Etienne Balibar leads this issue of Theory & Event with a set of provocative themes emerging out of the economic and political crisis in Europe. An extension of an intervention that appeared initially on the Guardian.co.uk website, “Europe: Final Crisis? Some Theses” is openly accessible and available here
Wendy Brown guest edits our symposium, “’We are All Democrats Now.’” From ancient Greece to contemporary Israel, from a deep aspiration worth saving to a barrier demanding its own overcoming, democracy appears in these discussions not only as being in question but also as a concept in need of being questioned. In addition to Brown, John Wallach, Neve Gordon, Antonio Vázquez-Arroyo, and Anne Norton contribute to the conversation. Brown’s introduction is also openly accessible and available here.
The four articles in 13.2 mark political theory’s pluriform engagements:
In “Preemptive Sovereignty and Avian Pandemics,” Geoffrey Whitehall takes up the thesis that sovereignty has been recuperated in preemption. This new governing logic is not disrupted by contingency. On the contrary, contingency provokes a new form of sovereignty that responds to risk by seeking to avoid it, by preempting it. Whitehall develops his argument through a close analysis of the avian flu emergency wherein contingent life—of viruses, chickens, humans—becomes the target of preemptive politicization.
Saul Newman makes the case for anarchism. Newman situates engagements with Badiou, Žižek, and Hardt and Negri, in the “ruins of Marxism,” that is, the apparent inadequacy of parties, revolution, and the state as instruments or sites of radical politics. “The Horizon of Anarchy: Anarchism and Contemporary Radical Thought” suggests that insofar as radical thinkers attempt to move beyond class, party, and state their hidden referent is necessarily anarchism. A more coherent, perhaps even effective, politics requires bringing this referent to light.
In contrast, Zhivka Valiavicharska asserts the continued import of Lenin’s revolutionary project and theory of the state. Far from the withered remains of a failed utopia, Lenin’s approach to state and revolution offers a vision of a self-governing social order, of collective and creative capacities that might, over time, organize themselves into new practices of freedom. “Socialist Modes of Governance and the ‘Withering Away of the State’: Revisiting Lenin’s State and Revolution” makes a powerful argument for conjoining the critique of neoliberalism with attention to postsocialist experiences.
Our fourth article, “Suffering and the Liberal Sensorium: When Voice Seduced and Betrayed Politics,” considers liberalism in terms of its sensorium, asking why liberalism makes the suffering voice the object of its politics. Asma Abbas develops her account through readings of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, global health policy’s indexes of human suffering, and the evocation of sublime suffering in evil and in natural disasters. She argues for more suspicion toward the suffering-voice nexus, for a questioning of the privilege granted to suffering, and for an opening up of the way that suffering polices subjectivity.
Issue 13.2 also includes the following book reviews: Roger Berkowitz’s review of Vanessa Lemm, Nietzsche’s Animal Philosophy: Culture, Politics, and the Animality of the Human Being, entitled “Liberating the Animal: The False Promise of Nietzsche’s Anti-Human Philosophy;” Char Roone Miller’s Review of Philip Goodchild’s Theology of Money, entitled “Good Faith and Credit;” Pentti Määttänen’s review of Michael J. Shapiro’s Cinematic Geopolitics, entitled “Film, Politics and Epistemology;” and, George Shulman’s review of Robert Gooding-Williams, In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America, entitled “Political Theory from the Shadows.”