Friday, February 02, 2007

Questions to Accompany a Reading of Chapter Four of Nick's Book, #5

Nick makes a few remarks about Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire, and questions about this deserve a separate post of their own. You might like to read pp.147-150 of Empire before attempting to answer the questions below. (If you don’t have a copy, use this link and search for the phrase “Fundamentalism and/or Postmodernism", which'll get you to the right place, and then read the next few paragraphs.)

Q16: Why do you think that Nick says [p.109] that Empire was published in 2001, when it was in fact published in March 2000?

Q17: Nick writes, “Unlike Marx, however, Hardt and Negri had no idea how they might build a better future. All they could do was support anyone who opposed the hegemonic ‘empire’, whoever they were and whatever they believed.” [pp.109-100] Do you think this is an accurate characterisation of the argument of Empire?

Q18: What, if anything, do you think is the basis for Nick's claim that, for Hardt and Negri, “religious fundamentalists were the inheritors of the socialists”? [p.110]

Q19: Nick says that [p.110] “The religious right was against the ‘empire’ of liberal democracy and globalization” (‘the contemporary historical passage’), so it had to be progressive.” Can you find any passage in Empire that might support this interpretation of Hardt & Negri’s argument?

Q20: Given that Hardt and Negri say that “like postmodernist and postcolonialist theories, fundamentalisms too are a symptom of the passage to Empire”, do you think that it might be more likely that they might be thinking about contemporary fundamentalism in ways that are more like Marx’s analysis of religion or even of utopian socialism - both of which he opposed - than that they are mindlessly cheerleading for the religious crazies?

Q21: Do you think that Nick is making the mistake of thinking that Hardt & Negri must be keen on the fundies because they lump them in with the posties, and Nick is living in a world where Hardt & Negri must, just must, be terribly keen on whatever they think the po-mos are up to?

Q22: Given that Hardt & Negri stress the role of ijtihad in contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, and the Decents tend to be keen to big up the role of Sayyid Qutb in delineating the contours of modern Islamism, who also argued for the importance of ijtihad, why do you think Nick doesn’t say, “Hang on a minute here, actually I rather agree with aspects of Hardt & Negri’s interpretation of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism?" Do you think that Nick disagrees with Hardt & Negri’s claim that “Contemporary Islamic radicalisms are indeed primarily based on "original thought" and the invention of original values and practices, which perhaps echo those of other periods of revivalism or fundamentalism but are really directed in reaction to the present social order”?

Q23: Hardt & Negri claim that, “Considered simply in cultural terms, Islamic fundamentalism is a paradoxical kind of postmodernist theory - postmodern only because it chronologically follows and opposes Islamic modernism. It is more properly postmodernist, however, when considered in geopolitical terms. Rahman writes: "The current postmodernist fundamentalism, in an important way, is novel because its basic élan is anti-Western . . . Hence its condemnation of classical modernism as a purely Westernizing force”? Do you think Nick disagrees with the point behind a claim like this? If you think that he doesn't, why do you think he attacks Hardt & Negri in the way that he does?

Q24: Given the extent to which Nick slags off middle-class lefties and implies that they are all crazy relativists, etc., do you think he would find much to disagree with Hardt and Negri’s view that, “Simplifying a great deal, one could argue that postmodernist discourses appeal primarily to the winners in the processes of globalization and fundamentalist discourses to the losers”?


Anonymous redpesto said...

“Simplifying a great deal, one could argue that postmodernist discourses appeal primarily to the winners in the processes of globalization and fundamentalist discourses to the losers”? sir! me sir! I like this question: just think of putting up Blair/New Labour v the BNP for starters - the former seem to think there are no downsides to globalisation, and that any 'losers' can 'train' themselves to be winners in the long run (or relocate); the latter are looking for a totalised explanation of their plight, as well as something to hold on to as the certainties of their world change/collapse around them.

Or as Lord Flashheart might say: 'Hello, Osama! Like the beard - gives me something to hang on to!'

As for where that leaves Nick...well common sense is as much an ideology as any other, and usually associated with conservative lines of thought.

2/02/2007 06:36:00 PM  

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