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. In The 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 Democracy picks 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 Jurgen 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.
John Brenkman is distinguished professor at the City University of New York and director of the U.S.-Europe Seminar at Baruch College. He has published widely on culture and political theory. He lives in New York and Paris.
Introduction: Political Thought in the Fog of War 1 War and Democracy 1 Hobbes versus Kant? 4 Leviathan 6 The Neoconservative Illusion 9 The Frailty of Human Affairs 12 Crises of the Republic 14 The Argument 19 Seized by Power 24 Death and the Governor of Texas 24 The New American Exceptionalism 28 The Cold Warrior Myth 34 Kant with Arendt 37 Targeting Iraq 41 Al Qaeda and Ultimate Ends 43 A Grammar of Motives 46 The Imagination of Power 51 State of Exception 51 Arendt versus Agamben 55 Schmitt and Hobbes 59 Decision and Covenant 64 The Ordeal of Universalism 71 September 11 and Fables of the Left 78 First Response 78 Multilateral Ambivalence 81 Terrorism as Symptom 84 Chomskian Certitudes 87 Hardt and Negri's Empire 94 The Multitude and Prophecy 98 Iraq: Delirium of War, Delusions of Peace 103 The Idealism of Means 103 The Idealism of Ends 106 Neither Left nor Right 110 The Atlantic Misalliance 117 Diplomatic Intrigues and Political Truths 122 Repudiations of the UN Left and Right 126 The Hobbesian Nightmare: Occupied Iraq 131 The Ordeal of Universalism 137 Democracy and War 137 Postnational Cosmopolitanism versus Liberal Nationalism? 141 Kant with Hobbes 144 Habermas's Agon with Schmitt 146 Hobbes with Kant 152 Europe, or, the Empire of Rights 157 Islam's Geo-Civil War 165 Global Neoliberal Religious Conservatism? 170 No Exit 177 Conclusion: Prelude to the Unknown 182 Ideas and Errors 182 Arendt with Berlin 183 Liberty without Democracy versus Democracy without Liberty? 188 Democratic Striving and Sectarian Mobilization 191 Untimely Meditation 195 Index 201