prisoners, at least within present U.S. society, experience a form of oppression that can be distinguished from that inflicted upon other structurally disadvantaged groups. As a result of these U.S. conditions, I also argue that those who have not been or are not currently incarcerated may possess some unearned advantages, similar to but also different from other forms of privilege, such as those based upon race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. In the first section, I investigate three definitions of oppression to articulate my thesis of prisoner oppression, using the work of Marilyn Frye, Kenneth Clatterbaugh, and Ann E. Cudd. In the second section, I respond to three objections against my thesis. I conclude in the third section with some thoughts on how the preceding arguments should affect the dominant discourse regarding prison reform and abolition.
11. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Eduardo Mendieta The Prison Contract and Abolition Democracy
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This article discusses the fortuitous genesis of the book of my conversations with Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy (Seven Stories, 2005) and traces some of the intellectual and philosophical sources that informed the specific questions and approaches that inform the dialogue. Davis’ relationships to Georg Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer, as well as to Foucault, are discussed. Similarly, Davis’ place within a critical black American political-philosophical tradition is analyzed. The essay focuses mainly, however, on the way in which Davis’ work on the prison industrial complex profiles an unsuspected contribution to political philosophy that links up the disciplinary origins of American democracy with its racial contract to give rise to the prison contract. In the tradition of Charles Mills, Davis’ radical theory of penality unmasks and denounces the over-determined relationship between surplus punishment and the racial character of the US polity in terms of theproductivity of the prison system.
12. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Brady Thomas Heiner “From the Prison of Slavery to the Slavery of Prison”: Angela Y. Davis’s Abolition Democracy
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One of the most radical dimensions of Davis’s critique of American democracy is her exposure of the vestiges of slavery that remain in the contemporary criminal justice system. I discuss this aspect of her critical project, its roots in Du Bois’s critique of Black Reconstruction, and the way that it informs her prison abolitionism and her two-pronged program for the formation of a genuine “abolition democracy.” I conclude by reflecting upon Davis’s reticence about abolition as a constructive enterprise and assessing some of the challenges faced by the contemporary abolitionist movement.
13. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Mechthild Nagel In Search of Abolition Democracy
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This paper focuses on the meaning of Du Bois’s concept of “abolition democracy” and on the ideology of the abstract rights-bearing subject. In Abolition Democracy, Angela Y. Davis calls for the abolition of oppressive institutions, such as U.S. prisons, in order to engender abolition democracy. She also questions how subjects appear before the law, which justifies and normalizes inhumane practices, such as the death penalty. In conclusion, the paper explores ideas on how to conceptualize thinking “beyond” the prison industrial complex not only in North America but globally.
14. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Jeffrey Paris Abolition Democracy and the Ultimate Carceral Threat
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The series of conversations between Angela Y. Davis and Eduardo Mendieta entitled Abolition Democracy is a powerful investigation of the failed moral imagination of imperial democracies. After examining their discussion of how truncated political discourses enable abuses in both war and imprisonment, I look to the “exceptional” status of war prisons such as at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. I argue that domestic prisons, like international war prisons, are means for the paradigmatic functioning of the exception in modern democracy, as described by Giorgio Agamben, and thus constitute no less of an “ultimate carceral threat.” Within the domestic prison, the legal status of inmates is virtually suspended and they are reduced to bare life. I conclude that we may yet share the hopes of Davis and Mendieta for an abolition democracy, and that such a democracy would bear the echoes of the unconditional sovereignty “to come” theorized by Jacques Derrida.
contents
15. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Abstracts
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16. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 5
Contributors
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17. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Tony Smith, Harry van der Linden Introduction
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part i: war and empire
18. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Karsten J. Struhl Can There Be a Just War?
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Just war theory distinguishes between jus ad bellum (whether the war itself is just) and jus in bello (whether the conduct of the war is just). I argue, against the traditional view, that modern warfare has made it impossible to separate the two in practice. Specifically, I argue that modern war is a techno-cultural system which requires its participants to violate the primary criterion of jus in bello—noncombatant immunity. From this it follows that even a war of self-defense is not a just war. I consider several challenges to my position: the doctrine of double effect and the claim that noncombatant immunity can be suspended on the basis of military necessity or supreme emergency. I argue that neither of these challenges is acceptable and that to suspend the rule of noncombatant immunity is to suspend the moral point of view. Finally, I consider alternatives which would change the techno-cultural system of modern war.
19. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Ann Ferguson No Just War for the Empire
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Although international law and the Charter of the United Nations define a doctrine of just war, some critics have argued that the U.S. has become an empire that can no longer be bound by such doctrine. On the contrary, I maintain that we must retain just war doctrine as a normative base from which to critique the U.S. and its preemptive wars against terrorism. Neither the Afghanistan nor the Iraq war has been a just war. By its imperialist intentions and barbarous actions, the U.S. government has shown itself no longer to be a legitimate authority with the moral justification to begin or conduct a war. Such subversion of democratic deliberation requires a moral force to mobilize resistance from below. Since no war initiated by the undemocratic elite of the U.S. Empire could possibly be just, we have a conscientious obligation to become revolutionary pacifists against any wars called by such an illegitimate government. In contrast to universal pacifism, a context-justified revolutionary pacifism can be defended as a coherent moral and political position.
20. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Edmund F. Byrne Leave No Oil Reserves Behind, Including Iraq’s: The Geopolitics of American Imperialism
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Just war theory needs to become a real-time critique of government war propaganda in order to facilitate peace advocacy ante bellum. This involves countering asserted justificatory reasons with demonstrable facts that reveal other motives, thereby yielding reflective understanding which can be collectivized via electronic media. As a case in point, I compare here the publicly declared reasons for the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq in 2003 with reasons discussed internally months and even years before in government and think-tank documents. These sources show that control of oil rather than regime change or a WMD threat was theunderlying motive. Neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration justified such deception by citing an exoteric/esoteric distinction traceable to Plato via Leo Strauss. As with the Iraq invasion, so in general such propaganda and its rationalizations can be undermined by investigative journalism understood as ranging from fact gathering to rhetorical analysis and critique.