Achille Mbembe’s Critique of Black Reason leaves larger questions unanswered, but points the way. It examines the changing use of ‘blackness’ as a category in an increasingly post-Western world order, and it raises the concept of ‘black reason’ as the thinking around the category that shapes its use. The book provides a history of the category in practice, its origins in the needs of capital, Atlantic then global diffusion, and moments of its change in practice: abolition, decolonization, and Apartheid. This drives the analysis to the crux of today, where the relation of West and the world is being reworked, enabling both new racism and a search for a ‘common world’ beyond black reason. Mbembe suggests ‘Europe’s twilight has arrived, and the Euro-American world has not yet figured out what it wants to know about, or to do with, the Black Man’ (p.7).
What does a post-Western world order mean? Oliver Stuenkel’s Post Western World argues it means more continuity than change, and more cooperation than conflict. He argues, alarmism over the “rise of the rest”, and China in particular, is over stated, because the world order as it exists, is not a purely Western construct, although it has been Western-led and enforced. Rising powers, he claims, will behave no differently than their Western counter-parts, and, while projecting their power, will nevertheless support, more or less, the institutional framework of the international order.
This book is accessibly written, makes an important corrective for problematically Western-centric readings of world order trends, and is worth reading by students and thinkers on international affairs and world order in general. I, and others, broadly agree there is less cause for alarmism than is sometimes thought in the prospect of a multipolar and non-Western led world order. I do not wish to engage in a minute academic review here, but want to raise two connected points. First, Stuenkel’s analysis unduly leans on “realist” assumptions. His analysis, for instance, privileges state power, and argues state powers generate their own soft power, which undercuts the sources from which states gather the Continue reading “Post-Western World?”
Zygmunt Bauman finishes his final book, Retrotopia, with a chapter, ‘Looking Forward, For a Change’. He gestures towards a cosmopolitan change, but does not fill in the picture. He leaves us with the question of departure, to where?
‘If you build it, they will come’, is a phrase I remember from pop culture, Wayne’s World, not its original Field of Dreams. Like all sayings, it is not wholly true, even false, but contains the scent of truth.
Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook, what is being called a “manifesto” titled, ‘Building Global Community’. In it, he outlines his vision of Facebook reformed for a new era of turmoil, as the social media scaffolding of a global community. Asking the question, ‘are we building the world we want?’, his answer, Continue reading “Can Mr. Zuckerberg’s Global Community Be Built?”
If the folly of this world is interminable, so too is the search for a better world. A portion of a lecture by English philosopher John Gray recently emerged on the internet. In it, the former LSE professor speaks on the question ‘can we live together in the world’, a question this blog has touched on before. Gray suggests the answer, yes.
The question of belonging has emerged as a central concern of our times, but it entails the question of global as well as national belonging. The question of belonging somewhere in the world necessarily raises the question of belonging as a part of the world, not apart from it. The 2017 World Economic Forum fumbled this question. Although it was asked, it went wildly unanswered.
The forum, on the whole, was a wash, adding nothing new, but neither conceding globalist pretences. Over the past few days, Continue reading “Myopic Global Futures Past at Davos”
It is too easy and too often thought that because nothing is perfect, humankind will forever be divided, at odds, even doomed. A fitting read for the Christmas holidays, Peter H. Wilson’s 2016 The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History rebels against that dumb-headedness. With impressive scholarship and humane writing, Oxford prof. Wilson overturns prevailing notions of the Holy Roman Empire as a failed state-building project. He argues the Empire, as it was called for much of its history, should be taken seriously as a distinct political form, and not as a confused way station in the rise of modern nation-states. It endured for a thousand years, twice as long as imperial Rome. Wilson arrays the 900 plus pages into four digestible parts: Ideal, Belonging, Governance, and Society. He shows how the Empire had a political order with pragmatic political institutions, distinct ambitions, and an historically distinct form of belonging. This is an important contribution for rethinking European political experience and expands our awareness of possible political forms.
What brings this work into the concerns of the BBP, is how Wilson understands why Continue reading “Why the Holy Roman Empire Did and Does Not Matter”