ISIS Is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism

It has become a commonplace in recent months to observe that the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is the latest chapter in the long story of the anticolonial awakening — the arbitrary borders drawn after World War I by the great powers being redrawn — and simultaneously a chapter in the struggle against the way global capital undermines the power of nation states. But what causes such fear and[ …]

The politics of Batman

The Dark Knight Rises shows that Hollywood blockbusters are precise indicators of the ideological predicaments of our societies. Here is the storyline. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the previous instalment of Chris­topher Nolan’s Batman series, law and order prevail in Gotham City. Under the extraordinary powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organised crime. He nonetheless feels guilty about the cover-up of the crimes of[ …]

Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Gotham City

The Dark Knight Rises attests yet again to how Hollywood blockbusters are precise indicators of the ideological predicament of our societies. Here is a (simplified) storyline. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the previous installment of the Batman saga, law and order prevail in Gotham City: under the extraordinary powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organized crime. He nonetheless feels guilty about the cover-up of[ …]

Best of 2011: Only Communism can save liberal democracy

1989 marked not only the defeat of the Communist State-Socialism, but also the defeat of the Western Social Democracy. Nowhere is the misery of today’s Left more palpable than in its “principled” defence of the Social-Democratic Welfare State: the idea is that, in the absence of a feasible radical Leftist project, all that the Left can do is to bombard the state with demands for the expansion of the Welfare State, knowing well that the[ …]

When the Party Commits Suicide

[Extract. Appeared in New Left Review I/238, November-December 1999] Finally, in the deluge of the conservative-liberal ‘Black Books’ on Stalinist ‘totalitarianism’, a work which not only meets the highest standards of historical research, but also enables us to grasp the unique social dynamics that culminated in the great purges of the 1930s: J. Arch Getty’s and Oleg V. Naumov’s The Road to Terror. Based on the archives of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, which[ …]

Badiou: Notes From an Ongoing Debate

[Appeared in 2007, International Journal of Zizek Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 28-43 (pdf)] Introduction – Two dialectical axioms In his Logiques des mondes (Badiou 2006), Alain Badiou provides a succinct definition of “democratic materialism” and its opposite, “materialist dialectics”: the axiom which condenses the first one is “There is nothing but bodies and languages …,” to which materialist dialectics adds “… with the exception of truths.” This opposition is not so much the[ …]

The Dreams of Others

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others–this year’s Oscar-winning film on life under the Stasi, the East German secret police–has often been favorably compared with Ulrich Becker’s 2003 comedy Good Bye, Lenin!. The claim is that it provides the necessary corrective to Lenin’s sentimental Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East), illustrating how the Stasi terror penetrated every pore of East Germans’ private lives. But is this really the case? Like so many other films depicting[ …]

Divine Violence and Liberated Territories

ST: Let’s start with the question of violence. What, today, is the relation between violence and politics? This question is particularly confused on the Left. Let’s take the use made of two authors, Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin, for example. I don’t have any problem with Schmitt. But Schmitt’s concepts of “decision” and “exception” function precisely to erase the crucial distinction governing Benjamin’s ”Critique of Violence,” namely the distinction between “mythical” and “divine” violence. For[ …]

On 9/11, New Yorkers faced the fire in the minds of men

wo Hollywood films mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary: Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Both adopt a terse, realistic depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There is undoubtedly a touch of authenticity to them and most critics have praised their sober styles and avoidance of sensationalism. But it is the touch of authenticity that raises some disturbing questions. The realism means that both films are restrained from taking a political stance[ …]

Biopolitics: Between Terri Schiavo and Guantanamo

Now we finally learned what we all suspected: the numerous reports and testimonies about the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons were a trap to distract the attention of the public from the true secret: in the last days, big media reported that the CIA operates secret detention facilities beyond the reach of the law and outside official oversight at bases in two eastern European countries and some other Asian countries. The CIA has not even[ …]