Thursday, April 28, 2005

Intentions and interventions

Alain de Benoist can be so incisive and startling at times:

The way in which Bodin conceives of political power is only a profane transposition of the absolutist way in which God exercises His own power—and the way in which the pope rules over Christianity. This is true even though he rejects the medieval conception of power as a simple delegation of God’s authority. With Bodin, the prince is no longer content to hold power by “divine right.” By giving himself the power to make and unmake laws, he is acting in the manner of God. He constitutes, by himself, a separate whole, which dominates the social whole as God dominates the cosmos. The same goes for the absolute rectitude of the sovereign, which simply translates into the political realm the attributes of the Cartesian god, who can do all that he wills but cannot will that which is evil

From sovereignty, it is a small, surreptitious step to the notion of infallibility. In other words, Bodin desacralizes sovereignty by taking it away from God, but he resacralizes it immediately in a profane form: He leaves the monopolistic and absolute sovereignty of God in order to end up with the monopolistic and absolute power of the state. All modernity, then in its infancy, resides in this ambiguity: On the one hand, political power is becoming secular; on the other, the sovereign—henceforth identical with the state—is becoming a person endowed with an almost divine political power. This is a perfect illustration of Carl Schmitt’s thesis that “all the pregnant concepts of the modern theory of the state are theological concepts that have been secularized.”

Read the rest of his short piece The Modern Conception of Sovereignty:A Jacobin Invention. And from his Critique of Hayek:

Hayek never explains why the liberal order and the market were not "selected" as the most adequate forms of life in any society other than in the West. He also does not explain why, in other parts of the world, social order "spontaneously" evolved in other directions ... or did not evolve at all. More generally, Hayek does not seem to realize that all forms of "spontaneous" order, including those in the West, are not necessarily compatible with liberal principles. A social system can evolve "spontaneously" toward a traditional or "reactionary" order as well as toward a liberal one. It is also by arguing for the "natural character" of traditions that the counter-revolutionary school, represented mainly by Bonald and Maistre, develops its critique of liberalism and pleads for theocracy and absolute monarchy. Hayek reasons as if common sense were spontaneously liberal, which clashes with historical experience, and as if it developed autonomously, while one of the characteristics of modem society is precisely its heteronomy. It cannot be otherwise: if the rise of the liberal order is not solely explained by "natural selection," its entire system immediately collapses.

You can like him and loath him, but don't ignore him:

If one can massacre four times more people in the name of a “generous” idea than in the name of a doctrine of hate, then it may be time to mistrust generosity. Finally, the sophistry of human unhappiness is on the side of the hangman, not of the victims. To be the victim of a beautiful idea, even if corrupted, does not make one less of a victim: for the one being hung, what is the difference? When the Inquisition burned people for their own good, they were not thereby consoled. When the means are the same, the ends are blurred.

Read carefully (pdf) his Nazism And Communism: Evil Twins?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Shadi and the Shadows

A brief item(via informs us that Shadi Sadr, courageous attorney, women rights activist, blogger and journalist, is being denied her passport and is now barred from traveling abroad.

In her blog she has posted the (Farsi) text of an Open Letter to Mr. Khatami, the ever smiling nominal president of our Republic

Ms. Sadr writes that despite persistent attempts in the past two months, she has been unable to get straight answers to many questions about her confiscated passport. Hence, the decision to go public now. This ordeal, incidentally, and all that she might have left unsaid, helps explain why she has been blogging so infrequently.

She recounts that although she has discussed the matter with different officials of our various government agencies, she has been unable to learn why she is being denied her passport and on whose authority.

Ms. Sadr insists that Mr. Khatami, as well as those who choose to operate in the shadows, step forward and be accountable for their deeds.

Her questions are simple and sensible enough. Who is responsible for this decision? Which institution or official organ is it that has chosen to deprive her of the right to travel freely? Why is it she has not been informed of the charges (if any) against her? Why couldn't those operating in the shadows step forward to confront her openly? And subject to the laws?

Why hide if they think they are in the right? Is our national security so easily threatened by Ms. Sadr's travels?

Who's really afraid here and why?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Commemorations

There was a huge march today in Tehran. Our Armenian citizens gathered en masse to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the methodic massacre of large numbers of Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Take the time to gain an understanding of the history of the Armenian Genocide.

And a brief piece about Armenians in Iran--a highly respected group who have contributed immensely to our civilization.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Irascible old conservative!

A day of remembrance and parades here today on this Army Day. . We all love and adore parades. A few hours of impressive orderly marches punctuating an otherwise chaotic existence.

I've wanted to look at some of the unrest in the football stadiums and the spillover aftereffects on the outside which I promised to do a while back. But as I looked at what was on my blog one day I was suddenly filled with that absolute dread which comes with realizing I am sounding progressively more like an old, irascible conservative.

I am getting slightly antiquated for sure, but not that old yet. Then I cut down my daily news intake.

And so the question I have been trying to resolve is how I should "comprehend" various moments of "unruliness" (put mildly) living in a society for which order technically does not meaningfully translate into lawfulness in any "normal" sense of the term.

Hence the scramble to put things in (a more satisfying) context. That's why Carl Schmitt (pdf) and Agamben have become progressively more important for me fully blooming into another one of my many obsessions. I'll tell you all about it just as soon as I figure out a few more significant riddles confounding me.

Anyhow, speaking of unrest, have you followed what's been happening in our Arab-Iranian region of Khuzestan? Something about a forged letter! The Right has been accusing the Al-Jazeera, sort of. Go figure.

Make sure you find an English text of this week's Friday prayer sermon delivered by the esteemed Ayatollah Janati, the head of our famed Guardian Council. The heartwarming news of the existence of multiple secret files in the Ministry of Justice on those deemed to have sown discord (Nefagh) in our Republic.

The gentleman made it clear that the any judge will have no difficulty imposing the death penalty after examining the files and the only thing which separates many from their inevitable doom has been the considerations of expediency. (Maslehateh- Nezam)

And while we are on the subject of discontent and minorities, make sure you read this and this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


How much of the three million, are we going to wager, might be spent on this initiative. And what are we to make of the man's choices in life?

Now granted, I am all for letting folk out of their boxes if they decide to step out. At some point, one has to be allowed a graceful exit. But how to judge acts--any act, past and present.

With Matthew: “Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for you say: ‘Had we lived in the time of our fathers, we would not have joined them in spilling the prophets’ blood’.” Or with Hannah:

For behind the unwillingness to judge what somebody did lurks the suspicion that nobody is a free agent and hence the doubt that anybody is responsible or could be expected to answer for-what he has done. The moment one raises moral issues even in passing, he will be confronted with this frightful lack of self-confidence and hence of pride, with a kind of mock-modesty that says: Who am I to judge? and means: We're all alike, equally bad, and those who try, or pretend they try, to remain halfway decent are either saints or hypocrites; in either case, they should leave us alone. hence the huge outcry the moment anyone fixes specific blame on some particular person instead of blaming all deeds or events on trends and History and dialectical movements, in short, on some mysterious necessity that works behind the back of men and bestows upon everything they do some kind of deeper meaning.

Hannah Arendt's Personal Responsibility under Dictatorship is absolutely stunning:

To put it crudely, they refused to murder, not so much because they still held fast to the Command: Thou Shalt Not Kill, but because they were unwilling to live together with a murderer - themselves. And the presupposition for this kind of judging is not a highly developed intelligence or sophistication in moral matters but merely the habit of living together explicitly with oneself, of having intercourse with oneself, that is, of being engaged in that silent dialogue between me and myself which we usually call thinking. This kind of thinking, though at the root of all philosophical thought, is not technical and does not concern theoretical problems. The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who don't, strikes across all social, cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler-regime may teach us that not those are reliable under such circumstances who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards; we know now all this can be changed overnight and all that will be left then is the habit to hold fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain - that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.
But how is it with the reproach of irresponsibility leveled against these few who washed their hands of what was going on all around them? I think we shall have to. admit that there exist extreme situations in which responsibility for the world, which is primarily political, cannot be assumed because political responsibility always presupposes at least a minimum of political power. Impotence, complete powerlessness is, I think, a valid excuse. Its validity is all the stronger as it seems to require a certain moral quality even to recognize powerlessness, the good will and good faith to face realities and not to live in illusions. Moreover, it is precisely in this admission of one's own impotence that a last remnant of strength and even power can still be preserved even under these desperate conditions.

Contrast this annoying take On Evil: Interview with Alain Badiou.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The tantalizing Giorgio

Yes, Armani possibly everyday perhaps. Though for tonight I only mean Agamben:

Today/the Republic is not parliamentary. It is governmental. But from a technical point of view, what is specific for the state of exception is not so much the confusion of powers as it is the isolation of the force of law from the law itself. The state of exception defines a regime of the law within which the norm is valid but cannot be applied (since it has no force), and where acts that do not have the value of law acquire the force of law. This means, ultimately, that the force of law fluctuates as an indeterminate element that can be claimed both by the authority of the State or by a revolutionary organization. The state of exception is an anomic space in which what is at stake is a force of law without law. Such a force of law is indeed a mystical element, or rather a fiction by means of which the law attempts to make anomy a part of itself. But how should we understand such a mystical element, one by which the law survives its own effacement and acts as a pure force in the state of exception?

Read the rest of a short extracted text, State of Exception. His take on Security and Terror also.

And we have also The Time that Is Left-- enchanting meditations on the structure of messianic time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This and That

I have added a potpourri of new links. Feel free to explore. It doesn't need repeating, but let's say it anyways: agreement is never a prerequisite although thoughtfulness is.

And my dear Polish friend and learned guide Natalia sums things up poignantly enough.

Pope's serene dignity in death was inspirational. As was his courageous, principled conduct in life. This Pope's achievements will be celebrated for years to come and his interventions scrutinized for their much needed judicious counsel.

So this Persian New Year madness is almost over but a fresh crazed surge in inflation is just beginning. The arbitrariness of it all is simply baffling. I'll present you with a sampling of our prices soon.

And I have been a bit too self indulgent of late. My friend Mr. Limitedinc chastised us recently for having been too obsessed with our favorite poet Homer. I took that as a protest about my ignoring any number of "cool" Leftist thinkers and discourses.

So I have been having fun with some odd mix of readings while mingling, traveling and exchanging gifts.

Here we go with brain teasers (some pdf): Badiou on Becket plus Hermeneutics and Honor, and Zizek on Badiou plus the problematic of public/private spheres in Islamic societies and Zizek's leftist plea for Eurocenterism and the problematic borders of the private and the public and more Zizek and the counterimages of woman circa 1800s and even more Zizek.

But a ferocious jousting with Schmitt continues to be a main preoccupation here in addition to occasional flirtations with de Benoist's notions of the political. Lots of problems to sift through. I still think Carl Schmitt is the key to unraveling this "existential threat" mystery. I just wished though that the usual suspects could let go of their demonization of Leo Strauss just long enough to seriously examine some of Mr. Schmitt's antics.

There is a limit to what can be done with limited resources. So, if no one responds to my pleas here soon, I might be forced to do another one of my jeremiads with Mr. Ledeen again as the honored villain. So, be a pal, and spare us all.

Someone? Anyone?