Issue 173, December 2022
Fighting with the Other
War as the catalyst of nationalism, or, the demise of the Habsburg, Romanov and Ottoman empires
Emre Amasyalı and John A. Hall
Nationalism is often singled out as the powerful force that brought about the collapse of the last great land empires of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We offer a different picture: nationalism was weak before 1914, with war being caused by the fears of the great powers rather than pressures from below; crucially war was less an opportunity for pre-existing nationalists to seize than a maelstrom that created new identities.
Islam, Eurocentrism, and the question of jihadism
This article offers a novel historical interpretation of the problem of jihadism through a critique of the philosophical foundations of Olivier Roy’s scholarship on Islam and jihadism. In particular, the article elucidates the consequences of the dominant positivist ontology and secular episteme of the social sciences for the analysis of jihadism. To this end, it formulates an alternative conceptualization of the main terms of analysis (namely, Islam, the ummah, the caliphate, and jihad), highlighting their political significance and disavowing thereby the epistemic prejudices of Eurocentric social science. The article argues jihad designates a political phenomenon tied to Islam’s presence as a universal order and Muslims as an autonomous community. It is a signifier of the organized, collective warfare of Muslims as a distinct political group, represented by the caliphate as an ‘Islamicate great power’, and waged by its professional armies. Jihadism represents the venture to recover jihad in a world without a caliphate, its condition of possibility being the disappearance of the caliphate, and in that it signifies the fragmentation, disorganization, and de-politicization of jihad.
Incriminatory utopias: Utopian visions creating scapegoats
Kalli Drousioti and Marianna Papastephanou
Many utopian visions operate by scapegoating an Otherness. They blame an ‘enemy’ for an unbearable, dystopian current reality, holding the ‘enemy’ responsible for it or for obstructing the passage to a desired, new reality. Then they exclude (or even promise the elimination of) this ‘enemy’. Despite the renewed interest in utopias, such utopian frames remain theoretically neglected or, worse, they are considered typical of the logical structure of utopianism. This paper aims to show that this issue merits a different political-philosophical attention. We begin with operations of utopian predicates in the relevant scholarship and distinguish them from the operations of the term ‘incriminatory’ that we are introducing. We term incriminatory the kind of utopian frame whose future-oriented, idealized and desired image is constructed in and through an incriminated ‘Other’. We indicate the re-conceptualizing merits of this new term and then we discuss the affirmative utopianism that does not incriminate a specific Other. Our main argument, which we deploy contra Yannis Stavrakakis’s position, is that utopias are not unavoidably or inherently incriminatory.
The populist body in the age of social media: A comparative study of populist and non-populist representation
María Esperanza Casullo and Rodolfo E. Colalongo
Populist representation is the process by which a body or set of bodies become the signifier of a powerful act of political transgression of the social order. We call this specific type of representative linkage ‘synecdochal representation’. In it, the leader’s body performs three key functions: it mirrors certain popular traits that are characterized as ‘low’, it displays marks of exceptionality, and it appropriates symbols of institutional power. These tasks are performed through particular ways of acting, dressing, talking, eating, and the like, in public. Social media has become a key locus for bodily self-presentation because it is used to create the appearance of intimacy and spontaneity through the distribution of ‘candid’ pictures and videos. This paper will analyze how the self-presentation of populist and non-populist leaders are established through Twitter, what images they choose to disseminate, and how they are re-signified by the audience. To do so, we will focus on the two Latin American politicians: Cristina Fernández (with a populist style) and Mauricio Macri (with a technocratic one).
Epistemic bandwagons, speculation, and turnkeys: Some lessons from the tale of the urban ‘underclass’
Drawing on the Begriffsgeschichte of Reinhart Koselleck and the reflexive sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, my book The Invention of the ‘Underclass’ draws a microhistory of the birth, diffusion, and demise of this racialized folk devil at the intersection of the academic field, the journalistic field, and the politics-policy-philanthropic field. This history illuminates the politics of knowledge about dispossessed and dishonored categories in the metropolis and suggests three notions that can help researchers parse the use and abuse of other social science constructs and thus practice better conceptual hygiene: lemming effects (illustrated by the wild rush to deploy ‘diaspora’), conceptual speculative bubble (as with ‘racial capitalism’), and turnkey problematics (such as the ‘resilient city’ and the ‘creative city’). I discuss the factors that foster the development of epistemic bandwagons, speculation, and turnkeys, and specify the criteria that make for a robust concept in terms of semantics (clarity and neutrality), logics (coherence and type-specificity), and heuristics (empirical adequacy and theoretical productivity).
Ambivalence in Gramsci’s historiography of the Risorgimento
Although Gramsci developed his conceptual methodology out of concrete historical analysis, there is a significant tension between his account of the Risorgimento, which plays into a narrative of Italian exceptionalism, and concepts such as historical bloc, hegemony and passive revolution, which point towards European wide convergence in capitalist state dynamics after 1848. This article shows a de-alignment between Gramsci’s account of the Risorgimento and Marx’s analysis of the meaning of 1848 in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Napoleon Bonaparte. At the same time, Gramsci’s conceptual methodology both re-aligns his argument with Marx and significantly develops Marxist analysis of politics. However, Gramsci’s conceptualisation of the role of intellectuals, especially the problematic distinction between traditional and organic intellectuals, does provide support for the kind of exceptionalist argument he offers of the Risorgimento. Therefore, this article reconstructs Gramsci’s account of the intellectuals in order to integrate it better into his analysis of a historical bloc composed of both conservatism and liberalism.
A symposium on Georg Simmel: Essays on art and aesthetics
Elizabeth S. Goodstein, Austin Harrington, Thomas Kemple and Nicola Marcucci
Georg Simmel has long been appreciated as a major theorist of the arts in society, as well as of aesthetic phenomena in general in social life. Yet Simmel’s essays in the area have remained dispersed for many years across the disparate parts of his corpus and have not been easy to survey in their full thematic cohesion and interconnection. This symposium article reflects on Austin Harrington’s comprehensive anthology of these writings in English, published in 2020, which assembles virtually all the relevant titles – many of them appearing in English for the first time. Among the central topics of discussion are Simmel’s fluid style of theorizing, his thinking about representation, reality and modernity in art, his relationships to philosophers and artistic personalities, and his legacy for the present.
Singular sociology? On the work of the German sociologist Andreas Reckwitz
Book reviews: Between Gaia and Ground: Four Axioms of Existence and the Ancestral Catastrophe of Late Liberalism
Book review: History of the Present: The Contemporary and its Culture