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Philosophy Today

Volume 67, Issue 1, Winter 2023
Violent Democracies

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Displaying: 1-15 of 15 documents

1. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Sabeen Ahmed Provocations on the Liberal Onto-Epistemology of Fascism: An Introduction to the Special Issue
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What follows is a series of provocations, loosely interconnected, centered on the ambiguous relationship between liberalism and fascism in our age of democratic decline. Together they seek to trouble the established binaries and analytic frameworks that would position liberalism and fascism as antithetical and suggest instead that both emerge from the same condition of possibility: imperial racialism. In doing so, they reflect on the discursive function of fascism in sustaining liberal democracy as a project of white supremacy.
2. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Falguni A. Sheth Violence, Democracy, and Selective Recognition
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The January 2021 attacks on the US Capitol prompt a renewed look at the relationship between violence and Western liberal democracies. The attacks were viewed in a race-neutral frame of staging an insurrection against a procedurally elected government of a liberal democracy. Without considering the racial-political context, we are susceptible to recognizing only certain iterations of political violence while missing others altogether. In what follows, I argue that political violence against nonwhites is often not seen as violence or harm committed against the polity; instead, it is frequently treated as a form of “self-defense,” enacted by white members of the polity. To illustrate my argument, I contrast the political principles and conditions under which the January 6 attacks were recognized as political violence with similar attacks in the twentieth century as they had been launched against African Americans who were attempting to participate in elections and run for office.
3. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Larry Alan Busk What Is “Totalitarian” Today?: Arendt after the Climate Breakdown
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This article reconsiders Hannah Arendt’s account of “totalitarianism” in light of the climate catastrophe and the apparent inability of our political-economic system to respond to it adequately. In the last two chapters of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt focuses on the “ideology” of totalitarian regimes: a pathological denial of reality, a privileging of the ideological system over empirical evidence, and a simultaneous feeling of total impotence and total omnipotence—an analysis that maps remarkably well onto the climate zeitgeist. Thus, while Arendt used the concept of “totalitarianism” to foreclose alternatives to liberal capitalist democracy, the climate impasse suggests that the totalitarian label more properly belongs to the prevailing system itself.
4. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Takunda Matose The Anti-Vaxxer as a Moral Equal: Democracy, Legitimation, and Justice
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In this article, I argue that in portending potentially fatal harm to immunocompromised others, certain vaccine-hesitant views create a paradox for democratic deliberation on public health matters. In this paradox, either vaccine-hesitant views entailing potential harm to others are entertained as legitimate public health policy, or these views are disallowed, excluding discussion of competing harms from the deliberative process. In either case, the result is a deliberative process in which some group is not treated with the consideration owed to free and equal persons as required by the terms of democratic membership. I argue for capitalizing on and refining certain epistemic traits exhibited by anti-vaxxers to address vaccine-hesitant views and minimize this paradox. However, I make the case that this paradox cannot be completely resolved, so we should focus on certain demands of justice to protect the most vulnerable.
5. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Beverly Fok An Illegal Assembly of One
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In Singapore, the law holds that one person may constitute an illegal assembly. This makes each person, individually and at all times, latently assembled if not actually so. But where exactly does the permissible, non-assembled one end and the unlawful, gathered one begin? How and when does one become more than one, that is, some? For here an excess of one is not many, but rather an indeterminate some. Of what does this someness consist? This essay draws on Foucault and Lacan’s discussion of the liar paradox and set theory’s concept of the “not-all” via Bateson and Kordela to make a few observations about the political subject’s constitution under illiberal democracy.
6. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Lisa Guenther Property, Dispossession, and State Violence: The Criminalization of Indigenous Resistance in Canada
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In “Criminal Empire,” Ojibwe scholar Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark argues that the criminalization of Indigenous resistance to colonization “averts attention” from the criminality of democratic settler states, which fail or refuse to honor their own legal agreements with Indigenous peoples. This chapter reflects on the implications of Stark’s analysis for the relation between property, dispossession, and liberal democratic state violence. From this perspective, the prison appears not as a correctional institution for individual lawbreakers, but as a spatial strategy for the imposition and enforcement of a colonial legal order and a capitalist property regime. The challenge of decolonization, then, is not just to return stolen land to Indigenous peoples, but also to dismantle the structures of propertied personhood and dispossession that the settler democracy (re)produces through the prison system.
7. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Ashley J. Bohrer Toward a Critique of (Police) Violence: Walter Benjamin and Abolitionism in Theory and Practice
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In Walter Benjamin’s pivotal essay “Toward the Critique of Violence,” the state emerges as an originary site of violence, and the police figure as a key institution that makes possible both law-preserving and law-founding violence. I argue that Benjamin offers a unique and clarifying understanding of violence that can help make sense of twenty-first century calls for police and prison abolition. At the same time, Benjamin critiques several leftist attempts to combat state violence—such as the workplace strike and leftist reformism—finding in them a reformulation of the very violence they seek to combat. I argue that many of these critiques could be equally levied at some manifestations of the contemporary abolitionist movement. This paper concludes by distilling some of Benjamin’s insights about the propensity to reflect the violence we attempt to contest into some lessons for contemporary activism and social movements.
8. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Tempest M. Henning When and Where I Carry: Black Feminism and the Right to Bear Arms
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In light of the January 6, 2021, insurrection on the Capitol, this article considers the Second Amendment as an example of how Black women are quasi-citizens within the United States. I focus on the Second Amendment to not only give an account of the historical and contemporary ways guns are used to terrorize Black women but to also show the jeopardization possessing and carrying firearms pose to Black women in both individuated and systemic cases. By turning to the Second Amendment, Black women’s status as citizens illuminates a liminal space where they are simultaneously inside the category of citizens but functionally excluded. Given the unjust foundations of the Second Amendment, I view Black women brandishing firearms as possibly an act of civil disobedience.
9. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Adam Burgos Internal Colonialism and Democracy
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This essay examines the relationship between African American internal colonialism and democracy, highlighting the complexities of democracy that make it both susceptible to oppressive violence at home and abroad, as well as a potential resource for emancipation and equality. I understand “internal colonialism” here to encompass various terms used by African Americans beginning in the 1830s, including semi-colonialism, domestic colonialism, and a nation within a nation. Much political philosophy assumes that society is “nearly just” or “generally just,” or that oppression and injustice are found in societies that we nonetheless deem legitimate. Centering the complexities and possibilities of democracy instead shifts the focus to how democracy is compatible with violence and injustice, as well as their overcoming. Such a focus leads to a consideration of abolition democracy and the question of what the process of overcoming internal colonialism demands.
10. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Jasper St. Bernard, Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson “Just the Same as Fascism for Us”: The Black Panther Party’s Antifascist Thought and Praxis
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Recent scholarship on fascism has largely centered on identifying the defining features of fascism to determine whether political figures and parties are fascist. These debates take European fascism as paradigmatic, thereby obscuring alternative traditions of antifascist theorizing that can shed new light on the contemporary ascendancy of fascism in the United States and elsewhere. This paper examines one such alternative in the antifascist thought and praxis of the Black Panther Party. Against the widespread claim that fascism could not happen in the United States, the Black Panther Party insisted that the United States had its own forms of fascism. We reconstruct the Panther’s concept of fascism as the generalization of racialized exclusion constitutive of American democracy and explore the antifascist practices to which this definition gave rise.
11. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Sebastian Ramirez Great Replacement or Slow White Suicide?
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The belief that White people are targeted victims of dispossession, displacement, and genocide has spread with shocking intensity since Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral college victory. Although this Great Replacement myth may seem absurd and irrational, its destructive real-world consequences force the question: what explains its efficacy and appeal? Drawing on White nationalists Greg Johnson and Tucker Carlson, I argue that the Great Replacement myth functions as an explanation for the real socioeconomic decline that has culminated in deaths of despair. I then explore this decline’s sociohistorical context to argue that deaths of despair are consequences of political-economic domination reinforced by White supremacy. Put otherwise, these deaths result from socioeconomic violence that White people have inflicted on each other. I conclude that the real problem “the White race” faces today is not a Great Replacement but a Slow White Suicide.
12. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Eric Ritter Toward Collective Memory Reconstruction as Epistemic Activism
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The United States, alongside other Western democracies, is in search of a usable past. Collective memory in the United States has persistently distorted or whitewashed its past, resulting in a distinct kind of (socially sanctioned) ignorance of the present. Collective memory reconstruction can thus be understood as “epistemic activism,” targeting an “epistemology of ignorance,” borrowing and expanding key concepts from the work of Charles Mills and José Medina. In this article I begin to defend an ethical practice of collective memory reconstruction as epistemic activism. I first outline a qualified understanding of “collective memory” that survives philosophical skepticism. I then draw on Paul Ricœur’s critical phenomenology of abuses of memory and analyze collective memory distortions of the US Civil War and the US struggle for civil rights. I suggest that a reconstructed democratic collective memory will be a set of plural and dynamic collective memories, rather than a homogeneous and static memory. I end by outlining some consequences that follow from this conclusion.
13. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Sabeen Ahmed, Adam Burgos, George Fourlas, John Harfouch Power in/and the University: A Roundtable Discussion on Anti-Colonial Praxis in Academia
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The following conversation examines the role of the university in our present moment and examines the necessity of anti-colonial praxis in the academy. The dialogue takes as its starting point the long history of white, heteropatriarchal capitalist supremacy that has oriented the institutional production of knowledge and considers its present permutations in such practices as diversity initiatives in teaching and hiring. The discussants in turn reflect on their own approaches and strategies for enacting liberatory pedagogy in light of the contingent, historical, and material limitations of higher education today.
book reviews
14. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Bradley Ramos Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: The 1905 Edition, edited by Philippe Van Haute and Herman Westerink, translated by Ulrike Kistner
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15. Philosophy Today: Volume > 67 > Issue: 1
Emily Zakin Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, by Noëlle McAfee
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