Sunday, 22 June 2008

Kirkegaard and James Joyce: Finnegans Wake is a Kierkegaardian Novel


Joyce’s notoriously complex last ‘novel’, Finnegans Wake is in some ways a novel after Kierkegaard, particularly the Kierkegaard of Either/Or I. This volume in Kierkegaard is an exploration of the aesthetic, but it should not be separated from his ethical and religious dimensions, and it should not be given a lower status than those texts of Kierkegaard which are more directly about ethics and religious. If Kierkegaard thought these distinctions could be kept so strictly he would not have written the kind of texts he did.

Leaving aside questions of Kierkegaard commentary aside in this entry, we should note the presence of Kierkegaard and Either/Or in Finnegans Wake. On many occasions Joyce refers to ‘Kirk yard’, a play on the meaning of Kierkegaard’s name (church yard) and its closeness to Scots (the dialect of English spoken, some would claim it’s a language distinct from English though related to it, in lowland Scotland and Ulster) which has many Scandinavian influences going back to the Vikings. There are other points about that little example of Joyce’s extreme polyglot linguistic play in the Wake. The allusions to church and the church yard where the dead are buried brings out themes of the sacred, death and the commemoration of death which recur in the Wake. Joyce also frequently plays with Enten-Eller, which is the Danish title of Either/Or. The whole of the Wake can be looked upon as an attempt to follow up the idea of a purely aesthetic attitude which Kierkegaard explored in Either/Or I, and shortly before that in Concept of Irony. What he was particularly concerned with was he the Irony of the Jena Romantics or Romantic Ironists, Friedrich Schegel, Novalis and others who collaborated in the last two years of the Eighteenth Century. Concept of Irony makes this explicit and consider the relation of Romantic Irony with Fichte’s earlier philosophy, and in a more general way with Socratic Irony.

A particular issue that comes up from Eiher/Or in the Wake is the relation between hearing and vision. There are frequent references to eye and ear in the Wake which should be read in conjunction with the discussion of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni in Either/Or. One of Kierkegaard’s concerns is the relation between seeing and hearing in opera, a tense relation for him as opera has an obvious visual aspect but Kierkegaard thinks music is primary in opera and that is exemplified in Don Giovanni. The figure of the Don serves that because he is pure sensuality and music appeals to the most pure sensuality, The erotic side of the Don fits with the heightened aesthetic of opera. The Wake is concerned in many ways with the relation between sound and inscription in language. Don Juan/Don Giovanni is also a recurring figure who seems to belong to a general theme of the journey of life and essential human struggle.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Why closing Turkey's AKP would be a liberal act. John Stuart Mill would have agreed.

Theories of Representative Democracy or Republicanism have not been concerned with a a majoritarian theory in which the most popular force in politics has the right to decide everything. That is the path that led to the execution of Socrates in Ancient Athens. In Aristotle, Monteseuiu, Mill and many others, democracy is a means to promote liberty. For Mill, it was quite necessary to push the conditions for secular liberty from above, and democracy rested on those conditions. Like all the Liberal and Republican thinkers, he thought that liberty and law are the necessary foundations of any democracy worth having, that is a democracy that is not mere majoritarianism. AKP are eroding the conditions for secular democracy. The Millian response is clear. The democratic means for liberty can be highly regarded but they are means. Mill followed Tocqueille’s phrase, tyranny of the majority, which itself probably has some origin in the Federalist Papers of Hamilton, Madison and Jay. The point in all case is that momentary majority opinion is a very dangerous thing which can lead to violence and law breaking. Authority is necessary to stop the majority,or the shifting nature of majority opinion, from violating basic freedoms. Previous Liberal and Republican thinkers have said similar thing about majority democracy. Even Rousseau though that the general ill is only formed when citizens are isolated from each other, and engages with the necessity of different parts of sovereignty. AKP is a threat to the secular foundations of democracy and should go.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Kierkegaard: Free Will and Ethics

What is important about Kierkegaard's philosophy, including his ethics?  Is is it that he has a Christian message?  No.  Of course he had a deeply Christian message but what is important is the ways in which he expressed it through aesthetics, psychology, ethical, metaphysical and epistemic theory.  

The ethics in Kierkegaard is not defined through Christianity.  Christianity is a given for Kierkegaard, what is important is the work he did on the kind of subjectivity necessary for grasping the 'Christian message'.  Despite Kierkegaard's apparent commitment to militant Biblical Christianiy, his approach is an Enlightnment one in which the historical claims of the Bible are interpreted as spiritual communication in which the historical content does not need to be true.   This is particularly evident in Philosophical Fragments The point is to appeal to subjectivity and that is done through a variety of strategies.  The most obvious strategies are those of ironic aesthetic reflection and the construction of a theory of subjectivity.

For Kierkegaard, subjectivity is freedom.  The free reflection of subjectivity on itself properly understood leads us to an an ethics beyond the metaphysical in Concept of Anxiety.  Metaphysics can only refer to a fixity of subjectivity which denies its freedom.  Kierkegaard does refer to the second ethics as concerned with (Christian) doctrine.  Nevertheless, Christian doctrine in Kierkegaard is a commitment to subjectivity which is grasped through ironic reflection, psychological theory, epistemological scepticism of a pre-Cartesian antique kind, and the paradoxes of the relation of subjectivity with the absolute.  That can be grasped as the relation between the succeeding empirical stages of the self and the continuity of the self over time    

I'm now posting the blog at

I'm experimenting with the blogging facilities provided by .mac, an Apple service which integrates with the iWeb application in the iLife suite on Macintosh computers.  If this works well I will migrate this blog entirely  to the address in the title using the name Barry Stocker's Weblog
Feedback can be sent through an email button on the home page.

Using a Macintosh

I've been a bit slow learning how to use the Apple online services and how  to use their integration with the iLife software on a a Mac computer.  The correct address for the Apple Mac version of this Blog is Barry Stocker's Weblog

I've now been using a MacBook (white 2.4 GHz) for about 4 weeks.  The MacBook is the basic Apple Macintosh laptop/notebook computer.   It's been  a highly positive experience with the hardware and with the Mac OS X.5 Leopard software.  The MacBook is very portable, not as portable as the MacBook Air but very portable by most standards.  I've been carrying it round with a shoulder bag and hardly felt the weight.  I've edited documents and watched dvds on it in quite cramped conditions on long distance buses.  It fits nicely on the lap without feeling much weight and does not create too much heat, certainly when my legs are covered.  OS X takes some getting used to after years of exclusively Windows experience but it is not a very steep learning curve.  I put some labour into the process through a study of David Pogue's Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual (O'Reilly and Partners).

Obvious advantages include an uncluttered desktop.  The Mac OS does  not allow the desktop to fill with icons.  Icon disappear when the computer shuts down.  Widgets are reached through pulling up a reserve desktop, which is the only place widgets can be stored.  Some are preinstalled like weather  and calender.  I've downloaded some others from the Apple website, including one that monitors RAM, available space on discs and all storage devices, CPU usage, internet activity.  

The computer has a video camera installed, which be used very easily as a normal camera,  It integrates very smoothly with iChat (which includes video chat), Photo Booth (takes photos) and iPhoto (photograph library).

There is an automatic back up application Time Machine which does a complete back up to a connected external hard drive every hour.  All back ups are kept for  day, and then just one back up remains from that day.  It works with no complication and is a great back up function.  

Despite what the more extreme Apple fans claim, Macs can certainly freeze up, however, I found that the more I used the Mac the less problems there are of that kind.  There is an unconscious habit forming process behind this, the most conscious part of this is I find it helps to keep an eye on which applications are on, easily done through checking the dock and seeing which applications are in the dock and have a light underneath.  

Interface with iTunes and iPod is perfect, as is he interface with dot mac online services, which  will appear next month in an improved form under the name of MobileMe.  

Other great touches.  The caps lock key is a bit sticky which avoids the problem of finding that you have accidentally typed several sentences in capitals.  You have to press the key a few seconds longer than the others so that you only get capitalisation where you ask for it.  

Power cord is attached to Mac with magnetic plug, so that tripping over cord leads to the plug disconnecting not pulling the computer to the floor.   

Friday, 23 May 2008

Aristotle, Assos, Republicanism; Law above all individuals and parties

A bit later this evening I'm taking the night bus to Aegean Turkey, sometime tomorrow I will get to Assos right on the coast.  Assos goes back to Ancient times when it was a Greek colony.  Aristotle spend a few years there in exile from the politics in Athens.

I will speak to some philosophy students visiting Turkey about Ancient Liberty.  I will concentrate on Aristotle's Politics, and my recent reading on it has lead me to think about many ambiguities in Aristotle's account of a republic which is a word translators are using as synonymous with constitutional state or political state, or state governed by a group of free men.  One thing that struck me is the strong emphasis on law above everything in the community.  H says that democracy rests on law, not on majority decisions.  

We should be careful about discussing very specific situations through reference to political theory, but there are times when it is inevitable.   Looking at all this talk from the EU that the Turkish courts are wrong to examine a closure case against Turkey's governing AKP, which is rooted in religious conservatism.

Whether the case is right or wrong, republican theory since Aristotle suggests that freedom and democracy rest on law not popular will at any one moment.

Experimental new parallel home:

I have a new experimental home for the blog under the title of Barry Stocker's Weblog.  This is part of my trial period using .mac.  .mac is a service available to owners of Apple Macintosh computers, providing a webpage/blog home, online storage of computer files, online photograph albums, an email address amongst other thing.  Like most things associated with Apple and Macintosh computers, it is extraordinarily beautiful.  However, after a free trial it has to be paid for, so I need time to decide on this.  In the meantime posts will appear here and in the link indicated.

This has arisen because I am the proud and happy owner of  a new MacBook (white, 2.4 GHz) which I am writing on a this very moment.  I have gone further than many users towards having a very pure and integrated Mac experience through two choices: my default browser is Safari, which is native to the Mac OS; my default document creating suite is Apple's iWork, which includes Pages for creating text documents and Key Notes for computerised presentations.  The browser and the document suite are both beautiful in appearance and functioning, and integrated with the beautiful integration already present in the OS and in the relation between the appearance of the OS and the appearance of the computer.  More on these issues later.    

AKP Authoritarians Trying to Dominate Higher Eduction: A Threat to Secularism and to Academic Freedom

Today I saw that the AKP government in Turkey is still trying to impose its will on higher education, by appointing the rectors of new public universities in Turkey.  A lot of such universities are opening and this is an important issue.  It is well established that faculty vote for the Rector in any public university.  AKP is trying to encroach on academic autonomy in order to find jobs for its friends and impose its ideology on Turkish society.  They are good at flying below the radar, in a stealth approach to increasing the social and political influence of religious conservatism in Turkey. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I would grudgingly vote for Obama Barack: Thoughts on the United States Presidential Election

I am not convinced by Barack's brand of self-inflating rhetoric of hope and change.  In policy terms it seems to mostly mean a growth of spending and regulation.  Some proposed regulation is necessary and welcome (on expanding health insurance for example) but there is no sprit of restraint. Despite Obama's presentation of himself as above politics, his campaigners were caught out assuring the Canadian government that his anti-free trade line will not be followed in office.  

The Republicans have had 8 years and it has not been a good eight years.  The 'War on Terror' has been used to attack the liberties of US citizens, particularly through the Patriot Act.  Foreign prisoners have been tortured by presidential permission at Guntanamo Bay.  Iraq has been turned into an eat all you can buffet for a variety of Islamist gangs, who have tortured and murdered Christians and rival Muslims under a weak Iranian oriented government of soft Islamists, northern Iraq has continued to be a based for Kurdish separatists in the PKK terrorist movement.  Theşr continuing attacks on Turkey are a great evil in themselves and are poisoning Turkish politics, contributing to the revival of a neurotic and defensive nationalism (earlier today I saw a beautiful black Lamborghini in Nişantişi with a red Turkish flag symbol replacing the usual blue EU sşde field on one end of the number plate, all a bit ironic and very indicative)  The region continues to be dangerous and unstable for Israelis and Arabs.  The US economy has declined sharply form the condition in which Bush inherited it.  Government spending had shot up on both defence and social programs, at the same time as a huge cut in taxes on share dividends had weakened the tax base.  Scientific advice on the environment has been ignored or overruled by administration members.  AIDS programs and sex education at home and abroad has been slanted towards trying to impose pre-marital virginity as the ideal, under the influence of religious extremists.  This is a record of incompetence and bad policy which needs to be punished.

The Republicans showed pragmatism in selecting McCain as their presidential candidate, in some circumstances I could support his election, but the overriding priority now must be to put the Republicans in the doghouse for  a minimum of four and maybe eight years.  The Democrats must get the White House and strengthen their hold on both houses of Congress.  The Republicans need to purge, or at least marginalise, the Theocons, the national security conservatives and the  militant forms of Neoconservatism (which in its more moderate forms is is a benign form of universalist democratic idealism) and this will take time.  The party needs to establish a large amount of distance from policies of torture, restricting civil liberties, enforcing conservative and intolerant forms of Christianity, and fantasies of defending US interests through: reinventing foreign states, attempts at unilateral restructuring of whole regions, attempts to turn conflicts between the US and other countries into reruns of World War Two.  There must certainly be an end to insults and humiliations directed at those European governments which see some of these problems differently.  

It has to be Obama Barack .  Getting the first African-American into the  White House would be wonderful, and I hope that some socially tolerant Republicans will support Obama Barack to counterbalance the kind of blue collar conservative Democrat who apparently can support Clinton but never Barack.  Barack needs to choose a Vice-Presidential candidate with Reagen Democrats of that kind in mind.

Changes to the Blog and my new Mac

Previous layout was too fussy and full of stuff that was of secondary importance at best in the side bar.  Present format tries to focus on blog contents, while referring readers to other blogs where they might follow up what I discuss.  

I've spent so much time recently thinking about computers and computing, I've added that a major area of blogging content and it will feature quite regularly.  I am picking up a new Macintosh tomorrow (White MacBook, 2.4 GHz ).  I did not get one in Turkey as Mac prices are twice the US price and about two-thirds more than the British price.  The Apple shops here are all resellers, are small with limited stock, and the staff are mostly not well informed.  I'm delighted to see a growth of Apple resellers in Istanbul, but I could not find a case for my iPod classic suitable for attaching to my arm when I go out for a run, and when I was looking for new earphones for it, the assistant thought my iPod Classic was an iPhone.  If I had an iPod Touch, which is roughly speaking an iPhone without the telephone, I would have understood.  That's a shop in walking distance of where I live in a very good big shopping centre, but I have yet to buy anything in Pupa (the Apple reseller) and maybe I never will.  The MacBook comes courtesy of  I shpped it to the daughter of a friend.  All going well I will pick it up in a few hours and will be blogging from it soon afterwards.

Monday, 28 April 2008

AKP Closing Down Pig Farms in Turkey

Time for AKP fans who claim it is moderate and secular to wake up. The real insidious pressure to Islamicise Turkey is shown in a a report on the BBC News website. The BBC has generally gone along with the moderate liberalising reformist line on AKP, so this is important.

As the story reveals, pork butchers associated with the Armenian and Greek communities are being forced out of business on the pretext of hygiene standards on pork farms. Pressures are being applied on pig farmers which are not being applied on other farms and ALL pig farms have had licenses withdrawn. The government is hiding behind the excuse of 'European standards' on hygiene to Islamicise society and attack an economic activity associated with Greeks and Armenians. This is an attack on secularism and on the rights of Turkish Greeks and Armeni ans. Time for all you people who claim that AKP is the most liberal reformist party in Turkey to wake up to reality, to the real danger. I've been willing to give AKP the benefit of the doubt, but evidence is beginning to accumulate of an insidious step by step attack on secularism. Time to stop all this 'post-secularist' nonsense of 'preferring religious conservatives to laicists. Post-secularism is not exiciting and innovative, it is a cover for giving into backward looking intolerance and social repression.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Habermas and German Nationalism

A very useful collection of Habermas texts on line can be found at:

It is no doubt rather harsh to link Jürgen Habermas with German nationalism, Habermas epitome of decent rationalist sort of Marxist sort of left-liberal German democrat.  His thought repudiates all Nationalism in favour of cosmopolitan democratic procedures based on the ethics of discourse undistorted by the interests of power.  He devotes himself to Constitutional Patriotism, which rests on loyalty to constitutional arrangements rather than loyalty to culture, ethnicity, race or religion.  

But this becomes another form of German Nationalism?  Who has supposedly provided an example of Constitutional Patriotism? The post-war Federal Republic of Germany of course.  
Which nation reacted most strong against proto-totalitarian Jacobin Terror during the French Revolution, supposedly?  Germany of course, though one might point out that Edmund Burke pointed out this aspect of the French Revolution before it had happened.  Statist elements in Fichte and Hegel are overlooked by Habermas.  What about the consequences of Marxist utopianism in politics: totalitarianism  What about Marx's anti-semitism in On the Jewish Question?  What about the nationalist element in the thought of liberal thinker and sociologist Max Weber?  Though quite rightly, Weber would certainly think something is missing from the idea of Constitutional Patriotism,which rests on an ideal of passionless depersonalised discourse.    If we look at a great German liberal of that time, Wilhelm Von Humboldt, we find a regret for the passing of constant war in human civilisation and a strong belief in the 'Nation' as the source of laws, unified by the interplay of constant dialogue.

Humboldt has some leanings towards militaristic nationalism, along with the limited state.  His emphasis on dialogue provides a source for Habermas' discourse ethics and democracy of deliberation.  No mention of how that works out in conjunction with Humboldt.  Where is Marx, who turns a Humboldtian emphasis on freedom through dialogue into a socialism/communism where individuals flourish in their freedom from the state? 

Habermas overlooks Naziism and its place in German history while defining Germany as the home land of constitutional patriotism.  Patriotism requires more than loyalty to a constitution.  I do not suppose that Habermas overlooks the complaints mentioned above, but he has no answer other than an idealised public sphere where individuals keep debating detached from anything which makes them individual.  

Of course there is much to admire in Habermas' thought and in German constitutionalism, but we need material interests and personal perspective in an adequate theory.  We certainly do not want a universalisation to German politics, mirroring the Jacobin universalism which Habernas criticises.  

Safari Browser for Windows might be better than Firefox 3

Safari for Windows can be downloaded from here Download Now Free for Mac and Windows

I've been arguing for the merits of Firefox as a browser, and particularly Firefox 3, beta 5.  This reflects my experience on Windows XP on a desktop PC.  I'm switching to Mac OS X Leopard on a MacBook (leaving aside office computers)  next month.  Friends who use Mac computers also use Firefox rather than the native browser, Safari.  I've tried out Safari since Apple released the Windows version, it is now on release 3.1.  Earlier versions impressed me with their aesthetics, but were very unstable, crashing and freezing at slight provocation.  I also found that the chat function had disappeared from my Gmail account.  

What is the situation now?  Gmail chat has disappeared on Firefox 3 beta 5, and I've had many problems with slow running and crashing.  Very likely my fault for not only using a beta version, but for doing things which made the browser perform worse: add the Night Tester extension which enables existing extensions on the browser that are not compatible with 3 beta 5 to become forcibly compatible.  I suspect also that Windows XP has difficulty running several applications, especially when one is an unstable browser on the 512 mb of ram (memory) I have at present, though that is standard.  Probably best to have 1 gb of ram if running several widgets, iTunes and a beta browser at the same time as I often do, and even more so if I'm running a sweep for spyware or viruses.  I do not see this as outrageous use of the computer.

I'm amazed to see that PCs are being marketed with 1 gb of ram for Vista premium.  Unless users stick to the Vista Basic limit of 2 programs at once, I'm sure they are plagued by slowness, freezing and crashing given that  2 gb is clearly minimal for Vista, and some reviewers claim that Vista is too slow even on that amount of ram.  

Back to browsers.  I've downloaded all the upgrades to Safari, and the last version, 3.1 is running beautifully.  No crashes or freezing, just some slowness which probably reflects the tendency of my 512  mb of ram to fill up all too easily.   

I was excited by the flexibility of Firefox, all those themes and extensions, and by the greater sense of aesthetic unity of the page in 3.  Safari does not give much  flexibility  or choice but it has a beautifully integrated aesthetic well beyond Firefox 3.  Like everything else from Apple everything feels seamless and gives you exactly what you need.  At first I was confused by the lack of restore closed tab option, but it can be done easily after clicking on History. At first I could not see how to close tabs, but go to File and the option is there, and I memorised control+w for that operation anyway.  Click on Develop and there are options to 'open page' with all the browsers I have loaded on the PC (Firefox, Opera and Explorer).  I was a bit startled by so many links opening in a new window, but right clicking on a link gives a speedy was to choose opening in a new tab or a new window and other options, including 'Inspect Element'.  It seems less happy with many tabs than Firefox, and opening new Windows causes less slowness than opening many tabs beyond those visible in the tab bar.  

Page loading is indicated by translucent blue bar spreading over url in address window, spell check comes in quickly and automatically.  A beautiful effect of curvature in three dimensions and 

I'll wait to try it out on my MacBook, and other browsers, properly when the Mac arrives.  So far I've just fiddled about on friends' Mac computers.  I'll also try out the following: 

Firefox 3 beta 5
Camino (a version of Firefox for the Mac OS which resembles Safari)

If I'm now finding Safari best for Windows, I guess I'll find it ever better for the Mac OS.  

Claims circulating the Web that PayPal will block Safari Browser are FALSE

The claim has gone round the web that Paypal will block Safari (Apple's browser for Mac computers and the iPhone which can also be used in a for Windows form) because they believe it does not have enough safeguards against pishing. This claim has been corrected by a PayPal executive. The reality with regard to Safari is that a padlock symbol appears on the the top bar of the Safari browser when entering a Secure site for a recognised merchant, and the lack of this icon when entering pishing site will alert the surfer as much as any other browser safeguards.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Personas for Firefox. Go to link for great new Firefox application

Mozilla Labs » Featured Projects

The link above is for Personas for Firefox. This allows very easy modification of appearance of horizontal bars. Once the add on is installed, you can change themes without closing the browser. May work best on Firefox 3 beta versions, but is compatible with Firefox 2. If you still use Firefox 1, or don't use a Firefox browser and think 3 beta (beta is a test version) is too big a jump, download Firefox 2 from the side bar on this blog.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Simpsons deemed unsuitable for children' in Venzuala. Another victory for the Chavez Road to Socialism

An article in Times Online today refers to a decision of the National Telecommunications Commission that The Simpsons is unsuitable for children and must be taken off morning television.

'The National Telecommunications Commission said the show pushed “messages that
go against the whole education of boys, girls and adolescents”'

The Simpsons will be replaced by Baywatch which is certainly popular with adolescents, though not for the purposes of education in the normal sense. For those who don't know, it focuses heavily on the physique of the actors, male and female who work as life guards on the beach in swimsuits.

This story is intrinsically absurd, but is not just a bit of trivia. This must be seen in the context of Hugo Chavez' '21st Century Socialism'. The bizarre decision making must be understood in terms of the irrationality of Chavez belief in the state interfering everywhere, and his own creation of a Cult of Personality which is simply the personalised aspect of a process in which state officials interfere irrationally and unaccountably.

The other aspect is that The Simpsons is an American show. There is a lot of joky criticism of American society in the show mixed with an essentially affectionate attitude towards middle America. It could be said thatthe criticism ends up justifying American society since the end of the show always draws us back to the value of the family life of the main family, who are clealry typically American. In the eyes of Chavez and his followers it probably looks like Yankee Imperialist propaganda. There is some logic to this view, Chavez and his political apparatus need to control the population's image of the US in order to mobilise them and create an enemy image. Every extreme illibreal movement needs an all threatneing enemy to justify its incursions into individual freedom, some similar comments apply to Vush's 'War on Terror' and The 'Patriot' Act, which is a law to weakne the rights of US citizens in relation to the federal government.

Derrida, Schmitt and French Nationalism

I've addressed nationalist undertones in Derrida before. I'm reminded of this topic by teaching Politics of Friendship in an MA class.

Derrida deals with Carl Schmitt at length there, including Theory of the Partisan, the sequel to Concept of the Political. Derrida gets quite indignant on a few issues which touch French national pride

1. Schmitt's emphasis on the origin of the 'partisan' (a soldier defending territory without regard to membership of a recognised state army) in Spanish resistance to French occupation under Napolean Bonaparte and then in Prussian resitance to Bonaparte is not well received.

2. Derrida refers to Schmitt's failure to mention French women participating in the Resistance to Nazi occupation.

3. Schmitt's emphasis on General Salan who opposed De Gaulle after the independence of Algeria as the example of a partisan and of Catholic thinking.

Derrida does not make nationalistic comments about Schmitt's choice of the Bonaparatist wars as the context for defining the solider who defends territory without fıyndation in the law of war, but with justice, however, his anxiety is clear.

Derrida wishes to emphasise a feminine French Republicanism against Schmitt's invocation of friendship and emnity both modelled on fraternity.

In bringing up Salan, Schmitt brşings up a very awkaward moment in French Republicanism. The generals who opposed de Gaulle for giving independence could claim to be defending Republican ideals with regard to the integration of Algeria into France. As Derrida was a colonial in Algeria in origin, there is a lot of unexpressed anxity and ambiguity at stake here. De Gaulle versus the anti-Gaullist generals, not the most comfortable of territory for many left wing Republicans support de Gaulle the conservative or his conservative enemies. De Gaulle himself was an oddly ambiguous figure, half defender and creator of post-colonial republican democratic France independent of the USA and half ultra-conservative aristocrat and autocratic president.

Firefo3 3 beta 5 great, but exe files download problem

Mostly I find Firefox 3, beta 5 a great pleasure to use. Fast and very intuitive user friendly way of working. Established Firefox applications are gradually becoming functional. Today I found Tab Scope works of FF 3 beta 5. This app allows the user to see a small preview of a page by holding mouse cursor over tab.


I cannot download exe files. Yesterday I could not do it on FF, switched to Safari then had to resort to Internet Explorer. Wish I thought of trying Opera first, but I was a bit tired of messing around. FF3 beta 5 is a beta, users are warned that it is only for testing, so I should not complain, and it's possible that the problem is restricted to my computer, or XP home edition (SP 2). I'll be switching to Mac X Leopard next month, but XP it is for now, which is the most widespread OS in the world at present.

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Myth of the Liberal Reforming AKP in Turkey: How the AKP blocks competitive procurement in the public sector

Myths 1. The neo-Islamist AKP government party in Turkey began a wave of economic and political reform in Turkey.
Myth 2. The centre-left secularist-republicans have been less reformist than the neo-Islamists.

I was at a seminar today in my university in Istanbul where I work. The paper from a guest speaker referred to developments in political economy in Turkey since 1980. The speaker addressed neo-liberalism and globalisation from a Marxist point of view.

Amongst other things it was pointed out that liberalising-globalising economic reforms began before the AKP government under the arch centre-left secularist republican Bülent Ecevit. This came out of a mixture of the EU adaption process and an economic program adopted after a currency crisis, under the guidance of the fiance minister Kemal Derviş who had been a Vice-President of the World Bank.

I was well aware of the points above. The speaker filled in my knowledge in a very significant way. The Ecevit government had adopted a measure to open up the public sector to competitive award of contracts and all procurement activity. The 'reformist' AKP tried to block this measure in power. They found that the weight of pressure from state technocrats and international institutions was too great to resist. However, they found a way around the policy, in order to satisfy their client and cronies in local and medium business. They introduced a minimum amount for procurement contracts to be awarded on the basis of open competition. They then carved up public procurement into chunks below the threshold level so that their friends could continue to benefit.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Defending H.H. Asquith's Reputation against the Nonsense peddled recently by Andrew Adonis and Martin Kettle

Andrew Adonis and Martin Kettle have recently tried to make points about Gordon Brown through remarkably poor and muddled accounts of Britain's last 2 Liberal Prime Ministers.

I've already put a case for elevating H.H. Asquith about David Lloyd George in the history of British Liberalism. It's necessary return to that topic since an article by Andrew Adonis in Prospect (a 'New Labour' magazine'), 'A Liberal Tragedy' (full version is subscribers only) has been taken up by Martin Kettle in The Guardian (left inclined British daily newspaper), 'In Asquith's Failure there is a Chilling Message for Brown'. Kettle generally takes a sympathetic line towards the Liberal Democrats, but is clearly New Labour in thinking. Adonis was a Liberal Democrat (I once saw his speak at a conference fringe meeting on liberal history), but jumped to New Labour in a very blatant bit of opportunism which led him to the House of Lords and a ministerial post promoting city academic (self governing state schools).

Both Adonis and Kettle assume that the Liberal/Liberal Democrat tradition in Birtish politics can be subsumed under the Labour tradition as the junior partner in Britsh centre-left or progressive tradition. Before the 1920s the Liberal Party was the largest part of this suppose group, but it clearly suits current New Labour types to emphasises this supposed tradition because since the 1920s the Labour Party has been the largest part. The last Liberal dominated government in Britain (1906-1916) had support from Labour and Irısh Nationalists, and there was a left or social shift in the New Liberalism of that era. Obviously it suits New Labour types to equate New Labour with New Liberalism, particularly if like Adonis they have made an oppotunistic jump between parties. As Adonis was reported to ahve regretted not joing the Conservatives in time for Major's 1991 victory I think we can discount any ideological principles he claims to have.

On the issue of Asquith, Adonis/Kettle claim that Asquith was a failure compared with Lloyd George on three grounds
1. Asquith opposed voting rights for women
2. Asquith did not solve the 'Irish Problem'
3. Asquith was responsible for leading Britain (which at that time meant not just the UK but the whole Empire) into the First World War, and was therefore responsible for the suffering of all parties to the war.

1. Only the first claim has much merit. Yes Asquith opposed woman's suffrage at the time that most Liberals, including LG supported it. In a bizarre mirror image, the Conservative leader Arthur Balfour supported woman's suffrage while most of his party opposed it. Asquith was very wrong and it's a major mark against him. However, he did undergo some change of mind during the First World war, as did other previous opponents of female suffrage due to the contribution of women to the war economy and the support given to the war effort by the more moderate parts of the suffrage movement.

2. Asquith was unable to resolve the 'Irish Problem' like a series of predecessors. The problem he was faced with was that while most British politicians recognised that home rule for Ireland was inevitable, Ireland itself was divided between Nationalists (mostly Catholic) who wanted the whole of the island to become one self-governing entity and Unionists (strongest among the Protestants of northern Ireland) who wanted the province Ulster in the north of the island to remain a fully integrated part of the UK. The Unionist leader Carson was willing to contemplate violence against Home Rule for the whole of island, and received support from the Conservatives which then existed officially as the Unionist Party. There were considerable doubts about the loyalty of army officers to the government in case of a conflict between London and Belfast over Home Rule. Asquith was faced with an awful situation in which the government could do nothing without provoking violence from either side or violating two plausible sets of arguments for how self-determination should be defined in Ireland. The question went quiet during World War One, though the Nationalist leader John Redmond turned down the chance to become Secretary of state for Ireland in the wartime government, until April 1916, when militant Irish Republicans (in the Irısh context Republicans refers to the more radical part of the Nationalist movement) seized the General Post Office in Dublin and tried to provoke a nationalist war. The provocation initially had little support from the ırish, but the military authorities executed most of the leaders of the uprising, a policy opposed by Asquith, before London could get control of the situation. The executions had a disastrous effect in turning the executed into martyr figures.

What was LG's solution to the Irish problem? As Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, he did arrive at a solution in the Anglo-Irısh Treaty of 1922, though this did not bring a final end to violence in Ulster/Northern Ireland and was followed in independent Ireland by a civil war about the Treaty. The Treaty was preceded by an Irish Independence war from 1919 to 1921, in which Black and Tan soldiers recruited, by LG's government, from World War One veterans behaved with extreme brutality.

There really are no grounds for marking LG above Asquith on Irish policy.

3. Asquith did not ask the Serbian South Slavist Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Nor did he ask the Austro-Hungarian government to issue an ultimatum to Serbia essentially demanding that it accede to major violations of its sovereignty. He certainly did not ask the Veinnese government to mobilise its army after Serbia rejected full implementation of the ultimatum. He very certainly did not ask Germany to invade France as a response to the general moblisation of Europe's major powers. He very certainly did not ask Germany to invade France through neutral Belgium. The neutrality of Belgium had been considered a cornerstone of the European state system since the 1830s, the German violation of that neutrality confirms amongst other things that the German Imperial Government was aggressive and expansionistic in a manner not shared by the French and British governments. The violation of Belgian neutrality bolstered support in the Liberal cabinet for living up to its treaty obligations to France. Kettle and Adonis both appear to subscribe to the view of World War One in which Britain and France were morally equivalent with Germany. This is simply not the case if we compare their actions and if we compare their systems of government. I will just add that German war aims made clear in 1917, when Germany had the upper hand was to reconstruct Europe and the Middle East to be dominated by Germany and its junior partners. The Kaiser's government was not the equivalent of the Nazis but it was bad enough. In any case, only one Liberal left the cabinet over the declaration of war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. LG certainly did not leave the cabinet, he took the opportunity to seize the Prime Ministership with Conservative support in 1916. His view of war history, which strongly influenced historians until recently was that he and Churchill led Britain to victory through triumphing over Asquith's poor war leadership legacy and dim witted army generals. Both claims are less popular with recent historians. In any case, it is a complete nonsense to claim that LG was a greater and more successful Liberal leader than Asquith, because Asquith supported British entry into World War One. LG went onto destroy the Liberal Party by governing with the support of part of the Liberal Party and the Conservatives until the Conservatives got rid of him in 1922. Before then, LG supported the continuation of the War in Anatolia when he supported the Greek invasion of western Anatolia, defeated by the National Assembly and its armed forces, under the leader of Musta Kemal (later Kemal Atatürk).

Kettle's and Adonis' claim that Asquith was an irresponsible war mongerer while LG was not is total nonsense.

Both choose to support the Liberal leader who split the Liberal Party by choosing to lead a government dominated by conservatives. I guess that's the role they would like Nick Clegg to take in relation to the Labour Party, supporting New Labour while abandoning any distinctive liberal vision. No thank you. Clegg is clearly prepared to co-operate with either of the other major parties depending on circumstances, and keeping a distinct liberal vision in all cases.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Firefox 3.0 Beta 5 Browser now available Don't click on the blue e.

Firefox 3.0 Beta 5. is now available. I've just started using and it looks great. Try it. If you never used Firefox browser before you must try it out. It's very simple to download and set up and it won't interfere with your present browser. Try it and see why it is growing in popularity with personal and business users. It takes up less of the capacity of your computer than Internet Explorer (the internet browser that comes with Windows) but is much much better in speed, functions and the possibilities for choosing different appearances and additional functions.

Windows download

Mac download

Linux download

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

European Union Hypocrisy and the Closure case against AKP: Democracy means governmetns are accountable to the courts

I do not seek the closure of the governing party in Turkey, AKP, but the EU condemnation of the current court case is muddled hypocritical nonsense. Olli Rehn, the Commissioner for Enlargement, has said that it is unacceptable to try to close down a party which is non-violent. In that case it is time to expel Germany from the EU, since the Federal Government tried to close down NDP, a far-right party with Nazi roots. The prosecution case referred to the views of NDP members,not acts of violence. The case collapsed because provocative statemtns quoted in the indictment were found to have been made by state agents operating under cover in the NDP.

AKP has some similar roots to NDP. Its roots are in the idea of a pure Turkish-Muslim community exclkuding Jews and intenrational capital. AKP appears to have taken another road, but instances keep coming uğ of minor shifts towards Islamicisation of the Turkish state and society: a district of Ankara which has banned the sale of alcohol, municipalities where canteens are not open for lunch during Ramadan, more cosnervative religious behaviour by students at high schools which prepare students for the university faculties of theology and a career as an Iman. Wgen a party with such extreem roots behaves in a way which suggests that it might not have completely overcome its past, what rule of EU membership makes it immune to legal investigation?

What criteria are there for EU membership which prevent the Turkish courts testing the compatibility of AKP polices and practices with the Turkish constitution? What gives Rehn the right to dictate to the Turkish courts? Does he not understand that liberal democracy means separation between courts and government, and the accountability of the government to the courts? People like Rehn have sadly failed to gain much legitimacy in European public opinion. I'm a great supporter of the European ideal, but the reality about Rehn and his colleagues is that no one finds them to be a great advertisement for the European ideal. The bossy interfering hypocritical attitude of Rehn over this issue is a good example of why the Brussels leaders have not won over Eurıpena public opinion, indeed they have failed to even create a genuine European wide sphere of public debate. They are not up to recognising such basic distinctions as the difference between agreeing with a prosecution case and the right of the courts to investigate a topic. Hopeless.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Nick Clegg's Shiny New Leadership and the European Question

This is a big topic which I could not fit into my lost blog entry on
Nick Cleg, as an anonymous reader has asked for that to be covered,
that's what I'm doing here.

One reason I did not try to fit the Europe issue in is that Clegg's
early days leadership on this issue has been dominated by a mess left
over from the brief leadership of his predecessor Menzies Campbell.
Campbell himself had been left with an awkward situation with regard to
the collapse of the Lisbon Constitution. Rjection of this proposed
'Constitution' for the EU was rejected by referendum in France and the
Netherlands. The Liberal Democrats, like all UK parties had supported
a referendum on agreeing to the constitution. The idea of a
constitution was a premature and a mess, but I cannot go into that here.

The result of the referendum defeats was agreement to replace the
Lisbon Constitution with the Lisbon Treaty, which adds to previous
treaties instead of rolling all previous ones up with new proposals in
a supposed foundational document for the EU (again premature and a
mess). The Treaty leaves out some symbolic proposals such as an EU
flag and anthem. Despite the very negative reaction from Eurosceptics,
the Lisbon provisions strengthen the role of the Council of Minsters
which is the part of the EU structure which gives a direct role ot
national governments. There are also proposals for more involvement by
national parliaments in scrutinising legislation. As more areas come
under majority voting, instead of unanimity, the Eurosceptic
objections refer to something real, but these changes are coming in a
manner that is as adapted to recognition to national governments and
parliaments as is possible.

Campbell's reaction to the move from Constitution to Treaty was to propose a referendum on membership of the EU. The Labour government declared that a referendum was now unnecessary, the Conservative party proposed a referendum on the Treaty.

Campbell's policy appears to have merged to splits in the Liberal Democrats between: the most Brussels orientated tendency which wishes to avoid referenda which might interrupt the integration process; and a relatively Eurosceptic tendency with its strongest roots in agricultural and fishing constituencies where EU management of fishing and agriculture is unpopular EU management of agriculture is extremely unpopular with everyone in Britain, but in some areas it is a dominant. The compromise between Brussels is always right and the EU needs reigning in tendencies was dealt with by a vote on membership, which might be considered more winnable This also represents a compromise between different views on the role of referenda in the British political system. In all the debate about referenda on the EU, no one has brought up the issue of a proper method of deciding when a referendum should be used. Those demanding a referendum on Lisbon have not demanded the same for major recent changes to the British system, such as major changes in the composition of the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrat MPs were split three ways on the issue when it came to a vote in Parliament: abstain, vote for a referendum on Lisbon, vote for a referendum on membership. Clegg imposed a three line whip (a definite instruction to vote) on the issue, which meant abstaining as the Speaker did not accept the party's amendment to government legislation. Some voted against which led to three 'shadow ministers' being sacked.

Clegg tried to make the best of the situation by criticising the parliamentary procedures which prevented a vote on his amendement and led a walk out of MPs.

What next? That depends first on whether the Lisbon Treaty will get past further barriers, I believe that there will be a referendum in Ireland but probably not in Denmark, both countries where constitutioanl chnages can trigger referenda but in different ways. ıf Ireland votes against, the Treaty will still probably survive with Irish opt outs (as wehn Danes voted against the Maastricht Treaty). I would not like to predict what will come in the way of proposals for EU integration, but they will be coming. It will be a few years before a new treaty comes up, so Clegg can and should concentrate on the issue of deregulated markets within Europe and free trade for Europe, which is an agenda being pursued by the President of the Commission, sort of the head of government for the EU. We need to see how the new changes work: a longer term President of the Council and an EU 'Foreign Minister'. These aspects could jus tbe another failure to find politcal structure for the long term. The EU needs clear structures and clear lines of accountability, there is some way to go. We also need to see if parliamentary scrutiny means much in practice. For now, the EU needs to focus its exiting strucutres and institutions on deregulation, free trade and climate change. Progress in these fields is maybe the necessary conditition for strengthening the political credibilit yof the Eu in Europe. I bleive Clegg will probably follow tha tline. I also beleive tha the will avoid the damging confrontations at party conference between MEPs and the party leadership over the EU budget, such a thing ahppened under Kennedy's leadership because he was untalented and downright lazy with regard to handling party divisions. Campbell and Cleghg have shown that the anti-conformist party conference can be managed it the right ways are found of defusing confrontation. Political proposals on the future of the EU have to wait and I'm sure Clegg recognises that.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Nietzsche and Burckhardt

I've finished reading Burckhardt's The Greeks and Greek Civilization. It's a great work on politics, culture, religion and many things in Ancient Greece. It really tells a story about the road to Golden Age Athens, and a decline in Athens, followed by the destruction of the Ancient Greek world as it was taken over by the Macedonian monarchy and absorbed into the Hellenistic world resulting from Alexander's conquests. Today I'll highlight a few things which seem particularly relevant to reading Nietzsche, who was Burkhardt's friend and colleague at the University of Basle.

Burckhardt strong emphasises the role of competition in the Ancient Greek world. The Greek states were united in the Olympic games, and there were many other forms of competition. The great Athenian tragedies were written for competitions. There were all kinds of contests in gymnastics, poetry, and music throughout the Greek world. Communities took enormous pride in the achievements of locals in the Olympic games and other contests. The pride in winning and the efforts made to win were extreme. This can be seen in the wounds suffered by wrestling and the great interest of tyrants in backing winning teams. This should remind us of two early essays by Nietzsche on 'The Greek State' and 'Homer on Competition'. It also provides a perspective for understanding 'master morality' in Nietzsche.

Burckhardt regards the interest in competition as part of the Aristocratic culture. It also existed in democratic Athens, and was the source of its great achievements. The attitude of the great democratic leader Pericles to Athens power in Greece itself shows this. However, the democratic world undermined competition. Excellence and the competition for excellence became the kind of jealousy and urge to denunciation, which led to the trial and death of Socrates. Athens after the Peloponnesian War weakened under the influence of this kind of spirit in which demogogary, perjury, and parasitic law cases became dominant. Here we see why Plato preferred Crete and Sparta. However, Sparata itself lost its old civic virtues at this, according to Burckhardt, becasue its very somination of Greece made it weaken under the influence of the other parts of Greece.

For Burckhardt, democracy means an individualism based on the cult of excellence and the growth of resentment. The decline of the aristocracy which vreated the values used by democracy allows great culture to flourish, but only for a limited period. These aspects of Burckhardt are close to Nietzzsche's thoughts on politics and culture throughout his life, and should be taken into account.

To the Liberal Democrats a New Leader. Assessing Nick Clegg

I rejoined the Liberal Democrats (British political party) so I could vote for Nick Clegg as leader. He won, though by less than 1% of votes cast after a campaign so aid back it looked like an attempt to apply Zen meditation to politics. There were perhaps good reasons for that, the main rival Huhne was evidently dying to turn it into a social (left) liberal versus Thatcherite contest. Sinc ehis vitory Clegg has returned to his good work in promoting a vision of liberalism rooted in a limited state, open markets, individual choice, localism, and voluntary action. He's opened up the possibility of cutting the overall tax burden.

He has marginalised attempts to commit to dumping British nuclear weapons, I don't love them but the negative impact on the international order would be more than any benefit gained. While the British place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is an anachronism, the international community is not remotely ready to work out how to restructure the Security Council. Since the other 4 permanent members have nuclear weapons the issues are linked, and let's forget about negotiating way British nuclear weapons until a clear program emerges for a new UN and international order, or attempt at order the worlds nations. This order, such at is, needs Britain's continuing commitment to UN military operations. It's hard to see how Britain's enormous role could be politically sustainable if the place of the Security Council went, I wish things were different but this is the real context . The Liberal Democrats (including the old Liberal Party back to Gladstone's time) have been the most internationalist force in British politics. Opting out of the nuclear club is not the way to continue that tradition.

Clegg has recently committed to substantially reducing the number of MPs in the British parliament. This is very important as we cannot reasonably argue for regional government within England and radically strengthened local government, and not offer a way of saving money and complexity with regard to the UK parliament.

The party's recent party conference has voted for a proposal for more private involvement in the National Health Service. There are very powerful reasons for this which come both from: strengthening private economic activity in Britain; and the more efficient delivery of basic public services to all, with the minimum burden of taxation.

These are early days for Clegg's leadership, but he has already taken big steps towards ending Liberal Democrat tendencies towards automatically taxing and spending more than the Conservatives and 'New' Labour (which has substantially increased tax and spending, and public borrowing). He has manoeuvred the party away from assuming that social welfare means keeping the private sector out of public services, and has successfully led it towards a very positive attitude to the sovereignty of consumer choice over producer interests.

What comes next? I would like to see Lib Dem acceptance of tuition charges for higher education under the current UK system where the government provides low interest loans. I think this is coming. The same applies to a general broadening of choice and competition in the provision of public services.

What is more remote is the use of private insurance funds in public health provision and more charges in the provision of public health services. This will be greeted by many as social cruelty on a level with throwing orphans in the snow. The reality is that the world2s top rated health service, in France, uses private funds and charges (often recoverable through insurance or waived for those on low incomes). It's very clear in Britain that free visits to local doctors means they are spending their time on trivial or non-existence complaints. Efficient allocation of resources needs some element of market forces, even if the overall pattern is one of guaranteeing health care for all who need it. Using private insurance funds as well as general taxation to fund public health services will realise more money overall flowing into public health services which will benefit everyone. A hospital which can invest using private funds will be able to make the results available for everyone, and şf we go so far as to put everyone in competing insurance funds with the poorest insured by the state, then everyone can clearly benefits from competition and market disciplines.

What are the current problems? The biggest issues for me are: a new form of soak the rich posturing; a default position for many party representatives of promising more public spending. The soak the rich issue has arisen in relation to 'non-doms', that is non-domiciled foreigners, though another group, British citizens who are only in the country for a maximum of 90 days in a year has been included in that debate. Resentment exists that foreigners, including billionaires, do no pay any tax on overseas earnings and investments. The issue for British citizens is that if they are not in the country for more than 90 days is that they have similar rights. Public resentment overlooks the fact that the non-taxed income and wealth is outside the UK. Taxing non-doms overseas income and wealth will not on the whole mean more money for the British state. It will mean very mobile people leaving who pay very large amounts of tax in Britain through indirect taxes when they spend money and direct taxes on money they make in Britain. These people are mobile and if they disappear than the British tax payer will be faced with a bigger burden. Britsh citizens who work a maximum of 90 days tend to be engaged in very highly skilled professional work, many in the financial sector. Great harm would be suffered by the financial sector including the Stock Market, and associated enterprises, if these people are frightened off. Again there would be a big loss for the British tax payer. Issues arise her eof tax havens which should be separated from non-dom status. I find bizarre Medieval left overs like Monaco and Lichtenstein, which make money from charging hardly any direct tax on wealthy foreign residents, artificial and absurd. The answer is a mixture of law enforcement with regard to assets hidden in these 'countries' and lowering of corporation taxes and taxes on wealth. The goal should be to increase the volume of tax revenue, not to impose high marginal rates of tax on the rich because it serves feelings of resentment and envy while deterring enterprise and creating huge incentives for shifting corporate registration and private wealth off shore.

Firefox 3 Beta 4, download it. And why I want to go AppleMac

I've previously recommended downloading Firefox 3 which is in a beta stage and is not widely distributed. The beta 2 I recommended was superseded by beta 3 and very recently by beta 4. Beta 3 was unstable on the main computer I use, but not so much on another work one, both running Windows XP.

Sadly I'm still purely a Windows user but I'm planning my escape to Macintosh Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) on a current model MacBook (AppleMac laptop/notebook) in the next few months. I will be free. Check out this very independent, objective and detailed comparison of Linux, Mac Leopard, Windows XP, and Windows Vista in PC World to see why I want to make the shift. In fact just do a search for wesbites which discuss Macintosh and see a great many reasons from many sources, and talk to anyone who made the switch.

Back to Firefox. Beta 3 kept freezing and crashing on my computer at home, Beta 4 is great. As it's beta there's a limited choice of themes and extensions but the MicroFox theme is available which is a beautiful one, and the most important application for me, the nitro pdf download, is working. British English dictionary, ScribeFire and FireFlag are working. Beta 4 is very stable and very quick. Downloads are much faster than before. Beautifully minimised graphics create very spacious and ergonomic feel. Bookmarking is very rapid, straight from browser bar, and it's very very easy now to get to previously visited website by entering word from site title in window. The best aesthetics aspects of Safari (Apple) browser are now marched through a very integrated feel unfiying elements and a sense of curvature in three dimensions. Internet Explorer does not begin to compare.

Come on people, Internet Explorer is not a good browser, try Firefox and you'll know what I mean. Go on try it. If you want to play very safe, download Firefox 2 from the button on my side bar. If you're feeling just a little adventerous download 3 beta 4. Whichever you download, you won't disable Explorer. You can download easily and quickly, You don't even have to restart the computer to get it working after download. No risk, no trouble. Go on, do it.

Blogging Again. My course notes on: Tragedy, Ethics, Politics; Ancient and Modern Liberty; 20th Centıry Political Theory

I'm back blogging. For the last few weeks I have been completely concentrating on writing class notes which I've been posting on my university website. I decided to do all the notes for a semester (14 teaching weeks) in a bloc so that I could concentrate on other projects after getting that out of the way, and so that keener students can get detailed guidance on all course material and topics. Here's a report on what I've been doing. If you want to see the notes click on this link, and if my report interests you at all please do. Go to my website and click on Teaching and scroll down. Responses are very welcome via the log. The notes are to help BA and MA students get a handle on texts and issues; I've ended up putting a bit of myself into the notes and they've helped me direct my own thoughts.

BA Classes

Introduction to Politics
Ancient and Modern Liberty
More Modern than Ancient Liberty, though I covered a lot of Antique thought in the next class. I wanted to go from Plato to Mill and spend 3 weeks looking at On Liberty properly because it is such a dominant text in discussing liberalism/libertarianism/free speech/individualism/tolerance and so on I also wanted to get a full range of Early Modern, Enlightenment, and 19th Century texts to give a really full background to Mill (though not earlier Utilitarianism which is a shame maybe). I had to include Tocqueville and Humboldt, since Mill invokes them and they are great writers. I had to include Constant to really deal with Humboldt and Tocqueville, in some respects Constant provides a bridge between them. Shame I couldn't include the very relevant de Stael (or shame on me for not making the effort). Marx had to come in and so did Hegel because he is one of the main people to deal with the Ancient/Modern distinction and relate it to different conceptions of liberty. Montesquieu, Rousseau and Hobbes had to be in there for Ancient and Modern discussion, and so did Machivelli (The Discourses) for his revival of, and commentary on, Roman Republicanism. Antique Liberty has been squeezed into two weeks: one for Plato (Apology of Socrates) and one for Aristotle (The Politics, Book III). No Cicero but plenty of discussion of the Ancient world in the later authors.

Art, Culture, Society
Tragedy, Ethics, Politics
The course alternated between aq week on a tragedy and a relevant text on political/ethical theory. Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Marlowe, Machiavelli, Corneille, Racine and Pascal covered. Sad lack of readiy available Corneille translations, even online, which is why I used Le Cid instead of Horace. Euripides, Seneca and Racine linked by comparing their treatment of Hyppolitus/Phaedra story. Seneca studied as dramatist and ethical thinker in separate weeks. Aristotle studied in separate weeks as ethical and politcal theorist. Machiavelli considered through The Prince (study of monarchical states) and The Discourses (study of republican states) in spearate weeks. Lots of ideas came up while reading, preparing notes and teaching (less than half way through) on how tragedies deal with ethical and political issues. Must do some serious work of my own on this.


Schmitt, Rawls, Nozick, Sandel, Pettit, Derrida, Habermas, Foucault

A mixture of the European and Analytic. Not so easy to bridge them, though Habermas may help when I get there. Derrida text is largely commentary on Schmitt (relevant chapters from Politics of Friendship). I've included all of Society Must be Defended for Foucault. Not much direct reference to Schmitt, but emphasis on politics as war connects very nicely. Nozick text is largely a discussion of Rawls, Sandel text is largely a discussion of Rawls and Nozick, Pettit text is particularly concerned with Rawls. The course has two beginnings: Schmitt and Rawls. Habermas text has some reactions to Schmitt and there are obvious parallels with Rawls, and a dialogue with Rawls about Political Liberalism. The reaction to Schmitt tends towards quarantine, but a way maybe ıf unifying topics of sovereignty, friendship, war with rights, contract, entitlement.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Ang Lee: Lust, Caution

I saw Ang Lee's latest film yesterday. I was expecting to like it, but it surpassed all my expectations. Very draining difficult film, but worth all the pain.

If you haven't seen it what you've probably heard about it is the sex scenes. These will definitely be cut in mainland China, whoch presumably is the biggest market for the film which was made in Mandarin Chinese and set in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I'm not sure about he Chinese market but I guess the film may be seen as a more of a mass market film there and less of an arty minority film. It will have to be distributed without the sex scenes which will make the film easier to watch since they are disturbing if erotic. Do not expect erotic entertainment, the sex is graphic and the actors are attractive but the sex is expressive of alienatated emotions and watching them draws the audience into the pain of the characters.

The film is set in China from 1938 to 1942, dealing with the Japanese invasion and occupation of China. Idealistic naive patriotic students decide it is their duty to kill a pro-Japanese Chinese in a non-occupied part of China. The idea of killing a man who is not at that point obviously involve din anything beyond pro-Japanese politics is intrinsically disturbing and becomes more and more disturbing. In trying to kill the man the group turns a female member into the real sacrifice. She is already hurt because the leader of the group ignores her affection for her friend. He father has gone abroad and remarried without enabling her to join him. She puts on a brave face to her friend but weeps in the cinema while watching Intermezzo (a film in which a female character played by Ingrid Bergman has to accept that her lover is going back to his wife and children). This emphasis on the power or cinema is very appropriate to Lee's film which shows the power of cinema to take us to many difficult places. The young woman's identification with fiction is laso emphasised in the patriotic film the student group stage. On one level the play is pure manipulative propaganda, on another level the play shows the real suffering of Chinese women who lose husbands, fathers and brothers dying in the war against Japanese invasion. These incidents set up the way the young woman is invested in fiction and is therefore suitable for a role in the assassination. Her role is to be the honey trap, to play the role of a superficial rich woman who befriends the man's wife and can then get him into a love affair. All the students are sexually inexperienced apart from one of the young men who has been with prostitutes. The young woman is first sacrificed by the expectation that she will learn about sex with the rather insensitive young man. She attracts the attention of the collaborator but loses touch with him when he has to move suddenly from Hong Kong to Shanghai. Already a strong rapport is shown between the troubled young woman and the collaborator who is married but is very suspiciuous and very alone most of the time. Just as the students are pulling out, the unwitting intermediary turns up having realised what was going on. He is going to blackmail them and carries gun. They overpower him but find it takes several difficult attempts to kill.

The young woman is in Shanghai years later living with her aunt in occupied Shanghai when the resistance catches up with her. The student leader has now become a professional agent and leads her into a new plot against the collaborator. The leader of their cell promises to pass on a letter to her father and send her to her father after the job is finished. However, he burns the letter and clearly regards her as a sacrifice to the cause to be manipulated. She works hwer way again into the circle of the man's wife. He is now heading a counter intelligence organisation detecting, imprisoning and torturing the Chinese resistance. Very indirectly she overcomes his barriers playing the role of a bored wife. When they become lovers their first encounter turns into a sadistic assault on his part. At the end of that encounter both seem to be tormented by conflicting emotions. Their later encounters are less directly sadistic but the energetic sex is full of sado-masochistic overtones and extremes of emotional conflict. We never know if the man suspects she is a spy or not, though if he does he has probably pushed the suspicion a long way into the back of his mind. The relationship acquires a more positive aspect as the man shows that his ugly work troubles him and that he can be very sensitive and caring. The cell leader ignores her desperate pleas to be released from this tortuous situation. In the end she gets he revenge on the cell leader and her friends by warning the collaborator in a jewelry shop where the resistance is about to kill him. He has bought her a ring with a stone of heart breaking beauty and her commitment to the plan collapses. The gang is arrested, including the young woman. The collaborator resists the opportunity to torture her and orders their rapid execution. Evidently the young woman welcomes the chance to confront her friends with the consequences of their cruelty. The collaborator is left even more lonely and emotionally empty than he had been in the first place.

What qualities does this film have?
Time: The film starts towards the end of events showing the young woman playing mahjong with the wife of the collaborator and her friends. There is a jump back to 1938 and the events that led up her life in Shanghai. We return to the starting point and the film begins to end.
Character and Masks: The young woman is perfect in the role she is playing as a bored rich wife. She becomes that role more than she is her previous self, even though it has hateful consequences.
Drama, song, cinema: various incidents show the young woman expressing something hidden about herself through acting, singing and her emotional reactions to cinema.
Totalitarianism: I don't know what politics the student group have. They talk ion a Marxist way but use no Marxist symbols, so maybe they are Kuomintang (conservative-nationalist main non-communist party in mainland China before 1949, and the only party in Taiwan for decades after the fall of mainland China). In any case, the sacrifice of the young woman and and the destruction of the moral personality of all members must comment on Maoism and possibly on the methods of the Kuomintang.
Destructive unintended consequences of idealism.
The moral destruction of all in a time of extreme violence.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Nietzsche's Friend Jacob Burckhardt: How a Conservative 19th Century Historian Anticipated 'Poliitcally Correct' views of Antiquity.

I've just started reading The Greeks and Greek Civilization by Jakob Burckhardt. Burckhardt was a friend and colleague of Friedrich Nietzsche at the University of Basle. Unlike Nietzsche, Burkhardt was a native of Basle. He turned down the chance to succeed to Leopold Von Ranke's chair in Berlin. Ranke was a great historian, who preached objectivity and the importance of archives, but also wrote history from the point of view of the Prussian dynasty. Burckhardt rejected Ranke's Prussian-German nationalism, but from a conservative point of view. In this he followed the precedent of Goethe. The emphasis Burckhardt puts on the individual above national state ideology also gives him a liberal aspect, like Nietzsche. They were both suspicious of democracy and mass culture, from the point of view of an individualism which stands above conservative tradition, particularly in its religious aspects. At the very least Nietzsche and Burckhardt turn conservative tradition into an instrument of individualism, and Nietzsche certainly found it possible to take the same view of democracy. Both of the Basle Professors shared an early enthusiasms for the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Both were attacked by the brilliant but narrow minded philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Mollendorf.

I was previously familiar with Burckhardt's The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, which looks at the individualism of the Renaissance as a movement in politics and statecraft as a well as art, and which clearly bears comparison with Nietzsche. In fact both books by Burckhardt are essential companions to Nietzsche's philosophy (that is not to say they are the same in all respects).

The focus of today's post is the way in which Burckhardt anticipates attitudes to antiquity from a 'politically correct' point of view since Martin Bernal's Black Athena. I do not have a firm view right now of Black Athena, or any text influenced by it. I may return to this in the future, all I have to say for now is that I am sure that Bernal addressed issues that need to be addressed about the place of Greek antiquity in the broader antique world. It may or may not distort history for political reasons. It may or may not mix such distortions with valid points.

The issues that are associated with Bernal and his followers that matter regardless of the value of what they wrote: the Greek polis (city state) follows the example of earlier states in the Near East; there are ways in which aspects of Ancient Greek thought that take things from the Near East: some aspects of Near Eastern culture and thought were in advance of Greek culture and thought in antiquity.

Where does Burckhardt come in?
1. The Greek polis, to some degree, was preceded by Phoenician city states in which the supreme power of rulers was limited by an aristocratic council.
2. Ancient Greek culture took many things from the Ancient Assyrians and Egyptians.
3. Ancient Greek culture seemed immature to the Ancient Egyptians due to its faith in immediacy and lack of any real transcendence of perception.
4. Ancient Greek culture had an instrumental attitude to truth and oath taking whoch shocked other Antique peoples and this is not just a case of seeing the worst in another culture.

Burckhardt emphasised other things that undermine the idealisation of Ancient Greece, particularly the view of the polis as the goal of human existence. Burckhardt emphasises that the polis emerges from extreme violence on villagers. A polis was formed by forcing inhabitants in a group of villages to leave their homes and live within fortified walls. The reasons for this were militaristic. The process in which villagers were forced to live in a polis in constant military conflict with rivals is what lies behind Greek myths of sacrifice (voluntary and involuntary) to the interests of the state and the harsh punishment of critics of the state. Villagers had the cruel experience for Ancient Greeks of being torn from the graves of their ancestors. Legal codes were designed for the aristocracy who struggled to protect original laws against amendment and addition by the people. 'Democracy' was based on one group forcing itself on other peoples and subordinating them to itself. This could happen because citizenship excluded slaves and those of foreign origin, as well as women. Greek gods were immoral and this limited Ancient Greek moral understanding, which included obsessions with revenge, though this was mitigated to some degree by philosophy. However, even philosophical ethics was primarily concerned with the health of the individual self, not obligations to others.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Carl Schmitt on Classical Liberalism

Continuing from recent posts about Schmitt's Nomos of the Earth, I'm addressing the issue of a possible liaison between Carl Schmitt and Classical Liberalism. Schmitt's membership of the Nazi party and attempts to become a prominent jurist during the Nazi period may make this look like a bizarre claim, and no one I know of claims that Schmitt takes Classical Liberalism as a foundation. Political Romanticism certainly contains some strong criticism of German Classical Liberals.

The supposed Classical Liberal link comes from moments at which Schmitt suggests some respect for private property and the market economy. In Nomos of the Earth, he certainly seems nostalgic for the highpoint of European interstate order in which war and state appropriation of territory did not interfere with private property. Property remained in the same hands, business and commerce carried on as before, in a successful bracketting of war from normal order within, and between, states. In general Schmitt limits his interest in politics as struggle with the enemy to the political sphere and favoured liberal economics.

On the other side, we must note the following points. In Nomos of the Earth, Schmitt also refers to the impossibility of making economics an absolutely neutral sphere in relation to politics. The market economy rests on property. Property rests on appropriation. Appropriation is an act of violence which implicitly contains the political construction of a sovereign who distributes property. The distribution of property is always a political act, something that Schmitt traces back to Aristotle's comments on distributive justice and even further back into Ancient Greek mythology. Even when he refers to the triumph of the market economy at the high point of the European inter-state order, he includes protectionist economic policies and the forcible opening up of markets, as when Commodore Parry forced Japan to accept trade with the United States. Fir Schmitt, the market economy is something organised by the state and that is not in contradiction with some aggressively interventionist acts of the state. It must also be noted that Schmitt refers to Britain's maritime empire as a failed 'catechon'. The catechon refers to the power which resists the premature coming of the Anti-Christ, but is given a wider role by Scmitt as the force which resists disorder. From Schmitt's point of view the original theology may be implicit in the secularised understanding. Though Schmitt often likes to adopt a pose of Olympian detachment with regard to political ideas, it's clear that he finds the sea lacking in the capacity of the earth to ground appropriation and sovereignty. The sea is disorder, the place which escapes law. In The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, it is clear that Schmitt's respect for Hobbes is limited by Schmitt's respect for individualism under the leviathan -state and that Schmitt links that liberal aspect of Hobbes with Britain as power infected by liberalism resulting from its maritime role. In Nomos of the Earth, Britain is featured as a disruptive power within European order, due to its ambiguous position in relation to Europe: both belonging and not belonging. The maritime power cannot belong to Europe in the same way as a 'Continental' power. This is supported with somewhat strained arguments to deny France and the Netherlands maritime power status.

The reading of Schmitt may help liberals of various stripes to give more emphasis to political conflict and the necessity of the state. Schmitt's articulation however emphasises contradictions between liberalism and the real concepts of politics, and must be seen as resulting in the limitation of liberalism within an economic sphere subject to the political as the superior instance.

Monday, 28 January 2008

The growth of a Liberal Democratic European party?

European Liberal and Centrist Politics
This contributes to a topic I've posted on once before 'Greens Join Bayrou: A New Movement in the French Political Centre Takes Shape', the progress of a broad liberal/centrist space in European politics. That post referred to the small political incident of a French Green micro-party joining the Mouvement democrate in France. The significance was that it suggested the new political party is more than just the fans of its founder and leader, Francois Bayrou. I'm getting into some rather detailed discussions throwing party names and acronyms around. I believe this irritating looking detail is important in evaluating the state of play for the liberal and centrist forces in the European political space. The strength or weakness of such forces is important for European politics, and can only be evaluated through looking at the national variations and changes.

European Democratic Party
In terms of European political alignments MODEM belongs to the European Democratic Party. The 'party' here refers to what are really transnational alliances of similar parties in different countries of the European Union. The party label for these alliances comes from the wish of the European Union to have all European politics. These EU 'parties' are inevitably rather loose compared with the constituent national parties, though if we think of the relatively loose structure of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, the 'party' label may make more sense.

European Democratic Party and the European Liberal Democratic and Reformist Party
The EDP includes the main Basque party in Spain EAJ-PNV which according to the website is autonomistic rather than separatist, and which is no a socialist or conservative party. It also defines itself as 'non-liberal', which looks like the rejection of purely free market economics. The other components are rather small: Alleanza Popolare (San Marino), Cesta Zemeny (Path of Change, Czech Republic, party programme in English), European Party (Republic of Cyprus), Mouvement des Citoyens pour Le Changement (Belgium/Wallonia). These are all rather small forces. What they have in common is an interest in European integration, democratic reforms, and a communitarian attitude emphasising that the market economy should be guided by social and environmental concerns, and emphasising the importance of trustful relations between citizens. The last part mentioned, MCC, is part of a larger grouping Mouvement reformateur which has the historic Francophone Belgian liberal party at is core, allied with Francophone and German speaking communal rights parties. MR as a whole does not belong to EDP, it belongs to the ELDR (European Liberal Democrats and Reformers) party, which groups European political parties belonging to the liberal tradition. The Reform part of the label was adopted to satisfy French Radicals (small party rooted in Jacobin reformism now a satellite of the main right wing party in France). At present probably just the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia finds the label necessary. As a whole ELDR is more free market/classical liberal than EDP though there are distinctly social (left) liberal parties in ELDR which would not define themselves in that way. EDP and ELDR are grouped together in ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe).

A New Major Party in Italy
I've left out one party from the EDP list, because as in Wallonia (Francophone Belgium) parties within the same national political space belong to EDP and ELDR orientations. What is most notable is that the space itself is changing in one of Europe's larger countries. The Italian formation in EDP is Democrazia e Liberta-La Margaherita, a grouping of former Catholic centrists, moderates and liberals (there used to be three Italian liberal parties: Liberal, Republican, Radical. Recent fracturing and coalitions would make it difficult to give a number now). The party seems to exist between being and nothingness, it has a website listed at EDP but has folded into the broader centre left party Partito Democratico. The DP merges the Margehrita with other centrist and centre left groups (some of which are part of ELDR), and with a party descended from the Italian Communist Party, which became the Party of the Democratic Left, and then Democrats of the Left. Most of DL is joining PD but a dissenting minority has established Democratic Left.

Italian Democratic Party: Centrist or Socialist?
This bizarre series of splits, mergers and realignments has left Italy with a centre left party, PD, so far undecided between the Party of European Socialists and the EDP, and which contains a significant proportion of people who at one time wanted a socialist rupture with capitalism, and belong to a party founded by Leninist revolutionaries. Comparisons have been made with the United States Democratic Party, and that also applies to EDP. That comparison does not really say much accept that there is broad based party defining itself as non-conservative and as non-extreme left. In terms of numbers in the European Parliament, PD's choice is interesting.

European Democrats and European Liberals
If PD joins EDP, it will be the only really major national party unless we count EAJ-PNV as the majority party of the Basque nation in Spain (though it also claims to represent French Basques). In EDP, PD will be allied through ALDE with limited state liberal free marketeers and others in the liberal tradition, and some components are still listed as part of ELDR. The ELDR/EDP distinction is hard to maintain. Centrist Basque autonomists belong to EDP; centrist Catalan autonomists belong to ELDR, and so on.

Towards a Unified Liberal European Party?
The ultimate logic is surely a unified Liberal Democratic European Party, though the liberal label is hard to accept for centrists in countries where liberalism has strong suggestions of an upper class party with pure free market limited state ideas. Where those countries used to have large liberal parties, those parties have shrunk to nothing, or almost nothing, and the gap is being filled at the level of European alliances by centrist parties with a communitarian (often Catholic) heritage, parties which are definitely not socialist but also definitely see the market as something that needs restraint and balance by communal values implemented by the state. The strong localist and regionalist nature of those parties, and the emphasis they put on reforms of constitutions and political processes, and to use the market where it serves social needs or makes public services more efficient, may also provide a basis for convergence with those close to classical liberalism through the desire to restrain the central state and encourage those parts of the economy outside state direction.