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New Social Compact

In Defense of Self-Determination and Political Will

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Defense of what he calls a ‘neo-Jacobin’ conception of democracy and political will is increasingly urgent today, argues Professor Peter Hallward. A Canadian political philosopher whose published work includes a sophisticated and morally enlightening analysis of the postcolonial oppression in Haiti since the US invasion in 1915 and a despicable neoliberal assault on Haiti’s economy, Hallward’s conviction and intellectual vigour is hard to ignore even by those who persistently deny the American betrayal of democracy.

In a recent talk on ‘the will of the people’ he gave at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Hallward argued that the idea of democratic political will, understood as an ‘emancipatory practice of collective self-determination’, must be brought to the forefront of our political and moral consciousness, especially in a contemporary context marked by ‘ever more brazen exercise of unilateral financial or military power’ as well as ‘the ever more ‘automatic’ or involuntary nature of accelerating social and technological change’ notably systemic and globalising ‘reforms’ that are coordinated only by the blind, compulsive forces of commodification and the market’. As he reminds us, we only need to think about ‘rescue’ packages dictated to supposedly sovereign governments by the bankers in and after 2008, or the wars of aggression waged against Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan to get the picture.

Hallward’s lecture starts with a sharp critique of the various ways that a voluntarist conception of popular empowerment has been rejected or dismissed across the modern European philosophical tradition. In Hallward’s words:

‘In the philosophical circles I’m familiar with, voluntarism remains little more than a term of abuse, and an impressively versatile one at that: depending on the context, it can evoke fascism, idealism, obscurantism, vitalism, infantile leftism, petty bourgeois narcissism, neocon aggression, folk-psychological delusion…In a European context, of all the faculties or capacities of that human subject who was displaced from the centre of post-Sartrean concerns, none was more firmly proscribed than its conscious volition. Both structuralist and then post-structuralist thinkers, by and large, relegated volition and intention to the merely ‘psychological’ domain of deluded, imaginary or humanist-ideological miscognition. In particular, Rousseau’s notion of a general will, with its unsettling invitation to ‘denature human nature’ and its threat to ‘force people to be free’,[1] has long figured as the prototype of a fascist Volkswille at worst, or as fictional if not utopian escapism at best.’

To illustrate the point, Hallward briefly evokes a few recent examples, from a list that could be easily expanded:

‘Nietzsche’s whole project presumes that ‘there is no such thing as will’ in the usual (voluntary, deliberate, purposeful…) sense of the word.[2] Heidegger, over the course of his own lectures on Nietzsche, soon comes to condemn the will as a force of subjective domination and nihilist closure, before urging his readers ‘willingly to renounce willing.’[3] Arendt finds in the affirmation of a popular political will (‘the most dangerous of modern concepts and misconceptions’) the temptation that turns modern revolutionaries into tyrants.[4] For Adorno, rational will is an aspect of that enlightened pursuit of mastery and control which has left the earth ‘radiant with triumphant calamity.’ After Nietzsche, Deleuze privileges transformative sequences that require the suspension, shattering or paralysis of voluntary action. After Heidegger, Derrida associates the will with self-presence and self-coincidence, and strives to open up a self-questioning space in which ‘freedom is no longer determined as power, mastery, or force, or even as a faculty, as a possibility of “I can” [je peux]’.[5] After these and several other philosophers, Agamben summarises much recent European thinking on political will when he effectively equates it with fascism pure and simple. Tiqqun and some of the currently fashionable theorists of ‘communisation’ now follow Agamben’s example, as they explore various forms of a merely ‘destituent’ power.’[6]

The aversion to a voluntarist conception of political action, Hallward suggests, ‘includes even some of those who, against the grain of their times, have insisted on the primacy of self-determination and self-emancipation. Sartre and Badiou, for instance, still tend ‘to do so in ways that devalue political will per se, and along with it the whole ‘psychological’ domain of motives, intentions and purposes.’[7] It’s telling, for instance, that

‘like Agamben and Žižek, when Badiou looks to the Christian tradition for a point of anticipation he turns not to Matthew (with his prescriptions of how to act in the world: spurn the rich, affirm the poor, ‘sell all thou hast’…) but to Paul (with his contempt for the weakness of human will and his valorisation of the abrupt and infinite transcendence of grace). As for the two other great post-Maoist philosophers of Badiou’s generation, Jacques Rancière and Guy Lardreau, they too have only managed to remain faithful to the ideals of equality and popular revolt in terms that dilute their contemporary political purchase.’

So where do we go from here? What might an alternative conception of ‘popular empowerment’ and ‘free will’ promise? As a starting point, Hallward argues, we need to dissociate the idea of ‘free will’ from a mere whim, wish or desire, and affirm it as ‘a concrete capacity to realise one’s own consciously chosen end or purpose, free from constraint, coercion, or submission to another’s will’.

Crucially, he suggests, if we care about the value of a participatory and deliberative democracy grounded in the assertion of the people’s will, we should take as our foundation the philosophical perspective that originates mainly with Rousseau and his Jacobin followers, ‘and then continues via different deflections through Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Marx, before arriving at a tacit synthesis in the theory and practice of Lenin, Gramsci, Mao and Che’.

Hallward proposes four main dimensions of practice that might lend a political will the means it needs to act as a form of genuine self-determination, in keeping with his general association of will and capacity:

‘1. The first and most basic capacity of any collective will is, by definition, a capacity for association and assembly, an ability and a readiness to gather together as a group with some sort of common interest or purpose.

2. A second capacity implied by the idea of political will involves informed or ‘educated’ deliberation and critique. Every modern revolutionary mobilisation has been anticipated and accompanied by an explosion in the available means of communication, from the cafés and pamphlets of the Palais Royal in the 1780s to the blogs and online communities that helped sustain the 2011 Arab Spring and anti-austerity movements. Voluntary action (as opposed to unconscious, instinctive or habitual reflexes) presumes awareness or ‘enlightenment’ by definition, and it’s no accident that the question of consciousness, and the education of consciousness, has been a central and divisive issue of emancipatory politics since Rousseau’s Emile and Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

3. An ability to lend an organised and coherent shape to the informed and critical collective it assembles. This is a capacity for deliberate orientation or direction, i.e. a capacity for discipline, leadership, planning, and decision. These are the concrete powers or ‘virtues’ that, for Rousseau and the Jacobins, invest the people as an actually sovereign, law-giving power.

4. A capacity to determine one’s own ends remains indeterminate if it lacks the means of achieving them, and so the fourth point I want to emphasise, in closing, overlaps with a cliché that echoes across the voluntarist political tradition. ‘Quiconque accorde la fin ne peut refuser les moyens‘ (Rousseau); ‘whoever aims at the end cannot reject the means’ (Trotsky); ‘whoever genuinely wills an end must also will the means’ (Gramsci).[8] If what distinguishes will from wish is its potential to realise its end and to achieve its goal, then this necessarily involves those further capacities required to overcome the obstacles or resistance that might obstruct this achievement. […] What distinguished Robespierre and Marat from most of their contemporaries during the first years of the French Revolution, for instance, is that they knew that the course of the revolution would depend entirely on the capacity of the people to formulate and impose their collective will as sovereign command, and to oblige their former rulers to respect it.’[9]

At this point, Hallward reminds us aptly of the case of Haiti:

‘The victor of Haiti’s long struggle for emancipation, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was eventually driven to accept a similar logic to that of Robespierre, and to take the severe steps that would ‘forever assure the empire of liberty in the country of our birth’, by depriving the colonial powers of ‘any hope of re-enslaving us.’[10] When Haiti’s Cuban neighbours won their own war of national liberation, in 1959, Che recognised that ‘the basis, the essence of guerrilla struggle’ lies in the fact that ‘each guerrilla fighter is ready to die not just to defend an ideal but to make that ideal a reality.’[11] From Danton to Che, through Engels and then Lenin, one and the same principle animates the difficult ‘art of insurrection’, the principle of courage and lucid perseverance: ‘de l’audace, de l’audace, encore de l’audace!’’[12]

Hallward knows that recent geopolitical and ‘technological developments have rendered old notions of armed struggle tactically obsolete, of course’, and that ‘today’s oligarchs have much more to gain than to lose by deflecting political conflict onto militarised terrain. Rarely has a democratising threat been contained as ruthlessly and effectively as in Syria, Libya and Egypt, in the wake of 2011’s Arab Spring.’ One of the many challenges that confronts our generation is then ‘how best to continue with the demilitarisation of our means of popular empowerment without abandoning the end of victory itself, and without simply reducing the sphere of struggle to one of more or less futile ‘protest’ or ‘resistance.’

Finally, Hallward concludes:

‘To affirm the practice of political will as a practice of autonomous self-determination, then, is also to affirm the capacities that alone enable such practice to become actual or determinant: a capacity for association and combination, for informed deliberation and critique, for organisation and leadership, and for imposition or realisation, no matter how daunting the obstacles that might stand in our way.’

Peter Hallward teaches at Kingston University’s Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, and is best known for his work on Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze. He has also published works on post-colonialism and contemporary Haiti.

 


[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract 2:7; 1:7.

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann, Vintage, New York, 1968, §488, cf. §666; cf. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals I §13, in Kaufmann ed., Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Modern Library, New York, 2000, p. 481; Twilight of the Idols, trans. R.J. Hollingdale, Penguin, London, 1968, p. 53.

[3] Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, Harper & Row, New York, 1969, p. 59; cf. Bret Davis, Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit, Chicago, Northwestern University Press, 2007.

[4] Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, Penguin, London, 1990, p. 225; cf. pp. 156-157, 291n.24.

[5] Derrida, Rogues [2002], Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 40.

[6] Cf. Agamben, ‘From the State of Control to a Praxis of Destituent Power’, Athens, 16 November 2013.

[7] Cf. Hallward, ‘The Will of the People’, Radical Philosophy 155 (May 2009), pp. 17-29.

[8] Rousseau, Discours sur l’économie politique, p. 263; Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism [1921], Verso ed., p. 25; Gramsci, ‘Workers’ Democracy’ [1919] Pre-Prison Writings, p. 99.

[9]Reflecting on the revolution of 1789, Blanqui recognises how the privileged classes resisted it every step of the way, and sought every opportunity to reverse it. ‘The scaffold alone demonstrated to them the legitimacy of the Revolution; before then, they had treated it as nothing more than a mutiny of school children […, but] they recognised, respectfully, the sovereignty of the axe’ (Auguste Blanqui, Manuscripts [Bibliothèque Nationale], vol. NAF9581, p. 167).

[10] Dessalines, Declaration of Independence, 1 Jan 2014, cited in Berthony Dupont, ‘Revolution vs. Counter-Revolution’, Haiti Liberté 7:51 (2 July 2014); cf. C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint l’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, Random House, 1963, p. 357.

[11] Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare, p. 20tm.

[12] Danton, speech in the National Assembly, 2 September 1792, cited in Engels, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany [1852], ch. 17, and in Lenin, ‘Advice of an Onlooker’ (8 October 1917), Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 149f.

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New Social Compact

Educating Women in Pakistan: A Necessity For National Development

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Photo: UNICEF/PAKISTAN/Asad Zaidi

Education is fundamental to the success of any nation. Almost every developed nation recognizes its importance and lays great emphasis on its availability to every human being.

Education brings out the meaning of life and enables a person to make sense of the world around him. While on the other hand, an illiterate person fails to comprehend the essence of life and lives in ignorance.

Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world has grappled with the grave situation of illiteracy almost from the time of its existence and has one of the lowest literary rates on the continent. To put it narrowly, approximately 40% of its female population has not even received education at all. Thus, the major chunk of its population remains backward, which otherwise if educated could have proven to be a major source of social and economic development.

Women’s education is inextricably linked to the well-being of society. A society comprises of both male and female members, and equally needs the contribution of women nearly as much as of men in maintaining and regulating its functions. However, women in Pakistan face great challenges in accessing education and are confined to play domestic roles only. Also, certain societies consider the education of women as taboo. This results in gender inequality and social disparity which ultimately impedes the growth of a nation.

Women, as a child bearer, not only holds great responsibility of proper upbringing of the child but also of a whole generation. This aspect can be underscored by the African proverb which says,

“If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”

Therefore, an increase in the education of women can profoundly improve human development outcomes such as child survival, health, and schooling. Education can bring phenomenal change in women’s life as it increases their confidence and raises their status in family and society. It lends her voice which she can use to advocate her rights and also helps her to participate in political and social sciences. Pakistan cannot afford to neglect the education of women if it wants to modernize itself and until or unless its female population remains uneducated, it will continue to undermine the ideals of democracy that it so cherishes. There is no doubt that Pakistan is a country whose youth is imbued with great talents and if given adequate knowledge they can properly channel this talent to the country’s advantage. This can only be achieved if gender disparities in literacy and education attainment in rural and urban areas of Pakistan are removed.

Women are also regarded as the weaker segment of society but through education, they can change their weakness into strength. It is also seen that women’s education has a positive relationship with women’s labor force participation rate which can play a significant role in reducing poverty and can contribute to sustainable growth in a developing country like Pakistan itself. Therefore, the government should invest in the education sector and especially in women’s education. This should be on its priority list as it is necessary for national development and progress.

Hence, concrete steps should be taken to empower women by granting them equality and education so that Pakistan can set itself upon the path of success.

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Reasons of societal disintegration in Pakistan’s society

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Societal disintegration also known as social disorganization can be described as the society’s inability to structure itself and determine the mutual values and norms that should be presiding in a society. Another approach sees is as a complex and interconnected system of communities, formal and informal associations in the socialization process.

There are many reasons that exist in a society giving rise to the societal disintegration, the main and the core cause is the disturbed and interrupted system of social communication and the structure that exist for the mutual assistance.  The society that is deprived of functional and far-sighted leadership without new ideas and strategies usually tend to fall in the process of social disintegration.  The society practicality and viability tends to falls with the existence of economic problems, dissolving formal and informal institutions, deteriorating interpersonal relationships and weakening of the values and norms. All these thus impact the mental and the physical wellbeing of the society and the people thoroughly involved in it. Thus putting the restrain on the growth, self-realization, self-reflection and acknowledgment.

The reason for this societal disintegration in Pakistani society can be various. These numerous reason might include some internal as well as external causes. For instance Democracy and the rule of law, judicial system and calculated and good governance which was the main building factor of the idea of new country after the partition went into oblivion as soon as the establishment of the country. The nexus that started between the military and the bureaucracy for power accumulation and the multiple Martial laws put constrain on the hope of Pakistanis to build a sustainable nation and it was reflected in the future engagements of the citizen of the state.

Another reason which triggers the societal disintegration was the history of disasters and violence that the citizens go through. For example the history of Pakistan is marked with a lot of resistance and sacrifices by the people and their forefathers. Even after the creation of Pakistan, it had to go through several wars to ensure its survival. The people of Pakistani society also faced this disturbed environment throughout the Great War on terror happening in the immediate neighborhood of Afghanistan. It was impacting Pakistan in several ways for instance military operation to combat terrorism in the region of FATA created an environment of hostility and chaos. Troubled neighborhood and the major inclusion of migrants from time to time and its sociological, economic and psychological impacts  is what Pakistan has faced since its establishment .So the environment in which the society exist and the history of disasters also increase the pace of societal disintegration.

Dysfunctional Education system can also contribute to be another major reason that is driving the societal disintegration. As the system lacks to provide the same and the equal opportunities for the children and women to seek the basic education in Pakistan.  The lack of uniform educational curriculum and the modes of education is building a stroke between the elites and the lower section of the societies. The disparities on the basis of different religion and social status is escalating the social disintegration in the societies. In terms of opportunities the presence of Nepotism instead of merit is also causing the lack of commitment to one’s own country.

Another reason that is contributing in the societal disintegration is the Cultural confusion also known as cultural dissonance reflecting the disharmony and the conflict and the confusion that people face due to the change in their cultural environment. In Pakistan it is seen in the province of Baluchistan, Gilgit Baluchistan and Pashtunistan. There still exist speculation for the ill treatment, less development and lack of opportunities for the Baloch’s and Gilgiti. This creates a difference among the people of different cultural and give rise to hostility towards one another thus leads to more and more societal disintegration to a point that they start to consider themselves alien to the society. The lack of tolerance and acceptance for other religions, ethnicities and culture will alienate people from one another and will limit them to certain boundaries thus making it difficult for them to grow sociological and psychological, consequently bounding them to only one sect, ethnicities or area. For societal integration one must be visionary and develop sense of acceptance and tolerance leaving a room to nurture and develop as an integrated society rather than fueling the societal disintegration.

As mention earlier about the migration it is important to study it is detail, the massive in and out migration also serves as a factor that lead Pakistan society to face societal disintegration. Many people in Pakistan still seek migration to the countries aboard for better job opportunities, living standards, better health and education and security level. In Pakistan the Pakistani diaspora that basically reflects the brain drain from the country are exceeding the numbers of more than 10 million, people residing in the countries other than their homeland for such luxuries reflect little to no commitment and responsibility to their culture and country. Similarly the great number of influx of migrants as a result  of GWOT also posed a challenge for national integration as they bought with them their culture, identity and problem thus making it difficult for citizens to actually achieve the sense of nationality thus leading to more culture confusion and disharmonization.

Those having power and other patrons in Pakistan who are living in their luxurious lifestyles and comfort zones they have this responsibility to observe and analyze and seek guidance from the other countries that how with the presence of diverse cultures, languages and religions, the process of national integration reached to its logical conclusion. But it is not possible in the absence of visionary leadership and the will to work honesty for the society and its harmonization, in absence of these values one cannot expect a country to remain united and integrated as a nation.

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Global Health Security: The need for collective action

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Since the concept of nation-state has emerged, states’ primary goal is to ensure their survival and maximize their security in terms of wealth and power. But little attention has been paid to non-conventional issues specifically to public health. Health systems have always been neglected by states especially by those poor states that are already facing socio-economic issues.

In an era of globalization, where the world is more intact and interconnected, Global health has become a serious issue and an area of debate in contemporary world politics. If on one hand, globalization offers tremendous possibilities and opportunities then, on the other hand, it has made the transfer of disease quicker than ever. Therefore, keeping both negative and positive outcomes of globalization in mind, a special focus should be given to the health sector as well.

By special focus, I mean global solidarity for worldwide health security should be build where all states, irrespective of their self-interest, work together to combat global health issues including malnutrition,  communicable ( such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, HIV, Covid-19), and non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, diabetes). In the past, all these infectious diseases specifically communicable diseases had a disturbing impact on humans and the overall economy of the global world. In the contemporary world, the Covid-19 pandemic that has caused the deaths of 3.74 million people since late 2019, has become an overwhelming threat to Global health. Not only has it affected the physical and mental health of individuals but the socio-economic conditions of states as well.

United Nations under Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goal is trying to tackle the problems of global health. World Health Organization is supervising the objectives that are set under this goal and is trying to work with states to readiness for pandemics and other health emergencies. Many other health projects have also been initiated to further the aim of the United Nations for global health. But still, the world needs more awareness programs especially in the third world countries where the situation of Covid-19 is much worst. Lack of awareness in such countries has given rise to many myths related to tackling the Covid-19 virus and its vaccination. People are reluctant to take the vaccine because they believe that either they will become infertile or die within weeks after getting vaccinated. Such people need education and for that, collective action is required. Not only world institutions but states, societies, leaders, the whole of their response are required to limit the spread of diseases.

Global health security should be considered as a shared responsibility of all states because in this interconnected world no one is safe until everyone is safe. This pandemic for which the world was unprepared, as the health sector was not prioritized, has shown us the real picture of the devastation of the global economy, global health, and human suffering. It has taught us how neglecting health systems could change the world upside down. So, to prevent any other future pandemics, we need to draw attention to the disparities that exist in different countries, try to solve them, bring awareness and make global health security a priority through collective action. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

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