Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review of Thinking Radical Democracy

Symposium has published my review of Martin Breaugh, Christopher Holman, Rachel Magnusson, Paul Mazzocchi, and Devin Penner (eds.), Thinking Radical Democracy: The Return to Politics in Post-war France. A well-edited volume has to avoid numerous pitfalls: issues of consistency, varying quality of contributions, and overall coherence. Breaugh et al. have done an excellent job in avoiding those potential problems. My overview:
The essays collected in Thinking Radical Democracy aim to situate the political thought of Rancière, Abensour, and Balibar within a tradition of radical democratic thought in postwar France that conceptualizes democracy as divisive and emancipatory. The book includes chapters on the “forbearers” of the return to radical democracy (the “French” Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, and Pierre Clastres), the critics of totalitarianism (Lefort, Castoriadis, and Debord), and concludes with essays concerning Rancière, Balibar, and Abensour. Despite the many differences between these figures, the authors and editors of the present volume argue that the radical democratic tradition is defined by its threefold exploration of  “politics, division, and democracy.”
It's longer than most reviews for Symposium but there's a reason. One of my goals in reviewing the book was to bring to the forefront how there is an important distinction between politics (la politique) and the political (le politique). I think that, in general, the attempt to foreground the possibilities of politics through first defining the political also opens the possibility that definitions of the political could come to police politics. I outline this problem in the review, so read all the way to the end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review of Todd May's Friendship in an Age of Economics

My review of Todd May's Friendship in an Age of Economics has been published by Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. You might already know, given that I briefly recounted the story in the acknowledgements of Egalitarian Moments, that it was preparing for a talk given by May that sparked my interest in the work of Rancière. Here's the gist of the review:
May’s discussion of the politics of friendship provides an account of micropolitical resistance unforeseen by Rancière. Although Rancière considers aesthetics as a form of micropolitics, he does not claim that it is the only possible form of micropolitics. And while May does not explicitly situate Friendship in an Age of Economics through Rancière’s work until Chapter 7, his account emphasizes how friendship, especially what he calls deep friendship, is a relationship between equals. (It should also be noted, given May’s anarchism, that his argument could be formulated as a claim that friendship is a rudimentary form of free association.)
In retrospect I'd probably add that Montaigne is underrepresented in and La Boétie is absent from the book, but that comment has more to do with my current interests than May's.