The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy

The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy: Political Thought since September 11

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy
    Book Description:

    Since 9/11, American foreign policy has been guided by grand ideas like tyranny, democracy, and freedom. And yet the course of events has played havoc with the cherished assumptions of hawks and doves alike. The geo-civil war afflicting the Muslim world from Lebanon through Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan confronts the West with the need to articulate anew what its political ideas and ideals actually are. InThe Cultural Contradictions of Democracy, John Brenkman dissects the rhetoric that has corrupted today's political discourse and abused the idea of freedom and democracy in foreign affairs. Looking back to the original assumptions and contradictions that animate democratic thought, he attempts to resuscitate the language of liberty and give political debate a fresh basis amid the present global turmoil.

    The Cultural Contradictions of Democracypicks apart the intellectual design and messianic ambitions of the neoconservative American foreign policy articulated by figures such as Robert Kagan and Paul Berman; it casts the same critical eye on a wide range of liberal and leftist thinkers, including Noam Chomsky and Jürgen Habermas, and probes the severe crisis that afflicts progressive political thought. Brenkman draws on the contrary visions of Hobbes, Kant, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Isaiah Berlin in order to disclose the new contours of conflict in the age of geo-civil war, and to illuminate the challenges and risks of contemporary democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2795-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction: Political Thought in The Fog of War
    (pp. 1-23)

    Since September 11, 2001, the fog of war has enveloped political thought. Bright hopes of perpetual peace and prosperity collapsed in the debris of the World Trade Center. The fog grew thicker with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as the nations of the Atlantic alliance collided over policy and principle, law and interests. By the time the postwar in Iraq became a civil war and produced more casualties than the war, the dominoes that neoconservatives dreamed would democratize the Middle East were falling helter-skelter into new uncertainties. On the other side of the debate, the most dire antiwar prophecies...

  4. Seized by Power
    (pp. 24-50)

    What turn did the strife betweenultimate endsandresponsibilitytake on September 11, 2001? What has been the fate ofisolationismandinterventionism?

    The death of nearly three thousand people on American soil destroyed the immunity from the civilian horrors of war that had long underpinned the nation’s isolationism. The fact that the terrorists had come from a global network with outposts in England, France, and Germany, recruits from Egypt, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, financial resources in Saudi Arabia, and training in Afghanistan and Florida, made unilateral intervention nonsensical. As for the perpetual conflict in politics between ultimate ends...

  5. The Imagination of Power
    (pp. 51-77)

    Fear and hubris have stamped the American political sensibility since September 11, a cultivated fear that gave legitimacy, often carte blanche, to Bush’s diplomatic and military decisions and a violent hubris that rested on overconfidence in the capacity of arms to protect democracy at home and extend it abroad. The self-proclaimed Hobbesianism of the neoconservatives vividly expresses this combination of the fear of death and pride in strength. America imagines itself a leviathan, a wounded leviathan, at once afraid to die and convinced of its invincibility. Political thought clearly must take stock of passions, not just interests, in trying to...

  6. September ii and Fables of the Left
    (pp. 78-102)

    On September 11, 2001, thousands of our fellow city-dwellers vanished, spectacularly and invisibly, before our eyes. Whether seen against the indifferent blue of that morning’s stunningly beautiful sky or on television, the devastation of the World Trade Center towers overawed witnesses in the city and the world. Americans felt the shock of realizing as never before that our civic life is fragile and our global power dangerous. The attacks also called for unprecedented, difficult political judgments.

    The Bush administration’s decision to undertake a concerted military and diplomatic offensive in response to the massive attack on American soil forced it onto...

  7. Iraq: Delirium of War, Delusions of Peace
    (pp. 103-136)

    Only one outcome of the invasion of Iraq met with nearly universal approval: the fall of Saddam Hussein. Yet “regime change” had been the most contested, confused, ill-defined, and poorly justified reason for the war. This paradox underscores how disoriented American and European foreign policy was (and remains) when it comes to understanding the responsibility and power of Western democracies in the face of tyrannical regimes on the international scene. Confusion afflicted not only the Atlantic alliance in the buildup to the war in Iraq but also the United Nations. And it afflicted thinkers and writers.

    It is worth reflecting...

  8. The Ordeal Of Universalism
    (pp. 137-181)

    Political thinkers often aspire to harmonize the principles of foreign policy with their conception of democracy. Neoconservatives, for example, hold that a democracy’s military might is a neutral instrument for keeping the nation’s liberal order secure in an insecure world, and they have advocated the invasion of foreign countries to overthrow tyranny and create the conditions for democracy by force. The United States’s own liberal principles are thus seamlessly tied to the use of force with the good intention of fostering liberty abroad. Robert Kagan will therefore speak of the “uniquely American form of universalistic nationalism.”¹ For Jürgen Habermas, by...

  9. Conclusion: Prelude to the Unknown
    (pp. 182-200)

    The attacks of September 11 revealed the global reach of Islam’s geo-civil war. The Bush administration based its response on two quite valid assumptions: first, the unstable and deteriorating situation in the Muslim world, especially the Middle East, made deterrence or containment designed to maintain a status quo untenable; and, second, existing international laws and institutions are inadequate to the challenges posed by tyrannical regimes, failed states, and governments harboring or supporting terrorists. The policy that was built on these assumptions has largely been a dangerous failure. The administration’s errors have been grave. It gave unfounded priority to overthrowing Saddam...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 201-205)