The Great Powers (Routledge Revivals): Essays in Twentieth Century Politics: Volume 14
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Events could have played themselves out differently. The German invasion of Belgium is a fact a posteriori. And so the truth always found a last refuge, if only within the liar, who was aware he was lying. As every historian knows, one can spot a lie by noticing incongruities, holes, or the junctures of patched-up places. The modern lie, in contrast, allowed no last refuge for the truth, since the liar deceived himself as well. Moreover, the modern lie was no longer a tear in the fabric of reality.
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This is one way to understand twentieth century totalitarian ideologies: seamless reconstructions of reality. They offered a grand narrative, a story that might be false, but nonetheless possessed its own narrative arc.
They offered a transcendental key to our history and our lives, making them into a seamless, coherent whole. The ideologies that made possible totalitarianism did not last forever. In or around , Marxism lost its hold. And there was nothing commensurate in scope to take its place. If modernity was the attempt to replace God, postmodernity began when we gave up on replacing God, when we accepted that there was neither a God nor a viable surrogate. In the mid-nineteenth century, the observation was premature.
Only in the late twentieth century did all that was solid melt. Modernity, explained the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, aspired to replace the pre-modern solids with something still more solid and lasting. This second-wave modernity no longer searches for firm grounding, but embraces ephemerality, slipperiness, uncertainty, liquidity. We relinquish the idea that there is a holistic order tying the particular to the universal, a stable structure connecting our individual selves to the world.
Structures — the French philosopher Jacques Derrida told us — need a centre, a grounding point, be it God or some substitute, a way to limit the otherwise endless play of signifiers and the things they signify. The implication is both destabilizing and liberating. Because there is no centre, no God and no ersatz God holding the structure of the world in place, words, meanings, truths, texts, all subvert themselves, always contain within themselves elements in tension with one another, negating one another.
Meaning is never self-identical, but rather always fluid and in flux, incomplete and self-undermining, both different and deferred, other than what it had been a moment before and still to come. The relationship between words and things is not fixed; words are always already at play with one another, and so there can be no once-and-for-all determinate truth.
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Life is not a closed structure. There are no closed structures; life is constant movement. Its absence is salutary, even joyous. A refusal of all claims to absolute truth was meant to protect us from totalitarian terror. Yet this fluidity, this openness to infinite possibilities, is also an unhinging, leaving us with no secure ground, a condition Arendt calls Bodenlosigkeit. For if there is no determinate truth, if reality is only constructed by discourse, composed of signifiers always at play with one another, does any reality exist at all that we should feel attached to, invest in, depend upon, care deeply about?
A pre-history of post-truth, East and West | Eurozine
After the death of faith in Marxism, eastern European thinkers living under a communism no one believed in any longer, very much feared nihilism. Havel wrote that letter to Olga in March , from prison. He had found himself there some time after taking on the role of spokesperson for the human rights petition Charter Within a few days the secret police came for them both. The greengrocer has no special enthusiasm for communist ideals — by the late s, no one does. And everyone who sees the sign understands that no one is any longer anticipating that workers around the world will unite.
Yet the greengrocer, like all the others, goes on hanging the sign. After all, does he have a choice? If he were to refuse, he could be questioned, detained, persecuted. His family, too, would likely suffer.
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His children could be denied entrance to the university. The greengrocer, Havel tells us although he does not use the French term , is living in mauvaise foi. Welcome to CRCPress. Please choose www. Your GarlandScience.
The student resources previously accessed via GarlandScience. Resources to the following titles can be found at www. Edward Carpenter: In Appreciation, first published in , presents a collection of tributes to and reminiscences about the renowned socialist poet, pioneering gay rights activist, environmentalist and political thinker.
2. The Bible
Embroiled in controversy with prominent figures of all political persuasions A remarkable number of Greek myths concern the plight of virgins — slaughtered, sacrificed, hanged, transformed into birds, cows, dear, bears, trees, and punished in Hades. Death and the Maiden, first published in , contextualises this mythology in terms of geography, history and culture, and This volume, offering an insight into the literary world of Rome in the fourth century AD, reflects an increased interest in the writers of the years before the collapse of the Western Empire, who have long been over-shadowed by the pre-eminence accorded since the eighteenth century to the This volume, first published in , offers a selection of modern perspectives on Seneca, covering his prose treatises, his letters and his tragedies.
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