“True freedom is not a freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between a strawberry cake or a chocolate cake; true freedom overlaps with necessity. One makes a truly free choice when one’s choice puts at stake one’s very existence—one does it because one simply ‘cannot do otherwise.’ When one’s country is under a foreign occupation and one is called by a resistance leader to join the fight against the occupiers, the reason given is not ‘you are free to choose,’ but: ‘Can’t you see that this is the only thing you can do if you want to retain your dignity?’
“[Martin] Luther saw clearly how the (Catholic) idea that our redemption depends on our acts introduces a dimension of bargaining into ethics: good deeds are not done out of duty but in order to gain salvation. If, however, my salvation is predestined, this means that my fate is already decided and my doing good deeds does not serve anything—so if I do them, it is out of pure duty, a really altruistic act . . . .
“What Protestantism prohibits is the very thought that a believer can, as it were, take a position outside/above itself and look upon itself as a small particle in the vast reality.”
“What this also implies is that the access to ‘reality in itself’ does not demand from us that we overcome our ‘partiality’ and arrive at a neutral vision elevated above our particular struggles—we are ‘universal beings’ only in our full partial engagements. *** [W]e should assert the radically exclusive love for the singular One, a love which throws out of joint the smooth flow of our lives.
“the true ethical universality never resides in the quasi-neutral distance that tries to do justice to all concerned factions. So, if, against fundamentalisms which ground ethical commitment in one’s particular ethnic or religious identity, excluding others, one should insist on ethical
universalism, one should also unconditionally insist on how every authentic ethical position by definition paradoxically combines universalism with taking sides in the ongoing struggle. Today, more than ever, one should emphasize that a true ethical position combines the assertion of Universalism with a militant, divisive position of one engaged in a struggle: true universalists are not those who preach global tolerance of differences and all-encompassing unity, but those who engage in a passionate fight for the assertion of the Truth that engages them.”
Link to an article by Daniel Zamora:
This is really an article about historical battles for ideological hegemony.
Link to an article by Ryan LaMothe:
Link to a review by Landon Frim & Harrison Fluss of Steven Pinker‘s book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018):
This is a great tear-down of Pinker’s thinking, which is problematic because of how basically insipid it is as mere status quo boosterism.
“in the analysis of ideology, it is not simply a matter of seeing which account of reality best matches the ‘facts’, with the one that is closest being the least biased and therefore the best. As soon as the facts are determined, we have already — whether we know it or not — made our choice; we are already within one ideological system or another. The real dispute has already taken place over what is to count as the facts, which facts are relevant, and so on.”
Rex Butler, “What Is a Master-Signifier”
Link to an article by Haydar Khan:
Bonus links: “The Politics of Identity” and The Trouble With Diversity and “What’s Wrong With Identity Politics (and Intersectionality Theory)? A Response to Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle” (And Its Critics)” and Liberalism: A Counter-History (“Liberalism has always pivoted, Losurdo argues, on drawing a dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – those who are worthy or capable (morally, intellectually, biologically/racially) of the gamut of rights and liberties we associate with liberalism and those who are not.”)
Link to an article by Alfie Bown:
Bonus link: “Socialism at Play”
“There is an even greater problem with the underlying premise of those who proclaim the ‘death of truth’: they talk as if before (say, until the 1980s), in spite of all the manipulations and distortions, truth did somehow prevail, and that the ‘death of truth’ is a relatively recent phenomenon. Already a quick overview tells us that this was not the case. How many violations of human rights and humanitarian catastrophes remained invisible, from the Vietnam War to the invasion of Iraq? Just remember the times of Reagan, Nixon, Bush… The difference was not that the past was more ‘truthful’ but that ideological hegemony was much stronger, so that, instead of today’s greater melee of local ‘truths,’ one ‘truth’ (or, rather, one big Lie) basically prevailed. In the West, this was the liberal-democratic Truth (with a Leftist or Rightist twist). What is happening today is that, with the populist wave which unsettled the political establishment, the Truth/Lie that has served as an ideological foundation for this establishment is also falling apart. And the ultimate reason for this disintegration is not the rise of postmodern relativism but the failure of the ruling establishment, which is no longer able to maintain its ideological hegemony.”
Link to an article/letter by Kalundi Serumaga:
This pieces raises many excellent points. But it is also worth pointing out some questionable aspects of its theoretical framework and recommendations. First, while the article characterizes the essence of Europe as Bonapartism, it does so by applying philosophical standards that originated in Europe, or at least drew from European precedents. While it may well be fair to call the current hegemonic ideology of Europe (and elsewhere) Bonapartist, to treat all of Europe as monolithic and without couter-currents seems rather reductionist. Second, the “tasks for EU civil society” include “2. Find out what your countries truly owe, and make them pay it back” This is basically both a politics of victimhood and an expression of ressentiment. Frantz Fanon once wrote, “The colonized man is an envious man.” That seems accurate in this context, but as a statement of limitation of vision. The last chapter of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks explicitly rejected Serumaga’s approach, and that is a big part of why Fanon is a stronger theoretical reference point than what is expressed in Serumaga’s article. Lastly, the article concludes by saying, “It is time for the North to (once again, after Ancient Egypt) learn from the South.” This is a dubious offhand assertion of identity politics, yet again in the service of the valorization of victimhood status and ressentiment.
“The arbitrariness of social hierarchy is not a mistake, but the whole point, with the arbitrariness of evaluation playing an analogous role to the arbitrariness of market success. Violence threatens to explode not when there is too much contingency in the social space, but when one tries to eliminate contingency. In La Marque du sacré, Jean-Pierre Dupuy conceives hierarchy as one of four procedures (‘dispositifs symboliques’) whose function is to make the relationship of superiority non-humiliating: hierarchy itself (an externally imposed order that allows me to experience my lower social status as independent of my inherent value); demystification (the ideological procedure which demonstrates that society is not a meritocracy but the product of objective social struggles, enabling me to avoid the painful conclusion that someone else’s superiority is the result of his merit and achievements); contingency (a similar mechanism, by which we come to understand that our position on the social scale depends on a natural and social lottery; the lucky ones are those born with the right genes in rich families); and complexity (uncontrollable forces have unpredictable consequences; for instance, the invisible hand of the market may lead to my failure and my neighbour’s success, even if I work much harder and am much more intelligent). Contrary to appearances, these mechanisms don’t contest or threaten hierarchy, but make it palatable, since ‘what triggers the turmoil of envy is the idea that the other deserves his good luck and not the opposite idea – which is the only one that can be openly expressed.’ Dupuy draws from this premise the conclusion that it is a great mistake to think that a reasonably just society which also perceives itself as just will be free of resentment: on the contrary, it is in such societies that those who occupy inferior positions will find an outlet for their hurt pride in violent outbursts of resentment.”