Daily Archives: December 4, 2009

Imperia

Gareth Porter has an interesting take on the backdrop to Obama’s decision at Counterpunch.

And Jeremy Scahill has a recent article on the “secret” war in Pakistan at The Nation.

It usually feels a little weird to lecture on contemporary political issues and Wednesday was no exception. I’m painfully aware that as Ellen Meiskens Woods puts it:

“We are well prepared to view class power as having nothing to do with either power or class. We are educated to see property as the most fundamental human right and the market as the true realm of freedom. We are taught to view the state as just a necessary evil to sustain the right of property and the free market. We are taught to accept that most social conditions are determined in an economic sphere outside the read of democracy. We learn to think of ‘the people’ not in social terms, as the common people, the working class, or anything to do with popular power, but as a purely political category; and we confine democracy to a limited, formal political sphere. As the founding fathers intended, we think of political rights as essentially passive, and citizenship as a passive, individual, even private identity, which may express itself by voting from time to time but which has no active, collective, or social meaning.”

Politics don’t simply have to do with marshaling the facts. There is a powerful personal attachment to political ideology, something that runs so deep that political disputes can often become bitter and intractable. Confronting a room full of people who are in many ways in the earlier stages of their political development– I’m not trying to be condescending here but reflecting on my own development, which didn’t really get started until I was well into my 20s– with statements like “the US is an empire” runs the risk of alienating them completely.

Probably I wasn’t careful enough with my presentation. One remark I really ought to have made is that in order to get anywhere in analyzing the question of Empire a clear distinction needs to be drawn between individual acts and motives on the one hand and the larger “logic” or impersonal forces of collective (national, imperial) policies on the other.