I was more than skeptical. Indeed, my first thought was that the story was a hoax, something like the article that Alan Sokal published in the cultural studies journal Social Text in 1996. Sokal, a physicist, wrote a parody of the academic field known as literary criticism that was loaded with postmodern jargon in order to demonstrate that some of America’s leading intellectuals would publish nonsense if it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions. I thought some clever individuals had managed to “put one over” on the CNN reporters in the same manner. Perhaps the reporters themselves were implicated in the prank. In a few days, I was sure, someone, maybe even one of the tricksters, would step forward to reveal their mischievousness. (more…)
This is a summary preamble to a detailed and complex argument, historical and theoretical, about the invention of politics as a modern idea, and its relation to a configuration of other modern categories. I believe that, in order for the human species to save itself from extinction, we at least need a widespread critical problematising of the dominant categories that organise our thinking, and that perform such a pervasive role in our representations of ‘reality’. When one considers how the dominant discourses on ‘politics’ actually operate in public rhetoric, in academic texts, and in our internalised representations, then politics ceases to look like the road to our salvation, and appears as part of our problem.
The argument is addressed primarily to those readers who share the author’s view that, if the human species is to survive, then we need a radical change amounting to a revolution in our thinking, in our morality and in our relationships. This is already a widely held viewpoint, I am not a prophet offering a new insight, but unfortunately it does not seem to press itself with urgency on those who put their personal careers above everything else – i.e. our leaders. The question for me is not whether we need a radical change in consciousness, but how we should make that change possible. (more…)