Friday, June 15, 2007

A Paradigm Analysis Applicable to Israel's Case

This, I found, is quite relevant to the way Israel is being treated:-

What we heard were discourses about "the end of history", the disappearance of antagonism and the possibility of a politics without frontiers, without a "them"; a "win-win politics" in which solutions could be found that favour everybody in society. Today social theorists like Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck argue that with the demise of communism and the socio-economic transformation of society linked to the advent of the information society and to the phenomenon of globalisation, the adversarial model of politics has become obsolete and that what we need is a politics "beyond left and right", a politics not any more structured around social division and without the us/them opposition.

This "post-political" discourse is accompanied by the promotion of humanitarian crusades, ethically correct good causes and the increasing reliance on the judiciary to deal with political issues. What this signifies is the triumph of a moralizing liberalism which pretends that the political has been eradicated and that society can now be ruled through rational moral procedures and conflicts resolved by impartial tribunals. It is the culmination of a tendency inscribed at the very chore of liberalism which, because of its constitutive incapacity to think in truly political terms, always has to resort to another type of discourse: economic, moral or juridical.

However the liberal incapacity to acknowledge political antagonisms does not make them disappear. Despites the fact that the key words today are those of "good governance" and "partisan -free democracy" no politics is possible without defining frontiers. The democratic consensus proclaimed by all those who celebrate the "centre" cannot exist without defining an exterior which by its very exclusion secures its identity and its coherence. Hence the necessity of defining a "them" whose existence will provide the unity of the democratic "we". But since one cannot think of politics in adversarial terms, this "them" cannot be envisaged as a political adversary any more. It is therefore on the moral terrain that the frontier is drawn. This is why the "extreme right" - a rather undifferenciated and unexamined entity - is increasingly presented as the personnification of the "evil them" against which all the good democrats should unite.

Clearly, what we are witnessing is not the disappearance of the political antagonism but a new mode of its manifestation. Given that it cannot be articulated in terms of a confrontation of hegemonic socio-economic projects, this antagonism now expresses itself in the moral register. What is at stake is still a political conflict but disguised as a moral opposition between "good" and "bad". On one side the good democrats who respect universal values and on the other side the representatives of evil, the racist and xenophobic right with whom no discussion is permitted and which has to be eradicated through moral condemnation.

The problem with this conflation of politics with morality is that it forcloses the possibility of posing what are the fundamental questions that a left-wing politics must address, those linked to the transformations of the key power relations in society and with the conditions for the establishment of a new hegemony. Moreover it does not help understanding the reasons behind the increasing success of right-wing populist parties and impedes envisaging how one can struggle against them on a truly political terrain.

The same criticism can also be addressed to the widespread identification democratic politics with the defense of human rights. Indeed nowadays there is a growing tendency to use the defense of human rights as the defining feature of democracy at the expense of the element of popular sovereignty which is seen as "old-fashioned". As Marcel Gauchet has pointed out, the fundamental shortcoming of a politics exclusively centered on human rights is that it has nothing to contribute to an understanding of the causes of present injustices. Indeed, by discrediting attempts to find explanations for what is deemed "inacceptable", it does not help designing strategies to come to terms with its causes. This is why such a politics is so often limited to discourses of denunciation.

Full article here.

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