In discussions at this blog I will generally employ the word “liberalism” to refer to a political-philosophical doctrine, rather than to liberalism as restrictively understood in contemporary American politics. In short, I am using the historically expansive but conceptually narrow definition of “liberal” to describe the doctrine of rights or freedoms of the individual human being as crystallized by early modern metaphysics, but under a practical awareness of the evolution of politicized liberalism to include “liberal democracy,” “social liberalism,” and “welfare state liberalism” as well as the pure or pre-socialized liberalism of “libertarianism” and the de-socializing orientation of “neo-liberalism.” American “constitutional conservatism” and “neo-conservatism” also lie within this same historical horizon, though they, like all other “real existing” liberalisms if perhaps sometimes more self-consciously, often seek to integrate diverse pre- or extra-liberal contents, such as traditional religion or a quasi-religious American nationalism, within a broadly liberal, modern, and democratic project: In the present era even those who seek to situate themselves beyond the liberal and chiefly liberal democratic horizon, but within the horizon of the evolving international system, must do so in relationship to liberalism, not merely as a philosophical or intellectual task, but in response to the political-economic and cultural influence of the liberal democratic states.
On, appropriately enough, July 4 of this year, via Twitter as @hhassan140, Hassan Hassan (“HH” below) offered a provocative summary of an article on Islamists and the Arab Spring by Hussein Ibish (@ibishblog, “HI”). A colloquy between Hassan, Ibish, and myself (“CM”) ensued, its terms anticipating the same arguments, and the same situation, that informed that tweet of Hassan’s at the head of my “1st Précis.”
Liberal presumptions re Egypt offer “textbook” examples of logocentrism, but in this world one book bounces against another.
Michael Neumann, Professor of Philosophy (emeritus), writing at his personal blog “Insufficient Respect,” has put together an unusually thoughtful and balanced discussion of the Egyptian situation: “Has Morsi overthrown the rule of law?” Neumann explains the fundamental constitutional problem in clear terms (without relying on references to controversial German legal philosophers), and also notes in passing the contradictory positions and conduct of the self-styled liberal democratic forces – the proponents of rule of law and consensual decision-making who have responded to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood with vitriol, maximalist demands, and the torching of political offices.
Forcing or persuading Morsi and his movement to compromise will not by itself solve the Egyptian problems. It may however help to constitute a new Egyptian sovereignty along broader lines than purely Islamist ones, supply the deficits in the Islamist theory of the modern nation-state, and preserve a liberal democratic opening.
One could easily – the liberalist Twitterati have shown little hesitation on this one – compare Morsi’s assumption of the right to rule by decree with acts by Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or a wide range of autocrats including Morsi’s immediate predecessor. If inclined, however, to support or excuse Morsi, one might instead invoke Franklin Roosevelt after or even before the 1941 American Declarations of War, or Abraham Lincoln suspending the Constitution to save constitutional order: Each was called tyrant, traitor, dictator by his political enemies, even amidst undoubted states of emergency. Now they are, generally but not universally, called “great.”
Regardless of where we come down in the end on the wisdom and justifiability of the administration’s war policies, criticism that does not take the full debate and its real subject into consideration, that merely repeats what we already know – that war is awful and morally, culturally, and politically deforming; that it exceeds the terms of normal, lawful policy; that it makes us act like “barbarians” all on the way to Hell – does not deserve to be and likely will not be taken seriously.
Posted in Featured
, The Exception
Tagged with: Barbara Lee
, Popular Sovereignty
, The Exception
, War on Terror
The social contract is signed in blood.
We are hostages to the decision, including our own collective decision on one “decider” as opposed to another. Articles like Lewis’, if they reinforce our confidence in the existent rather than the ideal executive, help us to accommodate ourselves to a void in the law and its effects: The existence of this void can serve our needs; or it can be hemmed in politically – which is to say partially and provisionally; or it can be survived until the day it happens to kill us – but it cannot be legislated or reasoned way. So we can expand our general observation on liberalism – including the liberalism that advertises its libertarian purism or its republican virtues or its partisan conservatism, with or without the tri-corner hats and Minuteman costumes: As we know, it has nothing interesting to say about these issues. It does, however, very much like to pretend that it does.
Any opinion we form on the exception is an opinion we form about and for ourselves, of and in our own interest. Non-dialectical political science is purely pseudo-science on this matter that would be most important to it, if only it could ever 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 for them to fail. Suspicion or resistance on the part of the reader must also vary with his or her own also inextricably compromised position.
Posted in Featured
, The Exception
Tagged with: Agamben
, Arab Spring
, Heinrich Meier
, Political Philosophy