I spent Friday and Saturday at the Hannah Arendt Center's Democracy Innovation Workshop: Citizens' Assemblies and Beyond. The workshop gathered scholars, organizers, and government officials in New York City to learn about and explore how to use deliberative democratic innovations At a moment when hope is a rare word, the growing interest in citizen assemblies offers real possibilities for a revival of empowered citizenship and meaningful self-government.
The horrific war in the Middle East has unleashed a paper war of public letters, where academics, artists, and students sign letters and statements supporting one side or the other. One thing is clear, signing these letters is popular. Instead of thinking for oneself, articulating one’s own views, and making an argument, signatories to such letters simply join a collective statement that demands little of them intellectually or politically.
Many of the leftwing defenses of Hamas’ terror attack on Israel justify the attack as a response to settler colonialism. Those on the far left opposing settler colonialism embrace indigenous peoples as the political subject of the future. It seems important, therefore, to look further into the idea of indigeneity and the ideology of settler colonialism.
At the end of my talk introducing the Friendship and Politics conference last week, I posed a simple question: Can an Israeli and a Gazan be friends? Is it even conceivable at this point that Israelis can come to talk to a Gazan who votes for and defends Hamas, a movement that for decades has sought the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, and who supports the October 6th flood of torture and murder that Hamas terrorists unleashed on Israeli civilians?
War is the continuation of politics by other means. Many people recite this mantra, but too few pay it enough attention. With the massacre Hamas perpetrated in Israel and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, the deep logic of war is hidden by the immense human misery it produces. As the bodies keep piling up, who will win this war? The side that achieves its political aims.
On Wednesday 17 October, Canadian architect George Baird died, aged 84. Baird is, together with Kenneth Frampton, the first two scholars from the field of architecture to understand the value of Arendt’s writings for the field of architecture.
Michael Lind is one of the few thinkers today who has consistently understood that the fault line of American politics are educational and cultural. One trend he puts at the center of our political dysfunction is the retreat of centers of power that exist beyond the centralized government. For Lind, both Republican and Democratic elites have given up on granting power to the people, whether that be through unions or local assemblies.
Mie Inouye offers a thoughtful reflection on the nature of solidarity in the latest Boston Review forum on Solidarity. Inouye approaches solidarity from a decidedly Arendtian direction insofar as she seeks solidarity not only amongst one class or with one class but “across lines of domination.”
At the very core of Arendt’s thinking about politics is her view that politics is about opinions and not truth. We all come to politics with opinions formed at times by prejudices and at other times by reason and judgment. Persuasion is the coin of politics but it is not always rational and often emotional and raw.