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Radical Philosophy Today

Volume 4, 2006
Philosophy Against Empire

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Displaying: 1-20 of 35 documents


part iv: subjectivity and resistance
1. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Richard Schmitt Can the Alienated Make a Socialist Revolution? Reflections About the Prospects for Socialism
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Alienation is the name of the deformations of human personality produced by capitalism and, specifically, by wage labor. The alienated are powerless. That inhibits their self-esteem, and takes from them the direction of their own lives and the choice of their life values. They become passive bystanders to existence, distrustful of their fellows and motivated by the desire for gain. The alienated tend to be timid, morally indifferent, and ready to support great evil. Appearances are all that matters to them. They are resentful, conservative. Alienation itself becomes invisible. It unfits those who work for a wage from being active in the movements for social change from capitalism to socialism. The transition to socialism appears to become well-nigh impossible. The force of this argument ismoderated by the fact that the conditions of wage labor are not uniform and alienation, and therefore are more severe for some workers than for others.
2. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Richard A. Jones Black Authenticity/Inauthenticity and American Empire
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In this paper, I explore political identity for African Americans in an era where the stated aim of the U.S. is global dominance. In ordinary language, I am interested in how blacks can effectively engage in dissent, civil disobedience, protest, insurrection, and revolutionary actions while surviving in an atmosphere where the majority believe either Bush I’s “A friend of my enemy is my enemy,” or Bush II’s “If you harbor terrorists, you’re a terrorist; if you aid and abet terrorists, you’re a terrorist—and you’ll be treated like one.” This paper attempts to interrogate how African Americans—who identify with globally oppressed and distressed peoples—can survive while actively protesting within an armed camp. Or does being black in America mean that one is either a terrorist sympathizer or anUncle Tom? The answers to these questions require a coalition of the unwilling.
3. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Richard T. Peterson Human Rights and the Politics of Neo-colonial Intervention
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What kind of ethical perspective is available for criticizing policies like the U.S. intervention in Iraq? Though human rights seems to offer a framework suited to this kind of global politics, the realities of the neo-colonial world bring the viability of its universality into question. Democratic responsibility may offer a bridging perspective, though it too lacks convincing embodiment. Exploration of the preconditions for assuming such responsibility does help us grasp some political features of the required agency and also helps us sketch a historical and conflict-based notion of human rights that may allow for a notion of an unfolding ethic that permits the kind of criticism that is required for thinking about neo-colonial relations in concrete ethical terms.
4. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
Peter Amato Marxist Critique and Philosophical Hermeneutics: Outlines of a Hermeneutical-Historical Materialism
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Philosophically robust conceptions of ethical life and moral critique would advance the struggle against capital. Marx can be read as implying that human life is irreducibly meaningful, linguistic, and cultural, but he often is not. Whether or not Marx recognized them himself, these dimensions of life have not been sufficiently thematized or developed by Marxists. I argue that we can move toward doing so with assistance from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics. A hermeneutical approach to historical materialism would help clarify and articulate some aspects of Marxism which in particular have been hard to resolve within a wider view of the ethical, political, scientific, and historical dimensions of social action and change.
part v: book discussion
5. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
William McBride Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights
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McBride offers a succinct summary of Gould’s book and ponders what the significance of theoretical discussions of the nature of human rights and degrees of democracy might be for our time when the U.S. government has descended into “barbarism” and made a sham out of anything resembling democracy. He concludes that Gould’s book is “first rate” as “a learned exercise in dreaming,” granting against his own deep pessimism that one can never know for sure that “dreams” may not turn out to have some practical relevance. [Abstract prepared by the Editors.]
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Omar Dahbour Is “Globalizing Democracy” Possible?
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Comparing Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights to other recent discussions of global justice, Dahbour argues that her work offers two important theoretical departures: It grounds global rights and democracy along foundationalist rather than constructivist lines; and it rejects the notion that just global institutions require the equal input of all those affected by their activities, defending instead that only those engaged in the “common activity” of institutions should participate in the decision-making. On the basis of this common activity guideline, Dahbour argues against Gould that we should not move toward “globalizing democracy” (or political cosmopolitanism) because globalization has been mostly a project of U.S. Empire. Instead, furthering democracy andhuman rights requires the strengthening of local democracy and support of the global justice movement as an antiglobalization movement. [Abstract prepared by the Editors.]
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Kory P. Schaff Are There Human Rights?
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Guided by Hegel’s claim that rights are actual only with the modern state, and noting that the “abstract spirit of Kant’s cosmopolitanism” is pervasive in Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights, Schaff raises a variety of moral, political, and ontological objections to her account of rights. Most controversially, he argues that if we embrace with Gould the idea that people have rights even if their political community does not grant them, we may play into the hands of imperial aggression cloaked in human rights language—as exemplified by the justificatory rhetoric of the U.S. in support of its recent interventions and its ongoing occupation of Iraq. [Abstract prepared by the Editors.]
8. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 4
David Schweickart Stakeholders and Terrorists: On Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights
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Schweickart argues that Gould in her most recent book seems to have shifted away from the notion of economic democracy as “one person, one vote” to a less radical modified stakeholder view in which the various constituents of the economic enterprise, including employees, stockholders, and managers, share in decision-making power. Noting that Gould does not explain why she holds that workplace democracy is a too stringent participatory demand, Schweickart brings up a variety of arguments that might be offered in support of her claim and finds them all clearly wanting. More briefly, he addresses Gould’s normative analysis of terrorism, concluding that it raises, but does not address, the difficult question, “Should we empathize with the [suicide] terrorists?” [Abstract prepared by the Editors.]
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Carol C. Gould A Reply to My Critics
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In response to critical discussions of her Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights by William McBride, Omar Dahbour, Kory Schaff, and David Schweickart, Gould grants that globalization and U.S. Empire are intertwined, but she argues that this does not refute that global and transnational interconnections and networks are developing that are in need of substantive democracy. Gould further seeks to clarify two main interpretive misunderstandings of her critics. First, even though she rejects “all affected” as a criterion for determining the participants of institutional decision-making, she does leave room for participation of the “affected” when the fulfillment of their basic rights is at stake. Second, she argues that her vision of democratizing economic institutions is not fundamentallydifferent from the traditional idea of workplace democracy. Other topics addressed are the normative grounding of human rights, the error of reducing human rights to positive law, and the incoherency of the notion that democracy can be imposed by the barrel of a gun. Finally, Gould maintains that empathy, if properly understood, should be extended to terrorists, while we should also strongly condemn their rejection of noncombatant immunity. [Abstract prepared by the Editors.]
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Abstracts
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Contributors
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12. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 3
Greg Moses Desire at the Docks: A Preview
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In this introductory essay the editor places the broad movement of Marxist philosophy into a tradition that, since Plato, has endeavored to stimulate desire for concepts of justice, in contexts of flourishing commercial power. Although Plato and the modern philosopher both know the risks of such undertakings (it was majority rule that put Socrates to death), and although powerful commercial interests have never been altogether comfortable in philosophical company, nevertheless the academy and the work of philosophy proves to be a curious necessity, as this collection of essays demonstrates.
13. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 3
Robert Ware Creating Organizations and Institutions for Radical Democracy
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Typical philosophies of liberation often assume, and sometimes argue, that freedom and democracy will be best experienced through an absence of institutions. Contrary to this trend in theory, the author argues that a better philosophy of liberation will seek to transform institutions, rather than abolish them. Using examples of cooperative experiments in the Basque territories and in Brazil, the author argues that experiences of liberation are achieved through new forms of institutional life that nurture participatory and egalitarian relationships between people.
14. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 3
Len Krimerman One Cheer for Experimental Pluralism, Another for Education-Shaped Democracy
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In reply to a chapter by Robert Ware on the need to include, rather than eliminate, institutions in theories of liberation, the author warns that liberation theory must walk on both social and psychological legs and then argues that Ware’s comparative analysis of institutions fails to lead analysis into crucial reflection on how individuals are transformed. Drawing on the work of John Dewey and George Benello, the author argues that an educational philosophy can offer a helpful framework for thinking about relationships between institutions and individuals, such that genuinely democratic institutions would be recognized as being more developmentally educative for individuals involved. The chapter also contains a brief reply by Ware.
15. Radical Philosophy Today: Volume > 3
Harry Targ Class and Race in the USA Labor Movement: The Case of the Packinghouse Workers
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Drawing on several recent studies, and a few personal interviews with leadership, the author reviews the history (1937-1968) of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) in order to demonstrate how this Chicago-based labor movement exemplified radical commitments to social welfare and civil rights, in addition to more traditional concerns with pay and other shopfloor issues. Not only did the union have significant membership among African-American workers, but it also undertook active programs of anti-racism in order to fight racial discrimination with its own ranks. The union also resisted much of the anti-communist politics of the post-Cold War era, resulting in a tradition of racial commitments to “social unionism.” For example, this was one of the first unions to offer financial support to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference soon after the civil rights organization was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Brenda Bethman Housewife or Shopgirl? Alienation in Elfriede Jelinek’s women as lovers
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Rather than choose between competing theories of alienation, whether Marxist, feminist, or psychoanalytic, this chapter argues that each theory has its value for a critical understanding of Jelinek’s literary work. At the level of the “signified or plot,” the author finds that Marxist theories of alienation through labor, and feminist theories of alienation in patriarchy, are both helpful frameworks for exploring the situations represented in the novel. In addition, at the level of “signifier or language,” the author shows how Jelinek’s use of metonymy also works to subvert customary expectations of a romance formula.
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Richard Peterson Media Politics and Human Rights
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In response to several appeals for a new politics of media, the author argues that a human right to self-identity would help to clarify and inform the normative stakes involved in efforts to liberate powerful media forces for democratic ends. Such a right to self-identity may be seen already to be a latent motivation behind various efforts to secure “representation” for protected classes; however, if the principles were drawn out in more explicit form, they might help to more powerfully transform the targeted media structures along normative lines already legitimized by a human rights tradition. In addition, a discourse of human rights would also help to discipline competing group interests in ways that would better protect individuals involved in those struggles from coercive agendas that would drive them into conformist group loyalties. The author articulates a background theory of human rights that is grounded in the actual histories and practices of the emerging global movement.
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Peg O’Connor Swimming Against the Mainstream Gay and Lesbian Agenda
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In many ways, the struggle for gay and lesbian rights has come of age, and mainstream politics in the USA shows signs of embracing the votes and monetary contributions of organized gay and lesbian constituents. But the author warns that a movement for sexual liberation pays too high a price when it mimics a conservative language of “family values.” Since the framework of “family” language is implicated in structures of heteronormativity and patriarchy, sexual liberation that plays the “family language” game will be drawn into a narrowing politics of nondiscrimination. Furthermore, argues the author, the right to marry cannot be considered a human right, since it is always bound to local statutes and custom. Therefore, gay and lesbian liberation that seeks truly universalizable principles will do better to not ensnare its struggle in “family values.”
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Melissa Burchard What’s My Line? Gender, Performativity, and Bisexual Identity
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Although gay and lesbian theory may posit homosexuality as an oppositional challenge to heteronormativity, the author argues that homosexuality and heterosexuality share a common structure of desire that is based upon choosing the gender of one’s partner from only one gender in a binary gender framework. For this reason, the author introduces the term ‘monosexual’ to designate any sexual orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, which makes a single gender category into an exclusive criterion for selecting partners. As an alternative to these “oppositional” logics, the author argues that bisexuality may be distinguished through its focus on desire regardless of the gender category of one’s partner. This alternative raises questions about logical theories that posit conceptual oppositions as necessary to intelligibility.
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Lisa Heldke “Dear Kate Bornstein”: Bisexual Reflections on a Bi-Trans Alliance
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In an imagined letter to the author of My Gender Workbook, the author of this article recounts classroom discussions about gender identity that led to profound questions regarding the relation between sex, gender, and sexuality. The author argues that more conversation between bisexual and transgender perspectives would continue to unsettle conceptual frameworks for sexuality in helpful ways. The author finds special consequences in this conversation for the concept of gender, especially when it is considered as a reference point for self-exploration and classification.