[DEBATE] : Re: Peter and politics
p.waterman at inter.nl.net
Thu Sep 28 09:50:16 BST 2006
I appreciate both the content and the form of your response.
It is not, however, a project but a question, a puzzle or, at its strongest,
'Politics', does not belong, in my mind, to the same set as 'democracy',
'solidarity' and 'emancipation'.
It denotes, surely, a social practice, a particular arena or expression of
power, a social theory and an academic discipline.
I would have to look again, but when I last looked the dictionaries and
encyclopaedias suggested its origin with classical Greece and the Greek
philosophers - who certainly considered it the central social practice.
These and following leaders have not been averse to politics, however
allergic to such values as democracy, emancipation or solidarity.
The sources I consulted (glanced at really) suggested either technical,
pejorative or banal definitions of the concept. And here is an interesting
fact: the excellent Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Bottomore et al 1983) has
no entry under 'politics'. Woops?!
As to why we have to invent new semantics? Well, emancipatory theorist,
Boaventura de Sousa Santos says, somewhere that every significant new social
movement requires its own theory...or was that ontology (theory of being)?
We - you and me and increasing numbers of others - are engaged with such a
new movement, in both cognitive and 'political' practice. He does not
himself question the concept, but I am doing so.
I cannot agree that the elites are agoraphobic (agora meaning both meeting
and market place). The favour certain ones over others for purposes of
control. Under capitalism, of course, they favour that kind of agora that
combines in the most favourable mix, those public spaces most subordinate to
the market - therefore TV rather than town meetings.
As someone of the anarchist tradition, I would have thought that the
quotation from Valery would have appealed to you. It is a profoundly
anarchistic idea: politics as a way of preventing people from exercising
control over matters of popular concern.
I am, however, sympathetic to the notion of specifying types or aspects of
power-expression and exercise in an effort to distinguish 'ours' from
'theirs'. But what I want to avoid, at all costs, is that traditional
pattern by which general emancipatory movements, with a broad range of
practices (cultural/communicational, productive-consumptive, domestic,
sexual, ecological or whatever) become reduced to or dominated by a power
practice first promoted as 'revolutionary', 'democratic' or (most lately in
our movement) 'new', but which later reproduces practices that the Greek
aristocratic philosophers would recognise.
Do not fear, my main project continues to be the reinvention of the labour
movement in the light of globalisation and the global justice and solidarity
movement. I can work with 'politics'. It is just that I do not think we can
deconstruct the master's house whilst using the master's tools.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrej Grubacic" <balkanozapatista at gmail.com>
To: <debate at lists.kabissa.org>
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 11:10 PM
Subject: [DEBATE] : Re: Peter and politics
I still do not get the importance you attach to this project of
un-politicization. If we follow the same logic we should reject democracy,
emancipation, solidarity or other notions that are being used, misused and
abused by the elite. I think that we should, rather, reclaim these notions.
Politics is an autonomous activity of the people in a self-governed polity.
Politics belongs to the people. Leaders are allergic to politics,as much as
they are to democracy. Jeniffer Roberts wrote this wonderful book, Athens on
Trial, about the anti democratic tradition in the "west" that was
democratophobic and apolitical at least until Jefferson. Elites are
agoraphobic. Why would we indulge their political agoraphobia? Why do we
have to invent new semantics? I think it would be a strategic mistake. Why
not use something like "statecraft" to denote the politics from above, or
rather distortions of politics (anti-politics) that you rightly abhorre, and
reclaim the politics that always was the project of peoples'
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: "Peter Waterman" <p.waterman at inter.nl.net>
> To: "debate: SA discussion list " <debate at lists.kabissa.org>
> Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2006 13:06:42 +0200
> Subject: [DEBATE] : Is the Political the Person(ality)?
> Bearing in mind the domination of both ANC and British Labour Party
> by personalities, the question arises in my mind of the extent to which
> former is being reduced to the latter...worldwide.
> I recall the slogan, or button, from the UK two decades ago: 'Take the
> Politics out of Politics: Vote Liberal Democrat'. It occurs to me,
> that the disempowerment of people and peoples here suggested is not simply
> recent trend but in the nature of 'politics' as such.
> I won't repeat the quotation from Paul Valery....
> Oh, OK then, if you twist my arm:
> 'Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs that
> properly concern them'.
> Rather than seeking for 'New Politics', which shortly after become Old
> Politicking, I think those concerned with global social emancipation
> rather talk of 'Power(s)', Disempowerment(s) and Empowerment(s).
> Can someone theorise this for me please? They would need to start - as I
> have surely said before - with a Critique of Politics, in the spirit of
> Marx's Critique of Political Economy, i.e. a critique of both a social
> practice and a social theory. Unfortunately, I think, Marx promoted
> (Working-Class, Revolutionary, Internationalist) as the highest or most
> crucial social practice, and as the key to global social emancipation.
> My inclination is to see global social emancipation as implying at least a
> relativisation of politics (relative, that is to productive,
> communicative/cultural, playful, sexual, familial practices).
> it seems to have been the hegemons who have invented or discovered 'media
> politics' and 'cultural wars'. Yet the terrains of community, culture,
> and ethics are surely those on which emancipatory forces have tended to
> first appear and to have been effective - only to later subordinate these
> Ideas, anyone?
> Peter W
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Then come the false saviors
With false heavens and false deities
With their commissars' sun
That never shines for us.
Every master wants power
To enjoy glory and riches
For the people they forge new chains
And to boot with the hoax of relieving their pains.
But we're free anarchists,
We want no more masters
To forge our slavery anew.
It is for freedom we struggle.
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