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The Valley of the Clueless. The German public sphere and the Euro crisis.

privitera_cloudSince the financial and economical crisis in the EU has led to strong conflicts between the states of the Euro zone, the political communication in the EU has left the form of a transnational, growing shared public sphere and assumes more and more the character of a conflictual discourse between national actors. The tendency towards renationalization in Europe is not only the result of populist movements on the merges of the political spectrum, but it also involves deep transformations in the political culture of important European nations, particularly in Germany. This paper aims to reconstruct some steps of the change of the German public sphere from the beginning of the Euro crisis until today, and it argues that the German discussion about the Euro crisis distorts and falsifies the real problems as cultural clichés overlay the economic issues. Seen this way, the German debate on the Euro crisis also mirrors the fading of the old west German post-war identity and the ambivalences of the new German political culture.

Author:

Walter Privitera, PdD,
Docente di Sociologia Generale
Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale,
Università di Milano – Bicocca

Pubblicato in Democracy Disfigured | Contrassegnato , , , , | Lascia un commento

Models of Subjectivity for Interpreting the Crisis. A Contribution to William James’ Analysis of Emotions and Consciousness.

campo_cloudThe concept of subjectivity, a philosophical model that interprets emotions as perplexing elements of human sensitivity, has been persisting since ancient times. Even though there have been alternative paradigms, the modern thought since Descartes has been founded on the contrast between emotion and reason. Closely related to this distinction is the dualism between mind and body. Both of these dualities, emotions and reason, mind and body, are based on the same paradigm:, they are thought as two independent substances following different and opposite logics.  This idea establishes a unitary vision of the ego, as much in how it relates to the physical environment as in its relationship with other subjects.

This paradigm is in a crisis and needs to be revised. In the latest literature, it is increasingly felt the need to rethink the connection between the poles, rather than considering them as independent. This  paper offers a contribution in this direction through the analysis of William James’ thought. The relevance of his paradigm has often been recalled in recent years, even in very different discipline ranges. This paper will focus specifically on two closely connected aspects of James’ work: emotions and consciousness.

James’s theory of emotions, which was recently reproposed by Antonio Damasio, overturns the traditional conception of the common sense. According to James, emotions basically consist of the feelings of displays.  In this approach emotions and rationality are continuous and also mind and body are strictly related. Focusing attention on James’ theory is very useful in order to rethink the categories that are deeply rooted in current culture and are nowadays in crisis. In conclusion, although James’ theory is not always linear,  it is helpful to better understand the importance of emotions in sociology.

Author:

Enrico Campo, PhD student,
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche,
Università di Pisa.

Pubblicato in Subjectivity and the Crisis | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Precarious lives: the production of subjectivity in the contemporary society

de_Grazia_cloudIn the text Frames of war, Judith Butler analyzes the concept of precariousness as generalized human status: we are “precarious lives” because our persistence depends upon social and political forces, that determine our dependency by the world. In the present time, the mechanisms of power that invest ourselves maximize the precariousness, call in to question the sustainable life’s conditions, produce differentiations, invalidate local and fragmentary perspectives. The question that the work seeks to explore is the following: what kind of subjectivity is produced by the intensification of precariousness? According to Judith Butler, the reinforcement of precariousness creates an ontology of individualism, the idea that the self is independent by the social bonds and that the individuality is self-sufficient. The representation of the self, detached from the others social agents, strengthens the techniques of dominion upon the life because produces disintegration, isolation, inability to appear in the social space. At the same time, the subject is never totally subjugated by the norms of power that he reproduces, interiorizing the idea that he can survive alone to the maximization of precariousness. The subject, asserts Michel Foucault, is both shaped by the normative framework of the society and capable to intervene actively upon the norms that regulate his existence. As states Pierre Bourdieu, the social space is a champ in which the agents struggle through different strategies in order to preserve or to change the champ itself. This work requires to answer to the second question: is it possible to create forms of subjectivity capable to contrast the ontology of individualism? Through this interrogative, the work will analyze how the subjectivity can appear in the social space through practices that are able to disturb the political field. According to this statement, the individuality links with a network of lives and, reacting to the precariousness, creates relationships with others agents, moving from the ontology of individualism to social and ethical space of interdependence.

Author: 

Laura De Grazia,  graduate student
Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere,
Università di Pisa

Pubblicato in Subjectivity and the Crisis | Contrassegnato , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Austerity in Discourse: An EU/US Comparison

naples_cloudDefinitions of austerity vary from “sternness or severity of manner or attitude” including “extreme plainness and simplicity of style or appearance” and ”conditions characterized by severity, sternness, or asceticism” as in “a simple life of prayer and personal austerity” to the definition that is most prominent these days: “difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce a budget deficit, especially by reducing public expenditure.” Evident in these divergent definitions is the fact that austerity is a social construct. When we say that we are undergoing “a period of austerity” what exactly do we mean by that and who gets to define it? What are the experiences of people living in such a time? How are different people affected by it differently and which people might, in fact, benefit by it. And more to the focus of this paper, why is it that the same measures taken in Greece or Spain are called austerity and similar measures in the US are not? This paper highlights four assertions: (1) Austerity is a social construct with material effects that affect individuals and nations differently. (2) The way in which austerity, as a social construct is discursively employed furthers the neoliberal agenda. (3) The way in which austerity is discursively employed also furthers the imperialist project. And consequently, women and racial or other social minorities pay the greater price.

Author:

Nancy A. Naples, Ph.D.
Director, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor
Sociology and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies,
University of Connecticut

 

Pubblicato in The Current Crisis from the Perspective of Gender | Contrassegnato , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Women’s narratives of Europe. Crisis and construction of European identity.

Scalise_cloudThis paper presents original findings from a research project aiming to analyze the change of identities related to the process of European integration and the influence of the local, national and supranational dimensions in the conceptualization of Europe. It assumes that the meanings attributed to Europe are shaped by social context and everyday interactions and adopts a postnational theoretical and methodological perspective (Trenz 2008): identity is considered as a reflexive and processual social construction contextualized in a transnational narrative space (Eder 2009). The empirical analysis focuses on women’s perspective on Europe. The case-study examins the narratives of Europe shared in different women’s networks, selected in diverse socio-economic and cultural local contexts, and shows how they contribute to the construction of social bonds within Europe. The research findings underline three main outcomes: first, the relevance of the crisis on the narratives of Europe, which deeply affects both women’s representation and daily experience of Europe, shaping their European’s sense of belonging; second, the local embeddedness of European’s narratives and identities, wich are constructed using local resources and are rooted in regional territories; third, the weight of the “habitus” on the openness toward Europe in local identities, which is related to some variables such as education, the social, economic and cultural capital, media exposure as well as transnational networking, participation and experiencing Europe. These factors influence the dynamic of identity formation and lead to different types of European identity.

Author:

Gemma Scalise, PdD
Department of Political and Social Sciences,
University of Florence

 

Pubblicato in The Current Crisis from the Perspective of Gender | Contrassegnato , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Detroit, Capital of the XXth Century

Settis_cloud“Fordism” has been used in different disciplines – politics in the first place, but also economic and social sciences – as the key concept to understand labor organisation and industrial relations at the core of the “Age of Extremes” in Europe, the USA, Japan, and also the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it has been instrumental to describe its decline in the 1980s and 1990s: the “End of Fordism” is an often-misused tagline, employed not only by social scientists to understand the decline of workers’ power and rights but also by politicians to foster such transformations. The very fact that the era we live in is often called a “post-fordist” one, deriving from the French regulation school, means that we still depend on such a category and, at the same time, that we haven’t developed yet a clear idea of our present.

If understanding the deep structures of the global crisis requires rethinking the conceptual machinery we use to look back at the XXth Century as we are driven in the XXIst, “Fordism” must be thoroughly analyzed from different perspectives: economic, social and intellectual history. We are bound to compare the organization put into practice by Henry Ford in his Highland Park and River Rouge factories between 1913 and the 1940s with highlights of its adaptations made by European capitalists and Soviet planners and, last but not least, with conceptions of the Fordist phenomena developed by thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci, Georges Friedmann, Alain Touraine, Friedrich Pollock, David Harvey. The activity of the State, the shaping of the markets, the position of the labor movement will appear very different, depending on social and political contexts.

Such an outline will show us a plurality of Fordisms at work, and therefore will cast a new light on both industrialization processes and de-industrialization.

Author:

Bruno Settis, PhD Scuola Normale Superiore    

Pubblicato in Capitalism and Social Cohesion | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento