Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Responsibility, integrity, compassion and an urge to drive change

Thinkers such as Donna Haraway with her cyborgs, Andy Clark with his extended mind, and Latour with his alliances of actors, Barad with her agential realism, Bennett with her distributed agency, and Alaimo with her trans-corporeality have significantly complicated our understanding of just what a person is… Indeed, Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, go so far as to argue that the peasant farmer and the factory worker belong to two entirely different species. Here they sound a lot like Deleuze and Guattari who say that we should distinguish beings by their capacities and that a work horse has more in common with an ox than with a race horse. Larval Subjects: Differends Adam Kotsko said... DECEMBER 20, 2006 10:55 AM
I neither believe that secularism leads ineluctably to violence nor that religion is likely to stop "secular" violence. I find the worries about "religious violence" to be overblown and one-sided -- why would I just flip it upside down? I do not take responsibility for your dichotomies. In such terminology as "doctrinaire atheist" or "knee-jerk secularist," the emphasis is on the adjective.
It seems to fall outside the realm of your conceptual competence to understand that I'm not an apologist for religion. And of course, the swipe about me being "effectively" an apologist for the religious right was absurd.

My contribution to the Agamben symposium from An und für sich by Adam Kotsko The Political Theology blog has published my contribution to their symposium on The Kingdom and the Glory, which discusses Agamben’s method in dialogue with Alberto Toscano’s critical review of the book.
I have tried to show elsewhere that Agamben’s method, drawn from Walter Benjamin, places no importance on the line between the religious and the secular (see my essay in After the Postsecular and the Postmodern). In The Sacrament of Language, for instance, he frequently castigates theorists of religion who too easily demarcate “the religious” as a purely separate sphere, and in The Kingdom and the Glory, he takes a similar line on the “secularization debate.” […]
While I don’t agree with Toscano that Agamben betrays the genealogical method, I do concede that Agamben’s “pervasive Heideggerianism” (128) is problematic in several respects. The difficulty, however, is not so much that the influence of Heidegger leads him to a too-substantial view of the concepts or “signatures” at play in his genealogy, but rather that his Heideggerian sympathies lead him to flatten out the historical field through which they move. Like Heidegger, Agamben seems to view “the West” as an unproblematic historical unity, for which the advent of modernity represents at best a particularly extreme development. He certainly does not appear to regard the Christian era as something notably different from the late classical era, and his account of the history of Christian thought treats the patristic and medieval periods as essentially one undifferentiated field.
Agamben’s fidelity to the genealogical task pushes against this Heideggerian oversimplification, but the Heideggerian influence does artificially limit the number of “pivot points” in his narrative. It is clearly the case that Agamben has more work to do in connecting up his “theological genealogy” with modernity, but in my view he also still has more work to do in fully developing the “theological genealogy,” with greater attention to the twists and turns of the history of Christianity and of Christian thought. I would argue in addition that he needs to cast a wider net in terms of filling out the context within which the notion of “economy” operates in any given era—for instance, “economy” is central to the way the patristic writers understood the salvation that God had brought about in Christ, and so why couldn’t Agamben look at some of their narrative accounts of how that plan was supposed to have been carried out? The very significant difference between patristic and medieval narratives of salvation would have made it clear that no easy continuity can be found between the two era’s notions of “economy” (I carry out a detailed comparison of patristic and medieval accounts of the narrative of salvation in my book Politics of Redemption). Adam Kotsko is Assistant Professor at Shimer College. He is the author, most recently, of Why We Love Sociopaths (Zero Books, 2012). He blogs at An und für sich.

Why I will not make it to Parliament The Asian Age Jun 10, 2012 - Vandana Gopikumar
Life took a different course and I ended up working with some of the most marginalised eople in poor rural and urban pockets — people affected by mental health issues, including the homeless. It’s now been 20 years. I have seen stark poverty, gross inequality, appalling corruption, mind-numbing inertia and shocking apathy as political structures operate in a top-down fashion — a style that certainly does not befit a nation that we describe as the world’s largest democracy.
Aspiration and idealism have given way to cynicism. Here are five reasons why my dream of becoming a parliamentarian will remain just that, a dream.
1. Power is for the rich, the famous and the well-networked: Politics more often than not is an incestuous world where everyone knows everyone else. Outsiders are rarely accorded a warm welcome. If you desire to fit in, you have to conform. The ability to rise above political differences and be human and civil, even friendly, and yet subscribe to different ideologies isn’t the way to stay close to the hot seat of power.
2. Only stereotypes, please: We are a society that likes its leaders — political, spiritual or social — in attires and gatherings that have popular sanction; speaking a language that places them above the rest, in a position to wield power and bestow privileges on those beneath. This creates a distance between the common man and the leader and builds a vertical hierarchy, which is typically feudal in character.
We get what we seek. We seem to be awe-struck by larger-than-life personalities. A common platform that brings together unequals is an aberration. We are enslaved by class and status.
3. Always perfect, always correct: They are confident, make the right noises and always seem to offer solutions to the most complex problems. I, on the contrary, am flawed and have in my insignificant life sometimes been confused, arrogant, misled, foolish and articulated poor logic just as I have been kind, strategic, fair and smart. While I learn from my mistakes and life in general, I will not compromise on the spontaneity of my behaviour, be guarded, and toe a boring, straight line. I should have the freedom to be me and not portray an ideal merely because it is believed that being both profound and a bumbling fool is a paradox, and thus unacceptable.
4. The root of all evil — money: In some panchayats that I work in, it is normal to spend anything from `20-70 lakh on an election. Voters expect gifts as a norm; this is now seen less as a violation of ethical code and more as an entitlement. Any aspirant, not backed by big bucks, will watch his/her dreams of a political career die a natural death.
5. The victim card: This for me is unthinkable. How can I throw my caste/gender/race as a trump card? In my case, of course, my caste wouldn’t “work” for me, though my gender could serve me well. However, I don’t want to exploit it, especially since I was born into a family that desired a girl child. This doesn’t negate the pain of millions of others who live lives of misery and discrimination, owing to their status and gender. I do understand the politics of representation and opportunity. But does suffering, disempowerment and difference alone qualify as a ticket to leadership?
In a country like ours, a leader must show extraordinary commitment, an unparalleled sense of responsibility, integrity, compassion and an urge, ability and talent to drive change. Chasing unidimensional notions of economic progress alone will not do.
Imagine if honesty were an appreciated value; imagine if barriers weren’t created every time idealism spoke or emerged; imagine if the world judged its leaders on the basis of his/her merits; imagine if fervour and passion were encouraged, recognised and cultivated. Imagine a world where you and I capture the imagination of our people and gain entry into an otherwise intimidating circle of power. It is only then that we will be free, equal and alive as a nation and do India justice. We are, after all, a nation of a billion people; it’s time we found our heroes from amongst the common man. The writer is the co-founder of The Banyan, a civil society organisation that works closely with people with mental disabilities
and marginalised groups, particularly the homeless

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