Across the Euro-Atlantic world, political leaders have been mobilizing their bases with nativism, racism, xenophobia, and paeans to “traditional values,” in brazen bids for electoral support. How are we to understand this move to the mainstream of political policies and platforms that lurked only on the far fringes through most of the postwar era? Does it herald a new wave of authoritarianism? Is liberal democracy itself in crisis? In this volume, three distinguished scholars draw on critical theory to address our (...) current predicament. Wendy Brown, Peter E. Gordon, and Max Pensky share a conviction that critical theory retains the power to illuminate the forces producing the current political constellation as well as possible paths away from it. Brown explains how “freedom” has become a rallying cry for manifestly un-emancipatory movements; Gordon dismantles the idea that fascism is rooted in the susceptible psychology of individual citizens and reflects instead on the broader cultural and historical circumstances that lend it force; and Pensky brings together the unlikely pair of Tocqueville and Adorno to explore how democracies can buckle under internal pressure. These incisive essays do not seek to smooth over the irrationality of the contemporary world, and they do not offer the false comforts of an easy return to liberal democratic values. Rather, the three authors draw on their deep engagements with nineteenth–and twentieth–century thought to investigate the historical and political contradictions that have brought about this moment, offering fiery and urgent responses to the demands of the day. (shrink)
An emerging consensus regards domestic amnesties for international crimes as generally inconsistent with international law. This legal consensus rests on a norm against impunity: the chief role of international criminal law, and of the fledgling International Criminal Court , is to end impunity for violators of the worst of criminal acts. But the anti-impunity norm, and the anti-amnesty consensus that has arisen from it, now face serious difficulties. The ICC's role in the ongoing conflict in Northern Uganda illustrates the deadlock (...) that has now emerged between countries wishing to retain the power to use domestic politics and criminal law as tools for negotiation with current or outgoing perpetrators, on the one side, and the ICC's determination to apply a consistent international anti-impunity norm, on the other. The paper argues that the anti-impunity norm itself is based on a narrowly retributivist conception of criminal justice. A broader norm for democratic accountability, by contrast, would continue to prefer prosecutions over amnesties in international law, less for the opportunity for deserved retribution for perpetrators than for the public enactment of the deliberative procedures associated with the rule of law.Keywords: amnesty; impunity; international law; international criminal court. (shrink)
Why did Theodor W. Adorno write Negative Dialectics? In an age where, as Adorno argued in that book, philosophy appears to have become obsolete, answering this question requires reconstructing Adorno's complex views on the role, status, and possibility of philosophical thinking after its “appointment” with its historical hour was missed. This chapter explores this concept of lateness by reconstructing the ways in which Negative Dialectics, indeed all of Adorno's philosophical work, is an exercise in “disappointment.”.
Theodor Adorno's concept of 'natural history' [Naturgeschichte] was central for a number of Adorno's theoretical projects, but remains elusive. In this essay, I analyse different dimensions of the concept of natural history, distinguishing amongst (a) a reflection on the normative and methodological bases of philosophical anthropology and critical social science; (b) a conception of critical memory oriented toward the preservation of the memory of historical suffering; and (c) the notion of 'mindfulness of nature in the subject' provocatively asserted in Max (...) Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment. These strands are united by the notion of transience and goal of developing a critical theory sensitive to the transient in history. The essay concludes by suggesting some implications of an expanded concept of natural history for issues in the discourse theory of Jürgen Habermas. (shrink)
Brings together some of the most prominent and influential contemporary interpreters of Adorno's work in a wide-ranging collection of essays that explores Adorno's relation to themes and problems in postmodern thought.
International criminal law is dedicated to the battle against impunity. However, the concept of impunity lacks clarity. Providing that clarity also reveals challenges for the current state and future prospects of the project of ICL, which this article frames in cosmopolitan terms. The ‘impunity norm’ of ICL is generally presented in a deontic form. It holds that impunity for perpetrators of international crimes is a wrong so profound that states and international bodies have a pro tanto duty to prosecute and (...) punish perpetrators, a duty that cannot be overridden by considerations of cost, including the costs of infringing on the traditionally understood legal sovereignty of states. This deontic reading of the impunity norm is difficult to justify, a fact linked to the waning fortunes of ICL over the past several years. If ICL is to reverse this trend, the impunity norm’s strongly deontic reading should be replaced by a version derived from deliberative principles. (shrink)
There is a picture by Klee called Angelus Novus . It shows an angel who seems about to move away from something he stares at. His eyes are wide, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how the angel of history must look. His face is turned toward the past. Where a chain of events appears before us, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would (...) like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in his wings; it is so strong that the angel can no longer close them. This storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows toward the sky. What we call progress is this storm. 1. (shrink)
This review of Martin Matuštík’s Jürgen Habermas: A Philosophical-Political Profile questions whether Matuštík’s description of theexistentialist dimensions of Habermas’s political theory is adequate to the internal differentiation of Habermas’s conception of a substantive ethical life. In doing so, it questions whether Habermas’ own theory adequately distinguishes between first-person singular and first-person plural ethical discourse. The review closes with a reflection on ethical self-reflection and the collective past, a theme that Matuštík’s book discusses under the theme of “anamnestic solidarity.”.
A “third generation” of critical theory can no longer be said to be composed of anything as cohesive and unified as a “school.” Critical theory today continues across a much more diverse spectrum of different philosophical approaches, influences, and questions. Its adherents are no longer united by national, geographical, or even linguistic ties, and do not necessarily even share the basic commitment to radical political change that characterized first generation critical theory. How, then, ought one to characterize the spectrum of (...) philosophers, social and political theorists, and literary critics who could be said to make up a “third generation” of the Frankfurt School? (shrink)
The postwar era saw a remarkable transformation of international law, from a loose arrangement of agreements designed to reduce collective action problems to a normative commitment to the inherent dignity of the individual person. Seyla Benhabib’s new book shows the extent to which this transformation was a matter of deeply personal experiences. Understanding this dialectic between the personal and the universal is crucial for understanding not just the genesis of contemporary normative international law, but also its prospects for survival. This (...) article focuses on Benhabib’s adoption of the process of jurisgenesis as an exemplary form of this dialectic, ending with a critical reading of Hannah Arendt’s attempt to contribute to this process. (shrink)