the included, the excluded, and the difference

For any student of history contemplating the Arab Spring and in particular the situation in Egypt, the set of conflicts are quite familiar. The emblematic situation for our era is still the plight of the Weimar government in relation to the so-called “negative parties” in 1920s Germany – the Communists and Nazis in approximately the same position as today’s Islamists and other non-liberals, participating in whatever liberal constitutional system under disagreement with its precepts – but Weimar merely happens to be one of the most extensively documented and sharply defined epochs of the catastrophic heightening of broadly speaking liberal-illiberal contradictions. The catastrophe has occurred many times, and has threatened many times more. It has been closely enough pre-figured in ancient history, long before the emergence of any doctrine of liberal rights, as to imply that it bears on matters even deeper and more primary than the typically modern metaphysics of individualism and the assertion of a universal private interest. It is in a strong sense always present, always already under way. Under other names – the “state of nature” for Hobbes, the failure of law and order, the fall of the republic, civil war, the barbarians at the city gates – it is theoretically and actually foundational for the modern state, as its reason for being and the circumstances of its birth, but investigations by numerous writers, ancient and modern, continually re-discover figures of this same tripartite division – zone of peace; zone of danger; sovereign power defining the border – in effect wherever they have looked. Recent writers – Agamben, Kahn – have further emphasized that these divisions are not merely territorial. The zone of war precedes us, it threatens to succeed us, it surrounds us, it exists within us as individuals, and it operates within society and politics wherever the exceptional circumstance arises or is invoked. In all cases, sovereign power is closely identified with it, as both the force that holds the predators and dangers at bay, and also as another or greater predator and danger, the brute force or monstrous leviathan whose “monopoly on violence” within the zone of peace can be exerted in any and all directions, at the crucial moment even throwing aside the very institutions whose construction has been its more customary self-justification before society. For these reasons no one ever stands completely outside of these questions, and, because any political philosophy is always actually political as well as philosophical, any political philosophical investigation of them must always implicate the intentions and self-interest of the writer. Any opinion we form on the exception is an opinion we form about and for ourselves, of and in our own interest. It must be presumed in the act of looking. Non-dialectical political science is purely pseudo-science on this matter that would be most important to it if only it could ever properly remove itself from the inquiry, but every attempted movement away from the center of discussion converts necessarily and immediately into a new problem for the selfsame discussion, a new proposition of the included, the excluded, and the difference. The discussion is the tracking of this motion: We continue it for the sake of putting our prejudices to tests that they can fail. Suspicion or resistance on the part of the reader must also vary with his or her own also inextricably compromised position.

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution.

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    1. […] Those saving their loudest cries of outrage for an Obama Second Term may find themselves deprived of an object to protest. Still, even if strikes in Yemen and elsewhere also subside, and other remnants of the War on Terror fade away, the problem will return in some other form, and not because drones are here (or everywhere) to stay (at least until the countermeasures). The damning implications of the exceptional circumstance and the “extra-legal” decision will return because they are inherent in government itself. […]

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    Noted & Quoted

    TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

    For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

    The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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    Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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    [E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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